Canada Ice Dance Theatre: Birth of a Vision – Volume 1
Written by Ron Vincent
“In this edition of the Alumni blog, let’s welcome legendary Coach, choreographer and Skate Canada Hall of Fame member Ron Vincent, as he tells the story of one of his greatest pieces of choreography, the Canada Ice Dance Theatre.”
There are times when one must take a step back to get a better view of a situation you may find yourself in. Such was a time in 1976 when Mary Rose Thacker Temple, Frank Nowosad and I, all on the coaching staff of the Racquet Club of Victoria, found that we were of like minds regarding the state of competitive figure skating in Canada and in the world. We were concerned over what we thought was happening.
Skating was going through the kind of period we had seen before (and were to see again) when the focus of attention had shifted from a balance of the athletic and artistic elements in skating programs to be, essentially, all about jumping. This time around it was about achieving the performance of the triple jump. In our opinion, this element was being disproportionately rewarded to the detriment of the program’s artistic and other content both in terms of balanced choreography and of artistic performance.
There is no question that it is fascinating to push the physical boundaries of a sport, but the nature and tradition of figure skating is that it uses music as a basis for artistic interpretation. Without this interpretation, many observed, routines would be reduced to a collection of physical tricks, and particularly the nuance of movement as a reflection of the subtleties existing in music would be lost.
The three of us decided that if competitive skating was going to desert the tradition of artistry as an equal element, (prominently and ideally exemplified for many of us by the memory of the performances of the intelligent and musical US Olympic Champion of 1956, Dr. Tenley Albright,) then we would create a skating company that would satisfy our vision of what we believed skating should be.
To find funding for what we pictured as the equivalent of a concert dance company on ice, we applied for and happily received an “Explorations Grant” from the Canada Council for the Arts, having submitted a detailed report of a show, “Perchance to Dream,” which, with actor Clara Hare, I had produced at the Racquet Club a few years earlier. The Explorations Grant was an exciting beginning, which allowed us a good send-off.
The Canada Ice Dance Theatre (CIDT) was born!
Theatre on Ice in 1976 seemed to be an idea whose time had come. At the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club (TCSCC) that first summer of CIDT, Ellen Burka also gave Theatre on Ice classes at the TCSCC, with the object of improving skaters’ artistry. And a few years after CIDT’s establishment, at a coach’s conference in Las Vegas, I
met and described our project to Moira North, who was to become the founder of the highly successful Ice Theatre of New York. Later these two organizations enjoyed several collaborations. Ice Theatres were soon formed in other large US cities including Los Angeles, Baltimore and Seattle.
(From the Alumni Committee) Please visit the CIDT to gain a greater perspective on the contributions, creativity and accomplishments of the ground-breaking Canada Ice Dance Theatre.
On our next blog, learn about Candian Ice Dance Theatre’s legacy.
“What Happens After” by Meagan Duhamel
It seems like such a funny phrase to say at 32 years of age that “I am retired”. I don’t like it. I’d rather say, “I am moving on to new projects”. I’ll still be skating. Heck, I’ll probably continue to train quite a bit, simply because I love it. But for now, I’ll say goodbye to competitions.
I feel so fortunate that I am able to stop on my own terms. I wasn’t forced out of the competitive arena because of an injury, or because younger skaters were creeping up behind me, pushing me aside. I am one of the lucky ones who achieved everything, and more than I ever dreamt possible. And I realize how rare this is in life and in sport. To have no regrets. To have achieved everything I set out to do. To finish on a high. And I feel so content and satisfied.
I woke up everyday for 25 years focused on the Olympics and I was worried that after the Olympics, my life and my direction would become like a giant black hole.
Fortunately, for me, my life was never just skating. Of course skating was the main focus, but I always kept other passions and projects.
I’ve been continually studying various nutrition courses, finishing my final certification in vegetarian nutrition by this summer. I have had an enormous interest in wellness and yoga over the years and, to continue along that exciting path, another one of my future projects is to open a health food café with a yoga studio.
And I’m passionate about animals. I want to continue to work with rescue animals and one day possibly open a sanctuary for rescues.
Of course, I still have tons of passion and interest within the skating world, coaching, mentoring and developing and sharing my knowledge through seminars. I have been lucky in that regard because I’ve been able to organize a big skating camp in my hometown of Lively, Ontario this summer, as well as teach at seminars in Ottawa, Australia, Iceland and Mexico. I really love doing this and working with skaters as they strive to reach their own potential. I am also interested in becoming a Technical Specialist and I’ve started my training.
There are also plenty of skating shows in which Eric and I will be performing in the upcoming months. So I guess you can say my life didn’t slow down since the Olympics. If anything, it’s picked up pace. Some days I feel overwhelmed with everything that I want to do and accomplish, and some days I feel extremely relaxed and content with my new found freedom away from the stress of daily training.
I always knew that one day my adventures of being judged on the ice and throwing myself into quad throws would be over. Fortunately everything was so planned out that I had time to prepare for “the end”. It wasn’t shocking to find myself at this point; it was actually what I wanted, ready for new challenges and new adventures. Thankfully, keeping a lot of interest in various aspects of skating and in other activities away from the ice is making this transition a lot smoother.
As I watch skaters prepare for the upcoming season, in many ways I feel a sense of relief that it isn’t me out there. Although I loved my time in competitive sport immensely, I was honestly ready for this next chapter of my life.
This summer is the first summer in 25 years when I didn’t attend a summer training program to train!! 25 years!! And surprisingly, it felt so normal. And in another development, although I’d planned to coach only a few days a week, I’ve discovered I love it so much, I’ve ended up at the rink everyday to help.
Obviously there is a part of me that is still thriving in this environment, but comfortably, this time from the other side of the boards!
Grey Challenge Trophy
Presented in 1907 by His Excellency Earl Grey, G.C.M.G, G.C.V.O., Governor General Of Canada. It was held by the Canadian Club, whose leading skaters in the four annual championships (men, ladies, pair and fours) obtain the highest score. The winning club had the privilege of holding the following annual contest and it was usually the headquarters of the Figure Skating Department of the Association for that year.
The Trophy was turned over to the Amateur Skating Association of Canada in 1914.
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