BY JOHNNY WEIR
Last weekend I performed at Ice Dreams in Jamestown, N.Y. Ice Dreams is a wonderful opportunity for top figure skaters to perform alongside the youth of our sport. The show’s creator, Tara Modlin-King, is a past national level competitor herself and understands the value of being young and making a goal to be the best. Through Ice Dreams she has also sought to define a skating show where young skaters can perform alongside their idols in a dynamic show that entertains thousands.
A few weeks prior to our performance in Jamestown, I joined Modlin-King on a talent search in nearby Syracuse, where I could watch and interact with the young skaters firsthand and make sure they were all excited to perform in the show. It is incredible how many skaters continue to turn up for the searches that I’ve been doing with Ms. Modlin-King for years. They come, they get made-up and in costume, and perform for us, like a showcase, and it makes me so proud of the youth in our sport and how hardworking they are. All the kids were performing to skate in a group number where the best would be selected to have a “step out,” where the attention goes from the group, to them.
Included with the 50 young talents were amazing champions like U.S. champion Max Aaron, who last year became the first skater since my title in 2004 to qualify for the national championships through their respective sectional competitions and win the national title. We also had seven-time Estonian champion and Olympian Elena Glebova, as well as a rising American talent in Samantha Cesario. To skate with great skaters makes the show not only more exciting for the audience, but also for us seasoned veterans.
I was lucky enough to not only skate my two programs, but also to choreograph three group numbers featuring all of our talented skaters. It was my first time choreographing for a group and it was no easy feat. Getting a bunch of star skaters all to listen at the same time is like herding cats, but in the end, with enough frost bitten toes and long hours rehearsing, we got it right. I could not have accomplished it without talented Canadian ice dancing medalist Piper Gilles or my long years of being barked at by my own coaches.
The show went flawlessly. The arena seats on offer were filled and the audience was loud and appreciative. Not one fall or even a flaw made the show a startling success. All the skaters enjoyed themselves, especially those kids who we were so proud to skate with. When the final spotlight shut off and we were all standing around to take a final bow, Glebova looked at me with emotion filled eyes and said, “I wish this show wouldn’t end.”
The thing about performing in shows is that we have the opportunity to leave the stress and anguish of competition behind and skate the way we want. We have the ability to captivate an audience by more than the worry of what the judges might say. You have the opportunity to move and dance in ways you usually wouldn’t with the strict rules of competition. You can find your inner Beyonce/Sasha Fierce combination and fly around the ice for the pure love and pride in what you do. Shows and performing are a fundamental part of why I love what I do. I can take people on a journey – my journey – and do it as I see fit.
I am already excited about the next Ice Dreams show next month (June 2) in Oakland, Calif., and welcoming some new star skaters to the roster, but more importantly, welcoming a whole West Coast slew of young talent who hope to skate with their idols and live a dream, on ice.