Interview With Katherine Hill


After years of axels and sit spins, Katherine Hill took her love of figure skating to the dance floor, attending university and studying dance from choreographers like Billy Siegenfeld, Laura Wade, Jeff Hancock, and Molly Shannahan. Now a choreographer both on and off the ice, Katherine is a competitor in this year's YAS (Young Artists Showcase) 4. When she's not skating, dancing or choreographing, Katherine is the chair of the Stephanie Joseph Memorial Fund, an organization dedicated to celebrating courage among young people in the face of adversity. The Fund (http://www.stephaniejoseph.com) has hosted events such as skater meet and greets, skate-a-thons and even a 5K run. Katherine is also a choreographer for the Wake Up! Waltz project (http://wakeupwaltz.com), a Chicago based initative that performs free shows on rooftops for morning commuters... which I have to say is one of the coolest things I have heard of in a long time. I had chance to talk to Katherine about her dance background, choreographing for other skaters, Young Artists Showcase and much more! I just know you'll love reading her answers as much as I did:

Q: You have a B.A. in Dance and Communication Studies from Northwestern University. How has your formal education in dance transated to your work on the ice?

A: In every way possible! I had many reasons for pursuing a degree in dance but one of the major factors included an interest in learning why I liked to move the way I did. I wanted to understand why I preferred certain movement qualities and where those tendencies came from. Understanding dance history and the factors playing into artistic movement choices dramatically changed the way I view, appreciate, and create dance/skating. If anything, it has expanded my range of movement qualities, techniques, and interests. The dance world takes artistic risks constantly. I think figure skating needs more of this.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement as a skater/choreographer?

A: I have had the privilege to work with many talented young athletes. The key word is athlete because they have not yet discovered their artistic potential. I consider it my personal mission to enable them in personal expression via movement. I begin my work by bringing the skaters into the dance studio and asking them to dance for me. To interpret music and move; to improv. National and world ranked skaters have looked at me like I was crazy. As if I had asked them to jump off a cliff! Months later I make the same request and have watched these athletes become artists as they burst with expressive movement. Acting as a catalyst in skaters' discovery of expression is by far the most rewarding and interesting to witness.


Q: What are your favourite book and your favourite song?

A: Hmm... favourites are always hard. There are too many great things to discover! With that said, Charlotte's Web was the first book to ever make me cry and I will always always appreciate anything Beyonce put out in the world.

Q: What made you personally decide to participate in YAS (Young Artists Showcase)?

A: Oh, I could write an article about this! Essentially, YAS encourages everything I want to do with figure skating and want to see in the future of the sport. YAS provides an excuse to take risks and have fun. While I truly enjoy creating for competitive figure skating, the required elements, skater abilities, and more can cause the process to become somewhat formulaic at times. I see YAS as the perfect opportunity to throw away all frameworks. To truly start with a blank canvas (or sheet of ice). It keeps creative juices flowing.



Q: What makes YAS so important to figure skating right now? What can it help do to evolve the sport?

A: Again, I could write an article about this. I have always been drawn to skating's innate ability to fuse sport and art. Very few activities provide such an opportunity. A star running back friend once admitted he "wished he could play football to music like we do in skating." YAS is a great opportunity to foster the artistic expression in skating and highlight it's importance in differentiating our sport from others.

Q: When it comes to creating choreography, what components of crafting a new piece do you find to be the most fun and the most challenging?

A: I find it most fun to experiment. When you have time to say "try this... wait, that doesn't work at all... what if we did this?... oh, that's cool... but how does it connect...?" Essentially, taking the time to create movement organically and to work off what simply feels good to skate. The most challenging moment is marrying this experimental phase with my original vision. There is the vision and then there is the reality of what  functionally works with the resources available. Aligning the two creates the most work.



Q: If you were to create an original piece of choreography for any 3 skaters in the world, who would they be, what would the piece be about and what would you choose as your music and costumes for the skaters?

A: What an interesting question! While I have a million things I'd like to create and skaters I'd have a blast creating for, I am currently most interested in the collaborative choreographic process. I've always been equally excited by the process as much as the product. While I have had the incredible opportunity to work with many highly talented choreographers, I would love to continue learning and growing through time spent with those I have yet to meet. Kurt Browning and Christopher Dean have inspired me for years. As for the talent, I would adore the opportunity to work with Shae-Lynn Bourne again.

Q: Who do you believe are the greatest or most inspiring choreographers that figure skating has ever seen? What about the greatest or most inspiring skaters?

A: Choreographers above... although there are so many people putting out great work these days. Too many to name. As for skaters, Michelle (Kwan) was a role model through and through. I have always respected her honor, dedication, and class. She, by far, is someone to value in our sport for years to come.


Q: What is one thing about you most people don't know?

A: My friends say I am somewhat of a human compass! I can always point you toward North regardless of location.

Q: If you could pick just one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

A: I will defer to friends and family on this one. Over the years, I have been told I am curious.

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