Fifty years of skating in Malmö, Sweden

By Magdalena Osborne

Photos © Emjo


It was back in 1957 that the Malmö Figure Skating club was first organized. Within a month the club had about 80 members, a number that's now grown to include about 180 skaters. The big 50-year anniversary was celebrated with a grand spring gala where all the club students participated. The two acts paid tribute to the club's past decades starting in the 1950ies.


The opening to "Carmina Burana" had skaters dressed in black glide around the dark arena holding torches. The light and the majestic music set the mood for the gala and the people in the audience knew they were in for a special experience.

No music could be more appropriate for skating than the "Skater's waltz". A cute couple and then several kids came in and moved to the music, doing little jumps and spins where it fitted the music. It was sweet and catchy, and it was hard to not get up and dance along.

Everyone knows Elvis, and when he entered the ice, followed by multiple teenyboppers, the crowd cheered. He was wearing a white jumpsuit and a black wig and besides shaking his hips he could skate too. The many Elvis fans in the audience clapped along and the teenyboppers fell at the King's feet.

The movie "Grease" was released in 1978, but helped us understand high school life of the 50ies. Nine skaters in white coveralls speeded around the ice to "Greased lightning" which turned into "Summer nights". The coveralls were gone and Sandy and Danny, the Pink ladies and Danny's greased buddies told us more. Of course Sandy was dressed in black tights like those Olivia Newton-John once wore; only this Sandy could skate as well as dance. "You're the one that I want" was clearly a hit with the audience, and the whole performance was just wonderful.

Moving on to the 60ies, Mary Poppins and her chimney sweeping friend entered along with children dressed in pink and black, maybe looking for that tuppence that would someday build their fortune.They entertained to "A spoonful of sugar", "Chim Chim Cheree" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".

James Bond these days is maybe best known as Brian Joubert, but here Bond appeared in the shape of Fredrik Wittzell who performed to the James Bond theme. True to his habit of being surrounded by beautiful women, Bond was accompanied by no less than 14 of them. But who needs a man? These women proved they could make it on their own to "Diamonds are forever". They did waltz jumps and spins and finished in a pose that reminded us of Charlie's angels.

What would the 60ies have been without the surf music? A Beach Boys medley was the perfect setting for the 16 beach chicks who made sure the audience partook of the "good vibrations", the "surfin' safari", had "fun, fun, fun" and more. The girls danced, did spins and spirals, the twist and more. It was impossible not to clap along.

In 1974 a relatively unknown group called ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest. Since that win the world has been flooded with ABBA songs and covers, and most people still love the music. Lina Johansson and Izabell Lindström played the ABBA girls and transferred their moves to the ice. "Waterloo" has never had so much speed or energy; the girls did Russian splits and hydroblading along with spins and spirals. This was definitely one of the high points of the gala. To "Gimme, gimme, gimme" 12 kids in sparkly skirts entered the ice while the audience sang and clapped. Ah, those good ol' 70ies…

"Europe" was a popular Swedish band in the 80ies and had a monster hit with "The final countdown". Lead singer Joey Tempest was portrayed by Izabell Lindström who wore black clothes and her hair was styled to look just like his. Great nostalgia!

Disney's Bumbi bears wore colorful outfits and wigs. They were cute as can be as they bounced around to the Bumbi bear theme song.


More nostalgia came with the "Dirty Dancing" cast in "I'm having the time of my life". PĂ„lina Boukov portrayed "Baby" while Nicole Svensson dressed in black was "Johnny". Both were excellent and interacted well with each other and the rest of the dancers, great number!

PĂ„lina Boukov returned and did a solo number to Michael Jackson's "Black or white". She kept the speed and the audience enjoyed her step sequence, jumps and the ballet like moves. Very well done!

Nicole Svensson showed how much she's improved. Wearing a red dress she skated to Celine Dion's "My heart will go on" from the movie "Titanic". Nicole does beautiful layback spins and also showed a Biellmann, a doughnut spin and impressive spirals. Way to go, girl!

In the colorful program booklet one could read about all the performances, and it was time for Lina Johansson's exhibition program "Memoirs of a Geisha", a personal favorite of mine. Lina's skating, the music and the choreography is a perfect combination for one of those magic moments in skating.

"Everybody dance now" closed the show and all the skaters and coaches came on the ice. Blue carpets were rolled out and some skaters received scholarships and special awards. It was a great show, and the skaters as well as the people in the audience seemed happy with the outcome. What a memorable way to celebrate 50 years of great skating!

