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October 24, 2002 Dance and figure skating keep student on his feet



Contemporary dance student Shae Zukiwsky.

Photo courtesy of Marketing Communications

by Julie Parkins

When contemporary dance student Shae Zukiwsky performs on stage, there is a special fluidity to his movements.

“When I’m choreographing things I like to move through space, I like to give the illusion of movement, I like to have this kind of flow,” Zukiwksy said in an interview. “My body has been trained to move in certain ways, and my muscular development is such that I can do things that most dancers can’t. I want to utilize that.”

As a nationally-ranked figure skater who has competed in 11 National Figure Skating Championships, six as a singles skater and the last four in Ice Dance with his partner Judith Longpré, it’s not surprising that Shae brings something unique to the more static realm of contemporary dance.

What’s interesting is that Shae is also unique in the world of figure skating. He is the only person on the current national team who is pursuing a degree in fine arts, and one of only a handful who are working towards a degree of any description.

“I think most people can’t do it because it’s really trying,” Shae said. “To be a national team member and a university student has taken me years to find a balance where I’m not hurting myself. It takes time to learn when to rest, when to take a break, and most people don’t wait it out. They quit when it gets tough.”

Fortunately for Shae, what he studies in school has direct application to what he does in his spare time. While spending up to four hours a day on the ice and weeks away competing, he is always performing, whether it be on floor boards or on frozen water.

“When I started viewing competition as a performance, I really started to excel, and that is what I learned from dancing.

“When I go out to compete, it’s a performance, I don’t even consider that it’s going to be judged.”

That attitude has certainly started to pay off for Shae and Longpré as they moved up from a eighth place finish at last year’s nationals to fifth this year. With long-time veterans Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz announcing their retirement after this season, Shae and Longpré are that much closer to joining the national team and possibly going on to compete at the World Championships, and maybe even the Olympics some day.

“I never thought I would have to actually consider skating at Worlds, but now, with it becoming so close, it kind of lights the fire beneath you a little bit more, and you think that this is something we can do. That’s exciting.”

With Shae graduating this April, the opportunities for growth in both skating and dance will become more varied. He has already choreographed a number of programs for a variety of skaters, most notably for Leah Hepner, who made the senior national team this year.

As he heads into the off-season, he and Longpré will have to start making decisions as to what sort of programs they will skate next year. They will contain some more contemporary elements if Shae gets his way.

“I want to take the knowledge I’ve learned through my dance program and start putting it to use in skating,” Sahe said. “A lot of things carry over. Movement is movement.”