The things the audience missed – a backstage look at the Antwerp SOI shows

Part II: Friday

by Mireille Geurts & Titia Tolsma & the rest of the "AS Antwerp Crew"

Photos © Absolute Skating

 

On Friday the practice was held at the Sportpaleis. This would prove to be an even more hectic day. There was more training for the skaters, so more work for us. And on top of that, Emjo and Magdalena were scheduled to arrive. Packed with our bags full of cameras & accessories, tape-recorders, tapes, AS information packages, notebooks, tons of pens and other professional equipment, and of course a lot of cookies to eat so we would make it till at least dinner, we entered the Sportpaleis. We went straight to the stands to see if there were already skaters on the ice. And there were. Not all of them, but some were warming up. Ruben was there too, and he skated by us and asked if we’d already taken a lot of pictures of him. He sure knows how to sell himself to the media now, and to the audience!

Brian Orser called the group together and they started practicing the group numbers again. It looked a lot more together than yesterday, although a lot of things still went wrong. Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio had arrived, so they had to be filled in about the programs, the steps, etc. Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov were still missing in action and we kinda had the idea they wouldn’t be showing up at all...

Looking around the arena, it was clear it wasn’t anywhere near ready for the shows yet. The ice-floor and the boards were up, which was a good start. Like last year, the first six rows of seats had been taken out and replaced with iron bars to prevent people from falling down. Everything still had to be draped in Proximus-purple, just like last year, and the sponsor names had to be glued to the boards.

The lights were put in place and later on tested, and we are sure there were a million other details we didn’t even notice or know of. Sufficient to say a lot of people were working very hard and credit to them for how it turned out!

 

   

Due to the barriers there was no easy access to the seats, still the skaters needed a place to rest too, so just like last year a table came in handy...

 
or some equipment,...
the boards...

And some found their way to the seats after all.

 

We sat there for a while and watched the skaters skate, having fun, and doing stupid and funny things. Like Ekaterina. She wanted to lean backwards to make a elegant and lovely pose, so she reached for the tall iron frame that would later hold the fabric over the skaters’ tunnel. But somehow she missed it and fell flat on the ice. It was so unexpected and she fell hard, it scared everyone and it got very quiet. Maurizio leaned over to see if she was ok, only to find her there totally cracking up. That was the only reason she didn’t get up. Everyone laughed then, Maurizio helped her up from the ice and they all tried to pick up where they’d left off.

“Kevin obviously did NOT miss the iron frame”

 

Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash had a lot of fun practicing the part after they had done their introduction lift in the opening, and were to skate back to the group. We were not sure this was actually in Brian’s original choreography, but we saw some very different dance moves (Egyptian, more Riverdance, disco…) passing by.

When they were rehearsing the opening again (and by now we had realized it was two different programs), we noticed that the choreography consisted of many different circles on the ice. Could this by any chance have something to do with the theme of the show – and portray Olympic Circles?

In one of the ending circles, Katie had been so concentrated on her steps and her positions that when she took the closing pose, you could almost see her think: ”Ok, I did this and I did that, so now I am done… no wait, I have to smile too!” And a big toothpaste smile came our way, thanks Katie! ;)
She was actually one of the most diligent people out there. She had some problems grasping a particular part of the footwork and she kept practicing this every chance she had. She went through it with the other girls, with Susanna, with Brian and even alone. We were very impressed and not surprised that she was very tired after practice. Or would that be because she was doing some karate moves as well, pretending to beat Garrett up? Well, his revenge was to pick her up and hold her upside down.
We witnessed a few very romantic moments too, not scheduled to be in the choreography at that certain time or position...

 

More romantic moments followed, but this time planned in the choreography, when the cast started practicing the closing of first act. To the music of Sarah Vaughan’s “Fever”, four couples, namely Kevin & Susanna, Margarita & Povilas, Katie & Garrett and Ilia & Ekaterina were on the ice. The girls had to teasingly skate around their 'partner' and when they were in front of them, the guys had to wrap their arms around their partner and hold her tightly. This was done perfectly to the song lyrics, and we were happy nobody actually caught a fever and had to stay in bed for a few days….

 

When skating in a line and going from one move to another, Ilia was always the ‘leader’ and Ekaterina was usually right behind him. This had to be done over and over again making the skaters a little fed up. Some were second winding and they started making silly moves again, like sticking their legs out. Ilia even played “cho cho” at one point.

Somewhere in all this, Emjo and Magdalena from Sweden arrived to the arena. We were so glad to finally meet again; it had been a whole year, so there were lots of hugs and catching up. Of course Emjo unpacked her bag in a hurry, grabbed her camera and moved down a little to get as close to the ice as possible and started shooting pictures.

They were in time to see the second part of the cast program “Treat her like a lady” being practiced. And they were not sorry. The men weren’t always doing their push ups properly, some gave up and turned on their backs, some did theirs on their knees, but still it was by no means a punishment to watch all this. Especially not when noticing how much fun the ‘ladies’ were having with this part. Brian choreographed this very well, even if he made himself doing those darn push ups too.

Even though it was announced during both (!!) shows that it was his birthday, this Friday was Emanuel's actual one. At certain times we were a little concerned he was sad to not be home, because he seemed a little silent. But as soon as his music played he lit up like a candle and perfectly performed all the moves we would so learn to love that weekend!
Little note, obviously between Thursday and Friday, his music did arrive.

Apparently there were some holes in the ice, and when Katie and Garrett practiced their routine, Povilas came on the ice with a big water bottle and started filling up the holes. And when he also grabbed a broom and started sweeping, some skaters were laughing and some were very puzzled. We have no idea if this was really needed, but it was a funny sight for sure.


Right before the practice session ended, Magdalena needed to ask Ellen Dupont a few things, so Titia went with her to the IMG office. Emjo and Mireille stayed behind to watch the last skaters wrap up their stuff and the ice being resurfaced. At first we weren’t really sure if the practice was over or if this was just a break. But when the entire light system was brought down right above the ice, it was pretty clear that there wouldn’t be any more skating that evening. It looked very strange and in a way it was very impressive.

After coming back from their talk with Ellen, Magdalena and Titia decided to return to the ice. At least, that was their plan. They ran into Kevin, who was waiting for Susanna while she was calling someone in Finland (at least she was speaking Finnish), and Magdalena wouldn’t be Magdalena if she didn’t schedule an interview. Kevin said “fine” and came up with the idea to do it in his hotel room the same night. He explained that his room was a lot bigger than his apartment at home, and that he was all alone in this ridiculously big business suite anyway. When Susanna finished calling, they both took the shuttle back to the hotel.

The four of us ran into each other again somewhere backstage, and we packed up all our stuff and went back to the hotel to have a fast dinner and prepare for the interview with Kevin. He opened the door, dressed in only a t-shirt, short pants and slippers. Sitting behind him was a lady gluing tiny stones on the bandana he would wear with his ‘Pirates’ costume during the show. The bandana was fine, but he’d said “no” to Vera’s suggestion to also use the sword of one of her nephews. The whole interview was very relaxed and fun and of course you’ll be able to read it on our site soon.

In the end we were still talking a bit, and Katie joined us. She and Kevin had lots of fun looking at the stuff written about them in the figure skating magazines we’d brought.

We ended the evening in the hotel lobby with some nice hot chocolate.


Go to Part 3






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