December 31, 2009

Confession of the Month


That time again ... better get it over with.

Nearly twenty years ago, when skating in a show in Japan, we had noticed leading up to New Years the audience was spending more on the t-shirts and pictures, tipping the waiters, which they normally didn't need to do and generally giving away more money.

Later I learned why. New Years is a big holiday for the Japanese and the thinking goes that giving away more money at the end of the year will make you richer in the new year.

But I didn't know it at the time. So I was a confused when I saw a paper bill on the ice during the kickline in our show on New Year's Eve. As we kicked our way downstage I discovered it wasn't any old paper bill, but an ichiman yen.

That was 10,000 yen! Half a week's* pay! And it was sitting all by itself on the side of the ice.

Now I would like to think that I was the utmost professional and I would never deviate from the choreography, but there was half a week's pay taunting me. So I instead of the last kick I improvised with a nice lunge, broke from the line and swooped up the money. Roughly $75 in exchange for risking a $10 fine for misconduct.

Professional, schmessional.

I was so excited with my new windfall that I had to tell the other skaters, which meant I had to donate the money to the party fund. (By being generous, I hoped I wouldn't get fined. And I didn't).

So, that made for a happier New Year's Eve party, I think. But I'm not really sure what happened to the money after I handed it over to the company manager. And I'm not sure if the Japanese audience member who threw it had a more prosperous year either.

But I am sure that I want all of you to have a Happy New Year!




*for you math geeks - we did receive only $150 a week as per diem. The balance of the $300 weekly chorus pay went not-so-directly to my bank account in the States.

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas


There were many times when I skated on Christmas Day ... the Nutcracker in Honolulu was especially nice ... doing three shows in freezing Germany was not so much.

Of course it was sad to be away from home and away from family, but it was fun to be with my family of skaters. We always did a Secret Santa or some massive party because everyone felt we had to make it really, really fun and festive or there would have been a big ol' bunch of depressed skaters out on the ice who were away from home and and away from family.

Nobody wants that.

So for all of you showskaters working today, give the gal next to you a little pinch and remember to enjoy the day. It will help the hangover. But remember, New Year's Eve is right around the corner.

December 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Brian!


It can't get much better than this ... yesterday carrying the Olympic torch for your country and today your birthday!

Two-time Olympic medalist Brian Orser carries Olympic Torch in Pickering Dec 17, 2009

By Skate Canada
The two-time Olympic silver medalist, Brian Orser, won his medals in 1984 in Sarajevo and in 1988 in Calgary. He is also the 1987 ISU World Figure Skating Champion. The winner of eight national men’s titles, he is a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 1988. Following a successful professional skating career, Brian is now recognized as a top-level skating coach. He was at the boards coaching as Yu-Na Kim won the women’s world title last year in Los Angeles. In 1988 he carried the Canadian flag into the opening ceremonies for the Calgary Olympic Games, and on December 17th Brian Orser will carry the Olympic Torch in Pickering, Ontario.

December 17, 2009

Happy Holidays!


Wouldn't be the holiday season without a little Nutcracker! I heard it playing in the store yesterday. Sure, there are Nutcracker ballets playing all over the place, but I liked my Sugar Plum Fairies a little frosty.

Nutcracker On Ice!

And I'll tell you why!

We had a good thing going .... I think the producer/choreographer cut some forty minutes out of the original musical score to keep the show moving along.

Then we started with the "children" in the Opening scene acting like real children, stealing presents, shoving their siblings around, and skating away from their moms. Usually they upstaged the Nutcracker himself.



To spice things up for the dads forced to watch the show, the Arabian number, during the Land of the Sweets, featured two female skaters backing up the soloist, with costumes straight out of "I Dream Of Jeannie".

The Dance of the Reed Flutes - sometimes called Petit Fours - became an all-out comedy, complete with competing diva cupcakes pushing and shoving each other right off the ice. The kids loved it.



And then for a finale, we had Brian Orser doing a backflip. The audience loved that too.

We certainly didn't follow the tradition, but we did entertain! And isn't that what the holidays are all about?

December 14, 2009

A Girl Can Dream ...


Wait a minute, is that a copy of Ice Charades in the back of Tiger's car?

Oh, why didn't I send that complimentary copy to Elin last month?

No, the picture above is the magic of Photoshop, baby. The real book left in the backseat was Get A Grip On Physics by Professor John Gribbin and it's selling like crazy now.



Like I said, a girl can dream!

December 10, 2009

Penguins Behaving Badly


Oh, yes they did.

And I was so jealous.

I only got to be a penguin once, because after my avian debut, I was not allowed under a "skin" again in that ice show.

(A skin was the ice show term we used for a type of costume - usually an animal - that completely covered you.)

As some of you may know, when I was asked to fill in for another penguin, I never bothered to check the penguin head in advance to see where the eyeholes (in this case through the beak) lined up. I put it on moments before the music started and discovered I couldn't see a thing in front of me. I could only see my skates below and that wasn't going to do anything for me out on the ice.

So I took my flippers and pushed up the penguin head as far as I could without exposing my face and skated around like, well, you've heard the term "chicken with its ..." Really, I looked like the bird-version of the iconic Macaulay Culkin pose from the movie "Home Alone" when he tries on the aftershave.

And I'm sure I got fined for it too.

So with orders never again to skate as a penguin, I was jealous of all the shenanigans they pulled off anonymously: pretend fist fights, kick lines, conga lines, and the night of the squirt guns.

But years later I skated in an amusement park in Japan that began the show with Sailor Moon, a popular cartoon on Japanese television. Although the skaters weren't in "skins" they did have a fake head to put on and sometimes I got to be the villain.

