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Stars on Ice tour turns competitors into family

Source: Nashua Telegraph
Date: April 4, 2002
Author: Holly Bedard

It's not easy being a heartthrob.

It's even harder when you don't admit it.

By many standards, British award-winning figure skater Steven Cousins is the heartthrob of the current Target Stars on Ice touring show, but it's doubtful that he'll tell you that.

"It's very flattering," he said, " but you can only be who you can be on the ice."

Tell that to his fans. His many, googly-eyed, adoring fans, who leave mushy declarations of love at his many fan-based Web sites.

New Hampshire will get its first state of Cousins when Target Stars on Ice comes to the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Sunday, April 7.

One of the reason Cousins holds this kind of status may be attributed to one of his Stars on Ice routines: a tongue-in-cheek Tom Jones tribute.

Although he came up with the idea about two or three years ago, it didn't really seem to fit into the show, he said. It wasn't until this year that the choreographer asked him to make it a part of the tour.

The only thing he was asked to do for the medley, which includes "It's Not Unusual," "What's New, Pussycat" and "Thunderball," was to make it as fun as possible for the crowd.

This is Cousins' fourth year with Target Stars on Ice, which he came to after the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

"I skated as best as I could in 1998, and skated clean in the European Championships," he said.

Since Cousins did well as an amateur but didn't win any medals, he said it was a natural progression to get into something like the Stars tour.

"I knew that I had reached my max, and I turned professional," he said. "I've always appealed to the crowd more than the judges," he said.

Cousins said ice shows are a big change from competition because they are a different kind of event.

The shows approach skaters, looking for people who can work in a group environment.

"The bigger the name the better," Cousins said.

Packed with past champions, these events are become "theater on ice" with a lot of interaction between the skaters.

Another aspect of the shows that differs from competition is the skaters' freedom to use props.

One number Cousins is part of includes depends on props, in this case, three vanity tables.

"It's totally interactive," he said. "It was interesting and difficult to learn. It is a challenge to get that right."

Cousins, who lives and trains north of Toronto in Barrie, Ontario, said the style of this tour sets it apart from any previous show.

Not only is it more theatrical, but it also is - in parts - very intricate.

"There are so many different styles, and the skaters mesh together for a team effort," he said. "The show reflects that, and it doesn't single out one person."

Speaking of other skaters, you might think it would be intimidating to skate with your former rivals.

Not for Cousins.

"Each male skater I perform with I competed against," he said. "It's an interesting dynamic of the tour. We were always friends, now it's more."

With such similar agendas, many of the skaters have gone through the same situations and now find they have a lot in common. This creates a special bond, Cousins said.

"We've come through unscathed," he said.

Besides, with billions of people watching them on TV, it's nice to be able to share the day-to-day stuff with someone.

On an average day on the tour, the skaters head to the rink around 3 p.m. for practice. Dinner is usually between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., with the show running from 7:30-9:30. The skaters are out of the building and at the airport at 10:30 p.m. to fly to the next stop on the tour, making it to the hotel around 1 a.m. The wake-up call for breakfast is at 10 a.m. The stars perform around four or five shows a week.

"It's relatively pressing. You're physically exerting yourself," Cousins said. "But I've never complained. It's a dream come true."

And if that isn't enough, Cousins also has a hobby - writing. Last year, he kept an online diary of the tour so fans could keep up with their favorite skaters. This year, however, he is doing a weekly series of interviews with his fellow tour-mates.

Cousins has never written professionally, but you might not have known. His interviews are thorough and interesting.

Plus, he's learning quite a bit about the people he spends the most time with.

The most interesting thing he said he has learned came from an interview with Canadian champion Kurt Browning, who shared with Cousins what one of his favorite numbers in the show is.

Cousins said it really surprised him.

He was too modest to say what it was, but a quick trip to the Stars on Ice Web site, www.StarsOnIce.com, revealed that Browning's favorite part of the show includes Cousins' entrance in the finale.

"I'm learning about heroes and idols and the things they've gone through," he said.

Maybe he's also learning a little about himself.

Target Stars on Ice donates 50 cents from every ticket to Target House, a home away from home for children and their families as they undergo treatment for life-threatening illnesses at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Tickets are $32-$55 and are available by calling 868-7300 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.