The Tech: When did you start ice dancing, and how did you keep up with it at MIT?
Jessica Huot: I started taking “learn to skate” group classes when I was six, and transitioned into private lessons when my parents realized I was serious about learning to figure skate. Ballet was another interest of mine as a child, and at around the age of thirteen I realized that ice dancing was a great combination of skating and dancing and I started taking lessons in ice dancing. At fourteen I moved to Lake Placid, NY to train with my first ice dance partner, and at fifteen I moved to Newark, DE to train with the ice dance partner I went on to compete with for six years. We skated about 25 hours a week, working with a world-class coach in one of the top training camps in the world.
I was accepted to MIT my senior year of high school, but deferred one year, and during that year my ice dance partner applied and was also accepted to MIT. We decided to start full-time studies at MIT and continue to compete for as long as we could keep up with both. We were able to arrange our classes so that we could skate about three hours a day on weekday mornings, and would leave campus for three or four international competitions throughout the skating season. Wakeup was at 5:30 a.m., and we had to drive to Babson College to skate and work with our coach. It was sometimes a struggle to stay awake in the large lecture halls! We maintained this schedule for freshman and sophomore year, and won the Finnish Nationals in ice dancing three times, and competed at the European and World Figure Skating Championships three times during our competitive careers.
TT: Tell us more about your transition from MIT student to professional ice dancer. What thoughts did you have at the time?
JH: When we retired from competitive ice dancing, I never really considered a career as a professional ice dancer. Ice dancing isn’t the most popular discipline of figure skating with the general public, and without a partner I assumed it would be difficult to get cast in shows because ice dancers always skate as a couple. I changed majors from Course 7 to 9 and moved to NYC right after graduating to work for a consulting firm. Coaching skating was always a passion of mine and even though I worked 50 hours a week, I coached skating every winter at the outdoor rink at Bryant Park because I enjoyed teaching. I was introduced to the Ice Theatre of New York by an MIT alum I had met from NYC while she was back visiting skating friends at the MIT skating rink. She was one of the first people I contacted when I moved to NYC, and she put me in contact with ITNY. I convinced my ice dance partner to get back in shape and skate in shows for one season, but it was too difficult to rehearse with our work schedules. After working for four years, I auditioned and was accepted at NYU for their Master’s program in piano performance. Piano was a childhood interest I had put on hold while pursuing competitive ice dancing and had always wanted to come back to when I got the chance. My graduate schedule allowed time for me to rehearse with the ITNY so I went back to performing with them in group numbers, and more recently with a new ice dance partner.
TT: What aspects of ice dancing do you enjoy most?
JH: I really enjoy just skating! Jumping and spinning were never my favorite things to do, but I love to stroke and glide across the ice and feel the momentum and the way my blades carve the ice on their edges. It’s really fun to learn to move and dance to various styles of music, and it’s a great challenge to do that while on the ice, and make it look easy! In ice dancing it’s enjoyable to work with a partner and develop a connection, to coordinate movements, and feed off of each other’s energy.
TT: Is there such thing as a typical day for you? What would that be?
JH: After earning my Master’s degree I was hired to direct the skating school at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, which is the only indoor skating rink in NYC. We have “learn to skate” classes six days a week so I’m at the office in the rink a lot! I also teach private skating lessons on a daily basis and I teach private piano lessons at one music school in NJ and at some students’ homes several days a week. When ITNY has performances, we usually spend several weeks leading up to the shows rehearsing and I can fit rehearsals in my morning schedule.