Art on Ice 2009: How the miracle is created.
By Reut Golinsky
Photos © Reut Golinsky
Since I was a child I was always attracted by the "backstage life". I was always curious to know more about how the beautiful things I saw - shows and films - were created. I always loved all kinds of "Making of" videos and TV-programs. The process of the creation, the drafts and the sketches of compositions which miraculously, with a lot of inspiration but also a lot of hard work, become what we see on the stage afterward, isn't it the most amazing part of every piece of art?
This winter I was very lucky to attend the last two rehearsals of the one of the best European shows, the Swiss show "Art on Ice". Just a few days before, I watched some videos with reports from Swiss news. I saw that same ice, those borders with famous "Art on Ice" logo, and now I was sitting in the ice rink of the Hallenstadion, in Oerlikon, Zurich with an amazing feeling of the dream coming true.
Surprise came after surprise: the first and the most unexpected one was to see Ingo Steuer skating with his students! I was told later that Stanislav Morozov, the partner of Ukranian Tatiana Volosozhar, couldn't participate because of an injury, but it was too late to replace this number, so Ingo saved the day. He was absolutely great - in amazing shape. And though the reason for this was a bit sad, I'm glad that I was lucky to see him skating. I even told him afterward that we would really love to see him skating more, but because of better circumstances of course. Another person I've never seen wearing skates before was Salom├ę Brunner, St├ęphane's and Sarah's choreographer. I was really glad to see her as I absolutely adore this woman: always calm, always gentle, she was conducting this rehearsal without any rush, any nervosity, patiently repeating again and again certain movements, talking again and again to different skaters, always walking around with her amazing posture. When you happen to be near her you get an absolute confidence that in the end everything will be OK.
Another choreographer of the show was Marvin A. Smith. It was his second year of collaboration with Art on Ice Dance Crew. Similar to last year he worked not only with the dancers on the stage, but also took part in the choreography of one of St├ęphane's numbers, the one which was with British trio "Sugababes". Apart of the skaters who were, of course, my main interest there were many others involved in this project: musicians and singers from Gary Scott's band, Tanja Dankner, Paul Cless and stars such as Daniel Poweter and "Sugababes", gymnasts and ice acrobats Zaldua/Sukhanov, Yakimenko, Graetz, Ekaterina and Alexander Chesna, a dance crew on the stage and skating crew on the ice. I should mention those who worked with sound and lights, which were of a very high quality, and this added a lot to the whole experience.
The cast of the show was very impressive: Olympic champion Shizuka Arakawa, reigning world champions Alena Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, European prizewinners Faella and Scalli, five times US national champions Lang and Tchernyshev. Unexpected and nice surprises in cast for me were Emanuel Sandhu and Andrei Lutai. And of course how could it be without the main and the dearest participants of this show for few years already, Swiss darlings Sarah Meier and St├ęphane Lambiel.
Shortly after I came, St├ęphane wore black stovepipe hat, and it was very intriguing what he needed it for. The mystery was solved soon: this was a part of his costume for the "Freak like me" number. With casual sports wear this fancy hat looked a bit funny, but I could imagine how cool it would look with a real costume, and, wow, it really was, when I saw it on the rehearsal with costumes the next day. But more surprising and even a bit shocking was the video which was shown on the big screen above the stage during this program: St├ęphane with a very weird look and very unusual gestures was moving, while he is holding the ends of the ropes in his hands. As St├ęphane explained to me later, they wanted to create an image of a real freak, as this is what the song is called, and this freak was manipulating the dancers on the stage as if they were marionettes. In creating something freaky they absolutely succeeded, I must say. The only thing, every time I saw this number it was really hard to make a decision whom to watch: St├ęphane on the screen or St├ęphane on the ice.
Everybody got his turn to skate his number; sometimes changes in music, lights, etc, were made. The group numbers or numbers which involve many people on the ice, like "Here come the girls", were rehearsed few times, while paying attention to every small detail, the place on the ice and the movements of every single skater. I really liked such a thorough approach, as in most of the shows I've seen before, group numbers don't seem to be very well choreographed and designed. The rehearsal was very long and, I think, a bit tiresome. Miracles are not created so easily, you know.
But those who were patient enough to wait till the end were awarded with amazing Tango, performed by Antonio Najarro and St├ęphane Lambiel. I like this program and I think, though we have lots of tango-programs this season, St├ęphane's tango could have been the best among all of them (being rather subjective here, I know, but, well, figure skating is the subjective sport in the end). And this thought made me feel sorrow: so pity this program will never be shown in the competitions and will never become the free skate one. And will never bring him gold...
Next day I saw only the second half of the last run through. I came when three little girls - Amani, Maria and Allison - were already on the ice. The funny moment which I recall: at the end of their number hosts were having a small interview with them and in the end they gave them presents, saying (in English so that Amani from Britain will understand too): "Those are your presents, we will give you them in the evening today, but then we'll take them back, and then we'll give you them again tomorrow, and we'll take them back. And only on Sunday you'll really receive them". By the way, in general I really liked the hosts. Couldn't understand a word of what they were saying as my German is on the zero level, but according to the reaction of the public their text was really funny.
One more surprise of that day was to meet Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, who joined the show at short notice, as Maria told me. Canadian pair Sal├ę/Pelletier couldn't come, Volsozhar/Morozov also couldn't perform because of Stanislav's injury, so a day before the show, Maria and Maxim received a phone call with the invitation. They were spontaneous enough to agree and, as they mentioned in their blog afterward, they really enjoyed this experience
Once again I saw "Freak like me", once again I was shocked by that freaking out video, the final number on "Push the button" by "Sugababes" was rehearsed. People started to leave the ice arena. Only a few workers were left on stage setting things, and Salom├ę was wrapping the long-long sleeves of the straitjacket which was used in "Freak like me". The miracle was finally created and was ready to be shown to the impatient public in a few hours.