Browning delivers treats for 'Halloween on Ice'Renowned pro skater pulling double duty in holiday-themed show
As the night of ghosts and goblins approaches, Halloween on Ice is finishing its tour in celebration of the spookiest night of the year. For four-time world champion Kurt Browning, it's been a chance to not only perform but to display diverse aspects of his creativity.
"When I'm conceptualizing the show -- building the steps and the patterns on the ice, the jokes, gags, subtle moments and all that stuff -- I kind of feel like I get to be a part of everyone in the show, not just my three minutes in the first half and my three minutes in the second half," said Browning, the show's main choreographer.
Nancy Kerrigan and StarGames first produced Halloween on Ice in 1996. Since then, there have been numerous incarnations, from TV shows to tours. This year, Kerrigan hosts an impressive cast, including Johnny Weir, Alissa Czisny, Jozef Sabovčík, Nicole Bobek, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, and Shawn Sawyer. Since Browning is in the show, he's never seen the finished product, but he's been enjoying the vibe at each performance.
"I try to build a show that I want to be in," Browning said. "You invite people to your house and you throw the kind of party that you would like to go to."
Browning, 49, is relishing the opportunity to work with friends old and new on this production. His longevity in the sport has given him the chance to skate with many generations of skaters. He has also been able to explore his love for skating, which he considers a gift.
Earlier this year, Browning celebrated his 25th year with Canada's Stars on Ice (SOI). It was also the tour's 25th year, and as the show's choreographer, he created moments that reflected their shared history. For his solo, he chose a song Scott Hamilton skated to on a past SOI tour, "One for My Baby," which Sandra Bezic choreographed.
"I thought that would be great to honor Scott for starting the tour and Sandra for everything she's done for me by redoing this program," Browning said. "Then Sandra said, 'We're not going to redo it; you're doing it step for step.' So we did it step for step, the way she choreographed it for Scott. Of course, it included a backflip at the end of it. I hadn't done a backflip in 20 years."
Browning has always had a love of characters, which is evident in some of his most iconic amateur (Casablanca) and professional ("Brick House") routines. In Halloween on Ice, he created a range of characters for the cast. As Coughlin's Frankenstein requires green makeup, he stays in one character throughout the show.
"It's more than 3 turns and axels; it's acting and interaction," Browning said. "We don't really have to leave the ice when someone else is skating. We can stay out there and play with the kids on the side."
In one scene, the men in the cast carry out a coffin with Sawyer and Akop Manoukian spinning underneath. Weir then emerges to skate his routine. Bobek incorporates her aerial skills into her program.
"Nicole is in fantastic condition because of her work up in the sky, floating on the hoops," Browning said. "She definitely brings a different element of flight to the show. I think it was her idea to be a white bat. It's fun to see someone recreate herself."
(Read more about Bobek's explorations into lyra here.)
Although Browning competed in the same era as Kerrigan, he said he's enjoyed getting to know her better through this tour. He loves that she's made it a family affair, with her son, Matthew, 18, helping with costumes.
Halloween on Ice wraps up Friday, Oct. 30, with a show at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.