Heroes in the Jungle

July 22, 2013
By Mireille Geurts
Photos © 2013 Absolute Skating by Joy & MG

Part 2

After 'The Jungle Book' and the solos mentioned in part 1 of this article, the first act of the show continues with 'Pocahontas'.

First we get introduced to some very cute young Indians, skating to 'Ten little Indians'. There is a major welcoming party going on for the homecoming of the Chief, played by Michael van Lancker. This is to ‘Swing kids’, a jive in which Kevin already shows off some of his dancing skills gained when winning the Belgian 'Stars on the dance floor' TV show - even though they for practical reasons did not do the entire piece on their toes.

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

"That hurt too much!" Laughs Kevin. "Actually, the jive number wasn't supposed to be just me in front of the kids, but also David Richardson and Jelle Butzen. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to practice that. With such a delay in the decor delivery, the guys worked a lot on that instead."

The costumes for this piece were a bit of a hassle. Kevin had mentioned during the week that Jenna didn't really like her Pocahontas dress, so of course I had to ask her about it.

"It is not that I don't like it, it fits the character, it just doesn't fit me. It is literally too big. I normally have a bodysuit underneath it, but you have to take it in like this (she shows how to pull the fabric together around the waist) and pin it - with safety pins." she explains. Funny coincidence here, Kevin didn’t like his own costume either "but that’s what they wore then". [the blue costume, as in photo below]

In Pocahontas there is more spoken dialogue than in the Jungle Book, which the skaters have to lip-sync and act out, while the words are read over the speakers.

"The hardest part to cut was the Pocahontas piece. With just music it's completely not possible. The first cut I made was 50 minutes long. That was too long, since it's only a part of the first act. So I started to remove parts, while trying to keep the story intact. I especially tried to shorten the dialogues as much as possible, because the kids are not actors and they feel a bit ridiculous doing it. So I tried to keep those to a minimum. And while performing in the show I tried to act out much of the dialogues myself, which is easy, since I know them by heart. For example, for the welcoming of the Chief - Michael didn't really know what to do. This is also why Julie plays Bagheera in The Jungle Book, since she is taking acting lessons."

Beforehand knowing there would be more dialogue, I was afraid it would bother me, but in fact it didn't. It makes the stories quite clear, even in those cases where I hadn't seen the movie before, like with Pocahontas.

"The music is super, theatrical, musical. You should watch the movie! Everybody hates it, but I loved it, was super!"

Homework from Kevin. Goodie. Not sure I will listen to him though, I'm afraid I'd be watching the movie while continuing thinking I like the shows better....

Another part of the dialogue used in Pocahontas, is where Pocahontas tells Grandmother Willow's tree, played by Nora Rossiau, about her dreams, and she receives guidance. But this scene get's a bit hard to act out, when the tree doesn't actually appears on the ice, which is what happened at one of the school-shows.

”I actually nearly fell on the ice laughing," Jenna explains.

”I couldn't stop laughing; I mean I knew she was under that tree, having fallen flat on her face. Normally, when I finish my spin, the tree is in the middle. But now, I turned around, and no tree. So I wandered to the back and there I saw her, I saw the two skates hanging out the back of the tree. But on the speakers was the dialogue, so I just skated around, there wasn't much more I could do. I couldn't skate to the back, because then the spotlight would come on and everybody would see the fallen tree."

The audience couldn't see the tree at all, since the back part of the decor was quite dark. Jenna proceeded to skate and depicted the dialogue more than acted as she would when playing it with Nora. I actually kind of liked this version as well, and know for a fact that in the audience nobody noticed that something was off - unless like me you'd seen previous rehearsals or were involved in the show. I did wonder what actually happened to Nora though.

"She caught the back of her skate and fell and nobody knew it. Since I couldn’t go off the ice, I was hoping someone would clock her lying there flat on her face under a tree! Eventually the girls that were due to come on the ice with me at the end noticed and told somebody at the back. I think everyone was laughing at first, but then went to help."

Complimenting Jenna on how she saved the situation is not of much use.

"Those things are guaranteed to happen, there is always something. You need all those little stories; that's what makes it more exciting. That's what Euvgenia also said last night (Saturday) when she came down to the dressing room and was like: " Oooh, this makes it all more exciting, people are like 'OMG this happened when I was there.' "

This refers to the other incident where Jenna heroically saved the show. On Saturday, like two minutes before the mid show finale would occur, suddenly the lights and music all went out. It was dark for a few minutes, then the regular lighting came back on. It took a while before something happened, then Jenna skated to the front and told the audience that they'd take a break, resurface the ice, and then continue with the show. Something had happened with a cable or a contact in the generator. Euvgenia, who Jenna referred to, is Euvgenia Parakhina, one of the judges of Stars on the dance floor. She was there since Saturday was when all the VIP guests from the TV show attended. So for Kevin this was a huge disaster and he was very upset. Jenna explains:

