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…)

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

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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 Dream” Takes New York November 26, 2012

It’s easy to think of a skating show as “just another skating show.”

Don’t get me wrong — I love skating shows! But, more often than not these days, they’re fairly predictable.

Good. Enjoyable. Entertaining. Beautiful. Fun. But predictable.

Maybe “standard” is a better descriptor.

It’s tough, really, in a world as creatively driven as figure skating is, to come up with something that hasn’t been done or seen.

It’s even harder when you jump out of the exclusive figure skating world to do so.

But that’s exactly what long-time Team USA skater Parker Pennington has done with his show, Skate Dance Dream.

“I first came up with the idea when I brought in two of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” finalists (Sara Von Gillern and Gev Manoukian) to a benefit show I produced called “Skate For Life”.  Both of these dancers had a background in figure skating and I thought it would be cool to incorporate them into one of my shows,” Parker explained via email last week. “We also had local dancers perform in that show with them. This setting first sparked my vision to blend figure skating and dance into one show.”

And that’s exactly what he and the Skate Dance Dream team did, starting with the first event on August 6, 2011 in Wooster, OH.

The unique blend of skating and dance — involving current national stars from both worlds — was such a success, the show moved on to its second and third performances in Mentor and Gilmour, Ohio earlier this year. And, the response in Ohio was such that Pennington and team are geared up to take this program to the next level — that being New York, of course! — on December 8.

“It is fascinating to me how similar the two art forms are,”Pennington said. “I also love the challenge of doing something different like this. The biggest challenge to make it all come together was finding a way to seamlessly intertwine the two art forms in some of our group numbers.”

In addition to blending the art forms in the show, though, the Skate Dance Dream team opens the door to young local talent, too, providing an entire weekend of dreams come true.

“Each show involves a weekend of activities for them to participate in skating seminars and dance workshops, meet and greets, rehearsals, and at the end of it all, perform in the show with the Stars,” Parker explained. “What is really cool about our production is that all youth skaters and dancers (under the age of 25) are guaranteed to be in our cast. They perform in the spotlights alongside their heroes — the opportunity of a lifetime.”

See, it’s not a show that’s just about showing off the best of the best in the skating and dance worlds. It’s a show — an experience, really — with the goal of inspiring today’s youth to dream bigger and believe in the power of those dreams. Parker knows first hand how much a few kind words from your childhood hero can influence a young mind.

“I had the chance to perform with my hero, Scott Hamilton, in his show years ago,” Pennington shared. “With his words of encouragement, he inspired me to chase after my dreams with my own skating. It was one of my most memorable experiences within skating, one that I will always cherish and remember. Now, with our Skate Dance Dream shows, our Stars have that platform to inspire skaters and dancers in the same way Scott inspired me.”

The show, which includes mentors like U.S. National Medalists, Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti Schmitt, World Team members, Richard Dornbush & Ross Miner, National competitor Sean Rabbitt and Fox’s hit TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” Finalists, takes young dreamers right onto the performance ice (or stage, as it may be) with athletes and performers who are living proof that dreams really do come true.

“I want all of the kids to know they can be anyone they want to be,” Pennington said. “With this experience, I wanted to remove the boundaries of the television screen, so the children could see the Stars up close, getting to know them and hear how they got to be where they are today. The opportunity also gives many of these kids in a small town a chance that otherwise may not come their way. And with the proper guidance, encouragement and support from our Stars, these kids then have the opportunity to spin their dance or skating into any direction they dream of.”

Plus, it makes for a unique, family-friendly, and inspiring show on the day of the performance.

“One of our audience members summed up our experience best by saying that when watching our show, they forgot about all of life’s problems,” Parker told me. “With Skate Dance Dream, we aim to create a universal place of love for the performance arts, for both children, family and fans alike. It is a show experience that is meant to inspire all, with the show theme centered around the kids truly dreaming big.”

On December 8 at 7:00 p.m., the lucky residents in the Clinton, NY area can see it all for themselves. Check on SkateDanceDream.com for tickets and even more info. And after the show, come right back here and let me know how fabulous it was! Deal? 

 

What a wonderful way to start the day, Announcements! October 18, 2012

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

When I started this blog, I had no idea where it might go.

Honestly, I thought having a handful of readers would be pretty great.

It began as a way to sharpen my writing skills, as well as provide for myself some kind of online “portfolio,” if you will — a way for people who may happen to be looking for a crazy-passionate skating fan with the skills of a trained journalist to find me when they needed help  to cover this beautiful sport.

Or other sports.

Or … well, whatever might come of it, really.

That is, of course, if anyone ever actually found it at all.

I had this idea, then, to cover events live via Twitter. I’d seen it done before, but never tried my hand at it. I figured, my experience in live sports broadcasting would give me some direction, and perhaps I could actually provide useful info to skating fans unable to watch the events live. Skating fans like, say, Sarah Hughes.

(Yes, way cool.)

