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Skate Today

Flesher and Forsythe Mesh as Dancers

Sarah Flesher and Jamie Forsythe

Sarah Flesher and Jamie Forsythe, both 21, were the newest dancers to compete in senior dance at Canadian Nationals in Saskatoon in January. The team’s goal for the 2008-09 season was to make the top ten in senior dance at Nationals and they just missed, finishing 11th.

“My personal goal for this season was to simply skate and get noticed,” Forsythe said. “I want to become known as Jamie Forsythe the ice dancer instead of ‘that guy who switched and went to senior dance’.”

Flesher is the more experienced ice dancer with five years more dance time than Forsythe. She reached as high as 13th in junior dance at Canadian Nationals with Yannicak Long-Dupont in 2006.

She started skating when she was six or seven. “My parents put me in a lot of sports when I was little but then I had to choose one and I like skating the best,” she said. “I did gymnastics, ballet, and swimming. I never really started competing until I was ten.”

From 1993 to 1999, Flesher was also a competitive swimmer, reaching the provincial level.

Although her parents were not athletes, all of her siblings took different athletic paths. “I have one sister who is on a track and field scholarship down in the United States, a second sister who is a ballet dancer and a brother who plays hockey,” she noted.

Flesher initially competed in singles, reaching as high as fifth at the Alberta Sectionals in junior ladies, but switched to dance six years ago. “You get to be more creative and expressive on the ice,” she said.

Forsythe began skating when he was four and competing when he was seven. “I started because my parents wanted me to learn for hockey,” he recalled. “I tried the usual sports – soccer, gymnastics, swimming, baseball. The only one I liked remotely close to skating was gymnastics. I was really into track and field in grades 9 and 10 but had to back out of it because of skating in grades 11 and 12.”

He competed in singles for many years, winning the bronze medal in junior men at Canadian Nationals in 2006, but had to quit due to injury and switched to ice dance last year.

“I had actually prepared two new programs which I was going to compete in senior men for 2008. However, I was injured (a sports hernia) from before Nationals in 2007 and found out that I needed surgery. I was going to try and skate through the season anyways, but that didn’t last too long as it was too painful.”

“To make it to a high level in skating, you need to log many hours on the ice,” Forsythe noted. “In singles you are alone, and to pass the time you sometimes learn to talk to yourself to keep the session interesting. When you take the ice at a competition and everyone is watching you, its a lonely place to be in.”

“In dance you have someone else out there sharing the spotlight, which I think is a comforting feeling,” he continued. “I get much less nervous for dance than I did in singles. Dance is also a lot easier on the body than singles was. There is no constant pounding for jumping. I find that in singles the focus is on the elements whereas in dance the focus is on the program as a whole and weaving the elements into the program. I like this a lot better. It seems to fit my personality more.”

“I started dancing this season,” he explained. “In February of last year I began looking for a partner. I let word spread I was looking for partner on Icepartnersearch. I was testing out different clubs to get a feel for where I wanted to train. I happened to be in Montreal and Sarah called me asking for a tryout. We skated together the next day. Mylene Lamoureaux actually helped us, mainly me, that first day because I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

“Originally we just decided to skate together for practice but then we decided to form a team,” Flesher added.

Shawn Winter, Elise Hamel, and Marilyn Symko coach the skaters, who train in Pierrefonds. They normally work for four to five hours a day on ice, five days a week and another hour or two off ice, which includes the normal conditioning and dance classes.

“Dylan Harries comes from Ottawa once a week and Diane Droulis, our coach’s wife also comes once a week,” Forsythe explained. She’s a personal trainer. We also have a ballet guy who comes in to work with us. Sarah and I do anything else on our own such as cardio, stretching, and yoga.”

“We work with a ballet trainer but I wouldn’t call it ballet,” Forsythe said. “It’s more just getting feeling into our skating and working on our connection in our programs.” “I’ve taken ballet ever since I was little but I’m not doing much of it this year,” Flesher added.

Flesher also runs and swims to keep in shape. “I used to love running when I was younger,” Forsythe said. “Now I find it more and more challenging to tell myself ‘keep going just another 20 minutes left’. I do it more because I have to than out of enjoyment, however I should do it more than I do. I enjoy yoga, Pilates, and just setting my play list to random and dancing when no one is watching in my apartment. I have a weird taste in music so I never know if Tosca or some generally unknown melodramatic indie artist will come on.”

