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Behind the scenes of figure skating

Lambert and Palascak, partners on and off the ice

Melanie Lambert and Fred Palascak are a team on-and-off the ice.
Melanie Lambert and Fred Palascak are a team on-and-off the ice. (photo is courtesy of Melanie Lambert and Fred Palascak)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(04/03/2008) - They made a quick trip home to Boston to spend Easter with family before jetting back to Great Britain to start rehearsals for the Dancing on Ice tour, where they will play to sell-out crowds and receive nightly standing ovations. Pair skaters Melanie Lambert and Fred Palascak say they take things year by year in terms of their performing career, but their relationship is for keeps. Together for more than 13 years and married since Sept. 12, 2003, the couple strikes an easy balance between life and work, and when asked how they achieve it, Lambert offers thanks to U.S. Figure Skating.

"When we went to sports camp for the U.S. team, they taught us that," says Lambert, 33, who began skating with Palascak, 32, in 1994. "We had so much sports psychology when we were training and competing that when we got on the road, it was so much easier."

The pair enjoyed modest success as competitors, winning Eastern titles in both junior and senior pairs and competing three times at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Although they loved competing, after the 1997 U.S. Championships they took a long, hard look at their finances and decided they needed to make a change.

"We were really heartbroken, because we loved the sport," Lambert says. "Fortunately, we were able to get into shows and loved it. People liked us just as much. We've been fortunate to have the best career from it and have been so lucky to have continuous work for nine years. It's been an amazing journey -- we've been paid to travel the world and skate."

Their road to the smash British television show Dancing on Ice, which Lambert won in 2007 with rugby player Kyran Bracken and Palascak placed third in 2008 with actress Zaraah Abrahams, was paved not only with good performances but also positive relationships.

"We've been going at professional skating full steam since '99. When you're in it that long and you work as much as we do -- nine to 10 months a year -- you get to meet everybody," says Palascak, 32. "If you're good at what you're doing and you're nice people, you become friends with a lot of people. Two people we became very good friends with are Karen Kresge and Robin Cousins."

Kresge produces skating shows at a number of theme parks across the U.S., and Cousins, the 1980 Olympic men's gold medalist, is the choreographer and artistic director of Holiday on Ice. Both Kresge and Cousins were judges on the first season of Dancing on Ice, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's smash hit British TV show that pairs professional skaters with celebrities. When season two was in the works, Cousins told the producers there was a couple who'd make great additions to the show.

Becoming hot TV stars in Great Britain is par for the course for a pair that has performed throughout Southeast Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and all over the U.S., as well as two six-month gigs on Royal Caribbean cruise ships with an ice rink. Last year, they were also able to fulfill another skating goal, by serving as the skating doubles for the film Cutting Edge 3.

"It's always been a dream for us to be in a skating movie, and we finally landed this job," Palascak says.

Originally from Cleveland, Palascak moved to Boston at the age of 18 when he teamed with Lambert, who grew up there. They finally set down their own roots in Beantown when they bought a condo in 2005. "We took a couple of months off that year and did some home shopping," says Palascak. "Closed on the condo in October and literally got on a plane to Bangkok less than a week later."

For the last three years, they've been saying they'll travel and perform for "one more year," but seem content not to hold themselves to that. After the Dancing on Ice tour wraps on May 16, they'll take a couple of weeks off before heading to Italy in June. Then Kresge may ask them to do some park shows later in the summer.

Eventually, Lambert sees herself going into coaching. During down time, she often does choreography for various coaches, including her former coach, Sheryl Franks, and her own mother. Palascak graduated college with a degree in education and passed his teaching certification exams, so he may return to the path he stepped off of to travel the world with Lambert. Leaps of faith seem to work for them.

"When we first started skating together, we were too scared to date, because we were very serious competitors," Lambert recalls. "At that point in your career, you're having Olympic dreams and world championship dreams. You think more about the work than the relationship. You don't want to mess it up by getting romantically involved. Then we couldn't help it."

You can follow Lambert and Palascak's travels on their Web site, Fred and Mel.