You don't need to follow the rules

11 Jul 10 - Canberra Times, Australia - Judy Skatssoon

Flying through the air, dancing en pointe on ice and turning from a swan into a woman is all in a day's work for Olga Sharutenko.

The 32-year-old Russian ice skater stars as Odette in a production of Swan Lake as Ice which on Wednesday kicked off a two-year world tour in Christchurch. The show travels to Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Canberra in August and September.

Born in Ekaterinenburg, Russia, in 1978, Sharutenko began her career as a competitive ice dancer, winning the Junior World Championships with her partner Dmitri Naumkin in 1995.

In 1999 she turned professional, joining the Russian Stars theatrical ice troupe and later the Imperial Ice Stars, the creation of British Theatre producer Tony Mercer.

She's also featured in the popular British reality TV show Dancing on Ice.

Sharutenko talks about how she started as an ice skater, the physical demands of being Odette and what it's like to change from competitive to show skating.

Your mother was an ice skater, are you following in her footsteps?

I never saw her skating because she stopped when she was a teenager. She wanted to have fun, she didn't want to train all the time. When I was born she didn't even think that I would he a figure skater, she didn't want me to be a figure skater. My granny took me [skating] because my mum had some boots hidden away in the house and she fround these boots and said, 'Olga let's try'. I was about five and a half. Where I lived you could just go outside and skate. Later we decided to try it in a normal ice rink. I wasn't very good. I wasn't the best at all. It just happened.

You were also learning ballet?

I was dancing as soon as I was born in my [cot] and every time friends came over to visit my parents I was dancing, so my parents thought I may be [a ballerina]. At Six I went to ballet school.

What does it take to be a good ice dancer?

To start with you need some talent. You also need hard work, but not every child wants to do the hard work, it takes so much time and so much energy and you have to do your lessons at school and everything else. Figure skating is hard work which requires going to the ice almost every day.

How does being a competitive dancer compare to show skating?

I fell in love with theatre on ice because I understood that I can still be a good figure skater, I don't need to lower my level. I understood that it's a creative work, it's nothing like competitions. I'm happy that I have my competitive life behind me, but this is more enjoyable because you don't need to follow the rules you have to follow all the time in competition. On stage you perform for the whole audience, not for the judges in front of you. [When I was competing] you had seven judges in front of you and it was scary because you were [competing] to get the medal. It doesn't matter that there are a thousand people supporting you and shouting and screaming, you are actually just performing for the judges.

Is it frustrating to skate on a much smaller space than an Olympic ice rink?

At the beginning it was but over the years I understood that I'm still learning. [On stage] you can create something new that hasn't been [seen] in competitions. At first I thought I need more speed and more space but
now I know that I can do anything and create anything on this space.

You fly over the stage in a harness during the show, is this difficult?

I have bruises, marks, it is painful. But the feeling of flying itself takes over any difficult moments. But the thing is that all the bruises disappear after five days, they don't come back. I'm flying every night eight times a week and the bruises just disappear, which means my body gets used to it. It was a very nice idea and I'm happy that we thought about it because we thought flying would be a very nice way to show my character.

You've been described as a "kick arse Odette"- where does that come from?

(Laughs) Last time I was called "kick arse Odette" because I was strong. Usually people know this story as a ballet story and everybody thinks [Odette is a] very sad woman who was cursed to be a swan and thinks `that's my life, that's who l am'. But Tony [Mercer] said to me `we have to show your character and your character is a strong lady'. She is fighting, she is deciding things for herself, she really tries to fight for herself and her life.

What will you do to relax in Australia?

Hopefully we will go for a trip to the ocean. The first time [I was in Australia] Tony took some of us on a boat to the ocean and we were able to jump into the water from the boat and we had so much fun. Now every time we go to any country we try to get close to the ocean. It's so relaxing to get away from the [land], you just go to the ocean and you feel amazing.
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