World Celebration: Chaos behind the stage, Perfection on the ice.
- Or how Jenna lip-syncs to a green Kevin.

Part 1

By Mireille Geurts & Titia Tolsma

Photos © Absolute Skating

“It didn’t turn out at all how I imagined it a year ago” Kevin states. “Oh really?” we ask surprised. “how come?” “It was way better!” he says with a big smirk on his face, the gloating expression we so well recognize from last year and were so hoping to see again this year. But he has every right to be glowing and so does Jenna, who was very present in this third annual show of skating club KSC Heuvelkouter, in which Kevin van der Perren takes the leading role. Involved in every aspect, from coming up with the choreography, to deciding on the costumes, it feels for him as if he is the organizer instead of his own brother, but hey at least they keep it in the family...

One would think, that doing something like this for the third time makes things a lot easier, but Kevin disagrees “I think everything gets harder.” He laughs at the surprised looks on our faces “Physically it makes it really harder. But the experience of how to arrange things makes it easier.” We nod, ok, that we can understand.

And ok, we never thought it would be easy either. We are talking about a huge production here, a grand total of about 100 people on the ice of which 70% consists of kids. Can you imagine how many costumes that makes with all the different pieces and programs? Don’t even try, we couldn’t either, so wandering backstage we found one of the costume designers and she informed us that for the group programs they are talking about 110 costumes, and this does not even include the individual costumes the skaters brought themselves with them.

Unfortunately, during the Friday show held for a local school they discovered that the monkey suits had a bit of a problem with the fabric, when the ‘loose’ pieces got wrong they could get between the legs making it very hard for the skaters to move in them. But there were only 19 costumes to check, so piece of cake... A bigger problem was Jenna’s pants in her mermaid costume. They kept creeping down, which was kinda distracting for her. But praise for this volunteer here, who worked until 0.30 in the night (after already a long day) to fabricate another pair of pants that would be fitting. And they did, very well. Too bad it did make her dream of them all night…

Jenna McCorkell, already skating in last years show, now took one of the leading roles, next to her fiancée, and not just that, but was also very much involved with the choreography and putting things together. She even invited some of her friends (Phillipa Towler-Green / Phillip Poole & Candice Towler-Green / James Phillipson) to join the show, and we had the good fortune to watch her teach them the choreography of one of the group numbers, and so can you <<here>>

Also take a look at how great this eventually turned out <<here>>

Pippa and Candice celebrated their birthday on Friday in Belgium (twins) and got called on the ice after the show to be sung to by all skaters and the kids in the audience. The huge smiles on their faces when they walked off the ice spoke for themselves.

We say one of the group numbers, but actually, there weren’t any real solo-performances, everything was fitted into the story and even if a program started with just one skater, it usually ended up with more skaters on the ice anyway. The scenes got talked together by a voice over and some numbers consisted of spoken parts mixed in the music, being hilariously acted out and lip-synced on the ice by the skaters.


You’ve already seen us say monkey & mermaid costumes, and that might make you wonder what the hell we are talking about. Well, that is a tad hard to explain. The story is pretty complicated, the simple idea is that an alien crashes on earth and gets lead through several worlds, from Hawaii to the Desert to the Jungle and even below the Sea, to eventually end up in Space again. We think the story is best told by the accompanied videos and pictures and of the latter you will be able to see more soon in our photoalbum – next to that you can read a more elaborated version of the story in our pre-show article <<here>>

The whole show in itself, we can’t even call it a show, it is more an experience, is very hard to describe. We hope the photos tell their own story. It is really unbelievable how much fantasy and imagination there is behind this; the music, choreography, costumes, everything falls into place. No matter how many times you have seen it, every single time it’s amazing. So much happens on the ice, you can never see it all, and there is always a detail you still haven’t noticed yet. We truly felt how much the skaters enjoyed being on the ice. And even felt our emotions going in sync with them, as previously described in <<our mini-report>>. Take a look at a part of the "Grande Finale" <<here>>

It was quite hard not to, we have been around the rink for days watching the preparations, last rehearsals, seeing how all things got built up. Getting welcomed by every single person walking around there was heartwarming, it didn’t matter if it was a skater, someone of the clubs organization, people working behind the scenes, parents of children participating, all were equally friendly. It’s impressive to see how much passion these people have for what they are doing, from the journalist who painted the huge decors again at the last minute - because they didn’t dry up in the moist atmosphere of the icerink - to the person who had to work all night to get all information and pictures to the printer so the program booklets could be made.

