Golden Skate

Scott Williams: Online Interview

Scott Williams, who has played a key roled in professional skating, has also coached and choreographed extensively for nationally and internationally ranked skaters in the United States and abroad.

For 30 years, Scott has devoted himself to the field of ice skating. Throughout his career he has excelled at every level, winning numerous competitions and awards as an amateur, culminating in the Junior World title, as well as the U.S. National silver medal and two-time World Team Member. As a professional, Scott has performed in thousands of shows and exhibitions including over twenty television specials. He also became the U.S. Open Champion and the World Professional Champion in 1991. Scott has also coached and choreographed extensively for nationally and internationally ranked skaters in the United States and abroad, as well as choreographing and directing for touring ice show productions including “Skate of Champions“, “Beverly Hills On Ice” and “Cinderella On Ice“. Some of Scott’s current students include, Michelle Kwan, Pierre Balian, and Allen Gaghinjian, and past students include Trifun Zivanovich, Amber Corwin, and Tiffany & Johnny Stiegler. Off the ice, Scott has played an instrumental role in professional skating, as president and founder of the Professional Figure Skaters Cooperative (PFSC) and Turtle Island Productions, Inc., and as producer of the American Open® Professional Figure Skating Championships.

Nicole M.: Scott, I have been a big fan of your skating for years, and wanted to know: What would you say has been the highlight of your competitive career (both in eligible and professional skating)?

Scott: As an eligible competitor, the highlight of my career would definitely be the Junior World Championships in Oberstorf, Germany. I just recently revisited that fond memory with my coach at the time, Louella Rehfield, a fabulous teacher that made that experience possible. As a professional competitor, the World Professional Championships in Jaca, Spain was my favorite moment. Most especially the artistic program to “The Mission“, choreographed by my good friend Brian Wright.

Anonymous: When and where will the next American Open take place? What do you think the future of professional competitions will be?

Scott: To begin with, I hope to announce the schedule for the 2003 American Open by March. Missing last year was a disappointment, as I really love the event and seeing all the great skating in one place. I’ll update our website as soon as our plans are complete. As for the future of professional competitions, I think there is a great deal of potential this year for the pros to cooperate and work together on promoting a new era of pro skating. I’ve been speaking with a number of skaters who are interested and want to support pro skating competitions. A key element I’m working on is to coordinate these efforts with those we’ve already accomplished in the PFSC. The idea I’ve always promoted with the American Open of skater run events, i.e. the rules and judging system, as well as format all approved by the skaters, is resonating well with everyone I speak with.

Anonymous: Glad to see you back coaching this time!! I watched the skating telecast held in Florida and was awed by the Spanish music skated to by Michelle Kwan. Could you tell give me the title and artist?

Scott: Composer: Joaquin Rodrigo, Performed by: Ikuko Kawai, CD Name: The Red Violin

Paula: Do you feel “comfortable” with the new judging system? What would you change if given the opportunity?

Scott: The new system is disturbing to me as I think skating is more than the sum of its parts. I don’t feel the scoring system was as much of a problem as the system of judge selection and the lack of skater participation in the governing bodies.

Bethany: What is your favorite skating element to do and why?

Scott: I love doing barrel rolls because it combines spinning with speed across the ice.

Anna from Long Beach: Being a huge fan of your skating, especially Truly, Madly, Deeply. I was thrilled to hear the news of you teaming up with Michelle Kwan. Will you be teaching her that amazing “Barrel Roll” spin? Good luck – it’s great to see you again!

Scott: Thank you for the compliments, it’s always quite nice to hear that your skating was appreciated. But alas, no, I won’t be teaching Michelle the Barrel Rolls. I don’t think it would look very graceful on a lady.

Angelia: Do you choreograph by letting the character of the music be the primary creative inspiration for MITF or by letting the skaters use their “comfort zone” of moves they have used before and try to adapt it to the music?

Scott: A combination of both, but if you stick with what a skater is comfortable with, they never learn anything new and advance their repertoire. Choreography should be challenging to a skater. The skaters that are willing to try new things that they can’t do at first are the ones worth working with.

