Classic can also be unconventional. The much-loved ballet Swan Lake has been re-imagined on the ice rink, becoming Swan Lake on Ice. Junior reporters Christie Cheung, Minnie Yip, Kelly Wing and Sparsh Goyal watched the performance at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre last month, then snuck backstage to interview two of the performers.
A story without words
Swan Lake on Ice was a beautiful mix of graceful choreography and enthralling storytelling. The Imperial Ice Stars, the leading performers in theatrical ice shows, added ice skating to Tchaikovsky’s classic work, and executed it perfectly.
The ice skating was accompanied by acrobatics and aerial gymnastics, which kept the audience on the edge of their seat.
Setting the scene
One remarkable feat was creating the stage itself. Artistic Director Tony Mercer felt that traditional ice rinks were too big for anyone to properly see the show and understand the performers.
He wanted the space between performers and audiences to be more intimate. So he decided that Swan Lake on Ice needed to take place on a theatre stage that had been transformed into an ice rink, rather than an ice rink that had been modified to be a stage.
It took him two years to figure out the specifics of turning a traditional stage into an ice rink, but finally, the Grand Theatre stage of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre was adapted for the performance, with medieval decorations as a backdrop.
26 years of experience
For Pavlo Khimich and Volodymyr Khodakivskyy, it’s more than just a performance.
“For us, it’s more than just [a] sport ... it’s a way of living. For example, I spent 26 years skating. It’s part of my life,” says Khimich.
But ice skating a ballet performance is quite different to other types of skating; even competitive ice skating.
“It’s even better because when you come into the show business ... you develop your skills even more ... you learn something new, and best of all, it’s fun,” says Khimich.
In a show like this, a story is told – much like in a musical or a play. When skating is involved, the story is told through moves and flourishes rather than words and lyrics. It is the harmony between movement and melody that brings the performance to life. In this process, each performer plays a part.
Khimich adds: “You start to live with your role. You have to, really, to make it smooth and understandable for the audience.”
Teamwork is key
Aside from the stage, the performers are key to making Swan Lake on Ice a success. Behind the fancy jumps, spins and intricate footwork are a team of dedicated performers.
Two performers, Pavlo Khimich, who plays one of the Russian princess’ attendants, and Volodymyr Khodakivskyy (the Hungarian princess’ attendant), who does an aerial silk act, agree that the key is cooperation. Compared to ice rinks, a frozen stage is much smaller. On top of this, up to 13 performers could be on the ice at any one time. That means being focused is crucial.
“We have to look out for one another, we have to keep a safe distance,” says Khodakivskyy. “Good teamwork not only gives a uniform, synchronised show, but also ensures the safety of the performers.”