Here are some of my fellow skaters(I'm not pictured here because I took the picture) posing after the last time we did that number - it was a lot of fun and so we were sad it ended - showing off their heads. Sorry, Sailor Moon was not available to pose for the picture.

Probably shouldn't say this now that I'm a mom, but it was fun scaring little kids. The more I scared the kids, the more animated I got. And even though my face was covered I found myself making crazy faces. I just couldn't do the broader motions with my body without the faces too.

So the next time you see an ice show with a villain - you know, your Cruella de Vil, Maleficent, or Ursula - just imagine what's going on inside. I bet (as an adult) you'll get a good laugh.

December 7, 2009

My Skating Mall

For those of you involved in any aspect of skating ... (and that's probably any of you reading this) you have to check out the website ...

My Skating Mall: Supporting the Skating Community

The site is the brainchild of Ryan Jahnke, the 1993 National Novice Champion, and expected to be completed sometime in March of 2010.

It will serve as a vehicle to make skating more affordable for families struggling with the costs of an expensive sport.

The newest developments are the MySkatingMall Fan Page on Facebook and the MySkatingMall.com Blog.

Having skated on used Harlicks for all but one of my pairs of skates, I love idea of a worldwide skate swap.

You can follow Ryan's blog to keep up with events, ask questions, and give your suggestions. I'll be posting again as the site is ready for the Grand Opening.

Let's help make this a great success, so more kids will be able to skate.

December 3, 2009

Oasis of the Seas


This is a big deal ... and this is a big boat! There is lots of press and lots of buzz out there. Why? Because it's the biggest boat ever.


Check out who will be on the maiden voyage ...

In a twist on tradition, the line has enlisted not one but seven celebrities to serve as godmother for the 225,282-ton vessel -- one for each of the ship's "neighborhoods" -- including singer Gloria Estefan, figure skater Michelle Kwan and actress Jane Seymour.

The others: Twelve-time Olympic swimming medalist Dara Torres, actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, four-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Shawn Johnson and TV personality Daisy Fuentes.


The Seven Godmothers? That's sounds like some kind of new, horrifying fairy tale. I kid.

But anyway, there is a spectacular new ice show on board. I wonder if Michelle brought her skates along?

The show is called Frozen In Time and, please, don't confuse it with Nikki's Frozen In Time, available now in paperback.

No, this is the ice show that is guaranteed to impress with no sad ending.

If any reader out there goes on this or one of the other Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships and sees the show, please, please, please write to me about it!

November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday


Welcome to the Holiday Season - have you recovered from Black Friday?



Did you buy all of your presents yet? No? Well, if there's still that one skating fan on your list, here's your chance to get Ice Charades for 30% off in honor of Cyber Monday. Yup, for 3 days only starting Nov. 30 - that's 30% off.

Use this coupon code VHPVQPKR at this site and happy cybering.

November 25, 2009

World Figure Skating Hall of Fame




It's one of our own in the WFSHoF!

Okay, okay, so Willy Bietak is more of a producer than a show skater. And I know he was nine-time Austrian Pair Champion, so he's got all the Olympic props, but it is still cool that show skating is getting some cred in the WFSHoF.

But don't take my word for it ... here's the article written by Sylvia Froescher.


ProSkaters Producer Member, Willy Bietak was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in Category C for outstanding contributions with a creative/professional impact on figure skating.
Willy Bietak is only the second Producer to be inducted into this illustrious group of the skating world’s elite icons.

The gala event, hosted by Dick Button, took place at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles, California on March 28, 2009 as part of the week long World Figure Skating Championships events. This followed the on ice ceremony at Staples Center where International Skating Union President, Ottavio Cinquanta bestowed the 2009 inductees with their medals and plaques. Other inductees included Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin (Russia), Aja Zanova (Czechoslovakia) Joyce Hinsey (Canada), Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini (Canada) and Brian Orser (Canada) .
It was a star studded skating event with a room full of past and present Olympic and World Champions. Here are just a few of the long list of the champions that were in attendance. Brian Boitano, Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguichi, Dorothy Hamill, Tara Lipinski, and Debi Thomas, along with newly crowned 2009 Ladies World Champion, Yu-Na Kim.

Willy Bietak has had 40+ years of involvement in the sport of skating. He owns a record-setting nine consecutive titles (1963-71) as an Austrian pairs champion and is a former European, World and Olympic competitor. Along with his amateur skating resume, Willy Bietak Productions was founded in 1986 in Santa Monica, California. Willy Bietak has produced many ice skating spectaculars and his credits include many innovations in show production. His company is responsible for the production of ice skating shows for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s mega ships. He was the first to move figure skating productions from the traditional arena to legitimate theater, with “Festival on Ice” and “Broadway on Ice,” which have played such prestigious stages as the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Willy Bietak Productions, in collaboration with the Montreal Forum, produced and directed “Le Ice Show,” a one-of-a kind performance that became one of the top-grossing arena ice shows that year.

Here is what Willy Bietak had to say about this special award. “This is a great honor, especially considering the company I keep with the other inductees this year and all other past inductees, for that matter,” Bietak said. “It is one thing to experience a great audience ovation for shows I produce but yet another to have this honor bestowed by my peers – for once I am speechless.”

November 23, 2009

An Email Asks...


what age is appropriate to read your book?





I'm so glad you asked because dozens of people heard the title "Ice Charades" or thought the topic of figure skating was for young adults or teenagers.

