Ice Fantillusion, a dream came through!

 

by Mireille Geurts & Titia Tolsma

Photos © Mireille & Titia

 

It’s dark and silent. Slowly we hear a sound and see some movement on the other side but its still to dark to tell what it is. The tension rises. The sound gradually turns into music. Silhouettes are seen as skaters take their positions. When the music reaches the highpoint the spotlights are turned on. Dressed in purple, Asian style costumes the silhouettes turn into people. And they begin to tell a story....

“Pff”, sighs the 23-year-old man as he takes a seat at our table, finally able to get the weight off his feet. “Glad it’s over!”
We laugh, we can imagine. It has been very stressful and all we have seen were parts of the last two days’ work. So let’s not even think about the effort the year long preparation has cost! He must be very tired. And he is.
Sipping his coke he asks: “What shall I do next year?”
We are stunned and amused at the same time. The energy and imagination of this man seem unlimited. And we’re thankful for it. Because what we saw was an unbelievably performed fairytale. A fairytale on ice. The story might be known and the setting familiar, but still we couldn’t believe what we saw.


 

The people dressed in purple form a circle and sit on their knees on cushions. In sync with the music a girl dressed in pink steps on the ice and dances around. When she skates back to the circle we see a man standing in the middle, arms above his head. A closer look tells us that there is a woman kneeling down next to him. Seemingly unaware the girl in pink keeps on skating, until the circle starts to move toward the couple in the middle. They are closely surrounded, and then caught but break free. All others leave the ice, only the couple remains. Kevin and Isabelle dance around together, taking the first steps to unfold the rest of the story, the story of Aladdin.

“I went to a Disney on Ice show of Aladdin almost 10 years ago and ever since I have been dreaming about creating this show, this weekend it became a reality” Kevin tells us, his eyes sparkling with joy.
The fulfilment of this dream means a lot to him, especially the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction. This was a try-out to see if it was possible to make theatre on the ice. Not just enacting a story, but to see if it would actually come across. Aided by the music and sounds, dialogue and enacting, costumes and props, decor and lights, skating and dancing - nothing was held back. It was meant to make one relive this story. And so we did.

 

We even saw it twice, but it still wasn’t enough to grasp everything that happened. We tried to capture as much as possible on camera, but to be honest it just wasn’t possible. And if the mind can hardly cope, how can we expect a stupid machine to do so?

We won’t try to retell the story of Aladdin; that would be going too far. But Kevin van der Perren plays Aladdin, Ellen Mareels (left photo) and Kaat van Daele (photo in the middle) are cast in the roles of Jasmine and the Genie and Jeroen Vandevelde is Jafar (right photo).

There are many skaters involved, individuals as well as a synchro team. The choreography is intricate and spellbinding, in every corner of the eye something is happening. The skaters sometimes seem randomly placed on the ice, though very strictly organised, and nobody skates off beat. The whole ice surface is utilized and there is so much going on! But we don’t just see skaters on the ice. There is also a trampoline being used by gymnasts, and the snake Aladdin has to battle is gigantic, more than twice the size of a man. There is a moving carpet on skates and one that appears to be flying with Aladdin and Jasmine sitting on it. They circle across the entire ice surface.

 

Picture this along with all the skaters in costumes, going from a simple dress or cape to a giant plant and you can maybe imagine how overwhelming it was to even try to take it all in.

To get an idea of the atmosphere we taped a part of the opening scene of 'Aladdin'. Click here to watch! * (choose small image for best quality)

The eye for detail is amazing. Not just the choreography and costumes but also the decor. Next to the background boards, the ice is decorated with strings of lights and the corners with plants. The plants are actually located in props too, at our side a turtle (left photo). The boards are decorated, there are parrots attached to the ceiling. We even noticed parrots in the passage.

 

How is it possible that all this comes from the brain of one man? But when asked he only laughs, he has been preparing this all year. Of course he’s had a lot of help from the people he courteously thanks when the show is over. Even the skater inside the moving carpet is called out and credited. Kevin confirms that the fabric is see-through; jokingly adding “that is cheaper”.

But believe it or not there’s more, Aladdin is not the only part of this show. This play lasts “only” 47 minutes, while the entire show lasts over three hours (break included).

There are 17 individual performances in total; some executed by clubskaters from Heuvelkouter Liederkerke, the location of the show, and complimented by guest skaters from other clubs. The special guest star is Jenna McCorkel from Great Britain; she will be training in Belgium in the near future.
What’s so nice about these performances is the diversity. From a cute young girl’s first appearance in a show, to the girl who quit competing herself but still teaches, to music from Cirque du Soleil and Techno, it’s all there. Note worthy are the skates of the Belgian junior champion Kaat van Daele and the novice champion Laetitia van Oost. Both seem promising for the future of Belgian Ladies figure skating. Isabelle Pieman performs a very expressive, Spanish style program and is convincing in movement as well as through the costume and music. Pair partners and real life couple Tom Noynaert and Heidi Leys skate a fun program to a Grease medley. (Pictures you will find in the photoalbum, part 2)

A very nice surprise to us is the appearance of Ruben Blommaert, skating his “Buddah Bar”, a program we know from the Antwerp Stars on Ice shows last November. Although the program is still the same, the difference from those months ago is huge. This young man has developed so much, in every element there is improvement, everything seem perfected. Ruben himself was a bit frustrated with his skate on Saturday, as he tells us in the break “because the Axel went wrong”. Our comments bring a smile to his face though and he wants to know if we think he skates ‘nicer’ now. We assure him that is our exact observation and he begs: “Can you please tell my mom?” We laugh, of course we will!

