Villars on Ice 2017

January 28, 2018
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Reut Golinsky

When covering big skating events or huge skating productions such as "Art on Ice" or "Opera on Ice" we sometimes forget that figure skating is not about placements and medals, and not even about limelight and chic costumes (and a lot of money). That first of all it is about freedom, and flying with the music, and joy - at any age and at any level of your skating skills. Small shows produced by skating clubs remind us why we really love figure skating. During my last visit to Switzerland at the end of 2017, I had an opportunity to watch such a show in the charming village of Villars-sur-Ollon.

This year's colourful show was based on the "Lion King" musical. Top-level skaters, live singers as well as the students of the local skating club took us to Africa to relive the famous tale about jealousy, friendship, and love; the story about growing up and finding your purpose in life.

For Kiira Korpi this was her first time in Villars, and the organizers did their utmost for her to feel welcome and comfortable. "Cathy [Meilleurat], one of the organizers of the show, knew a Finnish lady who had lived in Villars for forty years. I got to meet her, and she was my host. And it was strange - I was in Switzerland but I was talking Finnish the whole time! I felt at home there."

Stéphane Lambiel took part in many of "Villars on Ice" shows throughout the years and has a very special, long-lasting connection to this place.

"It's where all the drama happened!" Stéphane said, "It was my first training rink, it's where I started, it's where I did my first double Axel, my first triple jumps. It's where I probably had my first crisis on the ice, my first time of crashing the ice, where my sister and I were screaming at each other, and where we were encouraging each other... So, a lot of things happened [here].
It was my first base until I met Peter (Grütter) and when I was ten years old [and moved to train in Geneva] Villars became my second base. So I was practising with Peter in Geneva three times a week and three times a week I was skating in Villars, alone, with my mom watching from the café. It keeps being my second base to this day, if we don't have ice in Champéry we go to Villars."
"And it never finished, the drama is still going on!" he added with laughter.

When thousands of spectators at sold out arenas all over the world give him standing ovations, doesn't this stage feel a bit too small for him? "For me it doesn't matter - small, big, full, sold out, not sold out," he said. "What matters to me is that I'm there, in the middle, and I have to share with the ones that are there. Even if it's two people, even if it's just Peter and Salome watching me, I will give to them all I have. So it doesn't matter - the size of the show, the budget of the production, how much preparation I had to do for the show, when I give I give all I have."

Céline Meilleurat, figure skating coach, choreographer, and professional dancer and singer, was the one behind the initial idea and the staging of this delightful show. Among the top-level skaters invited to Villars, were Deniss Vasiljevs, Annette Dytrt/Yannick Bonheur, Marie Pierre Leray who combines skating and aerial acts. Philippe Candeloro was hosting the evening. But the main stars of the "Lion King" were, of course, all the children of the Club des Patineurs de Villars. It was the ultimate highlight of their year and the biggest award they could get for all the hard work they put in during the season.

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