They think back to their days as kids when they went to the Ice Capades and got to ride on the sled or train or whatever that Smurf-thingy was, and they think kids. They remember watching Tara Lipinski or Michelle Kwan or even Sasha Cohen (who looks young)skate on TV and think little princesses.

This book is definitely for adults not teenagers.

Wikipedia defines the Young Adult fiction genre roughly for ages 14 - 21. Wow - how different I was at 14 compared to 21. World's apart.

You ask, what about my 17-year old? (S)He's thinking of going into an ice show? My honest answer would be yeah, (s)he should be ready for the adult life in an ice show, so this would be okay.

But a 14-year old? No, too young I think.

November 16, 2009

What's In A Name?

The Urban Muse posted a blog on the same subject I was working on ... how to name your blog. She has some great tips if you are working on a name for a blog, book, song, etc.

I must admit, I never thought of alphabetical placement. That might have been smart. Maybe Aaron at Axels, Loops, and Spins can weigh in on that. I did keep the name short and sweet. Most of all, I wanted it to be catchy.

So I googled "common phrases" and worked my way down the list, but nothing was remotely related to skating. Then I thought of Ice Capades and charades and voila!

But when I started setting up this blog, I discovered I wasn't the first to think of Ice Charades. A kids' tv show from Canada had beat me to it! Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends - seems to have "Going to the Ice Charades" as a reoccurring theme ... but luckily, we can share the title. I love the little intro here.


video

Now, if there were some way I could work this into the trailer for my novel.

November 8, 2009

Announcing a new novel ...

Ice Charades: Penguins Behaving Badly and Other Follies From the Road


Sound familiar?

Yes, Miss Ice Charades has spent the last five years fine-tuning a novel about skating in an ice show and it is now out on Amazon.com and the publisher's site - Createspace.com with a 10% discount.

If you've been checking in with this blog for any of the past year and a half, you have gotten a taste of what's in the book. But for anyone that wanted more ice show wackiness mixed in to a juicy little plot, here you go.

It's based on my experience with ice shows, mainly my first one in Europe in the early 80s for Holiday On Ice. Because you never forget your first.

I spent a lot of time in that ice show wondering if I'd be fired for forgetting the steps, if I'd be fined for forgetting part of my costume or letting it drag on the floor, or if I'd be robbed going back late at night after work.

Good times.

But seriously, the book might serve as a source of information for anyone that wants to join an ice show - points both good and bad. And even though it takes place in the early 80s, only the gear has changed. Instead of Skype, IPods, internet and Visa, we had letters home, more letters, Sony Walkmans and more letters home asking for money.

But don't take my word for it. Here is what two authors said, who graciously read advanced copies of the book. By the way - shameless plug alert - their books are also available on-line. Just follow the links below.


"This book is a charmer. Jenny Hall has crafted a delightful coming-of-age story of a young woman and her sometimes comical, sometimes heart-wrenching journey to find love and ultimately herself. You don't have to be interested in figure skating to appreciate the colorful characters and their adventures on the road trip of a lifetime."
Nikki Nichols Cunningham, Author of Frozen in Time: The Enduring Legacy of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team

"A lot of fun to read. It takes me back to my pro skating days!"
Kathryn Bertine, Author of All the Sundays Yet to Come and As Good as Gold

November 4, 2009

You Tell Me ...

One of my favorite radio shows comes from the Washington DC area that I used to listen to all the time when I lived there. It was Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban (pronounced like zaBAN)of the Sports Reporters on ESPN 980.

Even though I don't follow (or care much for)college football or basketball, I would still listen to them regardless of the topic.

Some of Czaban's classics are the rundown of the best Halloween candy, which holiday is better - 4th of July or Thanksgiving, and the "You Tell Me ..." if you had to do one of these which would it be: a fastball pitch to the thigh by Nolan Ryan, a full body tackle by Lavar Arrington (then football player for the Washington Redskins) or a punch from Mike Tyson?

Despite the fact that two of these could be fatal to your average Joe, it was fun to hear listeners call in and explain their answers. Most wanted the fastball.

Then he had the special Winter Olympic version of "You Tell Me", which would you rather do: the giant slalom, the luge run, or jump of the ski jump?

So I thought I would do the figure skating version(and let's leave out the bodily injury factor.) You Tell Me, what would you rather do (or in this case, feel): a quadruple toe loop, a detroiter(pair spin), or a really fast scratch spin?

October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

South of the border, the kids keep it real for Halloween. The costumes skew to the scary, gory, spooky. It's probably because Dia de Muertos, "Day Of The Dead" comes two days later. That's the real morbid stuff.

So for Halloween at my daughter's school, boys are either skeletons, vampires, pirates or mummies. Girls tend to be witches, Morticia from the Adams Family, Maleficent, the villian from Sleeping Beauty or black cats. And then there are the gender neutral costumes: zombies or devils.

I saw a little cutie dressed as a nurse, but her face and costume were covered in fake blood. Even the adorable 4-year old girl dressed in your standard Disney princess dress showed up at school with her face painted all white and black smudged under her eyes turning her from Sleeping Beauty to Zombie Beauty.

So when the costume parade at school began and kid in a baseball cap and sweatshirt walked across the stage, I'd love to know why his parents thought "fan of hockey" was so scary.

At least he wasn't a fan of figure skating.

October 27, 2009

Confession (Of The Month)

Now that I'm past the statute of limitations of any ice show fines they could hand out, I can fess up. And since I have a dozen or so confessions, I thought I'd turn it into a monthly feature. So, here goes ...

When I skated one show in Japan, I stayed in a tiny hotel room of the hotel we were skating for. Did I say it was a small room? It was so tiny, I could almost reach three of the four walls when I stretched out on the bed. Anywho ... since we were not hotel guests we did not get regular maid service, regular towels, or regular treatment.

