Friday, December 5, 2014

How To: Ice Show

So you've decided to be a part of the Ice Show! Great! I've always held the belief that one does not learn to truly skate until you start doing Programs, and one of the best way for a beginner to do simple programs with a little pressure is in the Rink's Ice Show.

But how do you go about this? It would seem simple enough. I performed throughout High School and some College, and it was a lot of fun, so one of my reasons for skating is the chance to perform again. Performing onstage and performing on ice are a little different from each other, in that the floor is suddenly slippery and there's complicated skating to act through. But for the most part, it's about the same.

Be at all rehearsals.
All of them. No questions asked. Rehearsals are vital to ensuring a quality product at showtime. Yes, it's a pain when you work a full day and you're adding this to your existing skating schedule, but it's critical. Unless you're dying or dead, be at rehearsal.

When at Rehearsal, Go with the Flow
Rehearsals are a fluid thing. Every Choreographer and Director has his or her own given style. Some show up with a plan in hand, others make it up as they go. It's okay. Just do what you're told, and it you have a problem where you cannot do a given maneuver or element, speak up and you'll likely be given something else that you can do. If you've got a solo, talk to the coach/choreographer about your strong points and what you'd like to do, so he or she can incorporate them into your program.

At First Run Through, Go with the Flow even more.
Few things are as awkward as the first complete runs of any show. Cues and people go missing, there's tension, nothing works right, and you're likely to feel as lost as you've ever been. Add a few manic skating moms to that mix and it's downright comic. Relax. The purpose of rehearsals is to iron out the very kinks you're experiencing. You can't fix what you can't identify, and rehearsals identify trouble spots. Be assured you're in good hands. Do what you're told to the best of your ability, and keep your wits and sense of humor about you.

One week before the show
Sharpen and polish your skates. Replace laces if they're dirty. Clean your guards in the dishwasher. Get your sewing/repair kit in order with lots of safety pins and needles. Get your makeup kit together with lots of bobby pins, band aids, ibuprofin and antacids. Try out your show makeup and hairstyle at home to be sure you can get it right. If you've got your own costume, make any minor repairs and pick up a fresh pair of tights when you're getting your skates sharpened. Wash your warmup jacket and put a pack of tissues in the pocket. Schedule a massage for the day after the show.

Dress Rehearsal
At our rink, this is technically "Tech Rehearsal." Tech is when the lights, sound, costumes and performers all come together for the first time.

In a theatre setting, Tech usually lasts a week to two weeks and is done in stages. We'll run the tech elements alone for a day or two before adding the actors. But in a skating rink, ice time is money, so two weeks of tech is not possible. It all gets done in one night, and it is historically a disaster. But remember, Theatre Superstitions dictate that the best opening nights follow the worst final rehearsals. You can't give your best performance to an empty house, and this is why most actors will not rehearse curtain call. It's just bad luck.

Tech is when you need to be as relaxed as possible. Yes, it will be stop-and-go, but for your sake you need to treat this as a performance. Envision an audience out there. Skate your best, and let the nerves and drama wash over you. Do whatever rituals you do before a performance to get yourself stage ready. For me, I use visualization techniques starting a day or so before I go on; I picture myself giving a perfect performance, smiling and lovely. I see myself through every step, every word (when I had lines, anyway) and yes, I would perform to a mirror. Now that I'm skating, I check my movements in the mirror, in the kitchen, walking down the street. (When you live in a major city, you can do these things and no one cares.)

The day of performing, I'll do physical warmups as I've been taught by my acting instructors. They really do help! Once in your Happy Place, stay there mentally. Don't let anyone drag you out of it. You're gonna be swell. Should a negative thought creep in, banish it immediately! A negative person needs to be avoided, and conversations that turn sour need to be shut down.

After Tech, go home, have a mental cooldown session, and get to bed. Sometimes a good night will leave me with a lot of residual energy, so a brisk walk with the MP3 player uses it up.

Since you were so good at treating Dress Rehearsal as a show, Opening Night should be a cakewalk.

Haha, yeah I know. The sight of an audience makes me weak in the knees, too. But just remember this: They have no idea what your choreography is. You can fake the whole thing and they'd never know. So, if you goof, just smile and move immediately onto the next thing. Don't get flustered, just keep going. Most show programs are 90 seconds, give or take, so even if they realize something is amiss, you're done and the show is moving on. Also, Skating is unique in that the casual observer thinks even the simplest things are pretty cool. And when you do a simple move with great flair and a big smile, it's amazing. Let go of the "Normal You" and embrace "Performer You," or whatever character you're playing. Go big, it's Theatre!

Once the show is done, go home and do your mental and physical cooldown, and get lots of rest. Drink plenty of water, eat well, and be kind to yourself throughout the run. Performing takes up a lot of energy.

Closing Night
In a Theatre, Closing Night is sometimes when all bets are off. Actors will change lines, suddenly run ridiculous blocking, and if it's a comedy then they're suddenly off the charts, much to the irritation of Stage Management. But then, actors will run a show for weeks, whereas your Ice Show may only run a weekend. My personal habit has always been to treat Closing Night as a fond farewell; with as much reverence as I'd say goodbye to a friend. After all, I've been preparing and rehearsing for this particular show since summer. No two show experiences are ever the same, and so it's safe to say you'll never have another show like this again.

After your closing performance, head out with friends and fellow cast members to celebrate. I'm often confused by a lack of closing celebrations in ice shows. I turn around and everyone's taken off without much ceremony, and it leaves me feeling a little empty. I need the closure of some drinks and good laughs. So this year I've arranged some closing night fun with some friends and family coming in from out of town.

And don't forget that massage you scheduled.


  1. I'd make one correction. One that not many people think about. Please no bobby pins. They fall out and become super dangerous on the ice. Use clippy barrettes instead. They make them in every hair color now. Bobby pins are actually verboten in synchro.

    And ice show parties at our rink have always been Saturday night - going back to when my mom was skating in the shows and the adult group went out. Back in the day, we would take over Gulliver's.

    1. Duly noted: no bobby pins, just clippy things! I had a million of those, too. But like bobby pins I think I have one left.

      One of our Adults hosts a gathering on Saturday, and it's really fun, but I still like the "Closing night closure." It's a personal thing...