Seeing Stars: Kurt Browning puts a new spin on ice show
||January 4, 2002|
Copyright 2002 The Seattle Times Company
Stars on Ice, with Kurt Browning, Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi,
Katarina Witt and Ilia Kulik, along with Steven Cousins, Denis Petrov,
Lucinda Ruh, and pairs skaters Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov,
and Jenni Meno and Todd Sand. 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, KeyArena, Seattle
Center. $38-$55. 206-628-0888.
It seems like every week or so, you can flick on your television
and catch another ice-skating competition or glossy variety special on
But for fans of figure skating (and there are a lot of us out
here), there is nothing like the thrill of watching a superbly trained
and gifted skater perform that triple toe loop or flying camel spin in
Few of us will get the chance to catch the hotly contested 2002
Winter Olympics figure-skating competitions close-up and personal in
Salt Lake City.
But the chance to take in the twirling, soaring and fancy footwork
of some of the world's best, most-honored professional skaters arrives
here annually, with the Stars on Ice show.
The nationally touring event, which comes to the KeyArena tomorrow
night, features Olympic gold medallists Tara Lipinski, Kristi
Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt and Ilia Kulik tripping the ice fantastic.
And in the absence of beloved Olympic champ Scott Hamilton, who
co-founded Stars on Ice in 1986 and retired from it last year,
Canadian skater Kurt Browning serves as the unofficial master of
ceremonies for the 61-city tour.
It is an apt succession: A few years after scoring four World
Figure Skating Championship victories and numerous top Canadian
skating prizes, Browning, 35, remains a gregarious, limber performer
with a loyal following and a passion for trying out new routines and
"I'm one of the veterans in the Stars on Ice cast, so I feel like
a bit of a baton is being passed," says Browning, an Alberta native
who lives in Toronto with his ballerina wife, Sonia Rodriguez. "It's
nice people are giving me this leadership role, but I think the best
way to lead is by example, by giving yourself on the ice 100 percent
"Of course," he adds, "I've been very inspired by Scott's example,
and by (Olympic gold medallist) Brian Boitano, because they didn't let
up when they turned pro. And by Brian Orser, who is 40 now and skating
better than ever."
Browning knows he is fortunate to have entered pro figure skating
during a huge spike in its popularity. Skaters who "go pro" after
competing in the top athletic contests can sustain careers longer than
ever -- if they remain healthy and keep the creative fires burning.
The latter seems to be no problem for Browning. In his recent TV
ice specials "Kurt Browning's Gotta Dance" and "You Must Remember
This," he has paid skating homage to Gene Kelly and performed with
musical-theater stars Tommy Tune and Ben Vereen.
And his solo numbers have ranged memorably from a tribute to
Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca," to mock rock-star turns, to a new
With such leading ice choreographers as Sandra Bezic, Michael
Seibert and Christopher Dean (of the matchless champion ice-dance team
Torvill and Dean) concocting the moves, Stars on Ice is still the
Rolls Royce of live skating extravaganzas.
"There are always a lot of great skaters who want to do this tour,
because the standard is so high," declares Browning. "This year Kristi
(Yamaguchi) and Denis Petrov are doing a beautiful duet. Stephen
Cousins is doing a really funny thing to the song 'What's New
"And Chris Dean has come up with this terrific number where we're
all whirling these lit-up vanity tables around in an affectionate,
tango-esque display of love."
Among Browning's favorite bits is one he devised with the help of
his friend Ed Robertson, from the rock band Barenaked Ladies. "We made
up a song on the spot in my house, and the next day Ed recorded it. It
sort of displays my technical abilities."
Browning's technical prowess, coupled with his intrinsic
showmanship, is what catapulted him to success. He was, in fact, the
first skater to land a quadruple jump in world competition.
Age has made those quads and triples tougher now, he admits
amiably. "In competition I was doing, like, nine big jumps. It's a bit
frustrating because I love jumping so much, and it's definitely
harder. But I try to do at least a triple axel in every show, maybe a
triple-triple combination. People are paying $50 to see us, and I want
to give them my all."
As for the screams of young female fans, Browning stills elicits
some but doesn't mind that the boyish 24-year old Russian blader Ilia
Kulik is the real heartthrob of the current show.
"It's evolutionary," Browning laughs. "They used to scream for me,
then for Elvis (Stojko), now for Ilia. We each get our turn."