Ice Fantillusion 2014: Magical nightmares
A show by Kevin, Jenna, Lotte & friends
May 8, 2014
By Mireille Geurts
Photos © 2014 Absolute Skating by Joy & MG
"I've had nightmares for days already about pirate ships, whales and dragons!" says Kevin Van Der Perren, right after saying hi. "I wonder why," I reply. He laughs and skates off.
We are in the middle of the first dress rehearsal on Wednesday evening. And even though we hadn't seen all of the above mentioned objects yet, knowing the imagination that usually goes into the Ice Fantillusion show, we're fully aware that anything can happen, and probably will.
We actually got a taste of that already. A lot looked very much finished, which it needed to be as the school show would be the next morning (a shorter version of the show, usually for class members of some of the skaters, who then also get a solo). The decor looked nearly done, aside for a panel of lights; the tribunes were set up, although the carpet was being stapled under our feet during the rehearsal and while we took photos. The crew was very considerate though, checking every time it was safe to walk past or bending down to be out of the frame.
When we say hi to Jenna McCorkell, she is sitting on the floor, watching a group number to get the final details in check. She tells us the day before was actually the first day since Worlds she had begun jumping again. You may recall she had to withdraw from the event before the free program, because she pulled her hamstring. "It feels okay now, I already jumped triples yesterday. The leg itself doesn't bother me too much, it's just the opposite leg now that does, and it still feels a bit tight. But I am sure it will get better!"
She isn't the only one injured, so is David Richardson. "I had a stress fracture on my leg, because of training the triple Axel. I kept hitting my leg with my skate, chipping off part of the bone. I had some rest and am on the mend; I can train now again, but am only allowed to practice triples twice a week." So now he would not practice them, only jump them in the shows. That there actually were three shows, plus a school show we'd better not mention ;)
The shows are called Magical, and that is exactly how the opening was. The dimmed light in the ice rink is showing only the beautiful décor and the backdrop of Christmas lights. (see photo above) And the kids on the ice wearing silver stars on their backs, also with lights in them, making them twinkle as they skated around. It looks very fairylike.
Where last year's show consisted of four separate stories, now there's only one plotline woven into the different scenes: A girl (Amber de Maesschalck) is going to sleep taking the audience along on her adventures in dreamland. A very nice detail here is how she is lifted by four stars; it looks incredibly cool; a literal flight to the stars?
Next up is the sorcerer's apprentice. Broomsticks were 'operated' by the magical hand of the apprentice (Kevin), who has issues believing they are actually doing what he tells them to. This scene is very appreciated by the kids in the school show, bursting out laughing as Kevin jumps and the sticks follow. Kevin jumps twice and they follow twice. Where the kids had no problem understanding this scene, some adults did. Silvie de Rijcke, Kevin's previous coach, actually asked him after the show 'what those fries were doing in that scene'. Let me just put it this way, Kevin almost disappeared under the table laughing.
Arrr, it's pirate time! An innocent Jenna skating around gets captured by the pirates, and is held hostage on their ship. Yep, the first object of Kevin's nightmares. While sailing around, the pirates have a mighty party. This could not have been portrayed in a more fitting way. While seemingly skating around all relaxed, pretending to be drunk, almost falling over, being all rowdy and out of sync, the kids clearly know when to be exactly in sync where it's needed. One pirate, Bob Rasschaert, realizes his life has no meaning without his true love and proposes to Jenna. She cannot hold her laughter at his proposal, but when realizing he means it, slaps him in the face. Poor Pirate Bob skates off angry and disappointed, which is very well acted. A bit later a tough pirate, Yens Elkens, approaches the audience, puts his hand in his coat as to pull out a gun, but instead pulling out a unicorn and skating off with it, all happily. This moment is extremely hilarious!
Captain Hook, in the shape of David Richardson, appears on the scene, trying to make his pirates come to order. Kevin has a duel with him, attempting to free Jenna, culminating in Kevin and David leading the ensemble of pirates, all skating in sync to Pirates of the Caribbean, the section Kevin used in his competition program a few years back. This was one of my personal highlights of the show.
Continuing their duel, Kevin and Jenna jump off the ship and end up in the sea. This part was still a bit unclear during the dress rehearsal, due to Kevin and Jenna putting the final touch on the group choreography and not actually participating much. But seeing them jump and 'swim' around made me go "aha". Now we got to see fishes, crabs, squid - all kinds of creatures you can actually find in the sea. Oh, and mermaids, of course...
The mermaid costumes were actually used several shows ago, and now the same girls had to wear them. Obviously not all fit anymore, and Cathy Adriaens, one of the volunteers for the costumes and mother of cast member Charlotte van der Kar, ended up remaking all the tops. The 'fish' costumes are actually pretty ingeniously made, but Kevin told us he could only put the really small kids in those, so it was probably the last time they could be used. The older kids just don't want to swim around as fishes anymore!
The mermaids scream as they see a giant black whale approaching. Kevin cannot escape it and is eaten by it. Maybe that's why he had nightmares of whales? ;) But luckily, he fights his way through the whales' inside, and escapes through its blow-hole. This is done by a hook lifting Kevin up in the air, accompanied by applause from the audience.
