As one of the leading choreographers in the skating world today, Jeffrey Buttle’s work is seen and admired on the global stage in both competitive and show skating. He has created programs for such high profile skaters as World Champion Patrick Chan, Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, World and European Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Canadian Champion Nam Nguyen, U.S. medalists Adam Rippon and Joshua Farris, and international competitors Takhito Mura, Michal Brezina and Sergei Voronov. Buttle has also choreographed large scale shows in North America, Asia and Europe, including the renowned Stars on Ice tour and The Ice and Fantasy on Ice in Japan.
Buttle describes himself as fortunate to have these diverse and dynamic opportunities. To create a tour like Stars on Ice, he starts with creative meetings with the show’s director. Once they work out a concept, he begins to put together music. From there, the ideas form. He and his assistant choreographers work out the choreography and document it so that it is ready to present to the cast when rehearsals commence. Stars on Ice is known not only for the Olympic level talent, but also for its creative ensemble routines.
“I really enjoyed doing the opening number for the 2015 U.S. Stars on Ice, which was ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (by Gershwin),” said Buttle. “It’s a fine balance because in Stars they’re top level skaters. You want to showcase them in the best light, but at the same time it is an ensemble piece, so you want there to be uniformity and togetherness.
“I think I accomplished this with ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ It introduced you to the skaters, gave a chance to the skaters to showcase what they can do and how they move. At the same time, it really brought all of them together and gave the feeling of a group.”
It is no surprise that Buttle has decisively established himself as a choreographer and visionary. As a skater, he burst onto the international scene in 2002 when he upset the favorites to win the ISU Four Continents Championships, a feat he repeated in 2004. In 2005, he earned his first World medal and in 2006 he was the leading skater on the Canadian Winter Olympic team, winning the bronze medal. World Championships gold was his in 2008 (the first Canadian man to win the title in 11 years), when two strong performances placed him on the top step of the podium.
With a World title to his credit, Buttle felt motivated to explore more innovative approaches to skating. On Sept. 10, 2008 he announced his retirement from competitive skating.
“Representing Canada around the world has been an honor and I’m very proud of my achievements as a competitive figure skater,” said Buttle at the time. “I’ve had so much support throughout my career—I’ll be forever grateful to my fans, coaches and, of course, my family.”
Buttle began skating at the age of 2 and competing at 6. During his competitive days, he divided his time between two training bases, working with Lee Barkell at the world-renowned Mariposa School Skating in Barrie, Ontario, and Raphael Arutunian at the Ice Castle International Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. He also worked with choreographer David Wilson at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, and he continues to work with Wilson on new programs that he performs in shows and on tours.
After retiring from competition, Buttle began to explore choreography and promised himself he would embrace every opportunity that came his way, even if there were daunting prospects.
“It’s important that early on in your career you say yes and try things, and figure out whether you enjoy them or not,” he explains. “The only way you can know that is by doing it. I think my willingness to agree to do things or experiment was what helped my career flourish.”
In addition to shows and tours, Buttle was also part of the coaching/choreography team on the hit Canadian TV competition show Battle of the Blades.
He continues to sustain a high standard for his own skating and even defeated leading names in the sport to win the 2012 Medal Winners Open in Japan. For his own programs, he enjoys having outside input, working not only with Wilson, but with individuals from the dance world. In fact, he enjoys that collaboration so much that he looks forward to bringing his vision off the ice onto the stage. He will have an opportunity to do that at an upcoming stage show in Toronto that combines skating and dance.
“I would love to venture off into other medium,” Buttle said.
His commitment to the sport is ongoing. In June 2006, the members of the Canadian national team elected him as national team captain. He was also the athlete representative on the Skate Canada Officials Advisory Committee. Following his retirement from competitive skating, Buttle served as a mentor for young Canadian skaters. In 2010 and 2011, Buttle was the athlete ambassador at the Canadian Championships. In 2012, he was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame.
He has been the subject of two books, a tribute book published by Skate Canada and Jeffrey Buttle Artist Book: Chapter TWO, an elaborate coffee table book published in Japan.
Buttle gladly uses his renown from skating to benefit good causes. He’s skated in charity galas, choreographed group routines for the Scott Hamilton CARES fundraising galas, participated in the Pride and Remembrance Run in Toronto and also given time to World Vision Canada.