Pictures for that could only be taken at the dress rehearsal right before, and as it turned out, something went wrong with the camera of the person present for that task. We were glad to help out and provide them with our first test photos. Yes, a lot can go wrong at the last minute, but that always happens, and what matters is how it gets solved. In this case, excellent, even though at times it could take a bit long, and even be quite hilarious.

It turned out, there would be more people visiting than the icerink at present could fit, so a way had to be found to build extra seats. They had more sets of tribunes, but only space available was at the side. Even though Kevin did joke last year about wanting to take the boards down, he hadn’t. Guess the icerink people didn’t fall for that idea then? :) This meant that the first row of the tribunes was useless – although jokingly was suggested that the people there could sit with their backs against the boards and thus have nice back support, but guess that means they would have to sell mirrors too in order to watch. Hmm, merchandise idea for next year? - and the second row was just a tad too low too. So after fitting and measuring, weighing all options, ‘pallets’ were arranged to heighten them up a bit. Problem solved. No people would have to be turned down at the entrance.

And in a fun, kind of relaxed way as well. Ok, there was stress, and a lot of last minute arranging, but people did not get grumpy or upset. More the opposite, a lot was being handled with a smile and a joke. Yes, you can probably tell, we were very impressed by the general atmosphere in and around the rink.

Arranging of last minute details and the Ice Fantillusion 'work crew'

The most stressed out person we saw around was, well you can probably guess…..Kevin. On Thursday the poor guy looked almost green, and we’ve seen incidents of him walking into an office to get his keys, talk to 2 people and walk out…yes, without the keys.

Or, borrow someone’s phone because he forgot his own, putting it in the back of his pants after being done and taking it home. Leaving Jeroen Vandevelde, the phone’s owner without for the night, and the next day, as Kevin forgot to take it back as well. Since Jeroen was also the one dealing with pr and ticket details, he was a bit afraid he would have about 275 missed calls at the end of the day… But Kevin relaxed more and more with each hour passing by, turning back to his old joking self….and less green.

His big rock and huge support was very obviously Jenna. And that was noticeable in every detail. The way she arranged things around the rink, how everyone addressed her for last minute details. From the at times wordless communication between the two in exchanged glances to the constant filled with words communication when skating together, yes even during the show. They make a very adorable couple, and seem like a perfect match. On and off the ice.

On the ice they did several programs together as a pair, as well as skating in several group programs. The Jungle scene, in which Jenna has to lip-synch part of the text, in Flemish, was really hilarious. Yes, she does understand what is being said, but still… She also told us the story of how the first time they practiced, Kevin did not tell beforehand that he would push her away so hard during the ‘conversation’ part of the program. That threw her off balance a tad, and thus really cracked her up.
This is also the program that requires both of them to swing at lianas because that’s what people do in the jungle. You’ve already seen an image of Jenna doing this, by the first published <<photo>> of this show, so hereby, also take a look at Kevin’s talents.

That is, if the armour used to accomplish this gets let down on time and not gets forgotten because the person in charge of that is so mesmerized by Kevin and Jenna’s skating that he didn’t even notice Kevin’s waving to let the damn thing down, or like in Hasselt, where the equipment just did not want to work. To theirs and our luck, at the actual shows in Liedekerke it went perfectly fine. And in Hasselt, they solved it perfectly too, it’s just annoying to have people around that know that some things are (or aren’t) supposed to happen. Right Kevin??

Kevin did not really know what to think of the show's premiere in Hasselt. “I don’t know what to expect, I think the show is going to work fine, it won’t be that much different. But it’s the first year in that city so can’t expect a full house or anything. It all depends on the advertising and that went well this year, the advertising and all the commercials and so, but I just don’t know”.

There would be some difference though, the parts of the Towler-Green twins and their partners got filled in by new guest skater from Great Britain Alex Wilde, by a beautiful number created by Ira and Jenna, only having the few days in between to create it and one later on in the show. We couldn’t pick a preference if you asked, both options were equally great. The program by Ira (van Nut, more about her later) and Jenna looked really nice, the other one photographed perfectly and so did Alex’s. For some reason, the ice dancers were a bit harder. We had the chance to have a talk with Alex after the show, and as it appears, he doesn’t only play with fire on the ice. On request (not ours!) he showed us how he can set his thumb on fire, and Jenna spilled the story of how he recently set fire in an hotel room with the help of a little Sambuca. Kevin and Jenna would be going to Jenna’s parents for a few days as a surprise visit, leaving Alex to tend to their (mostly wooden) house. We sincerely hope they still have one after the trip….


Oh and Alex if you read this, we are very much looking forward to your suggested short program on ice hockey skates. ;)

 

For more about the show & it's skaters, including an interview with Jenna & Kevin, read part 2.

 

 






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