It’s ice show season. Some rinks and clubs host their ice shows at the end of the summer or during the holidays, but most cook them up right about now, after the competition season winds down and before the summer schedule ramps up.
I’ve never personally made an ice show from scratch, but I’ve been an ingredient in many, observer of several, and an assistant in a few. Preparing an ice show is a gigantic undertaking, but the results are well worth it: they spice up the year’s skating buffet and once you’ve had a taste, you’re not likely to forget it.
So if you’re up for the challenge, roll up your sleeves, sharpen your knives (okay, blades), put on your goofy white chef’s hat, and fine-tune your Emeril imitation…because we’re about to kick it up a notch.
First, chill ice rink to approximately 50 degrees, then gather the following ingredients…
Several thousand pounds of Skaters: This is the meat of the dish. For the most interesting texture, try to obtain a variety of skaters including tall, short, young, old, free range, and grain-fed. The more tender cuts are usually still wearing rental skates and the more “seasoned” variety come with freakishly deformed feet despite custom-built skates.
1 extra-bold Theme: This largely determines the flavor of this stew. The possibilities are infinite. If you’re hoping for an international fusion, go with, Skate Around the World. For more regional fare, go with These United States or Roadtrip USA. If you’re hoping to whip together something of a more seasonal nature, try Seasons of Skating or Holidays on Ice (for more on this latter theme see “Holidays on Ice” the column over to the right). Broadway and Hollywood concoctions are always a safe bet. But really, you can choose just about anything, as long as it’s somewhat recognizable to the general palate.
1 emotionally-stable Director with an iron fist: This is the head chef. Due to the complicated, stressful nature of this endeavor, he or she must be tyrannical in the kitchen. After all, without one determined leader willing to stir this all together, it would never get made.
Several slices of music with the fat trimmed: Choices will be determined based on the theme, though only the best parts should be retained. Slices that are too large (read: too long) tend to make the skating stale and, as a result, difficult to digest. For added authenticity, the music system should break down at least once during the show, ideally prompting all the house lights to be turned on and the announcer to fill the dead air with jokes his family only tolerates to be nice.
A generous bunch of multi-colored Costumes: These can be sewn by dedicated parents, ordered from a catalogue, or simply thrown together using items most everyone already has in their pantries. For the record, it is widely understood that the smallest skaters are best dressed as bumblebees, ladybugs, and pumpkins, though they do look cute in just about everything. Teenage girls prefer costumes that are as revealing as possible and for this reason it is far more satisfying to instead dress them in big furry costumes and large red clown wigs: they will outwardly groan and roll their eyes, but they will secretly love it. Adults usually prefer to be wrapped in black. Evening gowns with long white gloves are an excellent pairing. Ideally, there will be at least one costume malfunction, probably a detached component embarrassing the wearer and tripping another.
A sprinkling of Props, lined up separately in the locker rooms in the order they will be added: For example, brooms work well for witches, American flags are appropriate for the Fourth of July, and wands are ideal for both princesses and fairies…the possibilities are endless. Again, dropping a prop greatly contributes to ice show authenticity, as does accidentally poking another skater in the eye.
An abundance of Coaches, well-coddled: These will function as the sous chefs, doing a lot of the prep work in the form of choreography and general organization. They will also be the wait-staff on night of the big feast, ensuring that the ice show gets served in a relatively smooth fashion. If you are lucky and provide costuming of a not-too revealing or not-too-silly variety (after all, that was then and this is now), they may even jump into the pot themselves. Of course, the more intra-staff tension, the tastier.
A large serving of Spectators, chilled: Though the goal is to attract fans from all over the county via posters and perhaps ads in local publications, the audience will most likely be comprised of blood relations of the skaters. If you are desperate to fill the stands, you may have to pull hapless bystanders off the street and pay them to attend. As an insurance plan, it’s not a bad idea to dub pre-recorded ovation onto the end of each slice of music. Note that every great club ice show in the history of club ice shows features at least one spectator losing her footing on the metal bleachers. If the EMT has to be called in, it is simultaneously unfortunate and also yet another sign of authenticity.
