(As published in Kennedy Center Stagebill, 1997)
Founding Artistic Director/Choreographer
Nathan is a native of Acton, Massachusetts. He began his professional skating career with John Curry in 1983. In 1987, on a tour with Mr. Curry, the two spoke of Mr. Birch founding a new skating company in the United States that would embody similar characteristics to that of the then defunct Curry Company. In 1988 The Next Ice Age was born with the blessing of John Curry and the partnership of Tim Murphy. After founding the company Mr. Birch went on to be recognized by The Dance Program at The National Endowment for the Arts and was awarded three consecutive fellowships – the first ever to be awarded to a skater. As a skater Mr. Birch has partnered Dorothy Hamill, JoJo Starbuck, Catherine Foulkes, and Pamela Duane. His talents as a skater can be seen in “The Sleeping Beauty,” produced by the BBC. He also appeared in “Happy New Year U.S.A” in 1989 on PBS, which he co-directed with Mr. Murphy for Maryland Public Television. His role of the Prince in “The Nutcracker” was a popular NBC special, as well as a live production at The Chicago Theater in Chicago and The Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. It has been Mr. Birch’s ambition since the Curry Company folded in 1985 to see skating in its purest form return to the Opera House stage, where he himself performed some 12 years ago. As a director Mr. Birch regards this event at the Kennedy Center as his greatest and most rewarding achievement to date. His world premiere ensemble piece, Moving On, is based on a previously performed sketch he created in 1989 entitled Called Upon. Although Mr. Birch’s work in the recent past has explored strict narrative storytelling, he is most comfortable in the medium he refers to as “Abstract Narrative.” He builds his work for the audience to discover its own truths about each piece. He wants the movement he creates to act as a key that unlocks the audience’s imagination. Moving On utilizes this style of choreography. So also does Sisyphean Victory, his second piece on the program, which features Dorothy Hamill, who originated the role for The Next Ice Age in 1991.
Tim’s professional skating career began in Ice Follies, where he performed the role of a big yellow chicken in the Old MacDonald’s Farm number. His second job was in John Curry’s skating company, where he was an ensemble skater and soloist. With the Curry Company he performed on some of the worlds’s great stages, including the Kennedy Center Opera House, Metropolitan Opera House, Wang Center For The Performing Arts, and Royal Albert Hall. It was during his time with Mr. Curry’s company that he was exposed to the choreographic work of the world’s greatest artists of the time, including Twyla Tharp, Eliot Feld, Lar Lubovitch, and Laura Dean. Mr. Murphy’s own choreographic career began in 1988 with the debut Machines for the premiere performance of The Next Ice Age. Maryland Public Television commissioned the piece The Stroke of Midnight for its live broadcast of “Happy New Year U.S.A.” The piece is a dance for six skaters and featured Mr. Curry. It is a distinction that Mr. Murphy is the only skating choreographer ever to choreograph for Mr. Curry. In 1994 Mr. Murphy was hired by Dorothy Hamill to choreograph Cinderella, Frozen in Time. Cinderella is a full-length skating ballet to a stunning commissioned orchestral score by Michael Conway Baker of Canada. The score was recorded by the Simphonia of London at Abbey Road Studios. Cinderella has been seen by more than seven million people on six major tours and was aired as a television special on CBS. In 1995 Mr. Murphy co-choreographed with Nathan Birch Hansel and Gretel to a symphonic arrangement by Geoff Westley of Humperdink’s glorious opera. Since 1991 Mr. Murphy has been Ms. Hamill’s only choreographer. Some of the solo works he has created for her include Requiem, From Cloud to Cloud, and More Than Words. During this engagement at the Kennedy Center, Mr. Murphy is debuting two world premeire works. The first is a new solo for Ms. Hamill set to music by Josef Suk, and the second is a new ensemble dance with music by Michael Torke.
Dorothy Hamill won her gold medal at the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Her interpretation of music, fluid skating, and infections charm led all nine judges to unanimously voter her the winner. More than any other figure skater, and indeed, as much as any American athlete, Ms. Hamill has influenced our culture. Her world famous “wedge” hairstyle started a fashion craze that Life Magazine called “one of the most important fashion statements of the last 50 years.” Beyond fashion, her unaffected personality and simple grace led Ms. Hamill to be voted one of “the most trusted women in America” by the Ladies Home Journal. As a professional she has skated with many productions, including eight years with the company she helped bring to preeminence among touring ice shows, The Capades. She had an unprecedented four ABC television prime time specials produced in her honor and won an Emmy for her starring role in Romeo and Juliet. After winning five consecutive World Professional titles, Ms. Hamill turned her energies to her company, Hamill-Camel Productions. She skated with The John Curry Company at the Metropolitan Opera House and the Kennedy Center Opera House and in Tokyo during the Company’s historic 1984 world tour. Her first work with the choreography of Tim Murphy and Nathan Birch led to the critically acclaimed “Nutcracker on Ice,” which she produced and in which she starred for NBC-TV and for Canadian television. She has continued to work with these two choreographers and has twice performed with The Next Ice Age. Her continued pursuit of artistic ensemble skating, producing ballet on ice with Cinderella and Nutcracker, and working directly with The Next Ice age in its pursuits, are testimony to her commitment to this breakthrough art form. her participation and support have been instrumental in moving both The Next Ice Age and this new art form to the level they evidence in this production. In a telling comment, Ms. Hamill says she wants to produce ice entertainment and continue to skate “as long as I’m still learning.”