Tess Thompson of the Mount Arrowsmith Skating Club runs through a piece of choreography at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Guest choreographer takes the ice with Mount Arrowsmith skaters

Mount Arrowsmith skating season is underway, with COVID-19 protocols in place

The Mount Arrowsmith Skating Club returned to the ice this month, although things look a little different with COVID-19 restrictions in effect.

Senior skaters took the ice at the Coulson rink during the week of Sept. 21 for some one-on-one work with guest choreographer Anne McGraw. McGraw lives in Kelowna, although she is originally from Quebec. She and Jean Leshures, director of skating for Mount Arrowsmith, are long-time colleagues, so McGraw comes in as a choreographer annually to work with the skaters, putting their programs together for the year.

“Almost every year I come [to Port Alberni] and do a week’s worth of work with Jean,” McGraw said. “I know the kids now, so it’s kind of fun to come back every year and see how they’ve improved.”

McGraw usually visits in August, but this year’s workshop was pushed to September due to COVID-19. She sees each skater for an hour at a time, allowing them some time for one-on-one training.

“A few kids are just doing maintenance, but for most of them it’s brand new choreography,” she explained.

For Mount Arrowsmith, registration is down for beginner and Learn to Skate sessions. But all senior and junior skaters have returned.

“It’s been a very strange start to the season,” Leshures remarked.

The club has been following some new procedures, including the addition of a check-in station for skaters and separate entrances and exits. Only nine skaters are allowed in a dressing room at a time.

City staff, said Leshures, have been “incredible” when it comes to cleaning the Alberni Valley Multiplex between sessions.

“The kids are doing fine,” she added. “They’ve been doing so good.”

Another change is the fact that all skating competitions have been cancelled until the end of December. The Mount Arrowsmith’s biennial winter carnival has also been cancelled. The carnival is a major fundraiser for the club, allowing them to offer low registration costs so every child in Port Alberni can have an opportunity to participate.

“Times are gonna be tough,” said Leshures. “For everybody. We’re going to have to find other avenues to fundraise.”


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Choreographer Anne McGraw works with skater Tess Thompson at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

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