Steeled for Action; This Year's Stars on Ice Show Trades Big Numbers for Tougher Artistic Challenges
||Los Angeles Times|
||January 13, 2000|
Copyright 2000 Times Mirror Company
Last year's edition of Stars on Ice welcomed five new cast members
to its roster of figure skating champions, including current Olympic
gold medalists Tara Lipinski and Ilia Kulik. The changes to this year's
production, which plays San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles this weekend,
involve what is being performed, not who is doing the performing.
It's part of the show's continuing artistic evolution, according to
Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic skating champion. Hamilton co-created
the show in 1986 to present professional skaters in sophisticated
ensemble and solo numbers; he is one of its producers as well as one of
"We have no more rope lights bordering the ice. We have marker
lights that are around but off the ice," Hamilton, 41, says by phone
from a tour stop in Baltimore. "So it looks a lot different. And we have
less cold, cold spots individual skater star turns --a lot of the solos
come out of the group numbers."
This year's theme is "What a Wonderful World," reflecting not only
the cast members' international heritages but also the world of
emotions, says Stars on Ice producer, director and lead choreographer
Rather than large production numbers, Bezic notes, there are small
ensembles and what she terms "interesting combinations": Kristi
Yamaguchi and Ekaterina Gordeeva share the ice in one number, while
Lipinski and Kurt Browning become a duo in another. And Gordeeva, who
had been skating solo since husband and pair partner Sergei Grinkov died
in 1995, does a pair turn with Kulik, whom she is dating.
"And," Bezic says from her Toronto home base, "this is probably the
most choreographically ambitious show we've done. I think the work is
really, really detailed and strong. It's a difficult show."
Kurt Browning, back this season after skipping the U.S. portion of
last year's tour because of family commitments in Canada, agrees with
"I'm in total fear of getting my steps wrong," Browning, 33, says of
his part in the "Old Friends" number, set to the Simon and Garfunkel
song. "It's a subtle, soft program. It touches your heartstrings a
little bit. But if you screw it up, you screw up the moment."
Then there is the clown number he first performed in last year's
Canadian Stars on Ice, whose ending Bezic recently changed because
audiences couldn't tell when it ended. "The clown piece was a risk that
worked," Browning says. "The music is so sparse--the whole thing is
counting time to music that doesn't exist."
Skaters Can Stretch in New Directions
Indeed, skaters say they enjoy doing the show because it allows them
to take such risks, to stretch in ways they could not as
Olympic-eligible competitors. Hamilton, for one, never known as a
classical performer, dons ballet garb for a satirical sendup of "Don
Lipinski's two solo numbers, performed to "Genie in a Bottle" by
Christine Aguilera and "American Woman" by Lenny Kravitz, were
choreographed in part by Aguilera's own choreographer, Darrin Henson,
with pop dance moves that the 17-year-old describes as "cool."
Teaming with Browning to "La Valse Moderne/Dada Je Suis" by
L'Orchestre Moderne is, Lipinski says, "fun, different, having someone
else on the ice with you. It's kind of reassuring. We do a few tricks,
like side-by-side jumps." Skating the ensemble numbers, she adds,
"gives a good depth to your solo numbers."
Three-time U.S. pair champions and 1998 world pair silver medalists
Jenni Meno and Todd Sand perform to Ricky Martin's "Casi Un
Bolero"--with two-time U.S. ice dance champions Renee Roca and Gorsha
"It's kind of our ice dancing debut," Meno, 29, says with a
laugh. "It's nice to be doing something totally different. Ice dancers
never take crossovers to go into a move--they always do intricate
moves. And we always do lifts in the same direction , but they do them
in both, so now we are too."
Meno and Sand, who were married four years ago and live in Aliso
Viejo in Orange County, are looking forward to performing on their home
"It's a little stressful," says Sand, 36. "But it's fun. You're
showing off what you've worked on all year, what you've been doing in
the rest of the country. You get your energy up every night, but you get
a little more energy from your parents, your family and friends,
everyone you grew up skating with."
Founding father Hamilton envisions more artistic risk-taking in the
years ahead. "We're trying to keep the show fresh and new and
unpredictable," he says. "That way, people will keep welcoming us