Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Chandler stands out from crowd

Former singles skater hopes to see more men join synchronized skating
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Lee Chandler has enjoyed his role as the only male skater on Canadian synchronized skating team NEXXICE. -Sean McKinnon

The Only Man

Over the last three world synchronized championships, the silver-medal-winning team has included a man on its roster. Lee Chandler, a member of the Canadian NEXXICE team for the last four years, is the second-ever man to medal at synchro worlds.

The first, he told us, was a member of the Team Surprise's 2003 gold-medal-winning-team. Chandler says he is the first man to represent Canada and the first North American male to win a world synchro medal. He is a former singles skater who got his start in synchro with a local team at the age of 15.

"I loved skating so much, I wanted to be on the ice as much as possible," Chandler said. "Synchro helped me work on my skating skills, and the team aspect drew me to it. Once I realized my singles career wasn't going to take me to worlds and I knew I wasn't done skating, I tried to figure out what my other options would be."

Chandler auditioned for NEXXICE at the age of 20 and made the team. He says he knows that some people think that having a man on the team detracts from the look, since everyone is supposed to be more or less identical.

"The coaches definitely have a little bit of a harder time, trying to find a costume for each program that will suit the girls on the team as well as myself," he said. "Finding choreography that blends can be a little more of a challenge. If anything, it adds to the sport, because it increases the difficulty."

Chandler says that he has never had a negative experience being the only male on the team, which he likens to a big family.

"We have our differences, but everybody has a strength," he said. "It's something we try not to focus on -- we keep all the positives going. It's like I have 20 sisters, and they have one brother. We get very close. It's kind of nice being the only guy on the team."

To keep the look of the team as homogeneous as possible, the women of NEXXICE wear dark tights, in either black or dark blue, to match Chandler's pants. His shirts are also similar to the top of the women's dresses.

"The girls won't have any strapless dresses. We'll have a short sleeve or a long sleeve," Chandler said. "Our team started having the girls wear black tights. My first year, we started to wear black tights, so of course that changes the look of a dress."

Moving onto a more significant aspect of men in synchro, we talked about the future of the sport. At least one of the teams at synchro worlds had two men. We asked Chandler whether he thought teams might eventually take on more male skaters.

"It's very interesting to think about where the future of the sport is going to go," Chandler said. "One of the reasons it's thought that the sport hasn't been in the Olympics is because it's not clear whether it is co-ed or not. So it seems like there might be a requirement that every team will be co-ed, or that no team will be able to have men.

"I hope they'll continue to have men on the teams, because the possibilities are endless. It opens the door to a lot more creativity, to pushing the sport in a whole new direction. It's only been an ISU-recognized sport for 14 years. I think in the next 14 years it's going to look very different. It's always been about the geometry. The skating is going to improve. The sport is going to grow and be more like pairs as well as dance, and that would be really interesting to see."

Choreographers take to the ice

The American Ice Theater will present "Let's Dance," a dance concert on ice, on May 31 at the McFetridge Sports Center in Chicago. The show will feature Jason Brown and Ryan Bradley, who will join a host of Young Artists Showcase choreographers.

Along with Brown and Bradley, the audience will get to see Brown's inventive choreographer Rohene Ward, as well as Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, Paige Rydberg, the Harmony Theater Company and choreographers Adam Blake, Zabato Bebe, Izzi Gorowsky, Mark Hanretty, Katherine Hill, Garrett Kling, Robert Mauti, Kate McSwain, Allison Merges, Yebin Mok, Madeline Stammen and Amber Van Wyk.

Some of the choreographers will be skating themselves, while some will present pieces done for other skaters. More information is available at http://www.americanicetheatre.org/ait-chicago/; VIP tickets include a meet-and-greet with the skaters.

In addition, the winner of the YAS "Quest for Creativity" will be announced during the show. Competing choreographers will be uploading videos to be judged by Hanretty, Bebe, Hill, McSwain and Blake. The public will also be able to vote for their favorite piece from May 20-30 at http://youngartistsshowcase.net.

"We have some interesting entrants this time," organizer Audrey Weisiger said. "There's very little regulation -- give a brief introduction, and make what you feel. It can be a solo; it can have 50 people in it."

Full disclosure: Drew has entered a piece, skated by Paul Parkinson, which will be up shortly. Mary Beth Marley and Bruno Mauri are also on the entrants list.

Weisiger confirmed that the fifth edition of the full Young Artists Showcase competition is in the works. Applications will be due at the end of July, and the competition will run from mid-August through September.  

"It's a big commitment: you can't take it lightly," Weisiger said. "It's good training. Efficiency and organization are things they'll need if they're working with a show, or going over to Japan to do a program for somebody!"

We hope you're enjoying the spring and getting a chance to catch a club show or competition this month.

Sarah and Drew
Follow them on Twitter @SarahandDrew