Anonymous: Is Michelle working on any additional triple/triple combinations? Do you see her needing these if she is to continue competing on an amateur level?

Scott: Michelle has an excellent training regimen and continues to improve her skills. The second question will answer itself in time, I think.

Anonymous: What unique qualities does Michelle have to offer in skating? Qualities that you’ve seen over the years, as well as qualities that you think have yet to be reached?

Scott: To me, the most exquisite quality Michelle has to offer is that she’s not afraid to skate with her heart and soul. This takes a great deal of courage and is very rare. It doesn’t come simply from technique, but rather from the way a person handles everything in their life.

Anonymous: Since your divorce (two years ago), is there anyone “special” in your life or are you still a confirmed bachelor?

Scott: Confirmed. Just kidding, but no, I haven’t made any commitments at this point.

Anonymous: You are known for your innovative work. What new innovations would you like to bring to Michelle’s current skating?

Scott: My work with Michelle has been largely an effort of watching to see how I can help and then providing input and guidance as called for. My personal innovations came from a desire to stand out and get noticed. She already stands out, so innovation would have to have some other motivation, which it would be too soon to comment on.

Donna: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about your skating and who did it come from?

Scott: The best advice I ever received from anyone about anything was from my dad: “Get up, and get dressed!”

Anonymous: I’ve always enjoyed your innovative programs and admired your dance ability and sense of musicality. What creative people or artists have inspired you? And, best of luck to you in your collaboration with Michelle Kwan.

Scott: Thank you for the comments. As for inspiration, I get it from so many people it’s hard to list. Dancers I’ve seen, other skaters, musical artists, actors, and many others. A large part of any innovation I’ve had is attributable to the choreographers I worked with, and the artistic freedom I gave them. I often told them to do what they always wanted to do, but nobody would perform, due to the risk of being too different, etc. I always wanted to try something different, not just the same style to a slightly different piece of music. Brian Wright and Christopher Dean gave me the material to work with that I’m so grateful for.

Paula: All the males get asked this discriminating question <grin>. Boxers or Briefs?

Scott: Depends on the day and the task at hand.

Paula: If you were invited (or had the opportunity ) to compete in a Pro or Pro-AM competition, would you? On a scale of 1-10, where do you feel your skating is right now?

Scott: I would consider a Pro competition that had a category for skaters at my career stage. Notice the ‘age’ in stage. I would not consider a Pro-Am, as I don’t agree that they are good for pro skating. My technical ability is about a 5, if you consider my peak to be a 10. My creative ability is an 8 or 9, as I find my life experience allow considerable expression that I did not have previously.

Paula: Which skater(s) have inspired you in the past and that you still admire and why?

Scott: Many skaters, including Brian Boitano, and a number of other champion and well-known skaters have inspired me. However, in my younger years I was fortunate to have seen and skated with creative greats such as Allen Schramm, John Carlow Jr., Robert Wagonhoffer, and Terry Kubicka. These skaters had a dramatic affect on the way I approached skating and how my professional routines were shaped.

I now have to add that Michelle inspires me every day as she is the role model and example of commitment that skating so needs.

Paula: What would you say your strengths are in figure skating?

Scott: I think that our strengths are often the areas we enjoy most; and for me that was in the creation of a character, theme, or emotional element in program. After learning from Brian Wright, my friend and choreographer, about the artistic medium that skating can be, I found my strength in bringing the work to life. I also trained hard and with passion.

Paula: Are there any skating elements that you’d like to improve upon?

Scott: No, I’m happy letting go. It’s quite a pleasure to move on to other struggles; instead of working on my triple flip, I work on my sponsorship proposals. I did my skating bit, and sometimes I wish it could have been more and that I could have been better, but other than as a personal creative outlet, I am satisfied. I think I was often looking for approval of my skating because I needed personal approval. It was a big motivator for me, but it was never satisfying enough in that sense.

Paula: Back in 1998, I saw you skate to Philadelphia – amazing program. Who choreographed it for you and did you put in some personal inspiration when performing it?

Scott: Brian Wright choreographed that program for me, in one or two days, I believe. He has battled AIDS for a number of years, and that gave the program plenty of “background.”

