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Thanks for the skating memories

Stars on Ice blends heartfelt moments, humour, dazzling performances

Source: Halifax Chronicle Herald
Date: April 21, 2006
Author: Andrea Nemetz
One of the biggest presences at Stars On Ice on Thursday night at Halifax Metro Centre didn't even lace up his skates.

But Scott Hamilton, who founded the Stars On Ice tour in 1986 as a place for professional skaters to continue to develop, was a constant thread in a retrospective show that was by turns touching and funny and, as always, filled with dazzling performances.

The diminutive Hamilton appeared via four big screen TVs in each corner of the rink throughout the two-and-a-half hour evening providing humourous introductions to numbers such as the Too-Me Tango ""based on a real-life tour incident"" and featuring Jennifer Robinson in plunging red dress and full diva mode stomping over Kurt Browning, Todd Eldredge, David Pelletier and John Zimmerman who were relegated to carrying her suitcases (shades of Katarina Witt, perhaps?)

He also introduced an Oscar-like montage of some of the Stars On Ice ""family members"" who have passed away including Nova Scotian ice dancer Rob McCall and Russian pairs star Sergei Grinkov, followed by heartwarming footage of several of the skaters' children including Hamilton's son Aidan and Browning's son Gabriel (both two).

Browning, who skated in the inaugural Canadian tour in 1991 and has wowed audiences every year since with his brilliantly expressive skating followed the memorial with an impassioned tribute.

The 39-year-old described by Hamilton as his son's favourite skater lit up the rink rocking to Peace Frog by The Doors in the first act. He positively sizzled in the second when clad in a white t-shirt and skin-tight patent leather-look pants he skated to The Commodores' Brick House with pelvic thrusts and a writhing torso which would have made Mick Jagger proud.

Performance of the night went to 2002 Olympic gold medallists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. Love positively radiated from the pairs skaters who were married in Banff in December as they skated to The Blower's Daughter. Their eyes never left each other's face when Damien Rice sang ""Can't take my eyes off you"" in a program filled with glorious lifts held for breathtakingly long periods and elegant spins.

Americans Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman drew gasps of approval from the capacity crowd with a high-energy trick-filled program to U2's Vertigo.

Chinese champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao fresh, off an Olympic bronze, enchanted with their lyrical skating in a program to Come What May from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack featuring sky high lateral twists and throw jumps. It earned the first of a dozen standing ovations.

Canadian champ Joannie Rochette, who showcased blinding speed and impressive spins in a passionate performance to Celine Dion's Vole, earned the second.

Both Rochette and Olympic bronze medallist Jeffrey Buttle reprised their short programs from this competitive season bringing vividly to life what skating fans had witnessed on TV at the Olympics and worlds.

Buttle landed a triple Lutz-triple toe combination jump in his skate to Sing, Sing, Sing which also featured his trademark intricate spins and lightening fast footwork.

Always a crowd favourite, a buff Elvis Stojko hit the ice literally in Green Day's When September Ends with some breakdance-inspired moves.

Among the evening's most impressive moments were the group numbers beginning with Meat Loaf's I'd Do Anything for Love in which each skater provided a taste of tricks to come.

The Dance Medley ending the first act brought down the house with Sale, Robinson and Rochette groovin' to Dancing in the Street and the male cast members in a hyperenergetic, robot inspired skate to Men Without Hats' The Safety Dance.

Keith Urban's Some Days You Gotta Dance led to a hot country hoedown for the pairs skaters with the men sporting yellow cowboy hats swinging their pardners round their waists.

Everybody got their groove on to Genesis's I Can't Dance and then proved disco isn't dead with Saturday Night Fever-esque moves to wrap things up with the Bee Gees' You Should Be Dancing.