May 27, 2010

If Only He Could Skate

His name is Damien Walters and you need to check out his latest video on You Tube here.

If he had any desire to work on a cruise ship, perhaps they could teach him how to skate. He already does the most amazing things on the street or in the gym, imagine what he could do with more speed!

May 23, 2010

This, That and the Other Thing

Hey - I still have writer's block, so today I'm just giving you snippets of blog posts that you can discuss among yourselves.

Sheeeeshhh, we hope the regular Ice Charades comes back soon.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll get out of my funk soon.

So here we go:

Item #1

Elena Kagen, the Supreme Court nominee, must not have much in her closet if this is what they dig up on her .... Kagan Attacked With Bad Metaphor About Ice Rinks

Item #2

By now you've probably heard about the little girls dancing to Beyonce. This quote came from the New York Daily News and I have to agree, "As the YouTube video of the performance pops up everywhere, child development experts think the girls' performance might have been more provocative than appropriate."

But nobody mentioned what my first thought was, "Did you see the high kicks those seven year old dancers could do? Amazing!"

and finally,

Item #3

I'm going to the states this July and need to buy some skate guards. Can anyone tell me if those guards that light up are any good? They look fun.


May 19, 2010

Writer's Block

... or senioritis, or plain old procrastinating. Call it what you will, I've got it. Don't feel like writing these days, neither blogs nor chapters. I hope I get out of my funk soon. So today I'm taking it easy and posting an interview with the Professional Figure Skaters Cooperative (PFSC) Newsletter.

I really liked it when Aaron told us about himself in his Axels, Loops, and Spins Q & A, so maybe you'll like this too. And if you have any questions for me, please don't hesitate.

An Interview with the Author, Jenny Hall
By Sylvia Froescher

Many years ago I toured with a show called “Nutcracker on Ice”. It was one of those show experiences that always stays with you, because of the people that you met. It was a really hard tour. We did one nighters and traveled on a bus right after the show each night and then a show again the next day and not knowing where you were or what time it was. The particular cast or “cast of characters” was one of the best I had experienced in all my touring years. One of those unique combinations of individuals who “got it” that when everyone does their job, and does it well, Wow! It can be so much fun to go to work. During this tour is when I met Jenny Hall.

About 6 months ago, Jenny Hall sent me a Facebook message to ask me if I would like to read a book she had written about show life. I said “yes”, not really knowing much about her recently finished work. The book arrived and I was off on yet another business trip and tucked the book in my bag. Once on the plane, I cautiously opened up the book wondering what Jenny may have written. “Would it be good?”, “What if it wasn’t a good read….how would I tell her?” Well all of those fears quickly went away as I got absorbed into the tales of a girl’s first ice show experience. For once I didn’t want the plane to land. I flipped page after page completely engulfed in a world from my past. This wasn’t “my story” about show life, but boy oh boy did it feel like I had experienced so many of the situations. The book pretty much took over the next 3 days of my trip. While there was work to get done, I did it more efficiently so that I could slip back inside those pages and feel like I was reliving a moment in my life that changed everything. The moment when you “fall in love with show skating”.

I don’t know many people who have set out to write a book and then actually have done it and curiosity of knowing “How, What, Why” and more was the inspiration for this article.

Q. How many years did you tour?

A. I started in 1983 with Holiday On Ice and went until 1996, skating every year except 85-86. Thirteen years in thirteen different productions.

Q. How does one make the decision to write a book and then actually DO IT?

A. When my husband decided to take a job in Cincinnati, I had to leave my job with the State Department. That gave me a lot of free time, so I thought writing could be fun. People always seemed fascinated when I told them I used to be a showgirl. Once I scribbled out a few chapters I joined a weekly writing group in Cincinnati. None in the group knew anything about skating, but they taught me a lot of tricks to writing fiction and they were the reason I finished the book. Every week the group tore into my story with their red pencils and they wanted to know how it ended.

Q. What was your inspiration?

A. Part of my inspiration was to write something realistic about skating. So many books and movies are about some little bumpkin that overcomes the odds to skate in the Olympics. Oh and did I mention she’s blind too. Meanwhile the reality is most of us skaters are standing at the back of the ice dressed as trees or sometimes thinking about how many calories we can have for dinner.

Q. How long did it take you to write the book?

A. It took two years to write the book, in which time I learned how to really write, and then it took three more years to edit the book. I gave the rough draft to anyone I could sucker into reading it and got a lot of good critiques along the way.

