About Kathy Johnson - Modern Dance Coach to World Skating Champion Patrick Chan

Patrick Chan and Kathy Johnson
Patrick Chan and Kathy Johnson. Getty Images

Kathy Johnson Teaches World Figure Skating Champion Patrick Chan:

World Figure Skating Champion Patrick Chan is one of several elite figure skaters who works with modern dance coach Kathy Johnson.

Dance Accomplishments:

Kathy Johnson started modern dance in Philadelphia at the age of fifteen. Martha Graham was influential in her dance career.

She moved to New York after she was accepted to the prestigious Juilliard School when she was a teen.

After living and dancing in New York for a number of years, Johnson moved to Munich, Germany where she had an opportunity to dance with Tanzprojekt Munchen, a modern repertory company that was based in Germany. It was with Tanzprojekt that she had an opportunity to work with some of the most well respected choreographers in the modern dance world.

When her performing career ended, she attended graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia and received a Master’s Degree in Dance. She taught college level modern dance classes and also taught dance in private studios.

Figure Skating Involvement:

Kathy Johnson's daughter, Tess, became a figure skater. As she watched her daughter practice, skate, and develop skills on the ice, she noticed the relationship between how figure skaters were moving on the ice and the way modern dancers move on the floor. She noticed that the way the weight shifts and the placement of center of the body was almost exactly the same.

Johnson began to work with her own daughter off the ice in exploring that use of center, shift of weight, and precision of body line. Other coaches at the local ice arena began to notice the work she was doing with Tess and asked her to work with their students. Eventually she was asked to teach some dance classes for figure skaters.

Figure Skating Choreographer Tom Dickson "Discovered" Kathy Johnson:

Kathy and Tess visited Colorado Springs for a week. During that week, she met figure skating choreographer Tom Dickson.

Dickson and Johnson started a dialogue and an exchange of ideas comparing the skating world and the dance world. As time passed, Tom suggested she start a modern dance program at the Colorado Springs World Arena Ice Hall. Together, the two developed a program that they felt would enable skaters to take what they learned in the dance studio and directly relate it to what they do on the ice.

Kathy and Tom wanted to develop figure skating artists. They also worked closely with other figure skating coaches and choreographers to address the needs of figure skaters.

How Kathy Johnson Helps Figure Skaters:

Johnson believes that the best movers are the better skaters. As figure skaters become more comfortable with controlling their weight and movements on the floor, they eventually translate that to the ice. When they get control over the center of their bodies, and move from their core, they can free their upper body, head, neck and arms to be more expressive with greater ease and flow of movement.

Kathy Johnson travels from her home in Kansas City to figure skating training centers to work with some of the world's best figure skaters.

The work Johnson does with elite skaters is ithe same work she does with all skaters. Everyone has to develop the basic vocabulary of movement and dynamics.

She works closely with other choreographers and makes sure that she addresses exactly what the choreographers want to see from their skaters when they perform a program. She also works closely with the skaters' coaches to make sure it is a team effort in putting together a program that is technically, musically, dynamically and artistically brilliant.

Elite Figure Skaters, Including Patrick Chan, Enjoy Working With Kathy Johnson:

Some of the elite skaters Johnson works with, including Patrick Chan, ask her to accompany them to competitions to continue the off ice and on ice work they do at home. At the 2012 World Team Trophy for Figure Skating, Johnson functioned as Chan's primary coach.