In fact, I think the maids we had were from the Japanese Retired Cleaning Association that got together once every two weeks or so for tea and then a random cleaning of the skaters' rooms in our hotel. Usually three or more of these tiny people (lots of things are small in Japan) would swarm into our room to clean them, unnanounced at any time of the day, forcing the skater to get out the room - usually swearing and fuming.

It was funny to watch the skaters get so mad. Luckily, my room was at the end of the line, so I got enough warning to change out of my pajamas and even help the old cleaners a little. And you know what? When I did I started getting the regular towels and new sheets that paying hotel guests got. And I helped out some more and tried to practice my Japanese on them. Then I started getting lots of towels, instead of the rationed few the skaters usually got and slippers to boot.

Then one day I went too far. I left a little gift for the maids. Big mistake.

They were compelled to give me a bigger gift and then I needed to get them another bigger gift and so on and so on. This my friends is the gift-giving-arms-race of Japan. Be weary.

But as for the confession - here it is - I never told any of the other skaters about my little gold mine, because it was too much fun to watch them curse and whine.

October 19, 2009

Judging System Explained by Aaron - Repost

It's competition season now. And if any of you are like me - you're pining over the days of 6.0 and can't make heads or tails of the new system, all while you're brain is full trying to remember the names of the top pair skaters and ice dancers. So I thought I would repost a simple, yet comprehensive explanation by Aaron of Axels, Loops, and Spins on judging.

Enjoy!

There are parts I like about it...parts I don't. Here's the easy way of beginning to understand it.

Every element (spin, jump, lift, etc.) has an assigned point value. Then the judges rate how well you do it...great is +3...terrible is -3...and there's everything in between. These are called Grade's of Execution (GOE's). The GOE's on each element are averaged and the skater get's that much bonus or deduction for the element.

Spins, footwork, spiral sequences have what they call levels. Level 1 stuff is pretty basic...level 4 stuff is the manic crazy stuff you were mentioning. The higher the level...the more points you get.

The old artistic score is now the program component score. Things like skating skills, transitions, choreography, interpretation, timing are each judged on a 10 point scale. 10 is great, 1 is really bad.

When it's time for the marks, a random selection of judges is chosen (we or the judges don't know which judges scores are counting)...the technical element score is all points and levels the skaters got on their elements all added up. The Program component scores are all those things on the 10 point scale added up. This gives you the segment total.

The final score is found by adding all the segment scores together...highest points wins.


Thanks!

October 15, 2009

Attention All Show Skaters

Theatre Arts On Ice is holding a fundraising skate party!

Where: Seaside Ice in Redondo Beach, California - Check it out. Pretty nice, eh.


When: November 14, 4 - 7 pm


Why: Proceeds will be used to support the making of "The Frozen Stage," an historical documentary project by Susan Austin and Scott Williams that traces the evolution of professional/theatrical skating.


I wish I could be there. You should go if you can and support the effort to preserve the legacy of show skating.

Go to http://www.seasideice.com/thefrozenstage for more info!

October 12, 2009

Follow Up From the FTC


Here's a follow up article about mentioning somewhere in your glowing review you got the stuff for free. Those fines they would be handing out? They would not go to the blogger, but the advertiser instead.

So that's good news for bloggers, but that's also bad news for bloggers. Now I know I won't be getting anything for free!

October 7, 2009

Tell Them You Got It For Free

Attention fellow bloggers out there - this just in from the FTC. Don't go giving something a good review that you got for free without disclosing you got it for free. The FTC could fine you up to $11,000.

For me, the only problem would be that I haven't gotten any free stuff yet! Are you listening Royal Caribbean? I'll give you a great ice show review.

October 2, 2009

The other HOI


... that would be Horses On Ice.

Although they are actually called Islandics On Ice, named for the country they come from.

And I thought bears that skated were pretty cool, but the bears better move over for another animal to take the spotlight.

Iceland has always been pretty hopped up about horses. They have strict rules that don't allow Icelandic horses (think cute little ponies only they are fully grown) to mix with any other breed. I lived in Reykjavik, Iceland for a short time in 1987 and was lucky enough to go riding. Those little guys have a very smooth gait called flugskeið or "flying pace" that no other breed can do. It was a lot of fun and no soar butt afterward.

As I checked Wikipedia, I found out they have two more gaits than regular horses, but I'll bet, no double axel. Yet.

When I was there in 87, Iceland had no ice rinks and thus no skaters. I think they have a rink now, but it is probably safe to say that Iceland has still has more skating horses than skaters.

I wonder if those horses complain as much as showgirls do.

September 29, 2009

Winning Catch

Sorry. This isn't a picture of the game-winning catch on Sunday - the one that I saw over and over again on the news - but it's from the same game. I wish I could post that picture so you can visualize what I'm about to explain. (If you are so inclined, you can watch this video and at 1:46 or 107.93 and they'll show a photo.)

For any life-long Minnesota Vikings fan like myself , this was an incredible win. Truth be told, I had given up with five minutes left to go but my mom called as the game ended to tell me that the Vikes pulled out a victory with two seconds left.

Luckily for me, Mexico loves American football, so I was able to watch the game-winning catch on a different channel broadcasting one hour behind for those on the west coast. It was a beautiful.

Okay, Miss Ice Charades, way to rub it in that your team won, but does this have anything to do with skating?

Why yes, thanks for asking. I know this is a stretch, much like the game-winning catch itself, but seeing it over and over on the news it reminded me of landing jumps in skating. Stay with me.

