Figure Skating: From the Boards

“The World Was Our Stage” by Doug Wilson with Jody Cohan November 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tara Wellman @ 7:00 am

This post has been swirling around in my head since I returned from Skate America a month ago. One of the highlights of the trip to Detroit was the opportunity to attend the official release party for legendary Director/Producer extraordinaire, Doug Wilson’s new book, “The World Was Our Stage.”

As a skating fan growing up, ABC’s Wide World of Sports was just a part of the weekend drill during the winter months. Dick Button, Peggy Flemming, Terry Gannon and figure skating from all corners of the world.

Wilson is responsible for many of those memories, as he directed and produced his way to seventeen Emmys, a Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports from the Directors Guild of America, and induction into the Figure Skating Hall of Fame. From the Worlds and the Olympics to ABC television specials, Wilson was there, quite literally, calling the shots.

And now there’s a book chronicling just how he got it done.Doug Wilson

Just a few days prior to leaving for Detroit, I had the opportunity to speak with Doug directly. As we quickly realized, his stories about the sports world and the broadcasting industry combined with my fascination with both fields lent itself to quite an extended “chat!” To be honest, I could have listened to his stories for hours.

Likewise, I couldn’t put his book down.

“It was an adventure – a work of love – for my family, colleagues …” he said. “It isn’t a memoir. It is an anecdote about people and happenings that I got to look in on.”

After 50 years with ABC, Wilson has plenty such stories to tell. The book isn’t just about figure skating — there are remarkable stories about Evel Knievel, Chou Chia-sheng – a Chinese pianist who accompanied American gymnast Nancy Thies’s floor routine live, and the adventures of “The Cresta” in Switzerland.

Of course, the skating stories fill in much of Wilson’s career. From the details of Katerina Witt’s life hidden behind the Iron Curtain, to Elaine Zayak’s long-hidden foot injury that forced her to lace up in corners at competitions (but didn’t keep her from jumping her way into history), Doug’s passion for the icy theater is evident.

Wilson and his co-writer, Jody Cohan, recount in remarkable detail the days spent creating “made for TV” specials with Dorthy Hamill and Brian Boitano (remember that sensational piece with Boitano skating on a glacier? Wilson’s genius.) (more…)

 

Skate Dance Dream in Michigan, TOMORROW! November 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tara Wellman @ 1:46 pm

Skate Dance Dream Show Ready To Inspire

Picture SDD
Skate Dance DreamTM, a new kind of show tour that unites dance and figure skating on one
stage, showcasing Nationally recognized Stars with local youth dancers and figure skaters, will
be coming to Dimondale, Michigan for a one-time-only performance.
The show will take place on November 9, 2013 at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex.
Among the show’s headliners include Top 6 finalists from season 6 of the Fox hit show “So You
Think You Can Dance” dancers Ashleigh DiLello and Ryan DiLello. Performances from
Olympic, World, and U.S. National figure skating medalists, including Emily Samuelson,
Beatrisa Liang, and Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt round out the star cast.
One of the “coolest” aspects of the show experience is seeing the interactive atmosphere created
between the Stars, youth cast members, and fans. Some of the expected highlights are group
numbers where the Stars perform with the kids and getting to watch the Stars dazzle live with
flips, spins, and more as they soar and leap through the air!
The show is delivered in an intimate setting that celebrates the arts in their best light. It inspires
all to dream big and will bring out the kid in each of us.
“With two of America’s favorite arts center stage, Skate Dance DreamTM has something for
everyone. It offers a glimpse into the amazing talent of all ages, both locally and nationally. It is
fun, innovative, surprising, and so much more. It is skating and dance coming together – an
artistic revolution – that spotlights Stars with kids, like never before. It is a must-see show!” says
Parker Pennington, Executive Producer of Skate Dance DreamTM and former U.S. National
Figure Skating Champion at 4 levels.
For tickets to SDD Dimondale or more information, please visit www.SkateDanceDream.com.

 

Paging Pittsburgh Dreamers! July 22, 2013

I’m a dreamer. I have the wildest imagination. I can create magical scenarios and storylines full of dreams come true. So, when I find other people with a passion for dreamers, I’m more than happy to throw a little support their way!

Once again, Parker Pennington and the Skate, Dance, Dream team are taking their creative show on the road, uniting dancers, skaters, and, of course, some pretty big dreamers. And, they’re coming to Pittsburgh this weekend.

You can read all about some past shows HERE and HERE.

Then, to get an idea of what you’ll see from stars like Ross Miner, Courtney Hicks, Comfort Fedoke, and more, check out this video:

Now, tell me you don’t want to be a part of stars giving kids the experience of a lifetime AND get a great show out of it!

Head over to http://www.skatedancedream.com for tickets for Saturday’s show and don’t forget to follow @SkateDanceDream on twitter for more!

 

Skate, Dance, and Dream all over again! May 13, 2013

Last November, I had the opportunity to share the story of Parker Pennington and his unique creation — Skate Dance Dream.

