Heroes in the Jungle

July 20, 2013
By Mireille Geurts
Photos © 2013 Absolute Skating by Joy & MG

Part 1

It is dark. One can hear the sound of drums in a distance. Monkeys crawl around in the jungle; the drums get louder and faster. While the sun slowly rises, Elton John shouts out his signature start of ‘The circle of light'. To this the monkeys show that even on skates, they can still dance. Colorful parrots 'fly' above their heads, while the main cast twirls in-between them, welcoming us into their world.

Yes, you guessed it right; we are talking about a skating show, this year's edition of Ice Fantillusion, which is completely set in the jungle. The decor consists of caves and trees, beautifully lit in a way that words cannot do it justice. Above the set decor is a canvas for projections, showing sundowns, sunsets, and other things that complement the mood of the scenes perfectly. Aside the fact that the actual temperature isn't that hot, you really feel like you are in the warm jungle.

To be honest, when I walked in for the first time that week, 3 days before the shows, the ice rink didn't look that spiffy yet. The decor was not even nearly done; only one cave, some plants and the canvas were in place, but that was about it. The reasons became clear as soon as I ran into Kevin Van Der Perren: "The pallets were scheduled to arrive days ago, on Sunday, but they only got delivered today!"

The pallets would form the foundation for the decor to be built on, including stairs and platforms. So while this semi-general rehearsal was going on, people behind the scene were diligently stacking up the pallets. There were also fences around the ice-area and Jeroen Vandevelde of the organization explained: "Despite the building of the decor and the tribunes and setting up the lights, all week there have been public skating sessions and this was the only way to guard all that and other equipment. Even with the fences, I still had to chase some kids away from the lights. Up until Thursday this will be the case." That would be one day before the show opening.

The jungle is crowded with monkeys and they sure know how to have a good time. Swaying their hips, shaking their booties, forming wheels together with all of their friends; it is one giant party. Before the actual story is set in stone, we are treated to an act with two of the cutest young talents Belgium has to offer at the moment: Amber de Maerschalck and Marthe Demeyer. They complement each other perfectly, the one a bit more technical, the other with greater show personality. This is a really fun number, cute and well put together; the only complaint is that it doesnÂ’t last long enough.

You can watch this number in this video, we previously posted on our social media channels: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VUVVymdzr4

“I actually found that to be one of the best numbers of the show,” Kevin says. “They move so identically. They are both really good; Amber's jumps are a bit better, where Marthe excels in the steps. Marthe was soo happy to be doing something in the show (outside of the ensemble numbers – ed)! I wanted to break it up a bit, because that part of the show ended with a lot of solo pieces, and I thought if I put something for a duo here and there, it is a bit varied again. And even with the solos, it almost never happened that there was only a soloist on the ice. There was always a group of skaters in the beginning, or coming in towards the end, or in the background at some point in the piece. You do need the solos sometimes, for costume changes etc.“

With "that part" Kevin means the story of The Jungle Book, which continued after Amber and MartheÂ’s Jungle rhythm, by having the black panther Bagheera step on the ice. Julie Vlaminck plays this part and she is basically the narrator of the piece. Through her we follow the strange story of the boy Mowgli (portrayed by David Richardson) who lives in the woods. David is the perfect candidate for this role; heÂ’s playful, funny and apparently not afraid to skate in his swim trunks. He also has great chemistry with Jennifer Stone who played the part of Baloo the bear. They have a lot of fun with Jennifer teaching David how to growl and shimmy to Bare necessities, as well as at the giant party with the monkeys. This is followed by their near escape from the monkeys when they figure out Baloo has joined them (I wanna be like you). These songs will stick in your mind after hearing them once. An amusing detail in this is that the little boy Mowgli actually is bigger than Baloo the bear.
The ongoing plot mostly follows the Disney movie The Jungle Book, only very shortened. Anyone who knows Kevin, knows that he is a big fan of everything Disney.

"It would be my dream job to create a show for Disney on Ice. Not to perform, but to create. I wouldn't even need to look up music, I know everything by heart. But I do have to use caution so the Ice Fantillusion show doesnÂ’t become too Disneyish, since our audience isn't just children. Now, with the stories we used this time The Jungle Book was more for little ones, but we did try to make the other three pieces, including The Lion King, more for adults. We thought getting the childrenÂ’s attention would be the hardest, but if you catch that from the beginning... well then youÂ’re off to a good start," Kevin laughs.

To the suggestion to perhaps look outside of Disney he laughingly responds:

"Then I'd be less creative!"

Which is something I can hardly imagine, if he'd really set his mind to it. Perhaps it would be a fun challenge?

As Kevin already explained, this show consisted of four main themes. The next piece after The Jungle Book would be Pocahontas, broken up by several solos: Jungle drums by Lisa van Genck, Gangnam style by Amber and Full of wonder by Kirana Noerens. [photo left] The latter arrived on Friday from a school trip to Paris, just before the show was about to start, and very quickly - but seemingly without effort- stepped into the solo that was in the school shows skated by Shania Cornet. [photo right]Talking to Kirana's dad after the show, we heard she hadn't really been feeling well and nearly passed out (but was okay after eating something). He also mentioned that she did her solo without any of the jumps, something we didn't even notice. Quite a feat!

Amber's solo to Gangnam style/Sexy and I know it deserves a mention as well. As all figure skating fans know, at nearly every show this past season, this song has been used at least once, but never this way! Having a girl as tiny as young Amber skate to this mix is a parody in itself, and she was having so much fun with it. Jenna explains how this came to be:

"It is a funny story. Last year we were in England at a skating camp. Amber had always been quite reserved in front of me and Kevin, quite shy. But she was playing around with Charlotte and Melanie, and they came up to me and said 'you will never believe what Amber just did'. And she did an improvisation in the middle of the room to Sexy and I know it with two towels down her top. And I said 'Next time in the show, you will do that!' Gangnam style came out right after, and she liked it, so we put them together for a bit of fun between The Jungle Book and Pocahontas. The act is quite funny; and it is cute because she is so small. If she had been 13/14 years old it wouldn't have really worked. And then we were walking in the H&M store and in the kids section we found the shirt with Gangnam style on it."

Click here for part 2: Pocahontas, falling trees, mishaps and how to solve them, and more.


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