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Behind the scenes of figure skating - March 28

Suzanne Shaw dances off with Dancing on Ice

Suzanne Shaw and <i>Dancing on Ice</i> partner Matthew Evers after winning the coveted dance trophy on this season's show.
Suzanne Shaw and Dancing on Ice partner Matthew Evers after winning the coveted dance trophy on this season's show. (courtesy Ken McKay/Rex Features)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(03/28/2008) - Before signing on for season three of the smash British television show Dancing on Ice, singer and actress Suzanne Shaw had been skating "probably five times in my whole life." But she did have extensive dance training and a lifetime of performance skills, so she figured she'd take on the challenge of not only learning to skate but also performing intricate routines with a partner on live television.

"The pressure was very intense," said Shaw, 26, who wowed the judges and the viewers to claim the 2008 Dancing on Ice title. "I have had dance training, and I certainly found the lines on the upper body a lot easier. But I found it very difficult to really sink into the knees and be natural from the waist down. It was an intense period, but I enjoyed it so much. The challenge was phenomenal."

Her skating partner, Matthew Evers, spent nearly two months teaching her to skate before the show debuted. He and legendary ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean handled the choreography, which for Shaw included many intricate lifts.

"Matt was amazing to work with," Shaw said. "He can read people very, very well. He knew when I had a stressful day, and he knew how to help me overcome that. He knew how to reign me in when I was getting a bit silly. The most important thing is he was my friend before a skating partner, so it made me trust him even more when we had to do the difficult lifts. The fact he was my friend, it really changed the whole concept and the chemistry between us.

"When he said, 'You'll be able to do this,' I trusted his opinion. Some of the lifts were extremely dangerous. It was almost like being in the circus. To hear the audience reaction, screaming at the top of their voices because you've just done something visually amazing, it was such a great thrill."

In the show's elaborate finale, Shaw and fellow finalists Zaraah Abrahams and Chris Fountain all did flying routines on wires. In one move, Shaw pulled Evers who was leaning backward. If she broke the hold he would have crashed to the ice.

"If that would have been week one, that would not have happened," Shaw said. "It showed how much trust he could actually put into me and how strong I was."

During the show's 10-week run, Shaw suffered several injuries, including a fairly serious one to her ankle. Although she readily admits she hated falling backwards onto the cold, hard ice, she was determined to keep going.

"I enjoyed the process so much that nothing could stop me," she said. "It's been the job of a lifetime, and I did not want anything to get in the way of that."

Dancing on Ice was not Shaw's first brush with reality show frenzy, having triumphed on a singing show in 2001. Now, as the mother of a 3-year-old son, Corey, she takes a vastly different approach toward fame and recognition.

"It wasn't about the profile of the show; it was about the fact I was doing a job that I was enjoying," she said. "I need to raise my son and financially support him. I'm one of the lucky people who actually goes out and does a job I enjoy."

From early April to mid-May, Shaw and Evers will perform together on the Dancing on Ice live tour throughout Great Britain. Then she will temporarily hang up her skates while she takes on the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago on London's West End. There is talk of a skating musical, so Shaw promises to not let her newfound skills get rusty. After all, her son thinks she's a professional skater.

"Who knows what's around the corner?" Shaw said. "I would love to carry on skating." This has been life changing. "I would do it again tomorrow," she said. "For the rest of my life, I will say it's been a brilliant experience. We had a whale of a time. It was such a pleasure. I can't wait to carry on doing it on tour."

You can see all of Shaw's Dancing on Ice performances on her website.