Paula: Does it bother you at all to be called “The Mel Gibson of The Ice”?

Scott: Actually, I never heard that one, though I’ve been told I resemble Mel a few times. I wish I could play his brother in a movie!

Paula: Is there a piece of music or song(s) that you’d like to perform to but haven’t had the chance, and if so, what are they?

Scott: That’s a tough one because there are so many great pieces of music that I would have liked to skate to. I enjoyed tackling music from many different categories, and am thankful that I didn’t get stuck in one “type” of music. I can listen to the radio or cd’s any time and think, “boy, that would be great to skate to.” The only thing that really makes me consider skating again is doing a program in remembrance of my father. I don’t know what to skate to, maybe a Jim Croce or a Blood, Sweat and Tears song.

Paula: What was your favorite program as an amateur and a pro?

Scott: The Mission choreographed by Brian Wright. It was my first professional program, really, and it was my first and best taste of emotional expression through skating. I will always treasure that program. As an amateur, I suppose that Zorba was one of my favorites, though I never did it as well as I wanted to.

Paula: Can you remember how you felt about your long program in the 1982 Junior Men’s World Championships and how it felt to win gold after winning the bronze the year prior?

Scott: To be honest, I don’t remember that program very well, but I do remember skating my best. That win was one of my favorite memories, and I’m grateful to have had such an opportunity and the support that helped me to be there at that moment.

Paula: You also podiumed each year in the U.S. Nationals from 1985-1987. Which one was the most memorable and why?

Scott: The first year was absolutely the most memorable. It’s a great feeling to finally feel that you’ve made it to that point. I worked extremely hard that year and sacrificed a lot in my personal life to improve my skating. Also, the newness of it was wonderful. Barbara Roles, my step-mother, worked very hard with me that year and is largely responsible for the success I had.

Paula: Have you had the time lately to follow eligible skating, and if so, which of the up-and-comers have made the greatest impression on you?

Scott: As a coach I follow a fair bit of the eligible skating. I’m impressed by many skaters, but I find that too often the focus is simply on jumps, and so much more goes undeveloped.

Paula: What do you consider to be the definitive moment of your pro skating career?

Scott: The World Pro win in Jaca, Spain. It was the dividing line when skating became my profession, and my responsibility. It was a joy to have the freedom that came with being a professional, and I reveled in it.

Paula: Do you feel that men’s skating in general has changed over the past ten years and if so, in what way?

Scott: Yes, without the figures there are certainly some changes. And although the jumps have improved and maybe the power, nothing else has in my opinion. I’m not a big fan of the current amateur format.

Paula: What music or favorite artists do you enjoy listening to when off the ice?

Scott: I’m a music lover, so I listen to everything. I continually change the radio station from classical to hard rock to world music, jazz, and sometimes listen to the Mexican radio stations we get here in L.A. I love Sting, Paul Simon, Mozart, and so many others. I often play the drums to the “loud” stuff.

Paula: What movies or TV shows do you enjoy?

Scott: I do like Frazier and Cheers. A bit of comedy in the evening is great medicine.

Paula: Who are your favorite actors and actresses?

Scott: Anthony Hopkins and Mel Streep.

Paula: What are your goals for the future and do they involve skating?

Scott: I would like to grow the American Open into a series of events that celebrates and promotes professional skaters. I’m also looking to grow Turtle Island Productions, Inc., into a well-run, profitable, and sought after event planning and management firm.

Paula: Can you tell us more about Turtle Island Productions, Inc. and what it encompasses?

Scott:Turtle Island Productions, Inc. encompasses live event production, direction and choreography services, event management, casting services, seminar organization, and private coaching services to the skating industry. Our most noted production has been the four American Open’s held to date. No other open professional competition opportunities exist for professional skaters and we hope to continue working with the Professional Figure Skaters Cooperative (PFSC) to expand professional competitions and ensure consistent and credible judging in professional figure skating.

Paula: Thank you Scott! Is there anything you’d like to add or say to your fans?

Thank you for the support and for giving me a place to do my work and passion. I hope to repay you with many entertaining productions in the future. Thanks to you, Paula, for this interview. —Scott Williams