If you watch his feet (both of which had to land in-bounds or the Vikes wouldn't have scored the touchdown) you could see him twist his foot so it would land inside the line even though his body from the ankles up was completely out-of-bounds. It reminded me when skaters go into a jump it can turn out one of three ways.

There is the jump that even from take-off you know you're going to land. You're upright and rotated enough and it will be smooth sailing on the way down. Then there are the jumps that you know from take-off are heading south and there is no way to stop it. You brace yourself for a fall. And then there are those jumps that don't have a clean take-off, but you know in the air that if you tweak something, you can still land the jump.

That's what the catch reminded me of. It wasn't the usual catch, but he tweaked his foot to land in bounds and, well, you know the rest.

September 27, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

I'm sorry I haven't posted, but I've been wrapping up a big project. In less than a month I'll be able to bring you exciting news.

I also hope to get back to regular posting next week. So for now I'll leave you with this: a toepick doesn't look like a toe or a pick .... discuss.

September 21, 2009

Wouldn't You Know It

I was at a birthday party for a classmate of my daughers this weekend. I was talking to one of the other parents - whose English is excellent - and found out the company he works for brings rock bands and shows to Mexico. U2, Madonna, Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil. So I asked, do you work with Disney On Ice too?

Yep. And for the first time, I got to hear about an ice show from the other side. And how is Disney On Ice doing in their view? In a couple of words - not good.

Right now the negotiations go something like this: Kenneth Feld calls and says, "Hello Mexico - can we come down and do some shows?" And they respond, "Well ... Ringling did terrible the last time they came." Kenneth says, "I'll give you two shows, Disney On Ice and Disney Live, for the price of one." Okay.

At this point, I can't speculate as to why Disney On Ice is down ... recession, general decline of skating popularity or general fear of the Princesses taking over the world. But do you remember my earlier post of my embarrassing effort to stalk, I mean talk to the skaters? I was hoping my daughter could meet Tinkerbell - well, guess who had free tickets he couldn't give away and a Meet and Greet with the skaters.

AAAaaaaaaaaahhhh ...

Wouldn't you know it!

September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze - Former Figure Skater


... RIP

A lot of the blogs are associating his role in "Disney On Parade" with Disney On Ice, which is not true. He was the Prince with Disney On Parade, yes, but that was a dance show.

Believe me, I've been knee-deep in Google (pages 8 and 9!) to get to the bottom of it. But good news, Wikipedia - Patrick Swayze has that part right.

What is surprising is I can't find anything on the internet about his time with Ice Capades.

But that is a minor point - what is true about him is that he was clearly one talented guy: actor, dancer, skater, singer and football player to name a few. I love to remember him from the SNL sketch with Chris Farley auditioning to become a Chippendales dancer.

My thoughts are with his wife, Lisa Niemi, of thirty-five years.

September 11, 2009

That Old Mirror Trick

I was at one of the city's biggest market yesterday when I noticed one little store had latched on to the trick I learned a long time ago in an ice show far, far away.

I can't claim showgirls invented it, but I wouldn't be surprised ....

Anyway, like the picture shown here, they had a long, rectangular, free-standing mirror tilted slightly back against the wall. Have you ever stood in front of a mirror tilted back? It's a great thing - you look four inches taller and ten pounds thinner. Just don't tip it too far back or you get into the crazy carnival/hall-of-mirrors territory.

We had those mirrors, slightly tipped back, in a couple of different dressing rooms and we all knew it wasn't the real picture, but we looked into it anyway. We just wished they could have used the same technique out on the ice!

September 8, 2009

To All Of Those Working Skaters

... happy belated Labor Day.

I figured many of you wouldn't be working yesterday anyway. Mondays are often dark days or travel days.

Most of the shows I did I was ecstatic to be there. Sure, I had my bad days, but I wised up after the first show and tried not to take any number, any costume for granted. As ridiculous as the skating "Mint Candy" number was, it was still better than not working and not having a paycheck.

And I have to admit that it was kind of cool to write "Professional Figure Skater" in the occupation field of my tax returns.

So for those of you without a job or are interested in getting hired, I highly suggest joining the PFSC, if you don't already belong. They have all the latest listings of jobs, producers, skaters, a convention in Sun Valley Idaho and even a health saving plan.

Check it out - it is the first link under Skating Links to your right.

September 4, 2009

Sacrifice

During the show in San Luis Potosi, I had the privilege of meeting the mother of one of the pair skaters, who flew into town that day.




That often happens in ice shows, btw, friends and family of the show skaters all have one thing in common - they are not skating in the show, but are there to watch it so good bonds always develop.


Anyway, this mom had moved all over the US for various jobs AND when her daughter, a teenager at the time, started with a new ice dance partner in another city in another state.

WOW - that's sacrifice! I know of families moving because one or maybe both parents gets a new job, usually a better, higher paying job, making the move worth it in the first place and usually benefiting everyone in the family. But this was the parent moving for the kid, changing her job and uprooting her base, so the kid can continue in skating.

I'll say it again - WOW.

The good news here is that the mom seemed very flexible, adaptable and successful in her own career. And the daughter had made it to US Nationals in ice dance. Neither seemed to have any regrets.

And another nice little bonus for the mom, was getting a private room aboard the cruise ship touring Scandinavia with a (plastic) ice show, starring her daughter, ALL FOR FREE! The mom loved it - I bet I would too - even though Miss Ice Charades get nauseous easily and is not sure she could handle a cruise.