Q. Was the book based on actual events that you experienced while touring?

A. Yes and no. The story generally follows the touring schedule of my first show, Holiday On Ice in 1983. And the rehearsals resemble what it was like to be new in a big intimidating show, but once the cast gets on the road the story is a mix of other shows too. As for the romantic plotline in the book, I had to make that up because I didn’t have much of a love life in Holiday. Or any ice show, really. And I didn’t want to bore the reader about my faithfulness to my lousy first boyfriend.

Q. Was it based on actual people? If so, who?

A. Yes, that lousy boyfriend, that’s all you, Jim. Don’t worry, he’ll never see this. Most of the skaters are a mix of two to four people though. I wanted to include a lot of friends, but too many characters make the story hard to follow.

At first I was worried about portraying some skaters as the total bad guys I remember, so I dialed them back and found it more interesting if they had both good and bad qualities. The beauty of writing fiction (and inserting the standard disclaimer on the second page) is I can hide the identities of mean skaters while calling out the skaters I really liked and admired.

Q. How do you think touring in ice shows has changed since you toured in the 80s?

A. Obviously, technology has changed things so much that leaving home isn’t as absolute as it was in the 80s. With the internet, Skype and Facebook, skaters may be just as connected with friends and family touring Asia as they would be sitting in a dorm room only forty miles down the road.

Back in the early 80s, flights were expensive and no one had credit cards, so skaters were always poor. In Japan, the exchange rate with the yen was so bad that even though we didn’t have to pay for a hotel, we could barely get by on our per diem. One trip to Tokyo and you were broke until payday. But I was talking to a British gal this fall, who was skating in Mexico after coming from HOI. She told me that HOI had paid for her hotels and health care, but they had a sneaky way of docking her paycheck up front to compensate. So maybe some things haven’t changed much.

I think the demands on show skaters have changed and I sometimes wonder if I were twenty years younger would I have landed double axels so I could get in the cruise show. Good thing I’ll never know because those shows look really fun. I think skaters now have to have tricks of all sorts. Circus training or gymnastics background anyone? It’s definitely harder choreography out there than a lot of the “step-touch” shows I did.

Plus, there are more skaters on the scene now like the Russians, (who were not allowed out of the country in my day) so there is more competition. And I can’t imagine countries like Japan will still be producing shows called “American Super Dream” or “American Ice Fever” featuring a bunch of North Americans when they have so many great skaters of their own.

Q. Would you have changed any of the choices you made during your touring years? Which shows you performed with? Which companies you worked for?

A. I regret that I never did Capades or Disney. But once I left Holiday and started doing shorter shows mixed in with trying to finish college and get a “real” job, I bounced from one show to the next.

I’m glad that I toured with the Nutcracker On Ice shows. We were treated really well in that gig and I wished it could have lasted through June. But that’s a tough ticket to sell after January 2nd.

Q. Tell us how your show experiences have had an impact on who you are as a person now?

A. All my time being lost and confused in France or Japan prepared me for life now in Mexico City. For example, the other day I finally figured why the strange look from the local grocery store gal who, for a year has been asking in Spanish if I had found everything I was looking for. I would answer in Spanish, “No, I don’t have a car,” because I thought she was asking if I needed parking validation.

Reminds me of when I skated in Japan and one day I asked a stagehand how to say, “I’m tired,” in Japanese and he thought it would be hilarious to use the phrase, “I’ve been drinking,” instead.

But seriously, I’ve always said ice shows are a unique profession because you work, live, and play with your co-workers. I can’t think of another job that requires that, so skaters have to learn people politics as well as the choreography to survive. Then every show has its own set of unwritten rules, so you need to figure them out quickly if you are going to be happy. I think it teaches skaters to be very adaptable and quick on their feet. Pun intended.

Q. Are there any "stories" that you left out of the book? If so, why and can you tell us about them now?

Luckily, I have enough skating accidents and costume malfunctions to fill another book, probably two. I’m writing a sequel set in Japan in 1989-90, so there is a lot of the beauty and craziness of that country to get into.

But I think there is room for a lot of other skating stories to be written. I think we need a compassionate story of A.I.D.S. in the 80s from a skater’s point of view. That was a big aspect of our life then. I would also love to read about a skater growing up in the Soviet Union, for example, with a bleak childhood from the strict training and then they head into the decadence of an ice show like Disney or HOI that travels the world. But they say you write what you know, so I can’t write those stories. I would, however, love to edit one of them!