If you missed it then, go ahead and read it now. Trust me, you’ll want to read the story again, even just as a refresher, because, the show was such a hit that it’s back yet again! And, of course, it’s better than ever.

20121208_SkateDanceDream_I had the chance to ask Parker about last year’s final show in Clinton, NY. And, no surprise, all the participants had the time of their lives.

“We received great reviews from the public and media in attendance of the show; and all of the local performers had a truly memorable experience… Every performer had the chance to spend time with our Stars, learning from U.S. National Pewter Medalists, Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt and on the dance side, Ashleigh Di Lello & Ryan Di Lello, Top Finalists from Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” These local aspiring skaters and dancers really captured the moment, showcasing their passion in the Skate Dance Dream spotlights right alongside these Stars. For us behind the scenes, it was incredible to see all of the kids perform so well..and to see them beaming with smiles!! There is no greater reward for us than seeing them have the time of their lives! They inspired us and from this show, we look forward to bringing many more to skaters & dancers across the nation. Skate Dance Dream Clinton was truly a night that many of us will always remember!”

That was then. This is now. And Parker and company are hard at work setting the stage for yet another remarkable night filled with current and future stars from the worlds of dance and skating. Cleveland, Ohio will play host to a show on May 19, staring Gev Manoukian, Richard Dornbush, Sean Rabbitt, and up-and-comer Hannah Miller, as well as a whole crew of young skaters and dancers.

Here’s the information you’re going to need:

Skate Dance Dream 2013 flier

Well? What are you waiting for?! Get your tickets. Reserve your spot! See the stars and help encourage the youngest to the oldest to dream big!

 

National Treasures: Ave Maria + Eleanor Rigby January 31, 2013

The men’s event in Omaha was truly inspiring to watch as it unfolded, from the short programs all the way through the free skates. Certainly, there were the more obvious highlights. There was magic built on quadruple jumps; there were dreams come true in National-Title form. But, there were moments of a lifetime created long before the NBC broadcast kicked in.

Early in the afternoon, the first groups of men took to the ice. Now, these weren’t the medal contenders, per se. There wouldn’t be the same tension as would fill the building later, as Jeremy Abbott tried to fend off his challengers. But, no one told the skaters that.

See, once again the beauty of the U.S. Championships was on display, as one by one, men took to the ice with only one thing to prove: they could live up to their own childhood dreams. These guys may not have the international experience, or, in some cases, the technical difficulty to rank them near the top of the leader board. But, their dreams are just as big, their determination just as strong as any one else in the field.

And the crowd at the CenturyLink Center that had been admirably supportive all week was given a few more magical moments to tuck away in their memories from Omaha.

Allow me to back track for a moment… Practice Ice

I had the privilege of seeing a number of practice sessions throughout the week. The interesting thing about attending practices is that you see these skaters in a very different light that you do on competition day. They’re in control. They’re in their element. Their triple jumps are routine, the footwork is simply muscle-memory. It’s easy to see the raw talent on a practice session, because even with people watching, this is the world they live in every day. Training. Repetition. Perfecting each moment. But, all too often, that comfort you see on the practice ice, stays on the practice ice.

Sometimes, though, the lights come on, the opening pose is struck, and the practice success is history, because magic happens in the moment.

Wesley Campbell, skating in his fourth U.S. Championships, stopped at center ice, took a breath, and for the next four and a half minutes, it was as if he was painting the perfect picture to compliment each note of Ave Maria as it filled the arena. It was as if no one dared breath, for fear of breaking the spell. No one dared blink, for fear of missing a second of the magic.

He checked off triple jumps like they were as natural as breathing. He drew on the years of training to move without thinking. Instead, he appeared to be thinking only of the story he was telling on the ice.

That’s when you know it’s good — when the technique kicks in and makes the physically exhausting look easy, so that the artistry, the unique element of the sport, can shine.

It was a moment so brilliant it brought the crowd to its feet. Everyone in the building knew they had witnessed the fulfilling of a dream. Medals and scores were irrelevant. The satisfaction of living up to the potential of the moment was more than enough. (more…)

 

National Treasures: Davis and White January 29, 2013

What an incredible week it has been. I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to be in Omaha with the Icenetwork team, but I was even more thrilled to have the chance to witness the magic that is the U.S. Championships.

There’s something so very special about Nationals; something that can’t be replicated. The week provides moments that you can’t find anywhere else. There is magic in the air from the very first day, and it continues on through the moments the skaters create — both for themselves, and for those of us fortunate enough to witness them.

As I think back on this week, there are several such memories that I will treasure, and I will, no doubt, recount many of them here. But the moment that stands out most — more than the Gracie Gold comeback, or the Max Aaron shocker, more than the unpredictable or the dramatic — is, perhaps, the most predictable moment of all.

DSCN0171When Meryl Davis and Charlie White took to the ice for their Free Dance on Saturday, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were about to earn their fifth straight U.S. title.

No doubt. Not even a glimmer. The rest of the final group, though exceptional in their own right, didn’t stand a chance. Not for gold, anyway.