August 31, 2009

San Luis Potosi

Over the weekend, we drove 5 hours north to see an ice show in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. That may have been my longest drive to see an ice show, if you don't count the time I drove from Mason City, Iowa to Preoria, Illionois to see my girlfriend in Ice Capades - and then continued straight on to Chicago, because she wanted to go there.



I'm so glad we made the trip because the show was great. I was surprised to see such a big operation for a "Park" show. Really, this was no SeaWorld or Busch Gardens, this was more of a State Fair, with livestock and cockfighting - well, it is Mexico - and an ice show that packed in 3-5,000 people for every show.



We waited in line over an hour (the first time, then we got some preferential treatment - thanks Wendy) and we were nowhere near the front. Then after the show, we hung out with the skaters and my daughter got to meet some of them and see their costumes up close.



The size of the ice was much bigger than any park shows I've seen, almost Holiday or Disney On Ice size. That means the skaters can gather up a lot of speed and do all their jumps and tricks. We saw back flips, a bounce spin, double axels, double flips, incredible spirals, and a crowd-pleasing Thriller and Michael Jackson medley.



The show also came with a comedian, acrobats, and fireworks. Quite an elaborate production, free with admission to the park, which was 10 pesos, or less than a dollar.







I want to thank Wendy at Arena International on Facebook for all the photos. I'm excited that the show will be going to Leon, Mexico in January. I'll be ready for another roadtrip by then.

August 26, 2009

What Brian Boitano Did Do

Since he's got himself a hot new cooking show, I thought I would weigh in too. But I don't get the BRAVO network, so I got nothing.

Instead I'll talk about when I saw Brian skate live.

If memory serves it was about 1997 or 98 at the American Open Championship in Chicago. Brian was hosting the competition. This is a competition that is not usually televised and is open to ANYONE. So what you get is a mix of ex-Olympians that still want to do a competitive program and some excellent show skaters laying out all their best tricks and a lot of great, innovative skating by all.

They aren't bound to pulling off as many jumps as they can or doing a spin with as many positions they can cram in there. And yes, I am biased, because I think sometimes a really fast camel or flying camel spin, left alone and held for ten to fifteen revolutions is a beautiful thing.

What they also included in this competition was a game of "Add-on" with Brian competing as well.

For those of you not familiar with Add-on (hey, Ice Mom - does Ice Girl know this game? Do skaters still play this game?) is one skater does a trick, usually a jump. Then the next skater does that jump and adds their own. The third skater has to do the first two jumps consecutively and adds their own and so on and so on.

If you ask me, including this as an Olympic event would really help ratings. No program, no music, nothing subjective. Sure it's a lot like the night before the NBA All-Star game when they have the Slam-Dunk contest, but the judges would not be able to tilt this one. Okay, it's not for the purists and I know, I know, nobody asked me what would help skating in the ratings.

So back to Brian. Well this game of add-on was by far the longest and most challenging probably ever done, with the combo being something like: dbl toe loop, dbl loop, sit spin, crossover into axel, dbl toe, arabian into back sit, crossover, dbl toe, axel and maybe three more other things. Remember they can only take one step or crossover, if any, between all the jumps.

And I'll now cut to the chase ... Brian didn't win it. (Remember this whole thing for him was fun, not serious.) BUT, what I saw for the first time was how much speed he could generate after only three crossovers. He was 30 mph faster than the others. Why? Most, not all, of Brian's competitors in this game were what I would call the B-team, as opposed to Brian's A-team we're used to seeing - Scott Hamilton, Todd Eldrige, Brian Orser, etc. So all of those guys are fast, we just can't see it by comparison. Especially on television.

But at this event, I could. He had superior power and speed in his skating. And that's what Brian Boitano did do.

August 21, 2009

Like Ferris Wheels? Like Bratwurst?



We are looking for girls and boys for the Winter season in Europapark,Germany.

Rehearsals starting around 24th Nov 2009-27th Nov 2009
Show runs from 28th Nov 2009-10th Jan 2010.
3x 45minute shows per day plus 1 evening parade.
Accommodation and 1 meal per day provided
Travel expenses paid.

Please include video,photos or Youtube link when answering this posting.

Contact:

Francis Demarteau: francisde_7@hotmail.com
francisjld@hotmail.com
Fiona Kirk : c_feeskate@hotmail.com



I've got to say three days of rehearsals is not very long. The bad news is those three days will feel like ... well you know.

The good news - you'll get them over with in three days!

August 17, 2009

How (Not) To Pose and Miss Chicago- A Refresher

One of my earliest posts explained my own crazy theory of the "showgirl pose". You know knees bent and thighs turned in. It's all about the angle in which you make your legs look their thinnest.

Here is that post:

Check out Miss Chicago below -





In this photo I dug up, only Miss Chicago is working the bend and flex. And don't you think it makes her look thinner? If she had a higher arch in her left foot, her whole leg would look thinner because we would see more of her knee area, the thinnest part of her leg.

Yes, someone long ago thought to put one leg directly in front of the other - so we see only the width of one leg - twist her thigh slightly inward - to hide some of the fleshy part - and then keep the leg facing front from the knee down - this time hiding the bulging calf muscle. Too bad she couldn't patent that move.


But sometimes it is best to learn from mistakes - like this one. This time the "showgirl" pose didn't have to do with making my legs look thin.

And no this never appeared in Glamour magazine.

The bar over my face is not for the outfit - can't do anything about that, it's because the pose is all wrong. I was still a newbie when I posed here and a British gal who'd already been in the show for three years took me aside and explained. "You should never pose with your legs open like that, love. Just like you never sit down in a really short skirt with your legs open ... that crotch shot is just not ladylike."

