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'PG-rated' ice show reaches boiling point

Source: Grand Rapids Press
Date: March 30, 2002

Olympian Yuka Sato and her husband, Jason Dungjen, watched closely as Kristi Yamaguchi was thrown, spun, lifted, twirled and otherwise manhandled by her partner, Denis Petrov, in an intriguing pairs number during the second half of Friday night's Stars on Ice.

Sato and Dungjen, a married couple who now live in Waterford, Mich., are partners off the ice and on, according to Sato, a former Stars on Ice cast member.

"We just came to support our friends," she said, explaining their presence in the audience.

The ice-skating couple was like 7,500 others who filled the seats at Van Andel Arena, dazzled by the amazing permutations made to the traditional ice show by the stellar cast.

Think of your basic Ice Capade-ish show, "Smurfs on Ice" for example. Throw out every preconceived idea you have about the typical skate and wave presentation, overstuffed costumes and saccharine routines. Add world-class athletes in stunning couture outfits, dancing to hot, eye-popping choreography -- and mix it up with the wildest imaginations in the skating world.

Stars on Ice is the result.

What other ice show would feature the likes of Katarina Witt, Tara Lipinski and Kristi Yamaguchi in dramatic vignettes, musing about the trappings of diva-hood?

"Ach, my glamorous life!" Witt lamented to a dressing-room table mirror, a thematic prop throughout the show.

Le Katarina, skating's siren, proved she still has the golden touch that won her two Olympic championships. The spotlight through much of the evening shone on her, Lipinski and Yamaguchi, all gold medalists and all charismatic entertainers, as well.

Each of the three queens of the ice displayed different facets of their talent. Witt's sensuality, Yamaguchi's grace and athleticism and Lipinski's soaring moves and effervescence added spark and drama.

Not that there was any lack of theater. In fact, one theme was "Moulin Rouge," in which the costumes, music and skating routines reflected this hectic and brilliant movie.

The choreographers made ample use of the dressing tables, using them as seats, things to push, pull and spin all over the ice surface. At one juncture, some of the guys in the cast, including Denis Petrov and Steven Cousins, used the tables as pummel horses, kind of spinning themselves around and under and over them. Of course, they were flying across the ice while doing this.

Ilia Kulik was just a regular pretzel man, with his hips thrust forward and his back bent almost parallel to the ice, moving naturally at a good clip. If he ever quits his day job, he and Kurt Browning both can find work hoofing it on Broadway.

Browning's footwork was stunning, and even a fall early in the show couldn't dim his huge appeal.

Speaking of flexible, newcomer Lucinda Ruh made Cirque du Soleil seem like a bunch of stiffs with her phenomenal contortions and spins.

One complaint: Even keeping in mind that Stars on Ice wants to be ultra- creative, things got a little too hot for the many children present in the crowd.

This is strictly a PG evening of entertainment, as parents probably figured out during Katarina Witt's risque number, among other routines.

Overall, the show captivated, enthralled and thrilled.

Yuka Sato said it all when she described the first half of the show. "(The 2002 version) is very exciting."

The only question left is, how can they possibly top this?

Knowing Stars' track record, they'll find a way.