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It's Holiday on Ice for Navarro, Bommentre

First stop: Sun Valley, then popular ice dancers take to the road

Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre skate in a recent performance opening the Ice Theatre of New York's home season.
Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre skate in a recent performance opening the Ice Theatre of New York's home season. (Dick Schlefer)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(05/12/2010) - After a five-year eligible career that featured two U.S. ice dance bronze medals, two trips to the world championships and routines ranging from Afro-Brazilian rhythms to Fatboy Slim, Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre are hitting the road.

"We got offered one of the lead adagio roles in Holiday on Ice, touring mostly France and Germany, which I know is a big honor for a dance team," Navarro, 29, said.

"Someone told me [turning pro] really hits you in January when you're doing the shows and you haven't been near a TV, and you think, 'Is nationals this week?' That's crazy."

"We're lucky; we're still in a place where we enjoy skating together and each others company enough to keep doing this," Bommentre, 26, added.

After a week rehearsing and performing (April 29-May 1) with Ice Theatre of New York, the two skaters are preparing for new lives as nomads.

"My roommate [ice dancer] Baxter [Burbank] sublet my room for a year," Bommentre said. "I gave my sister my car and I'm going to put all my clothes and stuff in one of my parent's houses. I love Philadelphia; it's a great city with a lot of charm to it, but I'm looking forward to not being there."

Navarro hopes at least one important ingredient in her life joins her in Europe.

"My boyfriend Mark -- he's an accountant, but he has a passion for wine -- found a wine school in Dijon, and it would be awesome if he were taking a wine degree in France, and I was touring around. We could meet in Paris. Knock on wood that works out."

Adagio, with its emphasis on overhead lifts and high-flying maneuvers, seems an unlikely fit for the smooth-skating ice dancers, but Navarro and Bommentre embrace the challenge.

"We're going to have to learn some bigger lifts; we're going to have to learn some actual tricks, so it will be less Choctaws and rockers and a lot more swinging me around," Navarro said.

"It all adds up to me hitting the gym," Bommentre added.

The tour, choreographed by Karen Kresge, begins September 17th and runs through May 2011. Rehearsals start in Amsterdam in August.

The team's more immediate gig will be a bit closer to home. They're set to coach and perform in Sun Valley, the Idaho oasis that attracts famous skaters the world over for its famed summer shows. There, renowned Adagio specialists Anita Hartshorn and Frank Sweiding, and Andrei Khvalko and Elena Leonova, will be on hand to offer pointers.

"It sets up perfectly," Bommentre said. "We'll have all summer in a beautiful place and learn from the best."

IN: Holiday on Ice is a great opportunity, but aren't those tours a bit grueling?

Brent: We know it's going to be really tough -- hard work, 10-show weeks -- but at the same time, it's exciting. It doesn't feel like walking into another competitive season where you're dreading the day-to-day run-throughs and you know what the weeks are going to be like.

We're being very realistic about the challenges of being on the road for nine months, living in a hotel and all the things that come with it. But I think the pros so outweigh the cons, and just being honest about it going into it, we'll be able to handle it.

IN: You placed fourth at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and missed a trip to the Olympics. Were you satisfied with your marks?

Brent: I was incredibly, incredibly satisfied with how we skated. I think for me our free dance will be one of the most memorable performances we'll ever have. It really felt like all of the hard work, all the choices we made up to this point in our lives, separately and together, kind of led to that moment. I think we didn't shrink away from it; we rose to the occasion and delivered a performance that hopefully people will remember more than whether we made the Olympic team.

Kim: We started to feel under-appreciated for sure, I think I've said that before, but what I felt really good about at nationals this year was that I loved skating, I loved our programs, and I can't say I 100 percent felt that way the year before...Now that we've stepped back from it a couple of months, and we're so excited about the future, that feeling about being a little disappointed that maybe we never got the marks that I felt we deserved is wearing off, which is good.

IN: The first time you went to worlds, in 2008, Brent lost his skates; this time, you must have pretty much known it was your final competition.

Brent: What was amazing about the experience was that in the end, when it came time for performing, everything fell right into place. I actually thought we had some really good skates and was really proud of what we were able to do even though the situation felt a little adverse. We knew our competitive career was probably over, but we also knew there was a whole lot more skating [ahead] so it didn't have that gigantic emotional release.

Kim: We felt if we didn't go, we would regret it, and it did end up being a great experience. We've been alternates for much of our career, and you don't want to be down about [worlds], because there is another team who really wants to go as well. Once we got there, we enjoyed it, and we're glad we did it.

IN: What are you looking forward to most about Holiday on Ice?

Brent: I think we'll be able to really grow in our performing ability, when there are no rules. You don't have to do this Choctaw or these steps in combination, the lifts don't have to be the same, and you don't have to grab your foot and twizzle. I'm so excited to start doing things because they feel good, or we just want to strike a move.

Kim: I don't know if it's different for the guys in competition, but the camaraderie we've had performing with ITNY is unlike anything I've had these past five years. I didn't realize how much I had missed it. [Navarro was an ITNY ensemble member prior to teaming with Bommentre.]

You should see backstage before every group number; everybody is holding hands. Everyone is so appreciative of what everybody else is offering. You know that no one is secretly -- even if they're trying not to -- hoping [another team] messes up because it might help them. And it's so nice, after the show is done, you don't have to rank which program you like best; you can just say, 'I love this, and I love this.'

IN: When you first got together, did you ever think you would be planning to do an extended tour together?

Kim: I think I just got really lucky that this has worked out so well. I didn't have any expectations. Not only did it work out competitively, but so far I can tell from the week with ITNY it's working out on a non-competitive level. We have a really good connection on the ice. Even though Brent's only competed his whole life, he's the perfect show skater. He picks up steps so quick; he's so easy going. Most people, they might think 'that a number looks silly' or 'that costume looks silly' but as you know, Brent's willing to put a skirt on [as in their African original dance] if he has to.

Brent: I'll do just about anything.

IN: Brent, when you first teamed with Kim, you must have thought, 'I'm really going to have to work hard to keep up.'

Brent: That was my plan from the get go. I knew it. At that point I had a very good idea that you don't always get what you deserve, so it was important for me to enjoy the process, enjoy the person I'm skating with. And what made it great I think from day one is Kim pushed the level of my performing, the level of my skating -- I don't know what I do for her; I just think I pick her up sometimes.

IN: You'll be missed; you really worked within the judging system to make your competitive programs entertaining.

Brent: A lot of that is our coaches, Robbie Kaine and Cheryl Demkowski Snyder, who are so good at letting us explore ourselves and develop our personalities.

Kim: They also recognize that we need to be our own people and our own team we couldn't just be cookie cutter. I know that's an overused word, but we felt best about our skating when it was true to our selves.

Brent: I don't think it's a coincidence, some of the offers we're getting, some of these professional opportunities. I think we've proven we're versatile and willing to push the envelope a little bit.

Kim: As you can tell we're definitely game for anything. From what I hear, the ideas for our Holiday on Ice programs are all in the same vein of being kind of unique.