Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Top U.S. skaters coming to Sun Valley Ice Show

11-show summer season debuts Saturday


By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Ice Show stalwarts and friends, from left, Brian Boitano, Jozef Sabovcik, Alissa Czisny and Craig Heath. Courtesy photo by Bob McDowell

You won't find many longtime figure skating stars like Katarina Witt, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Elvis Stojko, Surya Bonaly and Nancy Kerrigan on the headliner list when the 2009 Sun Valley Ice Show debuts Saturday, June 27 at Sun Valley Skating Center.

In the months leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver, B.C., Canada, you won't find in the Sun Valley Ice Show some of the world's best like Canada's #1-ranked Patrick Chan, Korea's reigning world champ Yu-Na Kim or the Russian ice dancing world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin.

What you will find in the 11-show Sun Valley Ice Show season are the top skaters in the U.S. figure skating world.

These are athletes not quite familiar with the general public, but those who should step up in next year's 2010 Olympics at Vancouver and 2010 world championships in Italy.

Ice show producer and Sun Valley Director of Recreation Lana Breazeale said, "We have many of the newer American skaters who are going to be in the Olympics. And we'll be having a little bit of a new look in this year's ice show."

The Sun Valley Ice Show is offering America's best in 2009.

Sun Valley has invited the top five men at January's U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland—Jeremy Abbott, Brandon Mroz, 2009 world champion Evan Lysacek, Ryan Bradley and Johnny Weir.

Reigning U.S. women's champion Alissa Czisny will headline the July 11 show along with the granddaddy of the Sun ice show, Brian Boitano.

Current U.S. ice dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White are due for July 4. And "comeback kid" Sasha Cohen is coming out Aug. 29.

It's the 73rd annual Sun Valley Ice Show, centerpiece of the resort's 73rd Summer Skating School. Many of the school's 19 highly trained figure skating coaches are former performers in the ice show—returning coaches like Gia Guddat, Frank Sweiding, Linda Fratianne and Andrzej Dostatni.

Bringing the new look to the show, which will have a western theme in its ensemble numbers, is first-year show director Scott Irvine, from Disney On Ice. Joining Irvine is new choreographer Doug Webster from Disney On Ice and The Ice Theater of New York.

Each Sun Valley Ice Show from this weekend through Sept. 5 lasts about 75 minutes. The trick is to keep the numbers flying along. The headliners make their entrances for a few numbers, but the show's full-time summer ensemble does most of the heavy lifting.

Breazeale is grateful to again have a terrific ensemble.

The Russian pairs team of Elena Leonova and Andrei Khvalko, 1999 and 2000 world professional champions, is back for the summer. Leonova was having a baby last summer and the couple didn't perform at Sun Valley last year.

Brand new at Sun Valley is the ice dancing team of Ruslan Goncharov, 36, of Odessa, Ukraine and Anastasia Gorshkova, 22, of Russia.

The husband-and-wife pairs skating team of Melanie Lambert, 34, and Fred Palascak, 34, from Ohio has been skating together since 1994 and are 10-year professionals. Two-time U.S. East Sectional champs, they've been in Holiday on Ice and the UK "Dancing on Ice."

Michigan's Dan Hollander, 37, the 1996-97 U.S. bronze medalist and 10-year pro, has provided a wonderful comedic touch for many years as an ensemble performer. He'll be here the whole summer.

Familiar faces in Sun Valley include Olympic bronze medalist Jozef "Jumpin' Joe" Sabovcik plus Darlin Baker, Ashley Clark and Craig Heath.

Baker is a longtime Sun Valley Ice Show regular who has performed with The Ice Theater of New York.

Clark, from Denver, Colo., has 10 years of experience as a professional skater all over the world and is a two-time USFSA gold medalist in Freestyle and Moves in the Field. Like Baker, she teaches at Sun valley.

Known for his unique spins and engaging personality, Heath, 41, was the last U.S. senior championship skater to win compulsory figures, in 1991. He is famous for completing 10 double axels in a row for performances of Disney's "Toy Story on Ice." Heath twice won professional bronze medals. He teaches spins, jumps and tricks at Sun Valley in the summer.

"We're just trying to do a lot of fun things at the Sun Valley Ice Rink," said Breazeale.

Ticket prices drop, dessert buffet is added

Trying to make the Sun Valley Ice Show experience more affordable, Sun Valley Resort has lowered the price of bleacher seating and has substituted a dessert buffet instead of the traditional dinner buffet, according to Breazeale.

For instance, two years ago the top dinner buffet ticket was $88 per person. This summer, it will cost $62 for the dessert buffet and show. All tickets will be priced $5 higher for one show and one show only, July 4.

This year's bleacher reserved seats range from $32 to $52. Cost for the Sun Room Terrace (for the show only) is $52 per person.

Non-refundable tickets are now on sale at the Sun Valley Recreation Office, 208-622-2135. Tickets also may be purchased online at www.sunvalley.com. All seating is reserved and advance reservations are recommended. You can buy tickets at the gate before the shows.

