Three years, three Canadian championships.
Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill are the reigning Canadian junior dance champions, a title they captured in their first nationals at that level. This should come as no surprise, however, as Ralph & Hill were the 2007 novice champions, also in their first year. Completing the trifecta, the duo claimed gold as pre-novices in 2006.
Sixteen-year-old Kharis Ralph was born in Washington, D.C., but Toronto is now her home. Seventeen-year-old Asher Hill hails from Toronto and calls Pickering, Ontario his home. Partners for six years, the 2007-2008 season put Ralph & Hill firmly on the international ice dance radar when they placed an impressive eighth at the Junior World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, their debut at an ISU championship.
The duo took time out from their training at the Scarboro Figure Skating Club in Scarboro, Ontario to answer some questions for ice-dance.com.
IDC: When did you start skating and how long have you been ice dancing?
Kharis: I have been skating since I was around 6 or 7 years old. I have been ice dancing for 7 years.
Asher: I started skating at the age of 4 and started dancing at the age of 11.
IDC: What made you choose to specialize in ice dancing?
Kharis: My first coach, Donna Iijima, was a kind of ‘scout’ for Ice Dance Elite. When she told me that I looked graceful when I skated, she proposed that I started dancing with a partner. Eventually, as ice dance required more time, I quit free skate and moved into ice dance full-time.
Asher: Well, I did solo dance at first and then eventually got a partner.
IDC: Did you have previous partner(s)?
Kharis: Unlike Asher, I had a partner before him.
IDC: What do you like best about training with your coaches, Carol Lane and Juris Razuglajevs?
Kharis: I like how the styles of both Carol and Juris blend and complement each other. Working with them makes you feel like stretching yourself further and harder than you thought was even possible.
Asher: They are both strict and fun at the same time. They are also very innovative.
IDC: Your training group has had many successes this season; to what do you attribute the successes?
Kharis: I think that all of us at Ice Dance Elite have been successful this season because of the contributions and hours put in by our fabulous team of coaches: Carol Lane, Jon Lane, Juris Razgulajevs, and Donna Iijima. Also, the environment at our club promotes hard work, discipline, teamwork, and fun.
Asher: I thank all my coaches and the great environment in which they train.
IDC: Asher, you continue to compete in singles at the National level. How do you balance this along with your ice dance training?
Asher: I dance in the morning and free skate in the afternoon and evening. It’s actually not as bad as some people think. But, my school does suffer.
IDC: Do you feel your singles/ice dance training is an asset to the other discipline? How?
Asher: Yes, I do. Both disciplines essentially complement each other. Dance helps my skating skills, and free skate helps my reflexes and power.
IDC: There has been discussion regarding whether or not compulsory dances should still be a part of ice dancing. How do you feel about this? Should they be removed or still be included?
Kharis: I think that the compulsory dances should still be a part of ice dancing. After all, it was because of these many compulsories that ice dancing became a discipline.
Asher: To me, it doesn’t really matter. But, the only reason I think that the compulsories should stay is because it is what makes ice dancing, ice dancing.
IDC: Do you have a favorite compulsory dance? Which one?
Asher: Yes, the Paso Doble and the Cha-Cha Congelado.
Kharis: The Cha-Cha Congelado and the Blues.
IDC: What is your favorite dance element?
Kharis: My favourite dance element is the spin since there is a variety of positions that one can make.
Asher: Rotational lifts.
IDC: Your African folk original dance was one of the most well-received of the season, who developed the concept and choreography for the program?
Asher: Well, we got the music from the South African show, Umoja, which my dad successfully brought to Toronto. We also wanted to do an African program because we wanted to be different since there were at least 1000 gypsy dances in one event. Ha ha ha.
IDC: Can you tell us a little more about the show and how you got to see it?
Kharis: “Umoja” is not exactly a Broadway musical as much as an ensemble that showcases young South African talents. In the production, [the performers] offer in song and dance different aspects of South African life from ancient to contemporary times. Asher’s dad and a business partner organized that the ensemble performs in different cities in Canada and the United States. We watched it in Toronto.
IDC: Were doing a literal interpretation of the show or an unrelated OD using that music? Can you talk a little about that music choice and about what the program meant?
Kharis: Asher and I were merely interpreting different clips of music from the show. It was our coach, Carol Lane, who went through the entire soundtrack of Umoja and selected the three pieces of music that comprised our OD. Carol and Juris choreographed our OD. Asher, who had seen the show many times and had even attended some seminars with the performers, also contributed during this phase. It was only when we worked with our African dance coach, Peter Scott, that a story started to develop. The beginning of our OD represents the sun rising and the people of a small village waking up and greeting the day. When the second piece of music starts, we depict the “preparation” before a hunt. The third piece of music (which is entitled “Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness”) is about an end of the day celebration in which we thank the gods for a good day.
IDC: Tell us about your World Junior Championships experience.
Kharis: We were both really excited to go to Bulgaria for Junior Worlds (especially as it was our first year in Junior). We met so many interesting people and saw so many other talented skaters from around the world. We’ll always remember that competition with fond memories.
Asher: It was a fun, great experience and I think it was our peak performance. Not to mention all the memories that will last a lifetime.
IDC: What are your non-skating goals?
Kharis: One of my principal non-skating goals is to be accepted at either Oxford or Cambridge University and pursue a degree in English, History, or Linguistics.
Asher: To go to university and get my Bachelors of Science and perhaps a Masters Degree and PhD.
IDC: What do you like best about skating with your partner?
Kharis: The best thing about skating with Asher is that he is very patient with me when I find something difficult. He also has such a great sense of humour!
Asher: We get along great and she doesn’t like to argue.
IDC: What is something that ice-dance.com readers may not know about you?
Kharis: I have been learning Spanish, French, and Mandarin for almost ten years.
Asher: I love to learn languages and aspire to learn Russian and Japanese. I can also translate and transliterate English to Ancient Greek and vice versa.
IDC: One final question: Have you decided on which level(s) you are going to compete next season? Junior internationally and senior in Canada?
Kharis: We are still in the process of deliberation.