Top U.S. skaters light up the Westchester Skating Academy
By Liz Leamy
On Friday, July 13, some of the country’s premiere championship and junior level contenders, along with some other heavy hitters in the sport visited the Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, New York, where they staged a high-octane show for a crowd of more than 400 spectators.
This sold-out event, titled the ‘Ice Dreams Skating Spectacular,’ lived up to its name in every sense of the word, as it featured such heavy-hitting contenders as Mirai Nagasu, the seven-time U.S. medalist, Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. titlist, Jeremy Abbott, the four-time U.S. champion, Alysa Liu, the 2018 U.S. junior gold medalist, Starr Andrews, the 2017 U.S. junior silver medalist and Rohene Ward, the celebrated World and Olympic choreographer and former U.S. men’s competitor.
Right from the outset, it was clear that every member of this talented troupe had brought their A game out for this show, which also featured more than 70 of the Westchester Skating Academy (WSA) participants in the venue’s summer camp from that week.
During the show, all of the soloists generated thunderous applause and loud cheers from the audience due to their powerful and crisp transitions, superb programs and stunning array of jumps and spins.
“I think this show was great in every regard and it’s been inspiring for everyone, especially for the skaters,” said Dorothy Vaughn Johnson, who coaches at WSA. “It was also heartwarming to see the stands filled [to capacity.] I hope this show helps drive skating to an even greater level in this area.”
The performers were also excited about this event.
“It been fun to skate with everyone here,” said Alysa Liu, the 12-year old jumping dynamo from Richmond, California, outside of Oakland. “It was great to be here.”
A High-Octane Event
Liu, the first performer of the night, wowed the crowd with her power-charged program to ‘Lo Siento’ by Maxime Rodriguez and executed a high triple flip, triple Lutz and triple Axel, among other impressive elements.
“I just want to get really consistent [on the triple Axel] and want to get some quads,” said Liu, who landed her first clean Axel at age six, in regard to her present and future goals.
Starr Andrews, the 17-year old Los Angeles, California native, skated an arresting program to ‘Summertime, the legendary song performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong from the classic film, ‘Porgy and Bess.’
Andrews, who trains in Riverside and Lakewood, California, reeled off a nice triple flip, triple loop and double Axel, as well as a gorgeous Biellmann spin.
“I had a lot of fun at this show and [really] have loved it here,” said Andrews, who said she’s been working on program consistency and triple Axel this summer. “Everyone has been so welcoming.”
Mirai Nagasu, the enigmatic two-time Olympian from Artesia, California, brought the crowd to the edge of their seats with her exciting interpretation of ‘No Good Deed’ from the ‘Wicked’ soundtrack.
Nagasu, 25, knocked out a whopping triple flip, triple toe and triple Lutz as well as high-velocity spins.
“I just loved doing the show,” said Nagasu, who said her stay in the area was the first time she had ever spent time in any suburban locale outside of New York City. “It’s so beautiful here and I loved that everyone [at WSA] has been so friendly, great and enthusiastic.”
Jeremy Abbott, 33, who is based out of Detroit, was also first rate and skated a high-energy program that featured a triple toe, interesting and complex footwork and blur-like spins.
Karen Chen, 18, of Fremont, California, performed a dramatic rendition of the song ‘Never Enough’ from ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack in which she reeled off a lovely double Axel and fast flying camel, among other elements.
Rohene Ward did his famous showstopping routine to a medley of Prince songs from the ‘Purple Rain’ soundtrack in which he executed a dramatic hydro as well as numerous other cool moves.
“It’s been great being here,” said Ward, who, like Prince, is also a Minneapolis native. “Being able to touch someone with what I do is the point of why I do what I do.”
A Golden On-Ice Education
In addition to performing in the show, this accomplished contingent also spent time working with WSA campers during the week in on-ice clinics in which they covered such topics as jumps, spins, edges and choreography and artistry.
The 72 skaters attending the WSA camp that week spent time participating in these clinics, which were conducted by Nagasu, Ward, Liu, Andrews and Abbott, and certainly seemed to appreciate having the opportunity to further build their knowledge and strength of their on-ice elements.
“I loved having the skaters here helping us this week,” said Caitriona Curry, 14, of Pleasantville, New York, who is competing at the Intermediate level this season. “One of my favorite classes was Mirai’s spin clinic and I got some good pointers from her, especially for the I spin.”
Sofia Stassi, 11, of Mamaroneck, New York, agreed.
“It was really fun, but also a lot of work,” said Stassi, who is competing as a Juvenile this year. “I really loved Rohene’s edge class and I got a lot from it because it helped push me to be more artistic.”
Notably, the performers also seemed to be enjoying themselves just as much as the campers.
“It was a great experience because it brought me back to when I was young and skated,” said Nagasu.
“This brought so much of the joy of skating back to me,” said Ward. “It was awesome and invigorating to share my love and passion of skating with everyone here and I hope through this experience, they are able to touch someone with their skating.”
Andrews, Abbott and Liu also said they had a great time.
“I had a lot of fun getting to know and work with the skaters,” said Andrews.
Those who helped organize and run this event were also delighted with its success.
“The camp was an absolute dream come true for our skaters,” said Haley Ruotolo, WSA Assistant Skating Director. “Each star had something different to share with the campers, ranging from choreography, edge work, music interpretation and jumps and spins.”
In addition, campers also had the opportunity to participate in meet and greet sessions with the guest skaters during the week, in which they asked them about subjects such as training regimens, support systems and strategies for overcoming challenges, among other things.
“The champions week was above and beyond anything we could have imagined,” said Ruotolo, who is also Director of the Rye Playland Skating School in Rye, New York. “So many parents came up to us and told us this was the best week of their child’s lives.”
Keep your eyes peeled for next month’s issue of SKATING magazine for more on the show and Team USA.