"Of course Kevin was in charge of everything, that's why he was so frustrated last night. What happened was out of his control. He was extremely upset and I flipped out at him, telling him we have to find a plan and tell the kids what is happening. He left, probably kicked some things and came back in with some blood on his hands. I said ‘you will do what I say’, and he was like 'ok', I think he was quite shocked. I said: we are going to resurface the ice, everybody get into their Pocahontas costumes and we will finish Pocahontas.' Then I told the lions from The Lion King in the first theme after the break to get on the ice, put on Gangnam style and just free style. Entertain the crowd. And it ended up fine. Kevin was gutted because all the celebrities were here. (Even the producer said, ‘do you know how often these things happen in the middle of live television?’) It would have been a disaster if we hadn't been able to continue the show. But luckily that wasn't the case."

It really wasn't. The audience waited patiently until Jenna came to explain what was going on (without a mike, cause hey, no electricity there). Everybody passed on the information to each other, and then most people calmly went to the cafeteria to have a drink. The cafeteria people may actually have benefitted from this longer break...

"For example, the parents of Abbie were here watching the show, and they saw the Gangnam style improv piece and they didn't even realize it wasn't part of the show. The general public did not, they probably enjoyed it!” laughs Jenna.

As did we (even though we knew it wasn't really part of the show).

Abbie is Abbie Foreman, a 13-year old British girl who was in Belgium for the skating camp Kevin and Jenna would host the week after the shows. Abbie played multiple roles throughout the show, and with verve. She has a knack for entertaining a crowd. [Abbie is dressed as the monkey, in the middle of the photo]

"She just landed her double Axel this week here, clean and very nice," Jenna tells enthusiastically. "She is brilliant in the show; she is really good with the characters and stuff as well. She came over this week and she picked up all the groupnumbers and stepped in straight away. Kevin knew she would be great to play the monkey and Timon; she has that character. So we thought: let's put her in the groupnumbers as well. It is nice to have some younger people along and not always have the same people in the cast."

Yes, the cast. Some people were the same, some were different.

"Beside the 'main group' there were also a lot of new kids and they weren't yet aware of how it all worked.”

That was another issue: the organizing of the show rested solely on Kevin and Jenna's shoulders this time.

"Obviously it was very difficult to make this show happen. Kevin went to Stars on the dance floor, my season started. I knew how my season was laid out, but for him, it could have been a difference of 3 months. He could have been voted out the first week, or the next, or stayed till the end as it ended up. We just never knew. And that was the biggest problem, every week we'd be getting emails from the kids "when do rehearsals start?” Well, we can only tell you on Saturday night, when we know if Kevin is still in or not."

So instead of four to five months, they only had five to six weeks left to really practice the numbers on the ice with all the kids. Before that they could do some preparation.

"I was away so much for training as well. It was hard. We did a lot of the numbers in the gym. That was good for me. We created the routines of the big groups of Tarzan and The Jungle Book there. So that was ready to be set on the ice and the kids had a feeling for the theme already. By the time Kevin was done with Stars on the dance floor I think everybody was kind of on it and ready. All the kids were truly dedicated and there for every practice. Considering the short time we had, that was a really big help."

In the main group there were some differences as well. Most were completely planned, except for Alex Wilde not being able to come over and be a part of the show. How did they fix that gap?

"David! He does everything." Jenna laughs. "The great thing about David is that he is really, really reliable. He can be anything. Yesterday when the show-stop happened, he came over and asked 'what can I do?' And I was like: Gangnam style. Get on there and do it. So he goes out in a lion suit and does it. When you ask him to go tell the kids to shut up backstage, he will be right over. And he often doesn't need me to say it. He will take charge himself and say: ‘okay guys, it's enough, stop messing around!’ He's just really good, on the ice as well, he is really fun and the crowd loves him. He's quite a character. He helps Kevin with everything; together they built the entire seating area earlier this week. He came back from Luxembourg with Amber Sunday night at midnight, and he started Monday morning at 8 o'clock with Kevin. He does do a lot. And it is so easy for Kevin as well, to have someone around who can take charge. He can rely on him and be like 'look David, here is a thirty second empty slot, can you get the kids to do something?' And he just makes sure it is done. He made the whole Bare necessities in The Jungle Book; the piece with him and Baloo (Jennifer). Kevin translated the dialogue, he understood it and he just went and sorted it out. No moaning, no complaining. That makes it easier for us too, since there is so much going on."

Looks like we found ourselves another hero...

Click here for part 3 containing the second act of the show, bandaids, more heroes etc.. in short, the grand finale!


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