It wasn’t until I wrote a piece on Yuna Kim’s skating show coming to the US that I realized the international reach I’d somehow developed. I mean, I knew Korean fans were amazing, but I didn’t figure they’d have much interest in what I had to say! Boy, was I shocked to see the site hits for the next week.

Maybe this little skating blog was turning into something, after all.

Since then, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to interview skaters such as Sarah Hughes, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Nathan Chen, Christina Gao, and more.

(Again, way cool.)

I’ve had the privilege of “watching” live with all of you, sharing immediate thoughts on Twitter, and expanding on those conversations here at From The Boards.

See, I’m a skating fan. I absolutely adore this sport and the coaches and athletes in it. I love the moments this sport creates — Alissa Czisny’s comeback season, Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin’s magic in their National Title winning skates, the battle for dominance between Patrick Chan and Daisuke Takahashi, the newcomers like Javier Fernandez and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, and the returns of veterans like Yuna Kim, Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir … you get the idea.

But I’m also a writer … slash reporter, slash TV host, slash producer … again, you get the point! And the thought of working in this crazy, unpredictable world is thrilling.

Last season, Icenetwork reached out and asked me to be their “Fantasy Expert” for US Figure Skating’s “Fantasy Skating” game.

(You guessed it, way cool.)

And this year, Icenetwork reached out again.

Don’t worry, From The Boards isn’t going anywhere. But, there are a few events this season I won’t be covering in quite so much detail (and not so “live”) here at FTB because, well, I’ll actually be there, live and in person, working with the Icenetwork team.

Starting with Skate America.

Yep, as you read this, I’m on a plane headed for Seattle where I’ll meet up with the crew and head off to some of today’s practice sessions. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

(Brace yourselves for a little, tiny, mushy moment. It won’t last long, I promise!)

This is the part where I say thank you. To you. And you. Yes, you, too.

Thank you for reading what I write, watching my silly video blogs, tweeting me your thoughts, voting in the FTB polls, correcting me when I miss an error or two … you gave me reason to keep writing. You kept following. And now, I’m getting the chance to be a part of two things I genuinely love: skating, and broadcasting.

One last time: WAY. COOL.

So, I’ll update as I can. Make sure you’re following me (@fromtheboards) and Icenetwork (@icenetwork) on twitter for all the action from Skate America. And then, of course, watch Icenetwork for full coverage from Kent! It’s going to be a fantastic event. Washington knows how to do this skating thing right!

 

Vlog: Pairs and Ladies Bring the Heat On Day 1 January 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tara Wellman @ 2:10 pm
 

Kwan, her legend, and the Hall of Fame November 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tara Wellman @ 3:28 pm
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We interrupt your regular GP season program for a special announcement…

Michelle Kwan will likely take her rightful spot in the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame this January in San Jose.

Kwan fans like myself knew this was coming, but to see her name officially on the ballot does two things.

  1. It reaffirms all those moments in which she redefined both herself and her sport, becoming one of the rare living legends we ever see. Michelle Kwan in the HOF just feels right. It is right. Her national title mark (9) won’t be touched for a long time … if ever. Her five World titles will likely hold up just fine as well. Her Olympic medals only add to her already impressive resume. And we’re not even going to get into her other medal counts. Michelle Kwan was figure skating for plenty of years, and that is more than enough to deserve this honor.
  2. It closes one final door. Call me an eternal optimist, a hopeless dreamer, or anything else that defines blissful unwillingness to accept the end of a good thing. It’s all true. Yes, somewhere beneath the death-grip of reality, there was a tiny sliver of hope left that we’d get to see Michelle make it an even 10 national titles. Improbable? Um, yes. Unlikely? The most. But have stranger things happened? Does my heart still ache thinking of how close she was to a life-long dream — twice if not three times — without attaining it? Yes and yes. I’ll admit, I haven’t been too haunted by the lack of nomination before now because of the reality the award brought with it. Reality and finality. The legend that is Michelle Kwan and the illustrious career she gifted to us all is over.

I suppose that’s the definition of bittersweet, eh?

Nevertheless, congratulations to Ms. Kwan. She was and will always be the heart and soul of my figure skating obsession. She has moved on to become a sparkling success, just as we knew she would. Her impact on generations of children will be huge. And the memories she left me with will always be some of my most favorite. My only regret is that I never saw her compete live (why, oh why did she have to be injured in 2006?!).

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — I’ve never been so proud of someone I’ve not met. Her legend is more than her titles and medals. It is the way she won, the way she lost, the way she taught us all to love what we do and do what we love, no matter the consequences of the risks we take in pursuing the dream.

She bore her heart through her skating. If we could only be so lucky to find that passion and display it with the grace and integrity she did — and does still.

I could go on and on (and on … and on…) about this woman, what her career meant to the sport, to her successors, to me. But, once you begin, where do you really stop?

Yes, I’m gushing. No, I’m not maintaining my journalistic neutrality. But sometimes, even we have to step back and remember why we’re fans in the first place.

For me, that reason is Michelle Kwan.

Congratulations, Michelle. The Hall of Fame, just as skating as a whole, is a better place having had you in it.