Thanks to David Richardson, who listed and tagged on our sneakpeek photo the people operating the insides of the whale (on Facebook), we now know that it was him, as well as Jennifer Stone, Stacey Kemp and David King.
Like weird shifts in dreams, the show leaps from this, to toys coming to life, starting with Ken and two Barbies. Ken Catalin Dimitrescu asks Barbie Amber and Barbie Marthe Demeyer if they wanna go for a ride, and they sure were up for it. This is a very cute and amusing program, especially when we learned from Jenna that both girls actually had a crush on Catalin, and were thrilled that he would be part of their program. Though, the day before the first show a disappointed Amber told Jenna "I am in the friend-zone, but I will change that!” Catalin did try to tell her that he was too old for her, but Amber insisted, using the argument that the age difference between Jenna and Kevin is the same. Now for your information, Amber is currently 12 years old and Catalin is 16.
Some more dolls come to life: Pinocchio by Ethan Cornet, and Romee Verbeke being cute and spunky in a pink/yellow dress. And then we enter the circus, where Marthe has her solo piece and Stacey Kemp and David King showcase their daring lifts, surrounded by circus animals and skaters in colorful dresses.
Stacey and David are a great addition to the show. Their performances match the story being told, they participate in other programs where needed and the audience really loves their elements. "I have been trying to get them to the show since forever," Kevin says, "but this was the first time it actually fit into their schedule; they were in Scotland now, not in Florida!”
From the circus, we move East via the Notre Dame and Italy, where David Richardson, after his entertaining solo to Topsy Turvy, calls Esmeralda to dance and she subsequently changes into Jenna. Jenna, Jennifer Stone, Naomi Verdeyen and Ine Dooms, accompanied by the main group, give us a great show to Be Italian. This program was one of the last to be put together. On Wednesday, when we saw it for the first time there were some issues with the chairs sliding across the ice and the harem pants that got stuck on the chairs. Since they had to perform in the school show the next morning they practiced it some more, and in the school show it went perfectly. However, they used the VIP chairs for this act and the VIP seats sold so well, they ended up needing them. So in the actual show, they had to use wooden chairs for the program, with which there was no chance to practice. But the girls coped and it looked great all the same.
The harem pants were a big factor in it looking so great, they had an amazing effect when the girls moved, especially in a spiral or a spin, and in general looked beautiful. "On Ebay," Cathy replies when we ask where they got those pants. And Kevin adds: "and only 5 £ a piece!” Well if that isn't a bargain, I don't know what is!
Next up of the harem girls are the number three juniors and pupils of Jenna & Kevin: Kirana Noerens and Lisa van Genck; Belgian champion of the advanced novices, skating to Harem. They manage to create great figures with the pants, as described already. Kirana, who we basically have seen grow up in these shows (I actually remember her from the shows back in 2007!) has very much developed her artistic side. She will start at the university next year, but still plans to continue with her competitive career, and we are very curious to see more of her progress in the upcoming years. Lisa, who we know a bit less, skates to the fast part of the music, and does it with verve.
Aladdin, his lamp and the genie - in the form of Abbie Forman - also pop up, being the lead-in for the synchronized skating team of Kids on Ice. They had also improved a lot since I last saw them, and their two programs (they were in act II as well) suit the theme of the show very well.
Then there's so much happening on the ice, it's impossible to follow if you only go to one show. Different pairs of kids are playing with a ball, blowing bubbles with foam, playing a game of chess in the front an 'older couple' is playing a chess game etc. This all is done in a very quick pace, after which the chess board and pieces come to life. The skaters represent the pieces of the game in either black or white/silver dresses. Jenna and Kevin portray the white king and queen, Stacey and David King the black king and queen. Amber and Marthe as two jokers are adorable as well. Skating to a mix of We will rock you and Beethoven's 5th symphony, they fight out the game – literarily as well as metaphorically, the battle between good (white) and evil (black). We don't have to tell you which side won, do we?
The skaters wear the chess pieces on their heads. These were made in a local 'carnival' store. "Yes we found that by accident," Cathy explains. "At first I was like, how on earth am I going to make a 'tower' on the kids' head, which will not be too heavy for them to skate in? And then I was there one day; noticed they did a lot with foam, and just asked if they would be able to create such a piece. This is how a lot happened for these shows, things you just find by accident."
Jenna tells: "This scene actually caused a bit of drama between Kevin and me. He wanted to have the battle-lines horizontally placed (towards the audience); while I felt they wouldn't see a thing then. He was afraid the kids would get confused if we changed it, but I asked him to try. We tried, and of course the kids got confused. But he soon realized it would be better that way after all, and we just practiced it a lot. So I won!” "Isn't that how it usually goes?" I ask. "Pretty much", she laughs, "but, no, not really...."
In this program Jenna, Kevin, Stacey and David King also perform a double death spiral, which was practiced for the very first time on Wednesday evening. This was hard for both Jenna and Kevin; Jenna because she never did a death spiral in her life, and Kevin because he had to position his feet differently from what he was used to. But Stacey and David held on strongly, really pulled them through it, and in the end it was a great feature in the piece, duly rewarded with enthusiastic applause.
I feel I cannot do this scene justice with words. The way it was placed; first the separate chess pieces in line battling each other in the middle one by one, later adding the kings and queens. To this music and light effects; it was truly magnificent, a masterpiece!