Ice Dance International is moving ice dancing from sport to art
September 23, 2016
The major difference between ice dancing and figure skating is the precision of the footwork.
Couples figure skating focuses on jumps, spins and death spirals, while ice dancers are looked at more as dance on ice, and this is what Ice Dance International Artistic Director Douglas Webster wants to show when the company performs at the Park City Ice Arena on Saturday, Sept. 24.
"I want people to be moved by this discipline," Douglas told The Park Record during a phone call from the company's base in Sun Valley, Idaho. "I want people to fall in love with flow and flight, the expansive speed and power and space and design that we get to have on the ice."
The two-hour performance, which will start at 7 p.m., will feature an array of pieces that showcase ice dance.
"This is our premiere tour and it is a full evening of repertory works," said Webster, the former artistic director of the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. "There will be two 40-minute acts that are built on major company pieces, and a few solos, duets and trios mixed in."
The company features 10 internationally recognized skaters who are primarily ice dancers.
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"We have four couples and two principals, so there are a lot of tricks in the show — jumps, spins and lots of lifting — with the foundation of partnering and intricate ensemble skating," Webster said. "The idea is to push the ice dancing discipline forward as an art form."
Webster choreographed the bulk of the works, while his colleague, Edward Villella, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, created two works.
"One of Edward's pieces is called 'A Vision of Emeralds,' which is an homage to George Balanchine and his 'Emeralds' piece he made for New York City Ballet," Webster explained. "It's Edward's goal to celebrate the work of George Balanchine, because Edward was the originator of many roles Mr. Balanchine created."
Villellia went on to found Miami City Ballet, which was a company based on Balanchine's work, according to Webster.
"So, we are humbled and grateful that Edward is working with Ice Dance International now, and bringing Mr. Balanchine's integrity into some of our work," he said. "'A Vision of Emeralds' is really beautiful and we have a lead couple and four skaters who work as an ensemble. We spent a lot of time working on that piece in pre-production in developing the concepts and ideas."
The second of Villella's works is called "The Three Smokers."
"It's a period piece done to the music of Artie Shaw," Webster said. "It's a wonderful character piece and they are all dressed in tuxedos."
Webster's own choreography has evolved and has been inspired by the different choreographers he has worked with over the years.
"From Laura Dean to Elisa Monte, David Dorfman and David Parsons, I've collaborated with all of these people," he said.
Webster has also developed pieces for Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes and Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen. So, when it came time to create a premiere production for Ice Dance International, Webster was ready.
"I wanted to create a premiere show that had a beginning, middle and end with my and Edward's work," he said. "It's fully costumed by amazing costume designer Alicia Jackson."
Webster, who ice danced professionally with five-time National Champion and Olympic skater Judy Blumberg, served as artistic director of John Curry's Ice Theatre of New York in the 1990s.
"That was a company that was also created, like Ice Dance International, to push the mission of elevating skating from the element of sport into art," he said. "Back in that time, prior to Judy, John's company was sort of the original premise of what the work does."
Since then, ice dancing gained a following that Webster hopes to expand.
"Since (Jane) Torvill and (Christopher) Dean to Judy Blumberg, when she was skating with Michael Seibert, to the current Olympic Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the art form has piqued my interest of wanting to see it develop over the years because it is the purity of the celebration of flow, lifts, partnering and this expansive and intricate way of understanding the subtleties o the human body as it moves across the ice," he said. "There is a certain attention to the detail of this kind of skating as ice dancers are cultivating."
Unfortunately, when ice dancers stop competing, there is no formal place for them to continue showcasing their art.
"Sure, they can go into shows like 'Stars on Ice' or 'Champions on Ice,' these sort of exhibition shows, but there hasn't been a company, like a ballet company, that has been built for ice dancers," Webster said. "That is my goal. I want to provide a home for these skaters and see it grow."
Park City Ice Arena, 600 Gillmor Way at Quinn's Junction, will host the Ice Dance International on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. The performance is an evening of ice dancing, celebrating the sport of figure skating and the movement of ballet. Tickets start at $20. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit http://www.icedanceinternational.org.
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