Originally posted to rec.sport.skating.ice.figure on April 4, 1996
by Lorrie Kim
I recently got back from attending the figure skating competition of Slide for Pride, a lesbian and gay annual sports event in Seattle. It was the first competition I've ever watched that wasn't élite, and I enjoyed myself and learned a lot just watching.
There were several male and female singles skaters (Adult silver and gold, Masters junior and senior), two mixed-gender ice dance couples, one mixed-gender pair, two female Interpretive, and one female pair team (no male-male). The event had partial USFSA sanction -- eligible skaters received a letter confirming that they would not lose their eligibility by competing in this event. It was scored on a 10-point scale, and a few skaters used vocal music.
After the competition, the Seattle Ice Theater performed a mesmerizing piece called "Equipose," in which one man and two women impersonated Wind, Rain and Thunder and skated to a recording of a thunderstorm. It was one of the better conceptual pieces I've seen. The skaters wove between each doing their own thing, and balancing on each other's hands and arms and feet to move as a poised threesome. They maintained focus and atmosphere beautifully throughout.
Among the male competitors, standouts were Darin Hosier and Gary Lynch, two Seattle residents. Darin is a coach, and played Wind in "Equipose." He won bronze in 1984 novice nationals, and I think his last competitive year he placed 6th at a senior regionals. He has a quality double axel, and his presence is strong. Darin and his lover Jim are apparently sort of well-known in the Seattle gay community because they have a strong, stable relationship and Jim is a cop -- sounds like a sitcom, doesn't it, the gay skater and cop.
Gary Lynch is one of Darin's students. He started skating at 15, but soon quit because he was afraid people would know he was gay. Don't let people say homophobia has no effect on this sport -- it does! He skated a little here and there, but he really got back into it for the 1994 Gay Games, and now Slide for Pride. And he totally blew me away. He's built bigger than most skaters, so when he jumps, the meaning of jumping is totally different. It's a very large, important, grave, beautiful float -- kind of a Brian Boitano effect -- and Gary is a good jumper (his single lutz, especially), so there's a lot of breathtaking room between the end of his rotation, and his landing. Also, he had some clever and fast and neat footwork, which I was not expecting at all. (Sorry, I don't have my information with me, but I think he was Adult Silver.) Darin and his friends were so proud of Gary, called it the best skate of the weekend, and boasted sweetly about his good footwork.
Doug Mattis skated an exhibition because nobody else was at the Masters senior level. His short program was to "Montego" (sp?), played by Dizzy Gillespie. It's fun, upbeat and a little sly, "very Latin" (Mattis' words), and the program's kinetic signature is lots of swivels, back and forth hip motion and footwork. Although Mattis does not do his camel spin in both directions here, that's the mood -- ambidextrous and playful. He started off beautifully with a very fast spin combination, great positions, but then he fell on his triple lutz combination. His triple toe walley was fine, but at the end he opened up his double axel. Later, he said he was disappointed, but thought the mistakes were due to being out of practice after five years away from amateur competition. Doug has been working on his triple axel in practice, and says some days it's really good, others not. Before he went pro, Doug didn't compete with a triple axel, but he says he's a better skater now.
Mattis is doing his own choreography, along with his friend and roommate Christopher Nolan (no, they're not lovers). I noticed there were a lot of cocky and fun poses at points, and he explained something interesting: as a junior, he once got an unfair 0.2 deduction from a judge, because she thought he hadn't completed a footwork element. In his choreography, his footwork sequence blended so well into the next element that she missed the change. He explained it to her, but by then it was too late. So ever since then, he has practically waved big signs in between elements, providing noticeable breaks in the form of standing and posing, or dancing to a musical highlight, or some such.
All the male skaters I talked to self-identified as gay. For the women, I was told there were only two lesbians, and everyone else was a supportive straight person. The two were Laura Moore, co-president of the International Gay Figure Skating Union, and Lisa Labrecque of San Francisco. Moore only started skating four years ago, at 32. She divorced her husband, came out as a lesbian, and learned to skate all at the same time. She's the only woman I've ever heard of who feels that skating and lesbianism are, in a way, the same thing! She says her lover comes with her to competitions, they are totally out, and everybody has ranged from respectful to delightfully supportive. Labrecque is a publisher (her company published the coffee table book of the '94 Gay Games) and skates every day; her coach is John Brancato, Rudy Galindo's choreographer. The two of them did a pairs program just for a lark, choreographing it bi-coastally, sending videotapes and faxes back and forth! Laura starts out in a tutu, skating Swan Lake as an Oksana wannabe, and then Lisa thuds into the rink (literally -- she falls over the side of the barriers) in motorcycle gear to the strains of "Born to Be Wild."
Moore also skated Interpretive, along with a woman named Sheila Geisler. I'd never seen this event before, and I think it may be my all-time favorite. The song turned out to be "Let's Twist Again," and they each heard it three times before they had to skate the program they had made up on the spot.
The Slide for Pride judges were not USFSA judges, but they included USFSA coaches as well as Tamara Kuchiki and Neale Smull. They were psyched to be there, and said they support any competition where the skaters are there just for love of the sport.
It was a blast and I will definitely watch more adult competitions when my budget permits. Nothing can replace the entertainment value of élite competition, but skaters in their teens and twenties cannot compete with the wonderful look of intelligence and thoughtful effort on the faces of these adults.