Friday, August 19, 2011

Ice Dancing for dollars

Battle of the Blades to benefit 4 local nonprofit groups

Express Staff Writer

What do you get when you pair nine local celebrities from the worlds of education, athletics, business and philanthropy with nine world-class skating pros and ask them to perform a routine in front of hundreds of people? You get "Battle of the Blades, Ice ... It's Hard," coming to the Sun Valley outdoor ice rink on Sept. 10 at 8 p.m.

Contestants Liz Brown, Ron Fairfax, Mathew Gershater, Don Haisley, David Holmes, Doran Key, Langely McNeal, Nappy Neaman and Muffy Ritz will costume-up in true figure-skating style and perform a two-minute ice dance routine with their partners. Three celebrity judges and an applause meter determine the winners.

This fundraiser, sponsored by the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club, will apply profits to programs that allow all aspiring young skaters an opportunity to participate in the sport.

"Skating is a lifelong sport that engenders confidence, and develops self-discipline and goal-setting skills," said Joan Lamb, board president of the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club. "We want skating to be as accessible to all our kids as are other sports in the area. One of the only year-round outdoor rinks in the world is in our backyard. We want to get as many young athletes as possible onto it to enjoy all the sport has to offer."

And while "Battle of the Blades" benefits figure skating, this event has a twist.

"It's a totally new concept," said Rebecca Hemingway, the event's co-chair. "It's been a challenging few years and we wanted to create something that would really bring the community together. Everyone can come out and cheer on people they admire and raise money in the process for local nonprofits."

This is because the top three finishers will win money, to the tune of a total of $3,000, to donate to the cause of their choice. Doran Key and Joel Dear is competing for the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley; David Holmes and Darlin Baker for Community School; Liz Brown and Andre Khvalko for Company of Fools and Sawtooth Equine Training Center for the Handicapped; Nappy Neaman and Ashley Clark for Galena Lodge and the Blaine County Recreation District; Mat Gershater and Kim Selby for Greenscool and Idaho BaseCamp, Ron Fairfax and Elena Leonova for Hailey Ice; Don Haisley and Natalia Zaitseva for the Hemingway Elementary Publishing House; Langely McNeal and Kelly Smith for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and Muffy Ritz and Eddie Gornick for the VAMPS women's Nordic skiing group scholarship program.

Each were given the opportunity to take 10 free lessons with a professional skater to get ready for the event.

The event promises to be entertaining, spontaneous and action-packed, according to Hemingway.

It will immediately kick into high gear with a live performance from professional songstress Tyia Wilson. She will rock the house with her powerful vocals, while members of the figure skating club perform. Wilson will continue to provide live music, with a lot of surprises, throughout the show, according to Hemingway.

Acclaimed choreographers and skaters Lisa-Marie Allen and Gia Guddat will bring their unique artistic vision to the event, promising an extremely polished, high-octane ice show.

The main event begins at 8:30 p.m., when the pairs take to the ice. Video montages, post-performance interviews, judges' comments and guest performances will keep audience members on the edge of their seats.

Contestant Doran Key couldn't say yes fast enough when asked to participate in "Battle of the Blades."

"When I first heard about this event, I wanted to be a part of it," said Key, longtime coach of the Sun Valley Ski Education's development team and leader for summer programs run by Ketchum Parks and Recreation. "It is really inclusive and will be a lot of fun."

And an inclusive evening is the goal of the event.

"Since we wanted a true community event, we priced tickets at a level we hope everyone can afford," said Hemingway. "We want everyone to come.

General admission bleacher seats are $20; and tickets for youth and registered Blaine County students are $10. Reserved front-row bleacher seats are $35. A pre-show VIP dessert and wine reception is $75 and includes armchair seating on the lawn in front of the rink.

Raffle tickets are available for two full season ski passes. Tickets are $5 for one or $20 for five and will be available around town and at the event.

For tickets and more information, log onto Tickets are also for sale at Iconoclast Books in Ketchum or the Yellow Brick Road in Hailey. Additional information is available by calling 622-8020.

The battle is on.

Robin Sias

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