Indeed, now when I look at this pose, it's as if I'm scratching my nose with only my middle finger. Just not natural or ladylike.

And I never posed that way again.

August 13, 2009

Vivi-Anne Hulten and Bobby Pins

I second the nomination of Vivi-Anne Hulten for one of the greatest skating moments that was recently posted on Axels, Loops, and Spins.

Have any others?

She is also a great example of someone who skated her entire life. She performed well into her 70s and her silver hair, always in a bun, was never out of place. I admit I'm biased because I grew up skating at her rink, among others.


Anyway, she wasn't my coach, so I didn't know her that well, but I'll never forget when she chastised me one day for my bobby pin falling on the ice. I would like to believe that it wasn't my bobby pin, because I was angry and embarrassed, but I think it was and she was right. This was before I went into any ice shows and the lesson always stayed with me.

A bobby pin stuck to the ice can end a skater's career. Once your blade hits it, you stop gliding immediately. For a pair team, this could cause a horrible injury as well.

That's why in ice shows you are instructed to ALWAYS cross your bobby pins (use two in an "X" shape).

And now I'm about to admit something I've never told anyone before ... I just hope the statute of limitations for bobby pin fines has run out on me. Here goes - after a few ice shows, I stopped doing it.

I still feel awkward admitting this. It wasn't because I was rebellious or lazy, it was because I thought crossing them would make them more vulnerable to falling out. I felt the outer bobby pin could get too stretched out. So instead, I made sure that each bobby pin was secure and I want to add that nobody ever fell because of me. Phew!

Now I'm not recommending ignoring the "cross your bobby pins" rule or any other, I'm just saying the result you want is no bobby pins falling out.

August 7, 2009

Gene Kelly On Ice

sort of ...

Okay, so I signed up for a week-long, 2-hours a day intensive dance class "Broadway Musicals" thinking I'm going to get some great exercise, when I walk in to see the other dancers sitting on the floor with notebooks in their laps and pens in their hands.

Uh-oh. Something was wrong.

Sure was - I had signed up for a dance theory class. And all in Spanish too.

Yikes!

But it worked out that I understood about half of the lectures and ALL of the video clips - thank goodness.

One day the teacher introduced Gene Kelly to the 20-something dancers - how could they not know who Gene Kelly was? Oh, right, they were 20 years old - by showing us the video of him roller skating in the 1955 movie "It's Always Fair Weather".

I was struck by the thought that Gene Kelly would have been a hell of a figure skater. He had the edges, he had the technique. Back crossovers even! Remember at that time, skaters weren't doing triple axels yet.

Then digging around to find the video for you, I discovered that About.com: Figure Skating thought the same thing. Just click on the hyperlink.

Enjoy!

August 3, 2009

Miss Ice Charades Is Not Proud


As I mentioned in the last post, Disney Sobre Hielo was in town and I was so excited when I first heard they were coming. I daydreamed of going backstage, hanging with the cast, and soaking up the world of show skating.

But like I said, I was not proud of what I tried to do ....

First off, I learned that my old company manager from a past show was now a company manager with Disney and I thought GREAT! I've got my in ... give me some names and I'll be having the fairies from Pixie Hollie over for cockails in no time. But he didn't know anyone in Fantasia de Mundo, so I got no names.

Okay, so I'll hang out in the hotel lobby, spot the skaters, and invite the cast over for BBQ. But they weren't there.

So, me and my daughter will go to the show and I'll try to talk to someone during intermission and a few days later I'll be driving skaters to the best coffee shop in town.

I started with the Concessions Stand guy. I was dropping show names, skater names, all sorts of insider lingo. I chatted him up while buying a program to get the names of the skaters. Well, the program had nothing. The $18 program had nothing and Concession Stand guy wasn't giving up any information either.

I had forgotten the old ice show rule, unless a concessions guy is interested in dating one of the skaters, they don't care about the skaters.

So I waited until the end of the show and chatted up the lighting Guy. I dropped even more names and he was more helpful. He gave up the name of the new hotel where the skaters were at, but didn't bite when I asked if there was anything I could do for the cast.

I offered rides, info about where to go around town, and the golden egg of ice shows - free laundry at my place.

Nada.

I could have and should have stopped there. Cut my losses, but I kept trying.

I shamelessly scooped up my five-year old and headed to the hotel lobby to wait for skaters. We talked to Pumba from the Lion King, who had skated with Disney since 1987! That has got to be some kind of record! And also chatted with a very nice Tinkbell understudy who had a bag of dirty clothes in her hand. Yep, the dressers of the show did laundry for the skaters.

Rats! My mission failed and I finally let it go.

Let what go?

I was hoping for three things: 1) a chance to interview one of the skaters for this blog - to let the readers know about current life on the road instead of me blabbing on and on about decades old anecdotes. 2) getting my skates sharpened ... okay, I know this one if selfish, but my blades really need a good sharpening and down here I don't know where to go or how to say it when I do find someone to sharpen them. And finally 3) I was hoping that my daughter could meet Tinkerbell and Ariel and the other fairies in costume. She has seen pictures and video of me skating, but she'll never get to see me doing it for real. I was just hoping she could see them in costume because she gets so excited during the show.

But do you know what happens in this biz? If you aren't currently skating or about to do a new show, you don't fit in the bubble of a touring ice show.

You're like damaged goods.

It's not the skaters in Disney's fault, I did the same I think. You can't help it, you get caught up in a little world that exists on its own no matter what happens in the outside world.

I'm sorry I can't bring you any interviews, but next month I'm going to another ice show and let's see if I can't stalk, I mean talk to someone there.

