Skating shows in the Boston area come like a cascade every spring. Sometimes, I miss out on the earlier shows because it all starts happening so quickly. But I usually try to make it to Ice Crystals, the annual show of the Colonial Figure Skating Club in Acton/Boxborough, because it’s a nice way to end the local show season. This year was no exception, as Colonial put on a fun spring show titled “Destination Colonial.”
Sheryl Franks, 1980 Olympian and director of Colonial FSC, said that this year’s show concept was created by Colonial skater Emma Leonard. “Emma came to me and said, ‘I have a great idea for your [next] show,’ “ Franks recounted. “She gave me a big packet [with] the whole theme.” The idea was to take the audience on a road and air trip to different cities and countries, while returning home to Colonial at the end.
Franks was delighted with the concept and Leonard’s initiative. “This is what my goal is with the show, to bring the creativity of these skaters out, in different directions,” said Franks. “Because not everybody’s making it to the Olympics. A lot of our skaters go off to Disney, to cruise ships, and to Holiday on Ice in Europe. And this is an opportunity to see if they like the whole show side [of skating].”
Franks, co-director Chad Brennan, and choreographers Beth Anne Duxbury and Jessica Dupuis brought Leonard’s concept to life for the finished show, which featured about 80 skaters from the club. Brennan said the club has an eight-week rehearsal schedule for the show and that organization is key to getting everything done: “Being organized is very important. People showing up to group rehearsals is important. The less chaos, the better.”
This year’s show came together very well. The opening number set the “destination” theme, with travel-related music (“Route 66”) and props (suitcases). Next, about a dozen boys from the club skated a fun “Boys of Boston” group number that served as a nod to the hometown area before starting the “trip.” The journey then began, with group numbers set in destinations including New York, New Orleans, and California.
The “Mexico” routine was highlighted by some appealing music selections (“El Mariachi”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”) and stylish costumes with red/black flounced skirts. The “Hawaii” group number featured some of the club’s younger skaters in cute fringed green costumes, skating to Elvis Presley’s “Rock-a-Hula, Baby” while using a ribbon wand–very cute. A “Europe” number choreographed by Beth-Anne Duxbury offered a fun, modernistic take on continental culture, with Europop songs and club-type dance moves. And the “Africa” routine, presented by novice/junior/senior skaters, featured some quite interesting choreography. (African-themed programs run the risk of looking kitschy, but that wasn’t the case here, as subdued forest-toned costumes added atmosphere without being overly ornate.)
In addition to the group numbers, the show featured performances by two synchronized skating teams. The Colonial Open Masters (adult) team presented a Blues Brothers program, with a wheel move to finish. The Colonial Open Juvenile team put out a nice performance to the Newsies soundtrack. Wearing purple/gray ombre dresses and French braids, the team showed nice speed and kept their patterns moving well over the ice.
Since Colonial is a big club, there are always many soloists at Ice Crystals. Paige Felton was an early-evening standout. Skating to “Bird Set Free” by Sia, she showed nice line, crispness, and definition to her skating, landing a double flip and single Axel.
Alina Hetling also shone with an energetic and well-choreographed routine to “Un Poco Loco” from the movie Coco. This fun Latin-themed program included a great slide move, a double Axel (turnout), and double loop.
Emma Leonard, the show creator, skated a nice solo to “Colder Weather” by the Zac Brown Band. Emma has good edges and flow; she was very nice to watch. She landed a double Lutz (hand down).
Lucy Gund skated a lovely, lyrical number intended as a tribute to her parents, thanking them for their support over the years. Wearing a soft pink dress, Gund did a beautiful spiral and some nice spins. I’m sure the sentiment behind this program was appreciated by all the parents in the audience, as well as her own.
Jamiesen Cyr (E. Sectionals, Novice Ladies) skated a nice routine to “Hometown Glory” by Adele, wearing an exquisite lavender costume. She had some interesting spins, including a layback with a low-leg position and a catch-foot camel, and landed a double Axel. Jamiesen has always been an elegant skater, but has now added more speed and power.
Iris Zhao (E. Sectionals, Junior Ladies) skated to “Tightrope” by Sara Bareilles. She landed a single Axel and double flip (Rippon). This program, which Iris choreographed herself, had a very genuine, emotional feel to it and emphasized her flow and smoothness on the ice. Iris is graduating from high school this year and will attend New York University in the fall.
Ryan VanDoren (E. Sectionals, Junior Men) skated a great program to “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. Ryan has wonderful speed, line, and extension to his skating. He performed some really nice highlight moves in this program, including a fan spiral into a Russian split. He also did a great camel combination spin and went for a double Axel (2-foot) and triple toe loop (spinout).
Arianna Concepcion’s (Nationals, Novice Ladies-7th) performance to “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles was also a highlight. Arianna is a very powerful skater, with deep, strong edges and a lot of speed. She landed a nice triple toe loop and triple Salchow (spinout) in the program, which also featured a great step sequence.
Alexander Johnson was the guest star at this year’s Ice Crystals. Not only that, he’s been acting as a consultant to the club this spring, doing choreography and teaching work.
Sheryl Franks explained how the club started working with Johnson. “At Nationals, I always take notes of [the] best choreography that I like. He was on the top of my list,” she said. “He is so talented. Watching him choreograph with the kids … There’s no attitude, it’s just freedom and creativity. And then I said, ‘Can you please skate in our show?’“
In recent years, Johnson has become a favorite of many American skating fans due to the creativity and originality of his programs, as well as the beauty of his skating itself. These qualities were amply on display in his performances at Ice Crystals. He first skated a new exhibition number to “Boom,” choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, which showed off some cool and different moves. I loved the performance quality and entertainment value of this program. Here’s a fancam video of Alex’s performance (not the highest quality, but it gives a sense of the program).
For his second number, Johnson skated his competitive short program to Jamie Cullum’s “Don’t Stop the Music,” also choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne. This program has grown so much since I saw its debut last fall. Johnson’s footwork and transitions were crisp and fast; his posture and carriage wonderful; and his spins superb, with great speed and positions. Although his jumps weren’t perfect in this program (triple flip, triple toe with hand down, and double Axel fall), everything else about the program was terrific. (Note: For more on Johnson, check out my interview with him.)
Watching Johnson, I realized that a show like Ice Crystals offers the chance, in some ways, to see the whole life cycle of a skater. You see talented youngsters who are just mastering their first spins and single jumps. You see junior/senior competitors, whose accomplished skating is the product of 8 or 10 years’ work learning complex skills. And Alex Johnson showed the extra level of professionalism and performance quality of a senior international-level competitor. It’s a moving thing to see–all the different stages of skating.
This year’s Ice Crystals offered a moment to appreciate the hard work and creativity that skaters of all ages bring to the ice.
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