From the stands, both in practice and performance, I am completely drawn in to Kharis and Asher’s Short Dance. Romantic and light and set to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella Waltz, it takes me a minute appreciate the degeree of difficulty in the skating and not simply just enjoy the performance. Giving my head a shake, I get down to the task of really watching their skating. I realize that although they have been just beyond the horizon for some as Canada’s 4th place Senior Dance team, I have had my eye on them for quite some time and with good reason.

One of their coaches, Jon Lane says “I am maybe not the best person to speak about them – I am their number one fan. I am entranced by what they are doing. Someone might critique them and I will say I didn’t see that because I am entranced by them. There has to be something said for that.”

Kharis and Asher are warm, friendly and keenly intelligent young people, which should be enough for most folks. In addition to competing at the highest level in ice dance, they are both into post-secondary studies: Asher is at Ryerson University studying Occupational Health and Safety and Kharis, fellow Language Nerd (like me!), will be studying Spanish and Mandarin at the University of Toronto. Here’s a tidbit for you: Kharis once won the chance to go to Europe to compete in a Mandarin competition for non first language Mandarin speakers! Feichang Bang! Que Bueno! (excellent in Mandarin and Spanish respectively 😉 )

Back to their skating. One of the mysteries is how coaches Carol Lane and Juris Razgulajevs have been able to weave the magic they do with two skaters who have some obvious physical differences. He is black, she is not. She is dainty and feminine with a smile that lights up a room and he is a powerhouse of dashing masculinity. Their solution has been to use the differences to their skaters’ advantage and create a picture of harmony on the ice that is perfect.

Take this year’s Free Dance. The choice of the Gershwin classic “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess was enhanced by the fresh perspective given to the piece from African songwriter and vocalist Angelique Kidjo. The effect of the music hanging in the air coupled with their innovative choreography is memorable to say the least.

Both skaters are big fans of Olympic Champions and Canadian National Team mates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and recount watching the Olympics. Kharis was tied to her Mom’s computer waching the event while Asher found himself in a movie theatre surrounded by fans wathing it on the big screen. he says it was “thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time.” Both skaters are quick to point out the lessons they have learned from skating to this point: Asher: “Being able to go out and do something while camouflaging your emotions is something I have learned; To just ‘get on with it'”. For Kharis, she says it is “the ability to handle nerves and put on a good show regardkess of what else is going on” will serve her well in the business world.

The skaters are competing at Grand Prix events in China and France and see making the Four Continents and maybe even the World team this season as their goal.

Coach Donna Ijima who has been with Kharis since the very beginning says: “They are both very special and have a great connection on the ice.” She goes on to say: “Kharis is very special to me. She is the sweetest person, is never mean and is very well grounded.” The same could be said for both skaters. Just another part of the wave of Great Canadian ice dancers ….or maybe just Great Canadians?

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