ADVENTURES OF A SKATING TREKKIE
Sun Valley on Ice Review
Photos: Shirley McLaughlin
There were a few differences for long-time Sun Valley, Idaho,
patrons in the annual summer ice show series at the resort. A
familiar face or two were missing … the name of the show had changed
… the format was a bit different … and there was an enhanced sound
But one thing – perhaps the most important
thing – hadn’t changed: The show still offered top-rate skating in a
unique, beautiful, under-the-stars, outdoor setting.
Valley Ice Show became
Sun Valley on Ice this season, and
Gia Guddat, a performer
for many years in the show and a contributor as a choreographer some
times, is back as choreographer for the second straight year. A new
sound system helps the music sound better.
Long-time performers Dan
Hollander and adagio pair team
Anita Hartshorn and
Frank Sweiding were not
in the cast this season, and none of the performers other than the
guest star (in this case, 1988
Olympic gold medalist Brian
Boitano) did two solos.
That last “difference” made for a bit of a
short show—there were only two in-show ensemble numbers (besides
opening and closing) so the show lasted only about an hour. And it
did miss the comic touch of Hollander, who always got the audience
laughing. Jason Graetz,
who was listed to fill that role, was not in the Aug. 25 show, and
neither were adagio pair team
Fiona Zaldua and Dmitry
Sukhanov, who were listed as part of the regular cast.
“We each have two programs that we have ready
for the show, but we alternate them,” said
Kim Navarro, one of the
show’s performers. “What they (producer
Lana Breazeale and director
Scott Irvine) wanted to do is to keep things new and fresh, so
we do one program one week, and one the next. That way, if people
come to see the show twice, they’ll see a different show each time.”
While the show may have been a bit short, it
wasn’t short on great skating.
As the sun sank behind the mountains on Aug.
25, and the spotlights became visible on the outdoor ice rink, the
show got under way with Sun
Valley FSC member Emma
Steussi, who recently won a gold medal at the
Championships, providing a warm-up act, charming the audience
with a Charlie Chaplin-themed program.
Following Steussi’s program and the traditional
singing of the Star Spangled
Banner, a fun, upbeat opening to
Out on the Edge featured
all the core skaters, as well as the ensemble cast, which appeared
to be a bit larger than in past years – at times, there were about
20 skaters on the ice at once.
Up first in the show was another
Sun Valley tradition, a performance by the youngest
members of the FSC. Six 7-and-under girls appeared on the ice along
with one small boy participating off the ice, tickled the audience
with a performance to Myley
Cyrus’ Hoedown Throwdown.
Baker opened the solo portion of the show with a lovely program
to If My Life Was A Movie,
and crowd favorite Craig
Heath followed with a lively outing to
Save a Horse, Ride A Cowboy.
“I had actually planned to do
Nessun Dorma,” Heath said with a smile, “but since Brian (Boitano,
that week’s guest star) was doing that, I decided to change to a
different program.” And, ever the professional, Heath had another
program ready that the audience would love.
Next up was a fairly new pair team, featuring
national champion Jeremy
Barrett (who won that
title with Caydee Denney, and competed at the 2010 Olympics) and
Natalia Zaitseva, who has
skated with various pair partners in the ice show for the past
several years. The duo had a nice death spiral and side-by-side
spins in a good performance to
An ensemble number, which showed off
lovely group skating combined with soft lighting and
beautiful, flowing blue costumes, featured skaters forming various
patterns on the ice and ended with them circling around long-time
regulars Elena Leonova
and Andrei Khvalko as they posed in a lovely lift.
It was then time for Boitano’s first offering,
which was a lively performance to the
Daytripper. Boitano, who
has been coming back from a serious knee injury for the past couple
of years, looked fast and powerful throughout the practice sessions
during the week, tossing off triple-doubles and three-jump
combinations. That carried that over into his show performance, as
he tossed off a triple Salchow and double Axel with ease while
interacting with the audience throughout the program.
For the audience, it appeared everything was
well and good with the 1988 Olympic gold medalist. Turns out, he had
a bit of blade trouble during the Saturday afternoon practice.
“His blade broke – the right blade,” said
Linda Leaver, Boitano’s
coach and manager. “That’s never happened to him before. We tried
getting it soldered, but that didn’t work.”
For a while, it appeared Boitano might not be
able to perform in the show, but Lady Luck was smiling on Boitano
and the audience members who were expecting to see him skate. Turns
out Khvalko had just traded out his old blades for a new set within
the past couple of days and still had the old blades on hand. While
the length was different by an inch or so, the rocker was almost
identical to Boitano’s. So, after trying it out a bit during a
public session Saturday afternoon, Boitano was on the ice to perform
that night. And while the combination he’d been tossing off in
practice didn’t happen in that first program, the audience couldn’t
tell that anything was amiss.
Navarro and Brent
Bommentre, who have been skating in the Sun
Valley summer shows as regulars since they retired from
competition after the 2010 season, followed Boitano with a beautiful
performance to Coldplay’s
“This is the first time we’ve been able to put
something together, a program, by ourselves and it’s been so fun,”
said Navarro before the show. “It’s been so great for us to be in
these shows, skating with some of the best skaters in the world.”
Another cast regular and crowd favorite,
Ashley Clark, was sexy
and beautiful to Natural Woman,
with some great split jumps and a back flip that, unfortunately,
ended up with her stumbling almost into the audience. She jumped up
quickly and finished with a flourish, brushing off the fall after
the show with a laugh and saying she was fine.
Joe” Sabovcik, who has performed in the Sun Valley shows for 20
years, paid homage to those two decades by performing a program he
first did 20 years ago in the show –
Fire. And four years
removed from a serious ankle injury, his triple toe is back to great
heights, along with his signature split jumps and backflip.
Another group number, featuring Baker and a
group of “flappers” to Let’s
be Bad, was a big hit with the audience, and led into the
performance of another audience favorite act, Leonova and Khvalko.
This pair has also performed for more than a decade in the
Sun Valley shows, and they had an interesting take on
Hallelujah for the
audience’s enjoyment. Leonova, a mother of two, is still as flexible
as she was before having children, twisting herself into impossible
positions in lifts. Their head-banger still draws gasps from the
audience, and the throw double Axel has a lot of hang time.
That led into Boitano’s final performance to
one of his signature programs,
Nessun Dorma, and it was a signature performance. Triple Salchow,
double Axel-double toe and double Axel were tossed off without a
hitch, the spread eagles were fast and with incredible lean and the
death drop was high and secure. A fist pump as he bowed to the
cheering audience was the only indication that Boitano might have
been a little more pleased than usual about a perfect performance.
“Yeah, it (the blade) was a little strange, but
it worked out all right,” he said. “That’s probably the best I’ve
done that program for a long time. Maybe,” he said with a laugh, “I
ought to just keep this blade.”
A medley of familiar rock songs accompanied the
finale, which gave the ensemble skaters and each of the soloists a
chance to be recognized and perform a last move or two for the
After the show ended, the now-traditional
autograph-signing period, when the skaters greet fans around the
rink, sign autographs, visit and have pictures taken, kept many of
the performers on the ice for about 45 minutes, giving fans another
highlight to remember from Sun Valley.
So, while there have been some changes to the
Sun Valley Ice Show, the new Sun Valley on Ice seems to be on track
to provide many more years of top-flight skating entertainment under