Interview With Amber Corwin

Photograph of American figure skater Amber Corwin

Competing on the senior level both nationally and internationally for over a decade, Amber Corwin was a skater who throughout her career demonstrated a delicate balance between very strong technical skills and artistic depth and sensibility. With programs to music by artists like Sarah McLachlan, Henry Mancini, Loreena McKennitt, Natalie Merchant and Alexander Borodin, Corwin displayed versatility in her program choices and was never afraid to branch into different artistic directions - she never "played it safe". She was also the first U.S. ladies skater to land a triple/triple combination in the short program at the U.S. Championships in 1997, is a two time medallist at the Four Continents Championships, and a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, where her degree in fashion merchandising and marketing certainly helped her in her design of many of her own costumes. Amber took the time to talk about her skating career, favourite skaters of today, her program choices and to share a very exciting personal announcement in this "exclusive" interview:

Q: In 13 trips to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 5 trips to the Four Continents Championships and numerous Grand Prix and other international events, what moments from your eligible career really shine in your memory as being the most special?

A: Wow, I have so many... I think my top favourite memories are spending time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where I met most of my best friends. Also, international competitions that stood out to me the most were Vienna Cup (my first international) and Four Continents in 1999 in Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada (best team ever and great skate).  My most memorable National Championship was in Atlanta, Georgia in 2004.

Q: You were coached by Charlene Wong and Scott Williams, two outstanding skaters in their own right. What was your relationship like with these two and do you think working with coaches who had a background in professional skating and performance benefited your skating moreso than working with a coach without that experience?

A: I definitely feel that I benefited from having such incredibly talented and young coaches.  They were able to skate and train with me and shared so many of their own experiences and advice.  Having a background in professional skating is very important in my eyes, because it allows you to let go and perform (which is what it's all about).  They encouraged me to participate in professional shows during my amateur career, which is what I attribute to my longevity and love of skating.

Q: One of the things I'm dying to ask you about is your "Ophelia" free skate. Natalie Merchant is one of my all time favourite musicians. There's such a depth and soul to her music that it's almost like listening to beautiful poetry. This particular song has been interpreted as being about everything from a series of feminine archetypes to describing past lives and reincarnation. What brought you to this music and what was your concept for this program (which I loved by the way)?

A: Thank you! My Ophelia character was choreographed by the late and talented Brian Wright.  She was based off of Shakespeare's character in "Hamlet".  I loved the intensity and passion that this character evoked and enjoyed slowly going mad as the program evolved.  I've always felt very connected to the lyrics and realism of female vocalists such as Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLachlan, Everything But The Girl and Loreena McKennitt.  I chose music that I felt I could relate to on a deeper emotional and spiritual level.  I also liked that it separated me from the others.

Q: I have to ask you the same thing about your short program the following year (2003) to "Touch" by Sarah McLachlan... We totally have the same taste in music!

A: This music calmed my soul... It felt as though each time I performed it, it was spiritual walk through the park. It allowed me to block everyone else out and to just waltz through. It was a selfish self referential piece, which I needed in that time in my life.

Photograph of American figure skater Amber Corwin

Q: After retiring from eligible competition, you moved on to do some professional skating and to work in the fashion industry. What are you focusing your time and energy on most now and do you miss performing?

A: I miss performing very much, however, I do not miss the crazy tour schedule and living out of a suitcase as I travelled from hotel room to hotel room.  I am actually quite the homebody and although I love to explore and travel, I prefer having a home base.  I worked in the fashion industry for a few years (styling celebrity clients), and then jumped into a five year career as an advertising executive.  These were incredible experiences and I wouldn't change any of my career choices, but I really missed skating and feeling creative.  I became burned out... I left my corporate job last summer and now I am teaching and choreographing and working on a few marketing side projects.  This allows me to be on the ice, spend time with my family at our country/farmhouse, travel the world and do all of the hobbies I love like gardening, cooking and making wine.

Q: What is your favourite skating program - by any skater or team - of all time and why? -

A: Very tough question! I would have to go with John Curry's Olympic program ("Don Quixote").  I've watched it so many times and it's just so clean, fluid and flawless.  He was a skating God.

Q: You were doing triple/triples before they were cool. When did you land your first triple/triple jump combination and how did you maintain such consistency on your triple jumps throughout your career?

A: Ha, thanks! I landed my first triple toe/triple toe during the 1996 training season.  After that, it just kind of stuck with me.  I don't want to say that it was easy, but it just came naturally to me.  It was my security blanket.  My coaches and I used to call it my secret weapon!

Q: What is your favourite song right now?

A: My all time favourite song ever is "Elsewhere" by Sarah McLachlan.  I also love anything by Everything But The Girl and The Rolling Stones. Sting is top on my list too. As for current music, I think my favourite song playing now is "Summertime Sadness" by Lana del Rey.

Q: Who are your favourite skaters to watch these days and of the current flock of U.S. ladies, who do you think are the skaters to watch?

A: I love watching real ladies skate on the ice. It's harder to find with the new system as it's always a race to fit everything in. I like Ashley Wagner as she is modern classical. I love watching Agnes Zawadzki because she reminds me of me when I was her age (she's sassy and athletic). Christina Gao is a lovely girl with a great attitude and quiet determination.

Q:  Having competed under both the IJS and 6.0 systems, which do you believe is the most fair for skaters?

A: I prefer the 6.0 system because when that system went away, so did the legacy of figure skating.

Q: What is one thing about you most people don't know?

A: I'm nineteen weeks pregnant with my first child (a baby girl).

Q: What advice would you give a skater who's thinking about giving up?

A: If your heart is in it, you will always shine through. Stay in the moment and appreciate 'the now'.  Surround yourself with a positive team!

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