Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
Before coming to St. Lawrence, I
skated with Vermont Children’s Theatre On Ice. We traveled to Europe for
international competitions, which expanded my vision of the worldwide skating
community, but also brought together a unique portion of that community—Theatre
On Ice (or Ballet On Ice) skaters. We met teams from France, Spain, Russia, the
UK, and Australia, but no New Zealand.
My travel enrichment grant from the Giltz family allowed me to discover some of what New Zealand had to offer for figure skaters, specifically in Dunedin, where I was studying. On a visit to Queenstown on the opposite coast of the South Island, I found an ice rink. It was centrally placed, but unfortunately not open for the summer months while I was there. Emails I sent to the skating club contacts in Auckland, Dunedin, and Alexandra went unanswered, likely because the contacts had changed or the clubs were closed for the summer. So I had to move into plan B: just show up.
I first went to the Dunedin Ice Stadium to skate on the public ice, which was scheduled for 11:00am to 4:00pm every day in the off season. The price was $11 for students to skate any portion of the ice time. From 2:30 to 4:00 I was the only one on the ice while disco lights and music played. On that first visit, I picked up a brochure with a list of current programs and the schedule. KiwiSkate and KiwiHockey are introduction programs for ages 5-18 years old. The Dunedin Ice Skating Club uses the ice for Freestyle, Ice Dance, Speed Skating, and Synchronized Skating. While taking my skates off, a flyer caught my eyes—for Theatre On Ice! The flyer said it was a new program and quoted the official explanation of the skating style:
[Theatre On Ice] combines the grace of figure skating with the excitement of theater and dance. Teams consist of between eight and 30 skaters. Solo skating is discouraged, but is permitted in limited amounts if it enhances the overall telling of the program's story. The programs are judged by regular U.S. Figure Skating judges and are evaluated on technical merit and presentation with emphasis on originality, costuming, artistry and musicality.
(from the USFS webpage: http://www.usfigureskating.org/Programs.asp?id=49)
I adjusted my class schedule and was able to come to the first practice for the program. There, I was approached by the coach, Morgan Templeton. She was on a break from skating herself and taking advantage of the time to introduce Theatre On Ice to Dunedin. As a very accomplished skater (she’s won the senior ladies New Zealand title five times), the effort to support a new form of skating in her hometown shows how much skaters care about growth of the sport. When she heard why I was here and my skating background, she offered me $40 an hour to help coach the team while I was there. I was shocked and explained that my student VISA does not allow me to earn money, but that I would be thrilled to help out.
So I found myself on the ice in New Zealand on four Tuesday afternoons helping to teach Theatre On Ice to nine Kiwi skaters with Morgan Templeton, her Russian coach, Fanis Shakirzianau, and a French skater who was in New Zealand for six months studying and working on her English. We worked on choreographing a program to music from Shrek as an opening number to the National competition in November. From my discussions with Morgan, I learned that there is a divide in the Dunedin skating community between skaters whose parents can afford the ice time, equipment, coaching, and travel for their children to become competitive, and those who cannot. Morgan started Theatre On Ice with the goal to provide a fun alternative to the competitive track. Though she is competitive herself, she understands the struggles others face financially and would rather see more kids involved in skating than exclude noncompetitive skaters from the community.
It will probably be a while before the Theatre On Ice program is developed enough technically to consider competing, but I am ecstatic to have found a program in the works. I think Morgan’s efforts will help bridge the economic gap in Dunedin’s skating community and spark interest in skating for many who would have not considered the sport otherwise. Theatre On Ice could have the same positive effects for skating clubs anywhere in the world. Morgan and the rest of the people I met while helping with the program have renewed my love for Theatre On Ice and desire to contribute to programs in the future.
This experience was a wonderful addition to my adventures during an incredible semester in New Zealand. I hope to maintain my contact with Morgan for collaboration in Theatre On Ice in the future.