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Feeling a mile high in Colorado

Hanabusa captures third National Showcase title

Jennifer Jones had to re-make her spear after it was seized at the airport in Honolulu.
Jennifer Jones had to re-make her spear after it was seized at the airport in Honolulu. (Rich Abrahamson)

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By Melissa Bowman, special to icenetwork.com
(01/10/2008) - Sixteen-year-old Michelle Hanabusa turned in a captivating performance to Sinead O'Connor's "Why Don't You Do Right" en route to her third consecutive National Showcase title.

Hanabusa, a member of the All Year FSC in Culver City, Calif., was one of more than 200 skaters from 35 states who took part in the fifth annual National Showcase, Aug. 8-12, at the Edora Pool and Ice Center in Fort Collins, Colo. The ISC of Fort Collins hosted the event.

Showcase participants are judged solely on their theatrical talents and entertainment qualities.

Hanabusa received the Richard Dwyer Award for her victory in the Parade of Champions, which is the championship round of the competition. Dwyer, known to "Ice Follies" audiences for his performances as Mr. Debonair, presented hardware to all the Parade of Champions medalists. Hanabusa's name will be engraved on the permanent Dwyer trophy, honoring National Showcase champions.

"It's more fun than regular competition, and it shows a different side of skating -- the artistic side," Hanabusa said of National Showcase. "It is the most fun experience, and I'll always remember these past three years."

The champion credited her choreographer, Lorna Brown; her coach, Charlene Wong; and her trainer, Ron Berry, for her success. Hanabusa selected the O'Connor music because of its "fun tempo."

Song King, the novice dramatic and novice light champion, secured a silver medal in the Parade of Champions. The 14-year-old from the All Year FSC has participated in several Southern California artistic competitions, including the Los Angeles Showcase.

In Song's dramatic program, "Hide and Seek" by Imogene Heap, she portrayed a "little girl lost and trying to find her way." The little girl is hidden like a ghost attempting to show herself. In her light program, titled "Jungle," Song depicts a butterfly that morphs into a variety of wild beasts, including a bird, a monkey and an elephant. She used movement to transform her arms into softly fluttering bird wings. Her program ended with Song ferociously clawing as a tiger.

Jane Scott, of the Twin Bay FSC of Traverse City, Mich., earned a bronze medal in the Parade of Champions. The 17-year-old secured her spot in the final round as the intermediate light champion, performing as a contestant in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." While in Chicago for the 2006 National Showcase, Scott saw the show on stage and her program was born. Heidi Johnson, Scott's coach, created the choreography.

"There's more expression and performing, and it's not so much about competing," Scott said of National Showcase. "There's less pressure and more fun."

Scott was active in free skating but stopped after seventh grade because she wasn't having fun. She participated in club ice shows and then entered an artistic program at the 2005 Traverse City Cherry Classic. A second-place finish there earned Scott an invitation to National Showcase. Jane's "Chicago" program garnered a second-place medal at the 2005 National Showcase in Valencia, Calif.

"It was cool, and I kept doing it," Scott said.

Jennifer Jones, 33, of the Hawaii FSC, finished fourth in the Parade of Champions. She performed twice as masters light and masters dramatic winners. Jones has participated at National Showcase every year since 2004. When she returns home, Jones wonders about next year's programs and, "How am I going to top this one?"

Her dramatic program, based on an African spear dance, had its trials and tribulations in terms of her prop. She built her spear with the help of Home Depot in Honolulu, only to have airline security make her leave it behind.

"I ripped the feathers off of it and took those with me on the plane," Jones said.

When she arrived in Fort Collins, Jones went to the local Home Depot to reconstruct the prop. A nervous young male employee was flustered by the sight of Jennifer and her duet partner, Gabriella Gustafson, in skimpy skating outfits.

Distracted by the Hawaiian skater in an African costume, the employee put a drill bit in backward when assembling the sword and started a small fire in the store.

"The manager was laughing the whole time," Jones said.

The fire was quickly extinguished, and Jones was able to perform with her spear.

"Showcase allows skaters to go back to its roots of expression," Jones said. "It will be exciting to see it grow every year, and to see it in the next 10 to 20 years. Mahalo [thank you] to U.S. Figure Skating for National Showcase."