Autumn Lorca-Merono has coached at Sherwood Ice Arena in Sherwood, Oregon since 2012. Throughout her journey as a competitive skater she has trained with expert coaches and former Olympians. Autumn won the gold medal at the 2008 Regional Championships, as well as earned a gold medal for Moves in the Field in 2011, and a gold medal for Freestyle in 2014. Autumn's focus is now on the younger generation of skaters where she feels lucky to have the opportunity to pass along her knowledge and love of the sport.
Elesia Ashkenazy: What drew you to become a figure skating coach?
Autumn Lorca-Merono: I began skating when I was 6 years old and I completely fell in love with it. I knew from a young age that skating would always be apart of my life, and what better way to stay involved with skating than to coach? As I grew up, I spent many years training with great experienced coaches. I always had a desire to give back, and to pass along my knowledge to the new generations of skaters. I love the idea of helping young aspiring skaters achieve their goals and progress in what they love to do.
Elesia: What do you enjoy most about coaching?
Autumn: I love watching skaters grow and improve. The excitement they feel when they accomplish something new is an incredible thing to watch. My skaters make me just as excited about their skating as they are. Sharing my passion of skating with my students creates a wonderful bond.
Elesia: Do you recommend solid ballet or dance training for your students? If so, how does ballet help skaters and why should a skater should invest in it?
Autumn: Yes, I definitely encourage my skaters to take ballet. Ballet is a great way for skaters to learn musicality, rhythm, and grace. I find that a skater who takes ballet is able to use their arms, head, and whole body to relate to music much better than a skater who doesn't do any cross training with dance. Ballet training helps skaters to improve their overall artistry on the ice.
Elesia: What's your dance background?
Autumn: I started taking ballet at four years old, before I even began skating. At the age of eight, I had to make the decision of picking one or the other. I chose skating, however, as an adult, I am taking ballet classes again.
Elesia: I admire the choreography you set for your students. Tell us how you go about the process from start to finish.
Autumn: I always try to find a piece of music that will best fit the particular skater I'm working with. I strive to find music that will bring out the skater's strengths. I also like to give my skaters the opportunity to select music that they like and feel they can relate to. If a skater is not connecting with their music, it will be obvious and everyone will notice. Choreography is similar. I try to involve the skater with certain aspects, such as their beginning or ending pose. It makes them feel more comfortable and excited if they get the opportunity to put their own unique style into it.
Elesia: What inspires you most about choreography and how do you go about creating fresh ideas and material?
Autumn: Listening to the music and "skating" around my living room. That's honestly how most of my choreography begins. I love to really get involved and do the movements myself. I find that it helps the skater to perform the movements if I can go through the motions myself. Ballet also helps me in this area. I love incorporating balletic movements into my skaters' programs.
Elesia: What's your favorite program to arrange and cut music? Also, what's your go-to place for new music?
Autumn: I use Garageband to cut all of my music. It has been a great program. I use a variety of different resources to find music. I don't have one particular site that I revisit each time.
Elesia: What are a few of the most common tips that you give to students?
Autumn: Most of my tips for choreography are about the little details that make a big overall difference. Corrections such as, whole body use, facial expression, pointed toes, and pretty fingers.
Elesia: (Thank you so much for that pointed toes and pretty fingers comment!) You have been very supportive of my work and ballet for figure skaters. What improvements have you noticed in your students who take lessons from me?
Autumn: Their movements have become much more graceful and they do a much better job of telling a story with their skating. Their chins are up and their arms move much prettier than before. Also, I've seen their confidence grow. It's amazing how much better skaters perform when they know that they look good.
Elesia: I'll say! Is there anything I haven't asked that you would like others to know?
Autumn: Working with you is a joy. You really care about the kids and put in all of your effort to help them. You also do a wonderful job of staying in contact with me as a coach. You've been great about answering questions, and you always address what I specify for my skaters. Lessons with you have been a great addition to my skaters' training!
Elesia: Thank you for your time Autumn. My readers and I wish you the best of luck! See you around the rink and studio.