Skater in Residence – Emanuel Sandhu

My two cents: The opposing sides of a very special coin.

Even as I sit here typing, so hard at first, now flows like water.

I’m sure there are people out there that have always wondered what makes me tick. Well, I’m still trying to figure that out. Or maybe I know all along and it’s just too ineffable to put my finger on. Either way, this knowing and not knowing, the here and there, represents a central theme in my life: that of duality. Even the word has a double connotation depending on how you spell it: dual or duel. A fantastic tug-of-war that can yield gorgeous results.

Just look at my name:

                              Emanuel Sandhu.

One side is Italian and the other East Indian.

Even my initials are a study in opposition:

                               E S

The “E” is angular, directional and focused. Maybe even aggressive given what font is used; like a pitchfork or a trident.
The “S” is free-flowing, fun, sinuous; a flirty arabesque. If you cut it in half and flipped it right side up, you’d get a heart. What colour would depend on the day.
Interestingly, both strong shapes on their own, they come together and set each other off with their contrasting energies. Boom. Pow. Sizzle.

Hot stuff, right?

Even my upbringing has been the product of two factors. I’ve mentioned my bi-racial ethnicity; my father being from India and my mother from Italy. Talk about two different worlds. Culture clash. More like Clash of the Titans. They both exist within me. The calm observance of my father, the passionate turbulence of my mother.

I’ve even been brought up on two coasts of one country: my childhood and adolescence in Toronto, my coming-of-age and young adult life in Vancouver. The two lifestyles and locations couldn’t be more different. Toronto a big, straightforward grid of concrete and rebar in a suit… Vancouver, a curvaceous and undulating mountain siren sleeping on her side in an ocean pool. Both make me appreciate the other more.

Then of course, there are the two sides of my training: ballet and figure skating. For me, one couldn’t exist without the other. They are inextricably linked. They always will be. I had spent years shuttling between Canada’s National Ballet School in downtown Toronto and my home rink in Richmond Hill. To this day, I still take ballet class and skate a practice session.

There is now and then. Then: the trainee and competitor. Now: the trainer and performer.  A perspective flipped from one side of the rink boards to the other.  Always learning, even when teaching.

This extends to my choreographic work where the extremes swing from Olympic and World Champions to young up-and-coming talents, guiding singles and pairs, nationally and internationally, creating one-off competitive programs to overseeing and sculpting massive world-class productions in Russia. I also put my duality to use floating between the dance and sporting worlds both as a choreographer and performer, between North America, Europe, and Asia, Canada and Russia.

I’ve been known as highly technical as well as extremely artistic. As hot and cold (mostly hot I’d say). On television as a National and International skating champion and as a dancing king.  As the nicest guy on the planet or the most intimidating figure. Ahead-of-my-time but never on time. An enigma.

A journalist once quipped “Jack of all trades, Master of none.”

I don’t think so.

This yin and yang, this black and white, this up and down, this left and right…it may seem like a chaotic hurricane. But at the center of every hurricane, remember, there is the eye. The calm.

As Canadian icon Joni Mitchell, at once a singer-songwriter and a painter, famously sang:

                                                                                              I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now…

Yes. Yes, indeed I have.

So. Let’s flip a coin.

Whatever side it lands on, I promise… it won’t be boring.