July 30, 2009

Disney Sobre Hielo



That's what Disney On Ice is called down here.

My daughter and I went to see the show last weekend. She loved it, especially Ariel and Tinkerbell.

This was Mundo de Fantasia with the headliners: Cars, Little Mermaid, Lion King and Tinkerbell. Now I'm not sure why Tinkerbell - who had the entire second half - couldn't have her own show, but my guess is that Cars, and perhaps the Lion King, help to bring in little boys too.

Folks at Disney and Feld Entertainment are pretty smart.

There was some solid skating but there was a whole lot more of "skate-acting" where they furiously wave their arms around while mouthing the words. I give them bonus points though since they had to learn the recording in Spanish. And then there was some non-skating by Lightening McQueen, Sally, Mator and the rest of Radiator Springs. They were full-size cars just driving around on the ice.

But I shouldn't be the one giving the critique ... like I said, my daughter loved it - and that's who Feld really cares about.

I was more impressed when I saw something called Princess Wishes or Princess Classics or More Princesses Than You Can Count a few years ago. Indeed there were about nine gals each taking a solo or pair number. You know when they include Mulan and Pocahontas they are really going for it.

What was amazing to me was to imagine a show where they were more principal girls than chorus girls. I would love to have been a fly on the wall of that backstage. How can there be nine divas all at once? Well, clearly there must be some pecking order I wasn't aware of ... that Snow White, she's so over-the-hill now, she sure was a great Cinderella back in her prime.

But that show had the best overall skating of any Disney show I've seen and I think I know why ... competition with your peers. Everyday. Right there on the ice next to you.

July 28, 2009

Rules of the Game



With my recent posting of the first ice show I did, I got to thinking about how I even survived it.

So I need to give a big shout out to Laurie Cole Benson, who had starred with Holiday On Ice for nine years and was known to be the best Alice in Wonderland to lace up a pair of skates. She sat me down before I left for rehearsals and told me the rules of the game. Of course, these were the unwritten rules in addition to the official ones, and if I hadn't have known them, I don't think I would have lasted a week.

Were they going to fire you? They just hired you didn't they?

Ah yes, while I was given a part in the chorus, you should know it didn't cost Holiday On Ice much upfront. All of the skaters had to pay for their own airfare to Switzerland and their hotel once they got there. Holiday On Ice hadn't invested much in me yet.

In other words, anyone was expendible, especially the newbies.

They reimbursed me the equivalent of train fare from Paris - my new home base - to Bern, Switzerland, which in reality, barely covered my cab fare from the airport. That's it.

Now, not all ice shows make you pay yourself to get there! But since there were hundreds of skaters from Eastern Europe who would have LOVED the job, I was in no position to make demands.

Okay, so here were the rules - which are probably still good guidelines if you're new and joining a show:

*Don't get caught looking at your watch or the clock
*Don't cross you arms and look bored
*If you're not in the number being rehearsed, keep watching it
*Don't stand if you can mark the steps
*Don't sit if you can stand
*Don't complain about how long your feet have been in skates

and the most important

*Don't ever think you're too good for the chorus


Thanks again Laurie!

July 25, 2009

This Day Always Makes Me Sad

As I mentioned in a post at the beginning of June, I'm a big fan of the Tour de France ... and as of today the race is virtually over. There is tomorrow's race into Paris, but they usually don't challenge the standings on the last day.

So symbolically, my summer is over. Ah, sigh.

The Tour is 3 weeks long and so when I settle in to 3+ hours of riders racing through the beautiful countryside every night for most of July, it feels like a big indulgent summertime chill-out.

By the way, wouldn't that be a great name for a band?

Soooo, anyway, what does this have to do with skating? I'm getting there, I'm getting there. Thanks for asking.

I mentioned in June that Lance was a longshot for the Tour and I was right - and wrong. He rode an incredible Tour for being out of competition for three years. He came back to get on the podium in 3rd place and by all accounts, happy to be there. Would Michelle be happy to just get back on the podium? Would Sasha? Probably not.

To me, Lance's ride felt more like Katrina Witt's return. She was lucky to even qualify to get back into the 19994 Lillihamer Olympics. Yet, she did a program that was harder than the one she won with in Calgary in 1988. I had a lot more respect for her at that point because she dedicated her long program to the people of Sarajevo, who had suffered in a war, and where Katarina had won her first Olympic medal. It was much like what Lance did for raising awareness for cancer this year.

Luckily for Lance, he doesn't have to wait four years for the next ride. I predict he'll race next year with his sights set higher than third.

July 21, 2009

Trip Down Skating Lane


A friend posted some videos on Facebook yesterday of the show we did waaaaaaaaaaay back in 1983.

Most of the shows I did I have on some crummy video tape that's rotting away in storage. Still, I do have them and that's how I remember those shows.

But not this one. Never had it on video - weren't many video cameras around in 1983 - and thus, I forgot the show.

So these clips on Facebook, which were actually from 1988, are the same costumes, mostly the same choreography, and some of the same people. Can you imagine doing the same show, night after night, for five years? Those folks deserve some kind of medal right there, like the Cal Ripkin Award for Enduring Annoying Show Music.

Hearing the music and seeing the choreography I hadn't done in 26 years was a bit jarring. That's a long time, but somewhere in a tiny, tiny spot of my brain that's been kicking back a while woke up and said "Hey, I think I remember those steps. I bet I can still do that number."

So I ask you, have you experienced the same? When a song comes on that you haven't heard in a decade or so - you remember where you were the last time you heard it, right?

Kind of cool, I think.