Meryl and Charlie could have bought into that; they could have gone through the motions, saving their energy and effort for their World Championship skate. They still would have been great. They still would have won. But that afternoon, we witnessed what makes great skaters great champions.

This Notre Dame de Paris program was a bit of a risk, taking the teammates — talented as anyone in the world — across uncharted waters emotionally. “They don’t evoke any romance,” the doubters said. “There’s no connection between the two of them, no chemistry.”

I beg to differ. (more…)

 

From Omaha: Breakfast and Blogging, day three January 25, 2013

Filed under: 2012-2013 Season News — Tara Wellman @ 10:57 am

Good morning from Omaha!

It’s my third day here, and the first time I’ve had a chance to type up some notes from the first few days … over breakfast, of course, and just before I have to be back at the rink for some morning practice sessions! There’s never a dull moment at an event like this, and especially not at Nationals. So many skaters, so many practices, so many adoring parents, and sparkly dresses!

But, that’s part of the beauty of the U.S. Championships — it’s so big, and so noteworthy, that everyone is excited, and everyone wants that chance to steal the show! There’s a lot on the line, so the tension is thick at time. But, there’s a great atmosphere of support and encouragement, too. I love it.

Anyway, back to those notes.

Wednesday was all about hitting as many senior practices as possible. The standouts for the  men were Ross Miner, Douglas Razzano (who hit a GORGEOUS quad toe), and Jason Brown. Talk about stealing the show! The kid has figured out the triple axel, and the rest of his skating is just superb. What a joy to watch! I’m curious to see how that plays out in the actual competition, because we’ve known for years that once he got his triple axel, he’d rival the best.

Gracie Gold caused quite the stir with her stellar practices this week. but, she wasn’t alone. Mirai Nagasu, Christina Gao, Courtney Hicks, Agnes Zawadzki … they all through down some impressive run throughs. Ashley Wagner was a little off much of the week, although her “off” is still very good!

Of course, the competition kicked off yesterday with the pairs and ladies, but I’ll get there in a minute.

Before I go into all that, I have to mention — the set up here in Omaha? FABULOUS. The hotel is directly across from the CenturyLink Arena, which you can get to by a skywalk bridge connecting the two buildings. Then, the practice rink is in the convention center connected to the main arena. So, you quite literally never have to even set foot outside in the well-below-freezing Omaha temps.

Plus, it’s just super convenient. Anywhere you need to be, you can get there fast and directly. The skaters, coaches, parents, and media alike have all been raving about it. And the event staff have all been wonderful. So, thank you, Omaha, for being such a great host!

Okay. The event.

For those of you watching on icenetwork, hopefully you caught some of the free “B-stream” action yesterday. What a great cast of characters we have working that side of things, from Tanith Belbin, to Ryan Bradley, Sarah Hughes, and Michael Weiss. They all bring a great perspective to the show.

Unfortunately, the first day is always a little sketchy. So goes life in the TV business! We were all set to do a great live Ice Desk to set up the ladies event … and Tanith’s mic didn’t work all of a sudden. Not only that, but it broke. And they couldn’t get it working. Or the replacement mic. And, to top it all off, Tanith had to be back downstairs to be ready for her backstage interviews with the ladies as they came off the ice!

What a crazy mess. Fortunately, Sarah, Ryan, and Michael were there to go on with the segment … even if it was shorter and later than planned!

As we like to say, it’s always something!

But the skating itself was great. The pairs really came out with a lot to prove, and we saw clean skate after clean skate after clean skate. It was fantastic! Of course, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir easily lead. But, how ’bout little Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier?! They were sensational. I’m really anxious to see who steps it up in the free skate to challenge the leaders.

The ladies event was bound to have some fireworks. All the top ladies were pretty spread out in the start order, so while Mirai kicked it off with a brilliant short, we had to wait most of the night to see the other top hopefuls. Courtney Hicks, by the way, is a little fireball! And having such great jump content certainly doesn’t hurt. What does hurt? Feeling so ready, so confident, and almost expecting to win … and falling on your bread and butter element. Gracie looked like the moment completely overwhelmed her. I have a hunch she may have been a tad over confident coming in here. She was so enjoying the spotlight that even in practices she’d occasionally forget to keep skating through each element. It was a rough night for he, but she’s still within striking distance.

She’ll need some help, though. And with the top three? I’m not sure she’ll get it.

Mirai, Agnes, and Ashley were all wonderful. And, they all feel like they have something to prove.

Ashley said in the press conference that she was exceptionally nervous because no one can prepare you for the pressure of trying to defend a title. It has showed this week. But, after a short program that did exactly what she wanted it to, she’s totally in control of the outcome.

Mirai and Agnes? Well, we have a battle for that second world spot on our hands! They’ve both looked great all week. So, we’ll see who makes the most of the moment!

Okay, I’ve got to run. Pairs practice now, then the short dance and men’s short later today!

Good luck to everyone!

 

 

 

 
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