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Skate Today

Lee’s Talents Not Limited to Skating

Hjordis Lee

Canadian skater Hjordis Lee, a bouncy 20-year-old from British Columbia, is a multi-dimensional talent. She sings, she dances, she choreographs, and yet she still finds time to compete. And not just in ladies singles. She’s also done pairs and dance. And that’s not counting all the other activities in which she has been involved.

“I always had lots of energy,” Lee said. “My parents wanted to tire me out so they were always entering me into lots of recreational activities. I did ballet, piano, swimming, diving, trampoline, and gymnastics as well as skating. For two or three years, I was doing them all at once. But once I finished recreational levels, I focused on skating, ballet and piano. I completed grade 8 piano, and then decided to just dance and skate. After finishing my Advanced Royal Academy Ballet exam I added musical theatre to my activities until I was 17. Now that I have moved to Barrie, I am only involved in skating.”

“The years before I moved to Barrie, I was doing much more ballet than skating,” Lee continued. “I danced four hours a day. I really loved both pursuits. Unfortunately for me, ballet is really critical about body type and I didn’t have the height, long neck, or willowy ballerina look.” Lee did a lot of recitals, some shows and even musical theatre in Vancouver. She performed in “Cabaret” for a summer, training skating in the morning, then performing shows at night.

“It was a lot of fun, totally different from ballet or skating,” she recalled. “I had to act and sing and dance. I’d never sang before in my life and had to sing in German. Luckily, I was in a group. I was 16 and not really used to so overtly expressing myself, especially since there were a lot of sexy parts in the show. It gave me an outside perspective on skating and helped because I had another world to focus on and learn from.”

“Next year, I worked in another production all summer,” she added. “I did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park. It was directed by Jeff Hyslop from The Phantom of the Opera and I jumped at the chance to perform in that. I really enjoyed it.”

After finishing 13th at the 2003 Canadian Nationals in Saskatoon, Lee moved to the Mariposa School of Skating. “Lenny Faustino contacted me for a pairs tryout in the Spring of 2003. I moved to Barrie the following summer,” Lee said. “I really enjoyed pairs. It was a huge learning experience. But it’s difficult to learn everything so fast at the senior international level. I didn’t want to let Lenny down; there was a lot of pressure. I had a number of injuries including a serious ankle sprain on my landing foot. I was injured before 2004 Canadians. Lenny had other opportunities and decided it was time to retire so we quit in January 2004.”

“I was still in high school at the time and I didn’t want to move again,” Lee stated. “I had really missed doing singles and Mariposa was always known for its free skaters so I decided to stay. Mariposa is a very positive atmosphere.” She works with Shane Dennison, the husband of Canadian ladies champion Jennifer Robinson. Lee usually skates two to three sessions a day, five days a week. Off ice, she has physical conditioning specifically designed for skaters for an hour three times a week and works out herself at a gym for an hour and a half another three days a week.

Lee choreographs her own programs, both of which were new for the 2004-05 season. She used Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1, Prelude in G Major” for the short and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” for the long. “I’ve always picked my own music, but it’s a long grueling process,” she said. “I collaborated with my coaches on choreography since I was 12, and as the years went by, I had more and more say in the work. Last season was the first time I did 100 percent of the work by myself. I try to be unique and show my versatility. Each year I try to expand my repertoire. The short (Bach) is a cello piece performed by Yo Yo Ma. I am a huge Yo Yo Ma fan and I’ve always been keen on this piece of music. I’d never seen anyone else skate to it. It’s very traditional and classical.”

“For the long, I wanted a jazz number,” Lee explained. “I had only ever seen men skate to Take Five and I wanted to challenge myself. I envisioned myself sitting in a smoky café listening to jazz players. The choreography took a while to develop. It’s all one piece of music, not too many highlights. I didn’t want it to seem too monochromatic. There’s no stopping points in the choreography so it was hard to get my cardio up to be able to skate full out for four minutes. For next season, I’ll have two new programs. My formula is to have a lyrical soft piece that the judges like and one that’s more unique to show a different side of my skating.”

Ice dancing was actually her second discipline within the skating world. “When I was 15, Andrew Trigg asked me to dance,” Lee remembered. “I wasn’t too confident about the change, but I’d injured my knee in a jazz competition and wasn’t allowed to jump so while I was sidelined I gave ice dance a try to see what it was like. It was a good way to keep skating. That was my first time with a skating partner. I’m a very independent person. I like to think for myself. Ice dance taught me to always think in terms of a team.” The couple earned a bronze in pre-novice at Junior Canadians in 2001 but broke up in the spring because Lee missed singles.

In her favorite discipline, Lee finished sixth in Canada in novice ladies in 1999, moving up to fifth in juniors in 2002, 13th in seniors in 2003, and 16th in seniors in 2005. Internationally, she won a silver medal in Juniors at the North American Challenge Skate in 2002 and placed ninth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Belgrade, Yugoslavia the same year.

“I’ll eventually go back to Vancouver and go to university,” Lee stated. “I want to be a doctor and study kinesiology. Having been in the field of dance and skating for so long I’m familiar with dance and skating injuries so I hope to go into sports medicine specifically to work with dancers and skaters.” Lee has been retaking high school biology and calculus courses to improve her chances to get into medical school. “Education is very important,” she added. “Skating gives you some good learning tools that you can take with you to other things.” For now, she works at the Gap to help pay for training.

“I’ve thought seriously about becoming a choreographer in figure skating or dance like Sandra Bezic, Lori Nichols, Sarah Kawahara, or David Wilson,” she noted. “I’m pretty versatile in music. My musical interests jump all over the place, but I’m not big on radio music. I enjoy pop but not trendy music. I like everything from Diana Krall to Toots Thielman, Michael Buble to Harry Conick Jr., Cold Play to Sting, Yo Yo Ma to Itzak Perlman. I listen to a lot of jazz and classical music.”

Other than listening to music, Lee said she loves to play tennis and rock climb but in her downtime she enjoys relaxing at Starbucks with friends from the rink. She’s also a big movie buff, especially for dance movies such as oldies starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Cyd Charisse. She has a cabinet full of stuffed animals at home and another full of Swarovski figurines. Lee also loves to travel and keeps all of her skating pins and has a window curtain full of pins from everywhere she’s been.

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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