Last Saturday, I had a lot of fun attending a small-scale community ice show: “Champions on Ice” at Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Duck Pond in Portsmouth, NH.
Puddle Duck Pond is a small outdoor rink in the historic Strawberry Banke section of Portsmouth. The rink is new this season and is intended as a gathering place for the community to come together, skate, and generally celebrate New England’s wintry weather. (As opposed to complaining about it!) The little rink is only about a 5-minute walk from Portsmouth’s downtown area.
“Champions on Ice” celebrated the rink’s first year. The short 30-minute show drew a crowd of perhaps 200 people, who stood at the fence around the rink and sat on high snowbanks to watch the event. Doug Webster, of Ice Dance International, directed and produced the show.
Some pretty big stars appeared: Christina Gao, Ross Miner, Ryan Bradley, Sinead & John Kerr, and Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre. Two young local skaters, Philip Baker and Stella Evindar, performed solo numbers. Also included in the cast were Eric Flaim, speed skating Olympic silver medalist; Grant Marshall, former New Jersey Devils hockey player; and a couple of local skaters who participated in group numbers.
The show opened with a nice group number called “A Hymn to New England,” composed by John Williams and performed by the Boston Pops. Very well-suited to the setting.
Ross Miner then skated a fun program to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” This number is vintage Ross—simple, classic, all-American. He skated it with his usual great stretch and speed. There was a crowd-pleasing cantilever move, some great spins, and at least one triple.
Next up were Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre, skating to “How You Like Me Now” by Tony Lucca. Kim was wearing a sleeveless, skimpy costume in the 35-degree weather—but did she let this hold her back? No way. She and Brent skated the program full out, with great expression. This was my second time this season seeing Kim & Brent, and I’m so impressed with them as performers. They skate with great energy and engagement. It’s really a pleasure to watch them.
Christina Gao appeared next, skating her lyrical “River” SP to music by Emeli Sande. This program was so lovely to watch in person. Just pure, beautiful skating. Christina performed double jumps only, instead of triples, but it was still gorgeous. I took a video of the program with my phone; unfortunately, it’s not very good quality. (I didn’t realize you should shoot horizontally, not vertically!!) But here it is, for those interested. Christina wore her hair down in a long, flowing style for the show. She is beautiful in person, even more so than on TV.
Local skater Philip Baker performed to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Michael Buble. It was a charming, entertaining, retro number from the 12-year-old.
Sinead & John Kerr then put out an exciting, fun performance to “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons. They included several of their trademark lifts, in which Sinead holds up John, plus many other cool moves. Sinead wore a striking maroon lace dress, while John was in black. Sinead is quite glamorous in person! She & John got the biggest applause of the show from the audience. “That was awesome” and “Super-cool” were some of the comments I heard in the audience.
The next number was from 7-year-old Stella Evindar. She skated to “Walk Like an Egyptian” and was very cute. The crowd loved her, of course!
Ryan Bradley ended the solo performances with his moving program to Sting’s “Fragile.” He did his backflip and at least one triple, but kept the focus mostly on the lyrical, mournful music. I love Ryan’s costume for this number—a simple, but elegant, white shirt and black pants. It suits the restrained music perfectly.
The show ended with a fun group finale to Gloria Estefan’s Congo. The ladies all changed into gorgeous Latin costumes for this number—lots of fringe and sequins!
I really enjoyed the show, especially the experience of seeing it in such an interesting venue. It’s rare to see skaters perform on outdoor ice these days, so that alone was special. And I loved the intimate, community atmosphere. The show had an informal, accessible feel that was really cool. It was great to be able to just stand rinkside and watch the skaters so close and in natural light. A public skating session started on the rink right after the show!
Afterward, there was a meet & greet. I was able to get some pictures with the skaters! 🙂
I also had the pleasure of meeting Doug Webster, director of the show. Doug talked a bit about his new venture, Ice Dance International, which recently launched with a party at Dick Button’s home in New York. Doug said that eventually, Ice Dance International hopes to produce full-length skating shows—for example, West Side Story on Ice. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Altogether, it was a great afternoon seeing this community ice show at Puddle Duck Pond. I hope they do more of these shows next year! To see some professional-quality pictures of the show, click here.