Ice Network

Cousins stages another show -- in theaters, on ice

British Olympic champ's production to play 15 weeks throughout England
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British figure skating legend Robin Cousins plans to combine the elements of skating and theater in ways that have never been done before. -courtesy of Robin Cousins' ICE

It has been 30 years since 1980 Olympic champion Robin Cousins choreographed and directed Electric Ice and Ice Majesty, skating shows that ran in theaters starting in 1983. Lately, Cousins has been performing onstage without skates, singing and acting in several shows in England. And he has been watched by millions as a judge on the reality competition Dancing on Ice, appearing on all eight seasons of the show to date.

But Cousins hasn't let go of the desire to present another in-theater ice show, and starting in January, his new production, Robin Cousins' ICE, will start a 15-week run in several theaters throughout England. The tour opens Jan. 16 at Southampton Mayflower Theater in southern England and runs through May with performances in 12 cities. Cousins hope a world tour will follow.

"I've been wanting to put another ice show back on the theater stage for some time," Cousins said. "This comes from spending time in theater. I love the connection with the audience. We want to see how it plays for the first weeks it plays in the U.K., but the idea is that this show will be ongoing. Of course, it would be amazing to tour internationally. To premier in the UK is great because this is home."

The show will have a cast of 14, most of whom Cousins said he had worked with in the past. Cousins will choreograph all the numbers, with set and costume designs by David Shields and lighting by Tim Mitchell. The cast includes former Canadian silver medalist and Olympian Vaughn Chipeur and Canadian skaters Eriq Lyons and Philippe Poirier; U.S. skaters Michael Solonoski, Neill Shelton, Annie Aggeler, Brandee Malto and Jenna Smith; U.K. skaters Lisa Brewin, Natalie Cunningham and Adam Jukes as well as Lisa Mocchizuki (Japan), Kate Endriulaitis (Australia) and Oscar Peter (former Swiss ice dance champion with partner Leonie Krail).

"I am excited to have hand-picked such a great international cast of performers," Cousins said. "Many are friends whom I have worked with before, and I know they will bring something unique to the creation of this show. My mantra is to surround yourself with people who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. They all understand the shortcuts of what needs to happen in so small a space."

Unlike most skating shows, which have the scope of an arena and usually have to play to audiences seated around the ice, the skaters in Robin Cousins' ICE will be on a small stage, with the audience seated in front of them.

"I love the challenge of choreographing on a 40-by-60 piece of ice," Cousins said. "You're able to purely choreograph for an audience over the evening. In the skating world now, when everything is dictated by what is needed, I love that in this show I'll be able to choreograph what the music needs."

Cousins feels strongly that music is supremely important to the choreography and production of the show.

"The music will be edited in the way it was written, as opposed to how it is in competition: five edits to make the program four minutes long," he said. "The opening piece of the show is 11 minutes."

The music will range from "ethereal" to pop, Cousins says, including music of William Lloyd Webber and Elton John. An orchestra will record the score of the show in advance.

"There's got to be a little bit of everything in there," Cousins said. "I like to give people what they want, just not the way they expect to get it. There has to be a reason for someone to want to put skates on and skate to it."

Cousins says that skating is enjoying a prolonged spell of popularity in England, due to the success of Dancing on Ice.

"In this country, we're governed by a rather successful TV show; you get 9.5 million people watching Dancing on Ice each Sunday," he said. "And Torvill and Dean's show will be selling out arenas. The great thing about all three shows is that they don't have any crossover apart from them being on ice. Skating has so much more to offer than what it's been pigeonholed as."

Cousins has done plenty of choreography over the years, but mostly for shows. He choreographed Jeremy Abbott's short program for the current season -- in fact, he choreographed two. Abbott decided not to compete with the first program Cousins did for him and came back to him for a new one.

"Jeremy wanted to work with me last year," Cousins said. "When he came back this year, I challenged him, and it was an incredible challenge. I loved the fact that he threw his hands up [the first time] and said, 'I've maybe tried to push myself further than what works for me.' He has so much to offer choreographically. I've also done music for [Javier Fernández] this year."

Fernández's short program this season, choreographed by David Wilson, is to Cousins' signature music from his professional competition days: "Satan Takes a Holiday."

"It's lovely," Cousins said. "I'm extremely flattered. Brian [Orser, Fernández's coach] is a good buddy and I'm a big fan of Javi's as well. I threw a couple of curve balls in, and he's gone with a curve ball."

Cousins admits he doesn't choreograph for the judging system.

"I don't want to know point by point," he said. "That's the coach's job. If I am restricted by how many points a step is going to get, I'll never be able to start."

Although Cousins created and choreographed the show, Cousins laughs when asked if he will skate in it.

"I now have other people to do the things this body can no longer do," he said. "I can get on the ice and choreograph. I am of the feeling that if you can no longer do what people should see, then don't do it. I would be shown up within 35 seconds by these skaters who are more flexible.

"When we did the Olympian show for Dancing on Ice, that was a lovely opportunity to get on the ice for a minute and a half. I didn't jump; I did a little spin. It was great and I thought, 'That was more than enough.'"

Despite what he says, Cousins, 56, showed off his classic elegance and line in the performance, as well as his famous skid spiral. Cousins says he and his former teammates, Torvill and Dean, laugh about their longevity in the sport.

"It used to be that someone would come up to me and say they loved my skating and ask for my autograph," he said, laughing. "Then it would be, 'Oh, can you sign this, you're my mum's favorite skater.' Then a little girl would come up to me and say, 'My grandmother told me you were a famous skater and I should get your autograph.'"