Day care at the Sun Valley Playschool during ice shows is available by advance reservation at 622-2288.

This year's headliners

Here is a list of 2009 Sun Valley Ice Show headliners. All shows are on Saturday evenings starting at dusk. There will be fireworks at the July 4 and July 11 shows:

June 27—Olympic bronze medalist and two-time European champion (1985-86) Jozef "Jumpin' Joe" Sabovcik from the Czech Republic. Sabovcik, 45, was third in the 1984 Olympics behind Scott Hamilton and Brian Orser. Known for his long-flowing blond hair and skating to rock music, Sabovcik has performed in the ice show longer than anyone.

July 4—Sun Valley's Independence Day show will feature Meryl Davis, 22, and Charlie White, 21, currently the longest-running ice dance partnership in the U.S. Ranked fourth in the world, they are reigning U.S. ice dancing champions.

Breazeale said, "Meryl and Charlie are exciting to watch. They were here last year, too. They gave (American world silver medalists) Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto a run for their money this year."

Both Davis and White are from Royal Oak, Mich. They attended the University of Michigan. Having teamed up in 1997, they won the U.S. National Junior title in 2006 and climbed all the way up to fourth place in this year's World Championships.

Joining Davis and White on the Fourth is Missouri-born Ryan Bradley, 25, known for his backflips and triple axels. Bradley, the 2007 U.S. silver medalist who trains in Colorado Springs, was fourth in the 2009 U.S. Nationals. He was the 2008 Skate Canada silver medalist.

July 11—Brian Boitano, 1988 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion in men's singles in 1986 and 1988. The first American to land a triple axel, the 45-year-old Boitano is a World Figure Skating Hall of Famer and still one of the top show performers. He is a three-time Olympian and four-time U.S. king.

Headlining along with Boitano will be Alissa Czisny, 22, one of the U.S. women's Olympic hopefuls.

A recent Bowling Green State University grad, the 5-4 Czisny is enjoying one of her best years. She won her first-ever U.S. title in her eighth attempt at Cleveland in January. She is #14 in the world, and is a two-time U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating queen.

Czisny, known for fast spins and graceful spirals, prefers classical music and has worked as a model. She trains with the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

July 18—Johnny Weir, 25, the flamboyant 2008 world bronze medalist and three-time U.S. men's champion (2004-06) from Pennsylvania. Ranked #7 in the world, Weir has developed a fierce rivalry for U.S. men's skating supremacy with Evan Lysacek since 2004.

July 25—Marie-France Dubreuil, 35, and Patrice Lauzon, 33, the 2006-07 world ice dancing silver medalists and five-time Canadian champs from Montreal. Partners for 14 years, Dubreuil and Lauzon train in Lyons, Fra. They are known for dramatic and elegant lifts.

Joining Dubreuil and Lauzon is 2009 U.S. silver medalist Brandon Mroz, 18, who graduates from high school this summer. A snowboard enthusiast, Mroz placed ninth in the 2009 world competition.

Up-and-coming star Mroz is a 5-10 skater from St. Louis who trains at Colorado Springs. He has been second in four straight U.S. championships—in 2006 as Novice, 2007-08 as a Junior, and 2009 as a Senior. He enjoys skating to Elvis Presley's "Jail House Rock."

Aug. 1—Jeremy Abbott, 24, the 2009 U.S. men's champion currently ranked #4 in the world. A native of Aspen, Colo., Abbott won both the short program and free skate at Cleveland in January's national finals and placed 11th at worlds in Los Angeles.

A singles skater for nine years, he moved his training site from Colorado Springs to Detroit and is coached by 1994 world women's champion Yuka Sato. Abbott is headed for the Skate Canada Grand Prix event this fall in hopes of making the 2010 Olympic team.

Aug. 8—Evan Lysacek, 24, from Chicago, Ill., has become the first U.S. world champion since Todd Eldredge in 1996.

Competing at Los Angeles with a stress fracture in his left foot in March, Lysacek won the free skate and placed second in the short program. The 2007-08 U.S. men's king, he is ranked #3 in the world. Lysacek was fourth in the Torino Olympics.

Quite different in his personality compared to rival Johnny Weir, Lysacek is coached by Frank Carroll and tours with Stars on Ice. His exhibition music includes tunes by White Stripes, Daft Punk and Kanye West. Right now, Lysacek is the best U.S. hope for an Olympic medal.

Aug. 15—Kimberly Navarro, 28, and Brent Bommentre, 25, the 2008-09 U.S. ice dancing bronze medalists. Navarro hails from Santa Rosa, Ca. and Bommentre from Pennsylvania.

Aug. 22—To be announced.

Aug. 29—Sasha Cohen, 24, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist from Westwood, Ca. who won the 2006 world bronze. Cohen announced May 6 that she plans to make a comeback for one of two U.S. singles berths in the 2010 Olympics. It would be her third Olympics. She was a two-time world silver medalist in 2004-05 and two-time Skate Canada gold medalist. She wrote her autobiography, "Fire on Ice," in 2005 and has toured with Stars On Ice.

Sept. 5—To be announced.




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