The inaugural Dick Button Festival of Artistic Skating is set to take place in Lake Placid, New York, Oct. 1-2.

The festival, the brainchild of 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie, will not only be an interactive showcase of artistic skating, with workshops, presentations and demonstrations, but will also provide an opportunity for everyone attending to don their skates and be part of the experience.

Wylie first started considering the project about three years ago, but when COVID-19 hit and nothing was happening, he began to formulate a plan. “Having seen performances of artistic skating companies, I always wanted there to be a connecting point or a place where fans of artistic skating could appreciate the many different perspectives,” he explained.

“During COVID I was asking myself ‘What would I do if I could do it?’ I wanted to incorporate the education, hands on and performance aspects so that people could really develop an appreciation for all these things at the same time. My thought was to have something like the Edinburgh Festival (an arts and media event) for artistic skating as a tribute to Dick Button.

“I wanted this festival to be a combination of performance, workshops and a clinic. I think it is important for people to talk about and understand what the creative process is, and to see the latest and greatest from the various companies.”

As a former competitive skater who benefitted from working with John Curry as a child, Wylie believes such a festival could also be of value to the current generation. “Having been a skater who relied a lot on the second mark for how I did at competitions, it is hard to learn how to get better at it, but you can learn and develop by watching.” 

“If you are reaching your limitation on your quad Axel, this would be the easiest way to get more points,” he added with a laugh.

“Then I started to think about Dick Button who had been the founder of several artistic skating companies and is probably the most important American skater in the 20th century. I went to visit Dick and asked him if he would mind lending his name to this venture and he said yes.”

Wylie will host and moderate a two-hour introductory session at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Oct. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. Representatives of Ice Theatre of New York, The Next Ice Age, Elin Schran (Tenley Albright’s daughter) and the American Ice Theatre will take to the stage to talk about and show the work they are doing. Ice Dance International will not participate as the company will be performing that night in New Jersey.

A question-and-answer session will follow. Wylie said he has “left this open-ended so hopefully we will have some really interesting discussions.”

“On Oct. 2, five workshops will take place between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. It starts with World Figure & Fancy Skating where everyone will be able to get on the ice with those skaters and try out what it is like to do a Maltese Cross or some of these older figures,” said Wylie. “The second workshop is Elin’s Ice Flow class. It is a class she gives to skaters of all levels in the Boston area and all over. It is kind of like that yoga breathing, stretching workout approach but using edges. Then American Ice Theatre will hold their class.

“After lunch, there will be the John Curry class, which will be led by Nathan Birch and Sam Devroye from The Next Ice Age. That will be a very formal, classic, ballet-driven class.

“Then Ice Theatre of New York is going to do a workshop and a performance. Skaters will perform two of their pieces and then they will take parts of those two pieces and teach it to the folks who are on the ice.”

Wylie said it is not required for those attending to participate in the on-ice classes. “These things can be watched and appreciated by people in the audience, but all the workshops have been designed for people with skates on to actually be learning something.”

A gala show will take place between 2:45-4:45. All the companies will perform in the first half, and Ice Dance International will perform their full 90-minute show in the second half.

A VIP reception will follow.

Wylie is hoping to make this an annual event where companies and budding choreographers can showcase their work.

Tickets for this event can be purchased HERE.