The Inside Edge: Worlds, ballet and ice class

Sarah and Drew loved Volosozhar and Trankov, Ten; Gao enjoys Boston Ballet's Kylián production

Erica Cornejo and Yury Yanowsky in a production of Kyli&aacute;n's <i>Symphony of Psalms</i>, performed with the Boston Ballet.
Erica Cornejo and Yury Yanowsky in a production of Kylián's Symphony of Psalms, performed with the Boston Ballet. (Rosalie O'Connor Photography)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(03/20/2013) - We watched as much of the world championships as we could, between coaching and singing (see below). There were some breathtaking highlights as well as inevitable disappointments. These were some of our favorite moments:

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov brought pairs skating back, with elements that were not only flawless, but unique and meaningful to their program's choreography and movement.

It was thrilling and delightful to see Denis Ten reach the potential he has had since the age of 15. We loved his programs, his pristine quads and triple Axels, and his choreography. Congratulations to D10 on his silver medal.

Although there was a lot of talk about the free skate, we were melting for Patrick Chan's record-setting short program. It was totally deserving of the world record, and it was truly modern dance on ice.

Congratulations, too, to U.S. champion Max Aaron, who delivered a solid program and a great seventh-place finish in his world championships debut.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White blew us away with their bubbly, charming Giselle short dance, danced to perfection, and their dynamic and powerful free dance, which led us on a roller-coaster of emotions.

Queen Yu-Na is back, not just as good as ever, but even better. We are in awe. And we're very proud of the U.S. ladies for earning three spots for the Olympics. Our congratulations to all.

All Kylián

We wrote earlier this year about how dance choreographer Jiri Kylián has inspired many skating choreographers. Sarah was lucky enough to sing in the just-completed run of performances of three Kylián ballets with the Boston Ballet, with skaters in the audience and skating fans on stage. She'll tell the story.

The chorus I sing in, the New World Chorale, joined the Boston Ballet Orchestra in the pit at Boston's Opera House for nine performances of Symphony of Psalms, choreographed to Stravinsky by Jiri Kylián. We were able to watch the first two ballets, Wings of Wax and Tar and Feathers, although we couldn't see anything of Symphony of Psalms from where we were standing. Luckily -- sort of -- I had laryngitis one night and couldn't sing, so I was able to watch all three ballets.

Symphony of Psalms, for 16 dancers, was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Wings of Wax, for four couples, was lovely and moving; it was filled with interesting, complicated and unusual lifts, and I kept thinking that parts of it could be adapted to ice dance. Tar and Feathers was completely different: very avant-garde, with a piano on 10-foot stilts and a heap of bubble wrap on stage, lit from within.

Mark Mitchell was in the house on opening night, and Christina Gao attended a couple of nights later -- she said she couldn't get any of her fellow skaters to come with her. I took her backstage so she could get a peek at the dancers warming up in between ballets. Afterward, she said the whole evening was mind-blowing.

"I loved All Kylián!" Gao said. "It was different from anything I've ever seen before, but it was amazing. The movements and the dancers are absolutely mesmerizing. It's so weird but so, so cool.

"I loved all three parts of the dance, but I really liked Tar and Feathers. There was a roaring lion and bubble wrap, but it was the neatest thing I've ever seen. I'm so happy to have seen it even though no one would come with me. It was definitely their loss!"

Gao said she thought it would be cool to try to bring the movements of the dances to the ice, and that she might try to play around with it.

Between performances, I talked to brother-and-sister principal dancers Lia and Jeffrey Cirio. (Small world: Jeffrey actually knows Drew, as it turns out, from Drew's days training in Boston). I asked Lia and Jeff how they feel about performing Kylián.

"Dancing Kylián's stuff is kind of like a dream," Lia said. "It flows so nicely and feels so organic. He always catches your heart through his choreography."

"For me, he's a genius," Jeffrey said. "Every step was so important to him; he loved each step for what it was."

"Everything is so poetic," Lia went on. "The three ballets are so different, but you can find similarities, things that touch each and every person's life."

Both Cirios like watching figure skating, as it happens.

"I grew up watching Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan, so those were my idols growing up," Lia said. "They were Asian, and I looked up to them as role models. My grandmother was like, 'Why don't you become a figure skater?' I said, "Grandma, I'm a ballerina!' I've always respected figure skating."

"We grew up watching it all the time: the Olympics, all that," Jeffrey said. "Before I was even in ballet, I always liked sports. I thought it was so amazing how they could do quads in the air. Now that I'm a ballet dancer, I'm like, 'Oh I'm doing similar stuff.'"

Ice Class

Nathan Birch and Tim Murphy bring their "Next Ice Edge" seminar to clubs in the East four or five times a year. On March 1, in Boxborough, Mass., 22 current and former competitors, coaches and choreographers moved through a series of edge exercises in unison, learning nuances of coordination, breathing, stretch and line. Among the skaters were Wesley Campbell, choreographer Elin Schran, coach Beth Ann Duxbury, senior lady Aimee Buchanan and coach Matt Lind.

In the class, skaters do edge exercises in formation, in groups of three to six, down the length of the rink. Skaters try to match the speed, line and lean of the leader. Although it's an exercise, it's beautiful to watch.

Birch and Murphy, who are both from the Boston area, founded The Next Ice Age in Baltimore almost 25 years ago. Birch and Murphy both skated in John Curry's company in the 1980s. Murphy is also famous for being Dorothy Hamill's only choreographer since 1991.

"We developed the curriculum we learned from Curry into our own language," Birch said. He equates the seminars to ballet barre exercises.

"John Curry invented this way of learning skating," Murphy said. "Before he did one bit of choreography, he had us do eight hours a day of skating classes. Skating in a group is a great way to learn. Skating is a solitary sport; it's fun to be around people who share the love of skating."

Birch and Murray hope to do more seminars in the future, and the skaters enthusiastically going through the exercises at the Nashoba Valley Olympia would no doubt recommend them to anyone.

"I always say it's humbling, after the first five minutes," Lind said.

Happy Spring,
Sarah and Drew