He explains he has been working with a ‘real’ choreographer for two weeks and from his mom we learn that they are doing everything they can to get Ruben ready to skate at the junior level by next season. “Too bad everything is so expensive, especially without the proper funding support from the Belgian federation.” Sighing we agree, we know the story all too well.

Next to the individual programs the show also contains some group performances. The Synchro team “Ice Energy” that appeared in Aladdin, also show their skills, a young but talented team!

Additionally Kevin put two pieces together: “Olympic Dreams” and the Opening. His initial plan had been to start the show with “Olympic Dreams” but the club requested him to open the show himself.

As he participates in ‘Dreams” but not in the initial beginning, he created a brand new opening.
“But only if I can skate it with Jenna!” And so they did just that, a lovely and energetic performance, a real catching show-opener. Jenna looks good, a lot better than during the season. She performs several jumps well and most of all she really enjoys being on the ice. You can tell she loves to skate and is determined to overcome the injury filled, disappointing season.

She will be training with Vera Vandecaveye in Belgium, something Vera is very much looking forward to. “We will have to see how things go, but I am very excited” she states. Vera fills the role of MC in the show and although she is a bit insecure about it, she does a fine job. For her also it’s been a stressful and busy period, making new plans and programs for the new season, setting new goals and dealing with all the paperwork involved. Our suggestion to call psychologist Paul Wylleman for some extra motivation for the second show is laughingly declined, so things aren’t as bad as they seem after all…;)

 

Speaking of programs for the new season, one of the cold spots is Kevin’s own new short program, the premiere performance! We are specifically asked not to reveal the music at this point, so we won’t. But we can tell you this: it’s a familiar piece to skating fans but in a very NON familiar version. Kevin’s passionate interpretation is very different and still so very much Kevin. We will enjoy seeing that program again in the upcoming season – but in a more suitable costume... As Vera announced in the introduction, they probably won’t hold on to this costume. Look at the photo and you’ll know why.

 

The Saturday show ends with the second group number, “Olympic Dreams”. It’s about a young boy having a dream about skating in a show like Disney on Ice. But his dreams bring him a lot further... Of course it’s Kevin’s story. This is much shorter than Aladdin (about 12 minutes) but again a beautifully choreographed piece.
On Sunday the order of the programs is changed, more to Kevin’s liking. Now Olympic Dreams is the end of Act 1. Between that, Aladdin, the opening and Kevin’s short program, we wonder how long he is actually on the ice. “In Aladdin I’m there for all but about 5 minutes” he tells us. We can do the math ourselves. He must be tired. “Yes I am, very much. But in ten days I’ll go on vacation.” We ask where to, but that’s a pretty redundant question. “Disney World of course!” Oh, that will mean getting lots of inspiration for next year! Kevin laughs “Actually I have next year’s show already planned.” We curiously ask what it will be about and while he starts talking about making a journey across the world through the desert (Aladdin), the jungle (Tarzan, the Lion King), underwater scenes from the little Mermaid, giant armors on the ice, aliens crashing in Act 1, we see his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm again. Who said he was tired?

Flames appear on the ice. As the music gets louder they start moving. “Citius, Altius, Fortius”. The flames spread out in groups. The music changes to a funky Vivaldi and Kevin appears in the spotlight. The beat gets louder and Kevin fetches the groups one by one. Group one is all dressed in yellow, group two in green. One by one all the group color unravel; Olympic colors. Dressed in the colors of the rings they also skate in the shape of the rings to all end up in one big circle. When the music changes, Kevin has disappeared and Jenna appears. The flames are positioned on the side. Beautiful and strong Jenna skates to “fight to win” by Natalie. Then the music fades and the flames move back into the circle again.

We’re cold, but we don’t care, we don’t want this to end! But it will and eventually we’ll go home, in a state of awe. This show was way beyond anything we could have imagined. And we already expected to have a great time!

“Explosive” by Tonci Huljc. In between the flames all the participating skaters appear on the ice one more time. The music changes to ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and there is Kevin in the costume belonging to it. Skating a part of his Olympic program alone on the ice, the audience goes wild. Right before the second step sequence a line of skaters appears behind him, chasing him across the ice. At the other side of the ice Kevin turns around and introduces the skaters to the audience. The flame skaters appear again, this time with actual rings instead of flames, they all do spins and with everyone together on the ice the show ends.

 


It was called 'Ice Fantillusion’ and that is exactly what it was!

Take a look at the show through our camera lenses, in the photoalbum here!

Would you like to see this show with your own eyes? There's a DVD available, for 10 euros. Contact us here for more information.


* For best video quality be sure to select the smaller image (this icon in the lower section of the player )






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