I've done ice shows at many different rinks. They are universally adorable, inspiring, and lots of fun for the kids. They're even fun for the coaches, although you'll seldom hear the coaches admit it.
They make the programs a little money, and they give kids in the recreational side of a very lonely sport something to aspire to.
And then there's Northbrook On Ice.
If you're a coach or skater in north Chicagoland, you know about Northbrook. Their kids win all the competitions. Second place to their Synchro team kinda counts as first place because Northbrook always wins. Their class standards are legendary.
And they brag about their ice show. To which everyone just rolls their eyes and says, yeah yeah, Northbrook whatever. That and a buck fifty will get you a ride on the bus.
I have to say, I'm about as cynical as you can get about local ice shows but I just saw "NOI" last night for the first time and wow.
It's a tight, professional production with great skating and great choreography and everyone in the show smiles. This is worth pointing out because getting kids to smile during ice shows is like pulling teeth. In fact, I think most kids smile more when they're getting their teeth pulled.
But I'm not going to talk about the gorgeous costumes, well-rehearsed numbers, superior choreography, tight tech, superior production values, or the fact that the finale was actually an interesting, well-choreographed extra number.
I'm going to talk about all the things they do to make those kids feel incredibly special, things that I've never seen at any other ice show, however well done.
- Their graduating seniors get their own marquis display with a huge poster portrait, plus a page (each of them) in the program plus a special step out number. This is such an obvious thing to do. When I suggested this at a different rink (which shall go unnamed) I was laughed at.
- The Synchro girls made dresses for American Girl dolls to match the costumes of each Synchro team. Beyond adorable.
- All the group photos are prominently displayed in the lobby. (In fairness, Northbrook has a huge facility with lots of display space, which is rare in municipal ice centers. However, the fact that they spent the money to have that display space I think says a lot.)
- Their specialty group is called the Icettes, and you have to audition. In September-- and then they spend a year making these kids feel successful and special. It's freakin' Girl Scouts on ice.
- They send parents and coaches frequent, concise, informative emails about what to expect, when to get there, where to park, who to talk to. So even a newbie like me didn't feel completely at sea.
- They announce the soloists by name during their time on ice. So you don't have to try to read the program in the dark.
I have not heard one child being yelled at. Not for forgetting choreo, or freaking out over quick change, or missing a cue, or falling, or any thing else.
The show's theme is "social media" and I would have live tweeted the whole thing last night (look for #NOI to see what people were saying), but I can't get a signal there with my crappy phone. There are three more performances (you have to buy tickets in person) twice today and once tomorrow. If you're in Chicagoland, drop the cynicism and the parochialism, and go see it.
What is your ice show like? How do they make the kids feel special?