Growth is the Goal for Ralph & Hill

by Jacquelyn Thayer | Photos by Liz Chastney

12W-FD-1489-RH-LC 450For Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill, their first trip to the World Figure Skating Championships was, in a word, “fantastic.” While the team finished 13th overall, their free dance earned a standing ovation from the audience in Nice. As Hill remarks, “The team was awesome, the city of Nice was beautiful; going to a competition where there are palm trees and beautiful squares and outdoor cafes – who could ask for a better place? For this competition we felt completely stress-free and confident. It honestly felt no different than a normal international event.”

Though the team competed at Junior Worlds in 2008 and 2009, Ralph notes some distinctions between the two events. “For me, there really wasn’t that much of a difference feeling-wise. However, as more people come out to watch ‘Big Worlds,’ it was easier to feed off the energy of the audience when we were performing. Though we were competing against people who we only ever get to see on TV, we weren’t fazed by them. After all, at our Nationals, we already experienced competing against the best of the best – Tessa [Virtue] & Scott [Moir], and Kaitlyn [Weaver] & Andrew [Poje].” Ralph also highlights as her biggest thrill contending alongside longtime idols Virtue & Moir, whom she admits still leave her “awestruck.”

Last season saw the team making strides, with their tango free dance earning notice for its complexity. This year, they’re working to further build on the progress that’s already been made. “All the work we did to improve ourselves last year – i.e. more off-ice conditioning and training, lifts coaching, dance classes, etc. – has been carried on to this new season as well,” says Ralph. “In a sense, because of all the changes we made last year, we now have a stronger base, both physically and technically, with which to work.”

“It’s going to be a little bit of a daunting task to top the free dance from last season,” adds Hill, “but we are up for the challenge, still aiming to improve on lifts, speed, and our presence on the ice.”

In addition to their technical improvements, the team will also rely on what they see as their style and strengths as performers. “I think that we project a strong connection to each other,” says Ralph. “I also think that we’re able to keep true to the character and story that we’re trying to portray. People have also told us that we come across as authentic.”

“It’s hard to pinpoint what our style is,” Hill continues, “[since] we have done so many different genres. So I guess you can call us versatile. But I really like that about us, we never really feel stagnant as we are always exploring new movement.”

12W-FD-1524-RH-LC 450Some of that new movement has lately included the Yankee Polka, the team’s first experience with the “fast paced, energetic” compulsory pattern that’s forming the core of next season’s senior short dance. The team has selected music from the film Gigi for the program, which Hill notes “fit perfectly” with the polka. Ralph observes that, unlike last season’s required Rhumba, the Yankee Polka adapts with relative ease into a larger dance. “The Rhumba was in Killian hold the entire time and looked every bit like a compulsory dance,” she says. “Because of that, it was inevitable that once the choreographed section of the short dance ended and the Rhumba began, everything felt or looked disjointed. On the other hand, the Yankee is more intricate and has a variety of holds. Plus, it’s more interesting and fun for the audience to watch.”


An interest in new movement and technical precision also informs the pair’s interests in dance style. “I’m particularly drawn to contemporary dance,” says Ralph, “because it has a seamless and effortless quality to it. In ice dancing, it’s always a sign if someone is really good if they make something difficult look like a piece of cake.” Hill, meanwhile, enjoys a variety of styles: “I love all types of dance. Finding new ways to move my body just makes skating more interesting and cool.”

Ralph & Hill’s immediate goals remain focused on development. For the off-season, both Ralph and Hill stress a desire to refine their programs and on-ice characterizations as quickly as possible. “I already have an idea in my head what I want our programs to look like,” says Ralph. “Now, it’s just about figuring out how to project it.” The team also aims for a strong showing in their Grand Prix assignment at Skate Canada International. “We really want to get a good start to the season,” says Hill, “and hopefully do one summer comp.”

And the partners are focused on one central goal: “I guess,” concludes Hill, “we just want to go out again this season and do exactly what we did last year, but even better.”