November 22 & 23, 2003 Antwerp Belgium

Text by Mireille Geurts
Photos © Kata


Stars on Ice in Antwerp. It was the first time such an event took place in Belgium. For SOI, it was a trial run to see if the European public would be interested in this type of skating event. The answer to this would appear to be a resounding yes. The arena was almost sold out and before both shows there even was a traffic jam on the highway near the Sportpaleis, the venue for the show.

Inside the arena, the audience thoroughly enjoyed the show, although it was somewhat noticeable that, because for many people it was their first time to attend this kind of events, they didn’t seem to be sure when to clap or stand up.

Some show images:

© Rhiannon

Even though there were only two performances, the planning of this event started way back. Responsibility for organising the shows was given to IMG-Brussels and it has to be said that they did a terrific job. In an earlier interview during the summer, Byron Allen, the producer of SOI in the United States, Has given an interview about how he saw the future for SOI in Europe and how these shows tied in with that vision. Read that interview here..

A lot of effort was put into promoting the shows and in September an official press conference was held, with journalists from Belgium and the Netherlands in attendance.
Interest in the shows was not just confined to these two countries and tickets were sold to people from the UK, Germany, and the US etc.

A few days before the show the skaters arrived in Belgium. Attending the practice, it was really interesting to see how they put a show like this together.


It wasn’t completely from scratch; the skaters already had practised the programmes previously. During the practise sessions, there were usually 3-4 skaters on the ice simultaneously, while every program of each individual skater was run through.It was sometimes hard to see whose program it was because all skaters on the ice were practising moves and jumps. Some skaters were very into their programs, while others were obviously just going through the motions. Nobody was in costume.


Besides the skaters and some of their family and friends, the only other people around were from the SOI production team, some of who were still in the process of building the ice and the set. At one point we were even afraid to get stapled to the floor. The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly.

We were told that the skaters were free to choose what programs they wanted to skate during the show. Of course this was talked over with the choreographer on scene, Renee Rocca, so it would all fit in and they could plan a good balance in the show. All skaters seemed to be doing a more “serious” and a lesser serious (fun) program

After the first break to resurface the ice, the cast started practising the opening and closing group numbers. They put a remarkable amount of time into this, practising in detail. After a while I had heard the music so many times that I could have started humming it in my sleep.

During this run-through, there were some guys (Steven Cousins, Viktor Kraatz, Ilia Kulik and Kevin van der Perren) who weren’t paying attention all the time and were talking and goofing around and having lots of fun, just like the bad boys at the back of the class. In the end, however, they all knew what to do. It just shows what a great, relaxed atmosphere there was.

The closing number seemed to take less time than the opening. The music used was 'We are family'. The first part of the program included only the ladies. The men had to wait a while before they were included in the practise. They just sat around and waited, talking and laughing.

The second break to resurface the ice was hilarious. The resurfacing machine was so small that the man on top almost looked bigger than the machine itself. He took his job very seriously. Some parts of the ice were resurfaced 3 times and the skaters thought that it was very funny. They joked around, pointing at spots where he had come by only twice….


© Rhiannon

After this, most skaters left the arena. Only Steven, Viktor and Katarina Witt stayed behind to practise their program, “Hotter than Blue”. Katarina gets thrown around a lot, and let’s just say that it takes a lot of practise to get that done right! Luckily they were all having a good time!

When it was all over we had a little chat with Viktor, who told us (just like Kevin already had earlier) that the length of the ice surface was good, but that there wasn’t a great deal of width. However, he did say that they had skated in much smaller places that were only 5-6 meters wide. When I asked him what they did on such a small area he said, “Look silly and smile?” 

Some more remarks heard that day were:

“Everything happens tomorrow!”

“I am already tired (after 2 minutes of practice)”

“We do need lights!”

That’s an attractive position…”

“There can never be enough coffee!” (Or was that at Sunday-morning practise?)

“What is usually held in here? A circus? The building looks that way!”


At Sunday morning practise, Kevin landed his quad on that small ice surface!

The shows were on Saturday and Sunday. They were organised very well, although both shows started late. However that was very convenient for the people who where stuck in the traffic jam. Maybe that was taken into account?
Some people complained that they weren’t allowed to go outside during the intermission (you couldn’t get back in then) and that there wasn’t a smoke-free area (actually you could smoke everywhere, in the waiting room and the smokers couldn’t go outside, hence there wasn’t a smoke-free area).

All of these things were minor and the show went well. All skaters performed superbly and the audience loved the whole package. Ofcourse the cast of skaters offered was thoroughly impressive. Kevin van der Perren, in some reports called the ‘local boy’ enjoyed his performance at the show very much and was warmly greated by the audience. Since figure skating is not very popular in belgium, having one of their own countrymen in the show made it more interesting for the general audience. A lot of fans of Kevin were also present.

The show was presented by Sabine Appelmans. She has been a top-class tennis player, ranking in the top 20 of the world. She now works for VRT, a Belgian Channel. She is extremely populair in Belgium and thus seems to be a good choice for this, to make the show more appealing to the public present in the arena and watching at home. Yes at home, because the show would get aired.


© www.igs.net

At RTBF (French speaking channel in Belgium) presented by Sara Falotico, the newly crowned Belgian ladies champion; and Canvas, the second channel of VRT (the Flamish speaking channel).

Like mentioned before, the atmosphere during the shows was very good. On Sunday there were some more experienced figure skating fans around, which was noticeable because they were screaming very loudly and offered the skaters some flowers or stuffed animals after their programs.

This was picked up by the skaters, they payed attention to that, which gave a bit extra to the all around mood of the show and the audience.Ilia Kulik was even so nice to go to the girls when the light was still on, so that they could take a picture with him at the same time. It is very hard to believe that only 3-4 girls can make so much noise… 

Also between Saturday and Sunday they changed the finale a bit, making it longer and thus created more time for the audience to thank the skaters, which was a good idea.

The show has attracted approximately 9000 visitors a day. The sponsor (Proximus) seems very happy about this. IMG received a lot of e-mails from visitors and fans, telling them how they enjoyed the show. Quote from the executive producer Byron Allen: “We all had a great time in Belgium and were pleased with the response from the people of Antwerp.
We will decide by sometime in the early spring what will be our plans for next year.”

This was a great show, with an amazing cast and very efficiently organised. Our thanks goes to SOI for this greatly organised event and especially to Cindy Vincent of IMG-Brussels and all the effort she has put into this.
We would all be very happy if Stars on Ice returns to Europe next year!


 

© Rhiannon

Katerina Witt & Kevin van der Perren being interviewed during practice/show.

 

*** Previously published by Europe on Ice






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