Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Famously cool — Figure skaters put ‘Hollywood on Ice’ in annual show

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The music, from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” set the tone for swashbuckling. So did the sword thrusts, lunges and other fencing motions.

The group of buccaneers was a little disparate, however — with Rocky Balboa, the Men in Black, a devil and a ninja. And instead of slicing through the high seas under the flag of the Jolly Roger, the pirates were gliding over frozen water, surrounded by the banners of local businesses lining the rink at the Soldotna Sports Center.

It was a group number for the older participants of the Soldotna Learn-to-Skate program, in preparation for their “Hollywood on Ice” performance this weekend at the Sports Center.

Forty skaters, from ages 2 to 18, beginner to advanced, will perform in solos, duets and group numbers in the program’s big showcase of the year. Skaters got to pick a favorite movie character to emulate, with some guidance from coaches.
“Some of them suggested and we kind of steered them in the right direction,” said Madalyn McEwen, skating director at the sports center.

This is the program’s third big show, complete with elaborate costumes, music and backdrops, after doing a Disney theme two years ago and Broadway musicals last year. The program has a performance over Christmas and used to do another lower-level show, but recently has ramped that up into this larger-scale performance.

“We got a good response from people,” McEwen said. “It’s a lot of work but it’s fun.”

It’s a busy time of year for the skaters. Not only do they practice two to three times a week for the show coming up, they’ve also got a competition in Wasilla next weekend and another in Soldotna in April.

“They have a blast. They’re very tired this time of the year with extra practices and stuff,” McEwen said.

Much of the work falls to McEwen, as far as working on choreography, coaching and coordinating the show. But after 31 years coaching, she’s used to it.

McEwen has been skating herself since she was 9, with all her brothers and sisters also on the ice, doing hockey or figure skating.

“I took private lessons for years and I just love working with kids,” she said.

She started her kids skating when they were just mastering walking, and now her daughter, Sylvia Shaeffer, is continuing the tradition. Shaeffer’s daughters, Kaidence, 4, and Abygale, 2, are in the Learn-to-Skate program, and Shaeffer helps her mom teach it.

McEwen took over teaching the Soldotna Learn-to-Skate program when she moved down from Anchorage 15 years ago, and she brought the tradition of community performances with her.

Now the kids get a chance to strut their stuff — and stuffing, depending on their costume — for the community. That’s all part of the fun of skating, McEwen said.
“What’s not to love? Every aspect of it — hockey, figure skating, dance, all of it. It keeps those kids busy,” she said.

“Hollywood on Ice” will be performed at 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Soldotna Sports Center. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.

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