Ice Network

Flack-Burghart helps introduce skating in Haiti

Unexpected return brings sweet satisfaction to professional skater
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Rory Flack-Burghart says goodbye from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. -courtesy of Rory Flack-Burghart

After a couple of years that saw professional skater, coach and choreographer Rory Flack-Burghart living a fairly nomadic life while she worked alongside different coaches on the East Coast, she has now settled into a new home and job in the Philadelphia area. This week, she begins her position as skating program director at the Grundy Arena in Bristol, Pa.

Before starting her job, Flack-Burghart had a somewhat out-of-the-blue opportunity to perform in a series of shows in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Efforts had been underway to bring an ice show to Haiti for quite some time. After organizers moved the venue to an indoor gymnasium, they were finally able to get the ice to stay frozen.

Flack-Burghart's longtime friend Fernand Fedronic, a former competitive skater from France, was enlisted to quickly bring some skaters together to mount the show.

"It had been 11 months they'd been trying to put this production together," Flack-Burghart said. "It was a lot of trial and error. When they got the ice right, it was, 'OK, let's do this.'"

The last-minute nature of the production made it hard to find skaters. After Shawn Sawyer and Taryn Jurgensen signed on, Fedronic asked Flack-Burghart to come as well. On a Sunday morning, she received a call asking her to travel to Haiti, and that night they performed the first of six shows. The idea was to expose the people of Haiti to an unfamiliar sport.

Flack-Burghart, who hadn't performed in nearly three years due to some health issues, found the whole experience exhilarating.

"It was mindopening," she said of Haiti. "At the end of the show, they let everyone run on the ice. I believe we were out there for at least half an hour just taking pictures. They would fall. They were wet. It was fun for them because they'd never been on a block of ice like that before.

"To watch it was uplifting," she added. "To be able to bring that to the people of Haiti was really cool."

On a day off, the skaters toured the city of Jacmel, which is being rebuilt after the devastating earthquake in 2010. It made Flack-Burghart, a mother of two, reflect on how fortunate we Americans are.

Feeling rusty and out of a performance groove, Flack-Burghart, 44, admitted to being extremely nervous for the first couple of shows but soon felt at ease. The sense of appreciation from the crowd fueled her. She even did her trademark backflip.

Before settling into life in Pennsylvania, Flack-Burghart spent much of the summer in Alaska, where she lived for many years. She got to work with Keegan Messing, who trains with ex-husband Ralph Burghart.

She also spent time with sons Rendell, 20, now a sophomore at Eastern Washington University where he plays competitive tennis, and Remington, 16 1/2, who will be competing in novice men's in regionals this fall and is in search of a new pairs partner.

At the end of November, Flack-Burghart will be in Chicago doing a series of workshops related to her Color of Ice Productions. She has produced extremely well-received ice shows in the past.

"In conjunction with a dancer friend of mine, Laurie Goux, and a recording friend, Max-A-Million, we've formed a performance theater," Flack-Burghart said. "We're doing a workshop. At the conclusion, the workshop skaters will perform at the opening of Navy Pier Winter WonderFest."