Skaters find freedom on icy stage

09 Sep 10 - Canberra Times, Australia - Jaqueline Williams

For the 26 Imperial Ice Stars, theatre on ice is a chance to break free of rigid rules and regulations of a professional figure skating career.

Artistic director of Swan Lake on Ice Tony Mercer says many professional figure skaters are moving away from the competitive arena choosing the more expressive theatre on ice instead.

The Imperial Ice Stars are back in Canberra with their lifts, twists and turns and performed Swan Lake on Ice to Pyotr Tchaikovsky's score at a frozen Canberra Theatre Centre stage last night. Swan Lake on lee tells the story of a swan maiden, doomed to live as half swan, half human until true love sets her free.

The Imperial Ice Stars first performed the production in 2006 but Mercer says this production has been significantly re-worked. Olga Sharutenko, a former junior World Champion, began skating at the age of six in Russia and plays Odette in Swan Lake on Ice. "When I finished my sport career, I didn't want to finish skating," she said.

She met Mercer in Moscow seven years ago and he asked her to join the ice stars. "Years ago in my first month of performance on stage I said to my partner 7'm not going back to sport," she said. Sharutenko said the freedom of movement in theatre on ice had allowed her to experiment with new choreography. "I always imagined Odette, the white swan, to be very sad," Sharutenko said.

"When we recreated Swan Lake on Ice, we wanted Odette to be stronger." It took four tonnes of crushed ice, plywood, waterproof timber and heavy duty pool liner to create the intimate 13m by 13m Canberra Theatre Stage. Production manager of the Imperial Ice Stars, Paul Mansfield, said his staff had been working around the clock to create the ice stage.

"The rink was sprayed carefully every 7 5 minutes starting yesterday afternoon and they stayed here all night," he said yesterday before the opening-night performance. The Imperial Ice Stars have tour nationally with Swan Lake on Ice over the past two months. Canberra will be their last stop before heading back overseas.

"The Canberra stage is slightly smaller than our ideal, but it won' affect the skater's movements in a way," Mansfield said. "In rehearsal time they'll get the placing correct."

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