Several printed Programs, slivered, collated, folded in half: At bare minimum, this is a simple menu listing what the diners are in for. More sophisticated versions include revenue-generating ads from “corporate sponsors” (a.k.a. businesses owned by skaters’ parents) or from grandparents. The standard copy for these ads generally reads: Good luck Susie! We love you! Grams and Gramps. Misprints, especially those that may have legal ramifications, add a nice little kick.
Guest skaters (optional): Though it will cost you, you can import a skater of a more “gourmet” variety from a nearby rink or from across the country. This is intended to transform your show from something more casual into haute cuisine. Of course, it’s highly likely that she’ll be sick the day of your show or slightly injured (as most elite skaters usually are), and so she won’t attempt any elements more impressive than what many of the perfectly-respectable skaters in your club can already do.
2-4 rented Spotlights (optional): While not essential, these contribute nicely to the ambiance. They can make a mediocre ice show seem instantly more appetizing. Authenticity, here, is achieved in two ways: first, when spotlight operators lose track of skaters so that the skaters are in darkness and the spotlight is focusing only on empty ice; second, when a skater becomes disoriented by the spotlights and aims in the wrong direction, bumping into the group of skaters behind her and creating a series of falls that demonstrate the Domino Effect. In the words of Emeril: BAM!
A selection of wooden Stage Sets (optional): These also contribute to the setting and are most-often the product of creative bursts on the parts of a few parents, occurring usually in a garage, at the last minute. The best part is that when one of these wooden panels – say, in the shape of a large teepee for a Native American number – gets accidentally knocked down on the ice, it makes a sound similar to a gunshot. Not only will babies for miles around start to cry, everyone will jump out of their seats and look around, panicked, therefore not noticing that a young skate-wearing “papoose” is trapped under her one-dimensional house.
A pinch of Parents: Despite their other commitments, parents will assist with absolutely every aspect of the show including gathering ingredients, sewing costumes, building sets, tracking down props, selling ads for the program, and picking up the guest skaters from the airport, etc. Frighteningly (and thankfully), they often walk around with open safety pins between pursed lips. It is important to make sure that their role remains completely unsung because this is what they have become accustomed to; any form of unexpected praise could distract them.
1 highly-animated Announcer: This person is either a radio DJ by profession or a skating dad who wants to be one in his next life. When he talks, he inflects his words with such exaggeration that, in any other scenario, it would be quite… “grating.” His own special contribution to ice show authenticity is the mispronunciation of the names of at least three soloists and accidentally leaving the microphone on while asking his assistant how much longer this is going to “drag on.”
Several sprigs of Chaos (inevitable): You might as well just accept this particular ingredient, whisk it in, and savor it because you have no choice. In the end, it will provide the most lasting memories and fits of laughter.
Exactly 15 miracles (highly recommended): Because things tend to boil over, or burn, or remain inexplicably raw, as the day of the ice show approaches, it’s important that you try to track down this precious ingredient. You won’t find ice show miracles in any stores or even in skating catalogues, so your best bet is to just pray for them, even if you’re not the praying type.
First, set extremely valuable miracles off to the side in a tightly-sealed tupperware and hire a guard to watch over them. Memorize the passcode and secret handshake for when you need to get them.
Set timer for approximately 30 days. Add all other ingredients gradually over the course of that one hectic month.
Simmer, uncovered, on medium heat. Stir constantly during rehearsals and also during what may feel like thousands of sleepless nights. Knead your hands together with worry and rub your aching temples. You should realize that the creation of an ice show is an unwieldy though surprisingly inexact science, so while precise order and methodologies may seem important at first, they are most certainly not. In fact, there has probably never been an ice show put together without a great number of mistakes, oversights, and gaffs, for which you will of course need those aforementioned miracles.
Note that, even as late as the dress rehearsal, your ice show will look like a mound of lumpy, unappealing slop. But no worries, your dish will be ready when your timer rings, indicating that the expensive slot of ice-time you’ve rented has arrived. Your show will be ready, if for no other reason, because it has to be.
And if all else fails? There’s usually quite a delicious spread over at the club bake-sale table.
Serves: approximately 250, give or take 100.
What did I forget? Do you know of any other variations on this recipe?
Also, have you ever lost your wallet or had it stolen? I have some advice. Click on Cusp of Greatness over to the right.