Voices in the club

Running a club takes a lot more than organizing an annual show. Ann-Christiné Karlsson (the lady in the brown coat - photo) has been the club president for the past 25 years. Her oldest daughter joined the club in 1977 and four years later Ann-Christiné started her work on the club board as one of many dedicated parents. Today her granddaughter skates in the club and Ann-Christiné is still as dedicated.

Ann-Christiné: About 600 people came to the show so we were very pleased. So many people worked hard to make it happen; the skaters, the coaches and all who helped with costume making and props. The only disappointment was the local newspapers, I invited all of them but none of them showed up.

That was a shame since positive publicity is good advertising for the sport. As are competitions and during her years in office Ann-Christiné has experienced the hard work involved in hosting both the Swedish nationals and the Nordics. But most of her time was spent on other issues, like negotiation with the local hockey team for ice time.

Ann-ChristinĂ©: Many times I've thought about quitting, but then something else came up, like the Junior Grand Prix and Europeans – of course I wanted to be part of that! I've said I'll retire after this year, but you never know.

The rink in Malmö has no ice during the summer and the students scatter to attend various skating camps, and then return in August to resume their regular sessions.

Ann-Christiné: We have some very talented students and it's exciting to watch their progress. I've closely followed some skaters go from students to becoming the young coaches we have today. And the interest in the sport is growing. New students have to wait to join and we've had to limit the number of skaters competing, unfortunately that's a money issue.

Most clubs are bothered by that very same issue, but still, Ann-Christiné predicts great things in the future for the Malmö skating club.

As does Hanna Gradevik, the club choreographer and ballet teacher. Originally from Czechoslovakia, she came to Sweden in 1968.

Hanna: I'm a retired ballerina, trained in the Russian school. When I was very young I skated a little, but I got terribly cold. And the feet develop differently for ballerinas and skaters so I had to choose and the cold ice made the choice easy.

She has been with the Malmö club for 10 years and knowing ballet comes in handy when designing programs for skaters. She can't enough emphasize the importance of grace and flexibility.

Hanna: I work a lot with the arms. The legs are busy doing the skating, but the arms should convey something to the audience. And many skaters have poor arm movements, disastrous even!

The music is another important aspect of a program.

Hanna: There are well educated, fantastic choreographers out there, but the ones I admire the most are those who possess real music awareness. There's no end to what they can come up with! But kids have to skate to something they like although they can't always determine what suits them. Sometimes at competitions I will see hideous choreography and wonder how the coach ever allowed it. When I make a program Ela has already laid the foundation, placed the jumps etc. The music inspires me to put the rest together and some skaters will have their own ideas too, so we learn from each other.

She didn't have to get very deeply involved in choreographing the gala but she's pleased with the outcome.

Hanna: Many of the club coaches are my old students and I could see how they used the things I taught them. The club galas get better and better and if I were to quit now I could still see my work live on!


The two main coaches in the club are Ela Magnusson and Laco Vance. Ela is from Poland and Laco originate from the former Czechoslovakia, but both ended up marrying Swedes. They share a history as single skaters and both toured with the Holiday on Ice, but not at the same time. Ela started working in Malmö in 1991, Laco followed a few years later. He has full time employment with the club, but like other teachers he's off all summer with the exception of teaching at local skating camps. He enjoys being a coach and the special challenges it presents.

Laco: My students are all very different and finding individual solutions for them is a challenge I enjoy.

He also choreographs for the few boys in the club. Figure skating is largely a girl's sport, but Laco would like to change that. It's the how that's the problem and hockey inspires many more boys than does skating. Somehow boys need to be exposed to the sport more often. But he's not worried about the future.

Laco: I see possibilities and progress. As long as there are kids and ice things will be great!

Ela remembers a turning point in the club history.

Ela: It was when we got enough ice time so that the elite students who were really serious about their skating could go for it. Until then we just didn't have the necessary resources. We still can't take on all the beginners, but for the elite skaters there's ice.

Over the years some big names in skating have visited the club, like Viktor Kudriavtsev, Salomé Brunner, Michael Huth and Lori Nichol. Getting such visits is an energy and inspiration boast, and a great opportunity for the students. But it's not part of the every day experience at the club. Perseverance and lots of sweat is.

Ela: The best part about my job is to see just how far a student can progress. I get to know these kids and what they want and I see how they grow.

In closing Ela offers a summary of the past season:

Ela: It could have been better, things could always have been better. But all the skaters grow; they want to win but must also learn to handle their mistakes. And they must learn to evaluate; what went well, what was less good and then learn from that.

Good advise. Now skaters, parents and coaches all look to the future and many more years of skating in Malmö.

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