Their free dance music was “Agua y Vino” and “Viejos Aires”. “It was something we had never heard before,” Flesher said, “something that we could be expressive with.”

“The free dance was found strangely,” Forsythe continued. “We were looking and looking for music and not coming up with anything. It was getting almost frustrating. Then one day Shawn cleaned out his skating bag and found a CD that Hugo Chouinard had given him. He played it without saying anything. I started doing improv to it and thats how we knew it was the right choice. It’s sort of a modern flamenco.”

Jean-Pierre Boyer choreographed their free dance. “He was doing our OD when he became ill,” Forsythe stated. “It was a really sad time at our club. Summer Provincials were just a week away and the program still wasn’t finished. We asked Pascal Denis to come in and help us. Being a new team, and me being new to dance and not knowing what an OD meant, it was surprising how fast he was able to get it done. It wasn’t exactly competition ready, but it was a combined event so we had to compete it anyways.”

“For 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s music, what better entertainer than Judy Garland,” Forsythe said. “We chose ‘When You’re Smiling’ because we thought it would be light and easy as a contrast to our FD.”

“I love anything with emotions,” Forsythe stated. “If there’s drama, give me drama. I love tango in particular because of the passion. I can’t wait until I am allowed to tackle a tango OD or FD. I will need to improve a lot until I feel I can do it justice though.” “I like to skate to anything modern, but I like some classical,” Flesher noted.

Flesher, who plays the piano, listens to all kinds of music. “I used to play trumpet in my school jazz ensemble,” Forsythe said. “I started from scratch and learned because it was a class. I did that for two years. Then it became too much of a commitment as I had to miss performances.”

“I wouldn’t say I have a type of music I like,” Forsythe said. “I have a wide variety of genre’s I listen to. Basically anything but country. I like Elisa, Adele, A Fine Frenzy, Imogen Heap, Regina Spector; most of these people aren’t mainstream. I basically respect any musician where it is obvious in their music they have a passion for what they are doing and aren’t just in it for the fame and fortune.”

Flesher also likes to go shopping, watch all kinds of movies except scary ones, and read. “Marion Keys is one of my favorite authors,” she said. “Because I’m always reading text books for school I like books that are funny. I enjoy a good romance novel once and a while as well.”

“I like just relaxing in my apartment,” Forsythe said. “I also enjoy heading over to St Leonard to see what Meagan Duhamel and Michelle Egli are up to. We are good friends who can make anything interesting and fun without much effort.”

“I like sad movies for some reason,” Forsythe said. “Million Dollar Baby is my favorite. Because she worked so hard to get to the top and despite her circumstances she was proud to have gotten there and as she said, ‘I’ve seen it all’. Maybe I just relate to that and hope one day I can look back on my life and say that.”

“One day I would love to go backpacking through Europe and just visit museums and get into the various cultures there,” Forsythe said. “My favorite trip so far in my life was Triglav Trophy. We went to Slovenia, and my coach at the time (Paige Aistrop) and I took a side trip to Bled and Venice, Italy. It was an amazing experience.”

“I love to travel,” Flesher agreed, ” anywhere that has a beach and is hot. I’d love to go to Tuscany, Italy.”

Unlike many skaters, Flesher has continued her education while competing. “I’m in school to be a lawyer but I always want to stay involved in skating in some way,” she noted. “I’m currently at Concordia University in Montreal finishing my last year of school in Political Science.”

“I take random courses online through Athabasca University,” Forsythe said. “I am just banking elective credits until I figure out what I want to major in. I think I have it figured out, but I change my mind quite often.”

“After I finish skating I plan to coach and choreograph,” Forsythe added. “I love skating too much to leave. Its definitely not the cold rinks or the early mornings which keep me around, but I could never leave this sport. I do some choreography for skaters from Kingston (my home town). I actually had a girl qualify for Challenge this year. I was more proud of her than I am for myself.”

To help fund their training, Forsythe coaches other skaters, while Flesher coaches competitive swimmers at the YMCA in Montreal. “As for my coaching schedule, it changes weekly,” Forsythe said. “I go in whenever I am called or there is work. I go home frequently to put in the hours to make some money to pay for living expenses over the next few months. So there is no real rhyme or reason or schedule for my coaching.”

— Photo by Brett Barden

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