Stars on Ice dancers get ready for show
Alissa Czisny, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto ...
If You Go
What: Smucker’s Stars on Ice tour. One night only, and a host of acclaimed skaters to appear, including U.S. 2010 gold medalist Evan Lysacek and 2010 silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Germain Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero
Information and admission: Tickets start at $25. A portion to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of America. To purchase, visit www.ticketmaster.com or by phone, (800) 745-3000. For more information about the tour, visit www.starsonice.com
ESTERO — Ever since Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette captured the hearts of figure skating fans all over the world with her performance at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, she’s been in demand for appearances throughout the U.S. and Canada.
While dealing with the loss of her mother Thérèse, who died suddenly of a heart attack Feb. 21, three days before Rochette skated at the Olympics, Rochette has elected to skip competitions, making only a few select skating appearances. The bronze medalist even skipped the recently concluded World Championships in Italy, saying that her post Olympic schedule has left almost no time for training.
After nearly two months away from the ice, Rochette will make her return to the public eye when she guest stars in this year’s Smucker’s Stars on Ice, which will kick off a 41-stop tour on Thursday at Germain Arena.
“I always feel the closest to my mother when I’m on the ice,” Rochette said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m just practicing by myself or performing in front of a large crowd, that’s the way that I connect with her and I’m glad that the tour is starting, and I can shift my focus back to skating and performing.”
Rochette is just one of the big names headlining this year’s tour, which organizers say is among the strongest in years. Recent Olympic gold medalist and current “Dancing with the Stars” cast member Evan Lysacek headlines the tour, and is joined by 2006 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, 2006 U.S. Olympic ice dancing silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, 2008 U.S. national champion Mirai Nagasu and two-time U.S. national champion Jeremy Abbott among others.
What makes this year’s tour especially interesting to residents of Southwest Florida is how the on-ice performances have come together. When organizers were looking for a place to rehearse and plan for this year’s tour, they visited sites around the country before settling on Germain Arena.
“When we came here on a site survey we realized that this would be the perfect place for us,” said Cindy Stuart, the tour’s lead choreographer. “The three rinks give us the flexibility we need to make sure we’re getting plenty of ice time every day.”
The entire production has been based at Germain for the last three weeks, as everyone from costume designers to the skaters themselves prepare for opening night.
“It’s been awesome getting to spend time here,” 2009 U.S. champion Alissa Czisny said. “We haven’t had much time to get out and have fun because we’ve been working so hard to get ready, but I did get to go to the beach one day and it was great.”
Czisny, who is joining the Stars on Ice tour for the first time, said that while the on-ice preparation is intense, she’s enjoyed the chance to mingle with some of the skaters she grew up idolizing.
“This is a great experience for me because these are the people I’ve looked up to,” Czisny said. “They’re doing what I want to be doing, and it’s been great to spend time with them and get to know them outside of competition.”
Many of the stars have flown in and out of Southwest Florida as they juggle their competition schedule with their Stars on Ice responsibilities, with the World Championships in Italy making it even tougher.
“It’s been a challenge,” Stuart said. “But these are some of the hardest working people in the world, so they’re dedicated to putting in the work it requires to make sure we have a spectacular show.”
Rochette is so busy with prior commitments that she won’t arrive in Florida until Thursday, the day of the first show.
“It’s going to interesting because I’m coming in at the last minute,” she said. “But I’ve been working on the routines by myself, and I’m excited to get back on the ice and perform for the fans that have shown me so much support over the past two months.”
Once the tour starts, it will make four Florida stops in four days, zig-zagging across the state from Estero to Fort Lauderdale, then Orlando to Tampa. Stuart said that everything will be ready, and skating fans at Germain Arena will get the first taste.
“This year’s group is full of excitement and enthusiasm,” she said. “The fans here will get a chance to see something special when this collection of skaters takes the ice.”