A Letter from the Director

Written August 2001
by Nathan Birch
Founding Artistic Director
The Next Ice Age

Pure and true skating is, by nature, circular. Real skating uses the blade’s edge and the body’s lean to create curves and arcs. It is only when a skater glides on both the inside and outside edges at the same time that he or she travels across the ice in a straight line. This is referred to as a flat and is the simplest of gliding movements.

Our craft emphasizes the singular edge in ensemble formations, difficult enough for a soloist and much more difficult in groupings because each push from each individual skater must generate the exact same amount fo speed. I believe it is the technical expertise of edge work that makes figure skating interesting as a dance form.

In order for a skater to glide, the blade can only go forward or backward. To skid or stop, the standing leg must turn out or in to cause friction between the ice and the grain of the edge. This act produces snow as the blade scrapes against the ice. It also produces a noise, different from the sound of pure edge work. These principles are the tools used by The Next Ice Age to build choreographed dances. As with dancers, mastering the technique makes way for style and grace.

A note of hope…

This evening’s performance includes two apprentices trained by The Chesapeake Skating School, our country’s premier educator in the art of ensemble skating. The Chesapeake Skating School has been affiliated with The Next Ice Age since its inception seven years ago. We are both grateful and indebted to the school’s directors, Denise Cahill and Rob McBrien; it is evident that seeds sown only seven years ago are bearing fruit. The Next Ice Age is, for the first time, reaping the benefits of Denise’s and Rob’s vision as we further crystallize our own image of ensemble figure skating.

We are also grateful to Pamela Duane Gregory from Newark, Delaware, who was a charter member of the company in 1988 and continues to train her skaters in a manner compatible with The Next Ice Age. These key individuals — Denise, Rob, and Pam — in partnership with myself and Tim Murphy, have truly formed this season’s company. We will continue to produce the talent upon which the future of the company will be built. In tonight’s Act II, you will see three student skaters who exemplify the future for us.

As we look forward to what is next for skating, we are heartened by the growing numbers of talented children in the early stages of training. In this vein, I must personally thank Evy Scotfold and Debi Leeming from Massachusetts for providing me the opportunity to bring to their training facilities the “Skating Class” I learned in The John Curry Skating Company.

Lastly…

We refer to the Kennedy Center as America’s fortress for the performing arts. Historically, the Kennedy Center has presented artistic skating more than any other performing arts institution in the world — The Curry Company in 1984 and ’85, and The Next Ice Age in ’97 and 2001. As a performer in both companies, I feel personally honored and privileged to be able to say “Thank You!” to the Kennedy Center, its founders, staff, employees, and artists. Above and beyond her artistic contributions to this evening’s work, we must also thank Dorothy Hamill for her beliefs about skating, her kindness, her generosity, and her example. Finally, this season is dedicated to our very dear friend, Elizabeth Webster.