The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - May 19

Kung Fu, synchro stars and young choreographers

Ryan Bradley puts a new lace in his skate before the show while Simon Shnapir looks on.
Ryan Bradley puts a new lace in his skate before the show while Simon Shnapir looks on. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(05/19/2010) - Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins catch us up on all the news in the latest edition of "The Inside Edge."

Kung Fu
Last Sunday, we headed just down the road to Lexington, Mass., for the Hayden Figure Skating Club's "Ice Time" show.

Hayden is a major center for synchronized skating, of course, and backstage was organized chaos before the show, with five synchro teams in three dressing rooms. We beat a hasty retreat and escaped upstairs, where we found Ryan Bradley and Simon Shnapir relaxing and comparing war wounds. It was a long season. Ryan has been nursing a broken fifth metatarsal bone since shortly before the world championships.

The foot is heavily taped but Bradley still visibly favors it and says it hurts a lot. He had agreed to skate in several shows before the injury, and he has honored all the commitments. The agony will come to an end this Friday, when he is scheduled to have surgery.

"I'm having a titanium plate put in," he told us with a grimace. "And screws. They wanted to put it in when I broke it but I had other things to do [meaning Four Continents and the world championships].

"I could probably have gone without surgery, but I wouldn't have been able to skate without pain. And I like to play basketball and football, too, and that wasn't going to happen. They say I'll be on crutches for four weeks, but we'll see."

Meanwhile, Shnapir has been nursing a back spasm for two weeks. "It comes with being over six feet tall and a pair skater," he said wryly.

We compared our passionate affection for disposable stick-on heat wraps. "I just wish I could wear it for twenty-four hours," said Shnapir.

Both men joked about it being OK that we discuss their injuries, saying that it would humanize them. They were pining to be able to go to the sports fields across the street and play basketball, by the way, and being kept inside by injuries was frustrating for both of them.

Shnapir and his partner Marissa Castelli brought out a new program in the second half of the show, in which he wears, yes, a dress. And they did a throw jump in which she threw him, pretty hilarious given that Castelli is almost a foot-and-a-half shorter than Shnapir.

"The first time we did the program I was a little nervous because I had never worn a dress in public," said Shnapir. "Wait! That came out wrong. I mean it was the first time I had ever worn a dress, period!"

Synchro stars
Throughout the show, all the synchro teams put on their best moves. They included the preliminary Shooting Stars.

"They're so cute," said coach Saga Krantz. "It's my goal to see them at the Olympics in ten years."

As the show went on, the juvenile Mini-Mates, novice Ice Mates, and junior Lexettes took the ice. The Haydenettes closed the show, still on cloud nine after regaining their national title and winning their first world medal, a bronze, last month.

We chatted with some of them during intermission.

"Part of the reason we did so well was that we kept really calm," said Kim Angelakis. "And being in the U.S. helped."

"I personally still felt like I was at home," said Taylor Parrish.

Jenna Longo added, "It was a huge thing to have so many fans cheering."

"We had 150 people there, just from Hayden!" said Kendra Flanagan.

"That's what got me more than anything," added Parrish. "The sound was amazing."

"We worked so hard all season, and worked on consistency," said Erika Hoffman.

We've seen the Haydenettes many, many times over the years, but we think they look the best they ever have: fast, precise, and extremely confident. Winning a world medal suits them.

To live and skate in L.A.
You've probably seen the press releases announcing a bunch of recent coaching changes. It's always a difficult decision for a skater to leave a long-time coach. Jonathan Cassar was willing to go on the record about his move from coach Julie Berlin in Detroit to California, where he will train with Frank Carroll.

"It's a big move, but I'm really excited," he told us. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Mr. Carroll." Cassar is from the Detroit area, where he first started skating on a lake near his home. He told us he has been with the Detroit Skating Club since 1995 or 1996. Last fall, he felt he had lost motivation.

"I didn't know where I was going," he said. "I went out to L.A. for two weeks, and from day one I really enjoyed it and I thought to myself, 'I'm in the position where I can take this opportunity now.' There's no way that I can further my skating career without a triple Axel, it just isn't feasible. Mr. Carroll is extremely particular about technique. I felt like I was picking up a lot of information and I had the urge to learn more. He definitely helped me with the triple Axel, although I still have to work on it. He sort of re-taught me every jump."

"When I told Julie I was thinking of staying out there it was extremely difficult for me, I was coming from a good relationship with her. She said, 'If this is what you want to do, I completely support it."

Cassar told us he is very excited about his new short program, to "Tango de Roxanne."

"I just got it from David Wilson," he said. "We had a blast creating it. He's a powerhouse of creativity. I think I'm going to keep my long program [to Schindler's List] although it's not set in stone."

The Boston Globe reported this morning that Boston's Christian Science Center will redesign its famous 686-foot-long reflecting pool, and part of it be frozen over for skating in the winter. We're sorry they're changing the pool, because it's beautiful, but excited for the skating rink.

Young choreographers
Keep your eyes open for a different kind of competition this summer: one for budding choreographers. This one is coach Audrey Weisiger's baby, so we called her to hear all about it.

"This has been my vision," Weisiger told us. "Brian Wright was a genius choreographer, and he died on July 29, 2003, of AIDS. His art has to live on. I want to be sure the younger generation has an appreciation for the talent of the past."

Weisiger's organization, Grassroots to Champions (G2C) designed and will host the Young Artists Showcase. Six choreographers under the age of 18 (the "Grassroots" group) and eight from the ages of 18 to 28 (the "Champions") will compete online for the next ten weeks, culminating in a live show on August 1 in Blaine, Minn.

The competitors were selected from about 40 applicants. The Champions competitors will be Courtney Baga, Adam Blake, Joel Dear, Shannon Lenihan, Kathryn McSwain, Tommy Steenberg, Elisa Seigmund, and Amber Van Wyk.

"I got an entry from a young man who was a rapper who didn't realize it was a contest for skating!" said Weisiger, laughing. There will be four rounds of competition, with the programs posted online on YouTube for the judges to vote on. "For someone my age to do something on the computer has been a real education!" said Weisiger. "I just got off the phone with Kurt [Browning, one of the judges] and I asked him if he knew how to do it and he said 'No,' but he's learning."

The top two scorers in each division will compete in the final. Each round will include a specific challenge, like having to choreograph for a specific age group, or to a certain style of music. The four finalists will be working with a very special guest skater, although we were sworn to secrecy about who it is.

Along with Browning, the judges will include Gary Beacom, Lea Ann Miller, Sarah Kawahara, Doug Mattis, Craig Heath, Scott Williams, Michael Weiss, Stephanie Grosscup, Rory Flack, Jeri Campbell and more. High School Musical choreographer Chucky Kaplow has expressed interest, although his participation has not been confirmed. The public will be able to watch the programs online on channel G2CYAS; the first challenge is due June 18.

"I'm so honored that people like Lea Ann, Kurt and Mike are donating their time and expertise," said Weisiger. "They believe in the project. This is good for skating."

The winner of the competition will have an opportunity to have their work shown at Rockefeller Center in New York, as well as the chance to attend the creation of work by master choreographers Douglas Webster and Cindy Stuart. They will also win a scholarship to aid in the development of their career.

"I have choreographed about fifteen to twenty programs this spring," Steenberg told us in an email. "I am excited to continue creating work that will be more open to the public and critiqued by an amazing panel of judges. The Young Artist Showcase is a choreographer's dream because encourages artistic freedom."

We'll hope to report more on the progress of the competition! That's all for now,
Sarah and Drew
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