This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

- working the choreo

In a previous post I mentioned how to get your skater started with a choreographer.  Now here's what to expect so you can chat about it with your kid. Again my caveat here: this is not from my personal encounters, but rather what Kate McSwain ( told me. If you've had different experiences, disagree, or have something to add or reinforce, please feel free to chirp up in the comments.

Your kid's relationship to her choreographer is completely different than that with her coach. During your skater's daily coaching sessions she picks up what she has been working on, runs through a program or two a couple of times, and maybe tries a new element. She practices those elements giving her difficulties. Your skater has a long-term relationship with her coach like another parent or like a grown-up big sister. They've already established a communications style and comfort level and what they expect from each other.

The choreographer (to continue the analogy) is more like your kid having a relationship with a middle-school teacher or with her fun aunt. The relationship is "testing:" it is give and take with some misunderstandings and flexible interpretations. Your choreographer will push your kid quite a bit more than her coach: your skater will explore the limits of her skills, refocus her awareness, and push the envelope beyond her comfort level. The choreographer may physically touch your child much more to work on different positions, expressions, and postures. The teachings are meant to be disruptive in a mind-expanding way.

Choreographers generally carry around a book of diagrams that map out a pattern of ice coverage incorporating the necessary elements for each level. In addition your choreographer works to blend the theme of your kid's music with her costume, her elements, and her transitions. Although not a dress designer, she may help your skater sketch out some rough ideas for an appropriate costume.

Introducing a third party to your child's programs may complicate musical choices. What the coach likes may not be what the choreographer likes. Kate mentioned this great idea -- the choreographer can select two or three songs for a particular program and then have your kid skate a rough runthrough of each to see how her body reacts to the patterns of the music, and then select what works best. Usually your skater's coach not only has input but likely has the final say on this.

Also be aware that when your choreographer designs your child's program, in her mind she foresees how your kid will skate this a few months from now, after she's become more practiced and run through it a couple dozen times. A good choreographer can project your skater's skills into what she can eventually accomplish this season. This also means you shouldn't prematurely be judgmental if the initial choreography looks clunky and unfinished; your choreographer knows what she is doing and your kid should be able to grow into it.

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