by guest blogger Nora Chin
Joining a show is a great way to travel the world, meet lots of cool people, and develop your skating in a whole new way!
Choosing a show
The first thing you need to decide is what you want out of your show experience. If you want to travel the world, your best bet is to join either Disney on Ice or Holiday on Ice. Both are great shows! On the downside, you move around a lot and are often far away from home for 9 or 10 months at a time. Sometimes it can be kind of a bummer not having the same room for longer than a week. If you want to be closer to home and have your own room, working on a Cruise ship is a nice alternative, plus you can get in lots of beach time! (I was with Disney, so that is what this is all based on.)
(Here's all the princesses. When they do these meet-and-greets, they're required to stay in character no matter what. That's our guest blogger as Mulan.-- Xan.)
I don't really remember what I was expecting when I joined the show, but there are some things I wish I did know before joining. An ice show is a traveling circus, really-- there's the skaters, the Production Manager, Line Captains, often a rep from the home company, the technicians and stage crew, costume mistress, and all of our concessionaires as well. I even worked on the stage crew for part of one tour to earn extra money.
The Production Director (PD) is basically your boss and is someone you can talk to for advice on how to achieve your goals. They make sure the show is running the way it is supposed to (lights, sounds, costume everything!). They have a very extensive knowledge of the show and also are in charge of progress reports for every skater. Your PD can suggest understudies that you would do well in. If you are interested in trying something like adagio pairs, your PD might be able to partner you with someone you would skate well with. Figuring out what your goals are for your time on the show and talking with your PD about achieving them is a good thing to do.
Your line captain is another person you can talk to. Line captains are kind of like assistants to the PD. They give notes to skaters for the PD and run rehearsals. They can help you if you are having trouble with any steps. If you get any notes, or corrections, from the PD, your line captain can help you fix them.
Make sure to always try your hardest. Sometimes it can seem like your hard work is not being recognized, but remember, no notes are good notes!
Where do you sign up?
It's good to know what production companies are looking for as well, when deciding where to go. With Disney, having a few doubles is a good idea but not strictly necessary. A strong skating resume (gold tests, national experience, etc.) can help but again is not a prerequisite. You don't see that many people with international credentials on Disney, more on the cruise ships which tend to have a more discerning audience (i.e. fewer 3 year olds in princess costumes). Many people do character work (like Snow White's dwarves) and don't need to do any jumps or spins, so it really depends on what you want to do. For a cruise and Holiday on Ice the expectations are higher. They usually want to see at least a double axel from a singles woman and more from the men (a backflip is a bonus for a guy!).
Look up how to audition on the company's website, and check the ads in Skating Magazine and the PSA Magazine. For Disney, you can audition after a show when they are in your home town, or you can send in a video (I think it is the same for Holiday). For the cruise, you can send in a video. Sometimes you can post it on YouTube and send a link to whoever casts the shows, but once again you'll need to look up who to send it to on their website. The website can also tell you what they want to see on a tape. It's good to have a few takes of each element on your tape to show consistency.
Disney on Ice is run by Feld Entertainment, and the ships are Willy Bietak Productions. Holiday is its own company.
Life on the road
Sometimes the schedule is so light, it's pretty relaxing! When the show schedule is light (meaning there are only a few shows that week), you have a lot of time off to explore whatever city you are in. (There are also weeks where you work three shows a day 5 days in a row, but they're rare.) Food on the road tours isn't provided for you so you need to buy your own groceries, which can be difficult since there isn't always a fridge in your hotel room. Sometimes people buy little portable ones and travel them. It's a great idea to have a hot pot (like this one) so you can boil water and make pasta. Some people have hot plates and pots and pans so they can make an array of dishes, but it takes up a lot of space in your luggage. I suggest being on the road for a few weeks before making any final decision on cookware. Be careful as well, because not all hotels allow you to cook in your room.
One of the hardest things for me was saving money. It can get pretty boring sometimes, especially when touring the states, and it is very tempting to go shopping A LOT. Be super careful with your money! Other skaters might spend more so you might think nothing of it but you need to remember that they might make more than you, and in some cases their parents give them money too.
There can be a lot of drama on a show (putting all those figure skaters in one place!) and my advice would be to try and stay out of it. Just do your best and don't apologize for it! I barely skated my first year and only auditioned for one thing, and was resentful of other skaters who seemed to get all the stuff I wanted, but didn't get that you had to ask for. Once I started taking my career on the show more seriously by skating more and talking to my PD, I got all those things I wanted before. It can be hard but try and see everything from the point of view of your PD. Even if your PD knows you are a good skater and would be good in a role, they aren't going to give it to you if you don't show them you want it and are willing to work for it.
But really, just wing it! I loved being on the show! I made great friends and saw more of the world than most people even dream of. Even though I made mistakes and could definitely have done things differently, I wouldn't trade my time on the show for anything! If you are on the fence about joining, this is me SHOVING you over to the yes side!!!
A former Disney Princess
This former Disney Princess (that's her in the pictures as Mulan, as an Evil Stepsister, and practicing adagio lifts) is my personal princess, now home and putting herself through college as a skating coach and sales clerk. She has her gold tests in Moves, Free Style, and Ice Dance, and once managed to get herself to Junior Nationals (in dance). She skated with the show for three years, straight out of high school. She has traveled to, I think, 17 countries on 4 continents, and 9 American states and likes to brag that she's been to every Disney World in the world, except the one in Florida.