“When I first worked with Nathan and Tim, I was in Vail Colorado with John Curry’s Company. John had been invited to present his company at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC and also at the Kennedy Center in Washington. No one had ever heard or done such a thing as this with skating before! John’s Company had performed on London’s West End, at New York’s Felt Forum and at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway. But The Met? This was unheard of!
John Curry had just invited Nathan and Tim to join the company. There was such excitement as we gathered in beautiful Vail, Colorado to create new repertoire for the Met! This would be their professional debut! Tim and Nathan were both a nervous wreck! As were the other new company members, such as Lori Nichol, Editha Dotson, Lea Ann Miller, Billy Fauver, David Santee and of course, Dorothy Hamill. I immediately felt a motherly instinct to take Nathan and Tim under my wing as they embarked on their professional journey.
As you may have heard legend tell it, John was like a diamond with many faucets…brilliant, warm, funny, shy, reserved, cold and even cruel. He had a vision, which drove him to Olympic Gold. But now, in this pinnacle moment for his Company, he was relentlessly intent on this new wave of skaters understanding this vision and helping him take it to new places. Tim and Nathan were meticulous students. They hung on every word and studied each nuance John shared. It could be an emotionally tough journey, but they jumped on with vigor and became the backbone of talent with which John could shape his new works of art.
One important thing John inspired, which I had never quite sensed in my skating career before, was that skating….this kind of skating was sacred…every bit of it. Nothing could be taken for granted…not an edge, not a 3 turn or even a look. A series of shanay turns would be treated with as much reverence as a triple jump.
Way before Moves in the Field were in existence, John demanded that the control of edges and steps to your left be done as beautifully to your right. His approach to music, space and choreography, and that of the choreographers he brought to the ice, such as Eliott Feld, Laura Dean, Peter Martins, Twyla Tharp and Lar Lubovitch, rang with such beauty and honesty, there was no going back to skating as they had known it before. It’s as if we were changed beings on a magic carpet ride.
Years later, when John’s company ended, Nathan and Tim were clearly committed to this beautiful journey and had to find a way to continue it and to share it. Fortunately, here in Baltimore, they found a willing team of skaters and parents who “drank the cool aid” too! They sacrificed and worked to continue this glorious vision of where skating could go and what it could be. That’s when a new wave of skaters caught the vision…and that’s why we’re here tonight, celebrating 25 years of creating magic and beauty.
I believe that God gives each of us gifts in abundance, but to keep them, we must be good stewards of those gifts. John Curry certainly was, as he launched a vision of what skating could be. And many who were so fortunate to be on that ride, have planted those seeds for decades. I’m thinking of the skaters trained by Dita Dotson, the work Lea Ann Miller brought to Stars on Ice and countless television specials, the choreography that Lori Nichol brings to skaters from Michelle Kwan to Gracie Gold, and of course the work Dorothy Hamill, Tim and Nathan did with the Ice Capades. All of these people and this work had their initial inspiration from John Curry’s Company. If you look at their work over the years, you can see the thread being carried through and woven into each piece of work.
But it was Nathan and Tim whose fortitude, passion, (and probably insanity), led them to bring us The Next Ice Age. This company has and will carry on John’s vision perhaps more than anything else.
Now, to truly be a good steward of those gifts you’re given, you must bring something of yourself and keep it growing. Nathan and Tim, with their breathtaking choreography for ensemble skaters, for soloists and for teaching have done just that.
It’s not just enough to present breathtaking performances at the Kennedy Center. For skating to be received and respected as a dance form, it must be a movement with an educational foundation…. A foundation, which is gives us more than an occasional shooting star capturing everyone’s attention.
The Next Ice Age is creating the brilliant, unforgettable performances, yes, but they are also putting a foundation underneath it, which will carry it for 25 more years, they are building a foundation of skaters which will create choreography that others won’t have the depth to create, a foundation that will raise up coaches to keep beautiful skating alive, a foundation to be the archetype and standard for what can be on the ice.
In Sochi, there was a lot of beautiful skating. But there were so many moments that made me cringe and long for different rules,…for programs with a vast array of elements, not the same things in almost the same order to different music. It made me grateful to know that The Next Ice Age is a very present icon in the sport and art of figure skating. The Next Ice Age is here to teach, to build, to create, to light the way, to explore, to break ground, to break the mold, and to pass forward what has been passed onto us. So to everyone here who has been involved and who has supported The Next Ice Age, it’s art and it’s education, thank you.
On behalf of hundreds of skaters and thousands who have enjoyed your work, Tim Murphy and Nathan Birch, I want to thank you for being such great stewards of all you have been given. From those early years in Vail, to the tours, weather we were in some empty, dark, freezing arena in Canada or the dazzling stage of the Kennedy Center, weather we were at Yoyogi Stadium in Tokyo, in a shopping mall in Dubai or skating around blue fissures of glycol in the ice at the Royal Albert Hall in London, you have carried the vision and are passing it forward.
Regardless of the sacrifices and cost, you have been amazing performers, teachers and inspirations for so many. So Tonight we celebrate to you Nathan and Tim, I think I can speak for all in this room tonight, and legions more, when I say we are grateful, I’m sure John is “quite pleased”, and we can’t wait to experience the next 25!”
~ JoJo Starbuck
April 11th, 2014