May 14, 2010

Facebook Friends?

Okay, I have more than a few skating friends on Facebook, but I'm not tipping the scales around 500 people or anything. Right now I'm clocking in at 170.

In the Suggestions column on the upper right hand side, they keep suggesting I friend Dorothy Hamill. One day I even got Nancy Kerrigan. Seriously? They want to be friends with me?

I've met Dorothy Hamill. Two times actually. She would never remember me because she's probably met thousands and thousands of people since her victory in 76. I tell you though, she was gracious both times. Up close, she's really stunning. When I was forced to hang with her for about five minutes (thanks Judy) I was completely tongue-tied.

I've admired her re-birth as a skater. She got totally engrossed in "edge class" or what led to Moves In The Field, thanks to Tim Murphy and Nathan Birch. Focusing on the edges made her skating stronger. Kept her spins top notch too, well past her amateur career.

AND ... two of the top five ice shows in Ice Charade's opinion and faulty memory include Dorothy Hamill. Gerswhin On Ice in Atlantic City, and the first Next Ice Age at the Kennedy Center, both in 1997. That's about the year I stopped getting into shows for free, by the way.

But don't believe my assessment, you can read Skate Web's Sandra Loosemore's reviews here and here.

I was also impressed by Dorothy's willingness to allow skaters from the DC inner-city skating foundation Kids On Ice into the rehearsal for the Next Ice Age. Full disclosure - I was the co-founder of Kids On Ice Learn To Skate program, ... a non-profit organization, much like Figure Skating in Harlem. And I was really excited when our kids were offered the chance to watch the skaters and meet Dorothy. She also signed autographs for the kids and answered our questions. Again, very gracious.

So back to my original point ... you can see I'm a big, big admirer, but a "friend" of Dorothy's? I doubt it.

Maybe if she reads this post I might have a chance.

So Dorothy, if you're reading this post, you can probably find me via the "Fan Page" of Ice Charades. I'd settle for that.

You tell me, any of you get these A-listers as suggestions for "friends" on Facebook?

May 11, 2010

Sorry I'm Late

... happy belated Mother's Day to all of the moms out there. Technically, I'm only one day late because Mother's Day is always May 10 in Mexico. Hence it was yesterday and it was like a holiday for us. It's a big deal down here. My husband's office got the day off, as did many schools. It felt like a long holiday weekend, since my daughter's school held a banquet for the moms on Friday and the kids got out 2 hours early. Then there was much celebrating all weekend at restaurants and cafes. Even yesterday, we saw lots of families taking out their moms with flowers in hand.

We went out of town for the weekend, away from the internet, and so I am late to say for the fourth year now - Happy Mother's Day Ice Mom! Hope it was great.

As for me, we celebrated the big day watching a professional bike race (in sweltering heat - I don't know how the riders could do it) and a bullfight. Yes, a bullfight. Because when you think of mothers, you naturally think of stabbing bulls, right?

We literally stumbled in to the stadium just wanting to take "a quick look" and move on. But we got sucked into the pomp and circumstance. The crowd really yells "Ole" and there was a band there too! And it was free. Why was it free? Well, for one thing, we were at the old stadium, built in 1800-something, and that is where the juniors compete. Kids that looked no more than 13 years old. And even if they are older, the bull still thinks they look 13.

To show you how small they are, this picture includes the "old master" and the other trainers that work with the "kid". He's much smaller than they are and most of the time the kid was on his own with the bull.

That's when the "mom" instinct in me asked, "Would I let my teenager in the ring with a bull?" I have always thought figure skaters (especially pair skaters) are brave athletes and still do.

But this takes bravery up a notch ... almost to stupidity, if you ask me. But hey, I bet this kid doesn't get bullied at school.

One final note - I'm not sure how they teach it at bullfighting school, but you show skaters know the rule about never turning your back to the audience?

I would think it would be much the same to never turn your back to the bull. But they did it all the time.

May 5, 2010

Her Second Book

Okay, that's Kathryn Bertine and she's not wearing skates. She's moved past All The Sundays Yet To Come, but I bet she applies her first sport, skating, to the next NINE sports she tackles. Her book is now available on Amazon, go here to order it.

I can't wait to read it. Kathryn has a great voice that's funny as it is informative.