Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Skaters are top taters at National Showcase

“Famous Potatoes” piece wins on Cape Cod ice


     No matter how you fry, sauté, bake or slice it—the Sun Valley Skating Club has boasted this year’s champion group at National Showcase, a highly competitive theatrical figure skating competition.

     In addition, the SVFSC crowned three National Showcase champions during a three-day meet sponsored by the Bourne (Mass.) Skating Club.

     Ten members of the club, ranging in age from 10-16, traveled to Cape Cod, Mass., Aug. 1-3 to compete in both individual and group divisions at Hyannis Youth and Community Center.

     The group number, a comical, high-energy and slightly twisted take on Idaho’s most famous export—the potato—got the audience on its feet and captured the judges’ attention and admiration.

     SVFSC’s “Famous Potatoes,” number won the gold in Large Group Production Ensemble.

     Choreographing the six-minute program was Sun Valley coach Gia Guddat assisted by Craig Heath, a longtime favorite in the Sun Valley on Ice weekly ice show at the resort.

     “We decided to do a riff on what many people most associate with Idaho,” Guddat explained, “our ‘famous’ potatoes!

     “National Showcase can be pretty traditional with a lot of show tunes and Disney princesses. Instead, we sent the girls out to perform a mash-up of synchronized jumps and spins, hip-hop dance moves and other unexpected twists, all in potato costumes.

     “The skaters loved it. I loved it. The judges loved it.”

     When the 10 athletes took their marks on the ice, the packed audience at first had no idea what to make of them.

     Wrapped in ‘tin foil’ jackets a la baked potatoes, the tater skaters emerged in full root vegetable glory to the sounds of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

     From there, it was a high-speed acceleration into controlled mayhem.

     Wearing brown potato costumes replete with eyes and roots, the girls had the audience cheering and the judges howling as they worked their way through a mélange of music including Couch Potato, Hot Potato, My Own Private Idaho and current popular music.

     The winning group was comprised of Antonia Avery, Isabella Bourret, Joyce Chan, Sage Curtis, Alexandra Harten, Blake Letourneau, Lane Letourneau, Katie Peters, Alex Stuessi and Emma Stuessi.

     “It all came together perfectly,” said Guddat. “Lucy Bourret sewed these hilarious costumes, the music was familiar and fun and the kids were amazing performers and skaters. Sun Valley got mentioned many times during the competition and noted for our amazing outdoor rink and excellent skating program.”

     After the competition, skating judge Morry Stillwell said, “This group showcase was awesome. In my opinion, it was the best group that has ever performed for National Showcase and I have been an official at every National Showcase to date.”

     Individual skaters from the SVFSC also shone during the recent National Showcase. Three SVFSC skaters returned home as reigning national champions in their divisions.

     At the Novice Level, Alexandra Harten, 16, took first place in Novice Light Entertainment with a self-voiced comical program about trying to find the perfect music for competition skating.

     Joyce Chan, 16, won the Dramatic Entertainment division at Intermediate levelwith a lyrical and graceful interpretation of Adele’s Skyfall.

     The win made Joyce Chan a two time national champ. She also took home a title in last year’s contest at San Diego, Ca.

     At the Pre-Juvenile level, Blake Letourneau, 12, took gold in Light Entertainment for a hilarious program in which she skated with a mannequin male partner with whom she wasn’t exactly getting along.

     All three skaters attend the Community School in Sun Valley and are coached by Holly Wheeler and Guddat. Guddat also choreographed all of the championship routines.

     The results qualified the Idaho girls to advance into the final portion of the Cape Cod competition—what National Showcase calls the Parade of Champions. That’s where the best-of-the-best overall skaters are considered for the top awards in the entire event. Again, Sun Valley dominated.

     In the Senior Parade of Champions, for skaters in the Intermediate level and up, local skaters claimed an impressive two of the four podium spots.

     Judges voted Alexandra Harten fourth-best overall of 125 skaters. In addition, Joyce Chan captured the coveted silver medal. Both received trophies, flowers and bragging rights for the coming year.

     They are the first SVFSC skaters to ever make the podium in a National Showcase Parade of Champions.

     Out of 236 skaters, Blake Letourneau placed fifth overall in the Junior Parade of Champions for competitors through the Juvenile level.

     All SVFSC athletes skated well in tough competition.

     In addition to the three national champions, Alex Stuessi won the bronze overall in Pre-Juvenile Dramatic Entertainment, and other skaters who advanced to the finals were:

     Lane Letourneau (Light Entertainment and Duet), Katie Peters (Light Entertainment) and Emma Stuessi (Duet).

     Coaches Wheeler and Guddat traveled with the girls to the Cape, They provided coaching, moral support, costuming and hair and makeup. Many parents also made the trip to cheer on the skaters.

     “The girls represented Sun Valley, our club and Idaho beautifully,” said Wheeler. “We couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of them. We are a small club and to boast three national champions and to be reigning group champions is a tribute to everyone’s hard work and dedication.”

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