jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life

Documentary: “The Fabulous Ice Age”

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Winter around here makes me want to hibernate. Between the weather and the short amount of daylight, it’s tempting to just hole up with some books and puzzles and endless skating videos, making that occasional run to the grocery store for some tasty high-fat items (which I hear are good for you now).

Luckily I do get some exercise this way: when I watch other people skate, my muscles tense up vicariously, leading me to believe that if I watch enough repetitions of someone else’s triple axels, some great magic will happen at the rink. That is, if I ever make it out of my comfy chair and to the rink again.

A few weeks ago, I saw a fun documentary, Keri Pickett’s The Fabulous Ice AgePickett was inspired by her uncle, Roy Blakely, a former performer with Holiday on Ice. He is an avid collector of ice show memorabilia. Pickett uses some of Blakey’s extensive collection to give us some of the history of Ice Follies, Ice Capades, and other companies. The footage from the different shows is particularly interesting. Not only does it show something of the spectacular group and individual numbers developed for these shows; it also shows the changing nature of skating and how the shows complemented the competitive skating world. Lots of former show skaters, some of them quite famous, are interviewed, such as Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Dick Button, Robin Cousins, and of course, Richard Dwyer.

This was a good film for a mellow, family-friendly winter evening. Here’s a trailer:

I actually haven’t seen many ice shows live: one show each of Disney on Ice and Stars on Ice, and then there was Torvill and Dean’s touring show (T&D of course, but also with a memorable group number featuring self-flagellating monks on ice, set to Carmina Burana–I’ll never forget that one).

But I do have some more direct connection with the film’s subject matter through the folks I know through skating here. I was really excited to catch a glimpse of my friends Dave and Leigh Ann, who are conversing with Roy Blakely at the very end of the film. They as well as my coach Laurie and my friend Marion were in ice shows and have great stories to tell, along the lines of what you hear in the film.

I caught the skating bug much too late to ever dream of being in an ice show. Well, almost. When I was in graduate school years back, I had a conversation with my sister Jean in which I lamented the difficulty of ever finding a good job after graduating. She told me, “Well, you can always join an ice show and be a Smurf.”

She meant it to be funny, but now after watching this documentary, I’m thinking “I coulda been a contender!” If only!

Addendum: I found a video of T&D’s skating monks! (There is another version using more conventional medieval costumes, but this one is soooo much more trippy).

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Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Documentary: “The Fabulous Ice Age”

  1. Jo – you and I need to start wearing tiaras to practice. That is just too awesome!

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  2. Oooh, yes, and a feather boa! Don’t think I could get away with wearing a feathered tailpiece, though!

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  3. It must have been a fabulous world! Too bad the era of the big shows is over. The monks are indeed very trippy– and speaking of trippy, how exactly does that work having such a long costume when you are skating without getting your blades entangled? Have you ever skated in long or loose pants and caught your blade in them? I have!

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  4. I haven’t done the long costume thing, though I had had a couple of skirts that I was a little worried about. The self-flagellation, though, reminds me of all the stuff I yell at myself for doing wrong on the ice. Maybe I should just beat myself for real–or save the energy for the real skating.

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