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Skating shows during holiday season hit the spot

East to west, skaters spin through December festivities

Olympian Marcy Hinzmann (left) and castmate Tasha Mamoody flank actor Gilles Marini, who hosted 'Winter in Venice' opening night.
Olympian Marcy Hinzmann (left) and castmate Tasha Mamoody flank actor Gilles Marini, who hosted 'Winter in Venice' opening night. (courtesy of Marcy Hinzmann)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(12/13/2012) - U.S., world and Olympic pairs competitor Marcy Hinzmann said Christmas is her favorite holiday. So, when she received an unexpected offer to skate as part of the holiday festivities at the Venetian Las Vegas, she said yes.

"The Venetian has this whole 'Winter in Venice' theme. They have an outdoor rink, and there's a parade that comes through with dancers and stilt walkers. There's the Venetian king and queen. The skating performance is going on simultaneously," said Hinzmann, whose gig runs from mid-November to the first week of January.

The plastic ice took some getting used to, but Hinzmann is enjoying the reactions from spectators as she and the other three skaters do their thing twice a day, seven days a week.

"You focus more on your skating movements, rather than a jump or a spin," she said. "It's about performing and drawing the audience in. I like that."

The rink is outdoors, right in front of the Venetian, which is on Las Vegas' strip. Cars driving by can see the skaters and other performers. Reminiscent of Venice, there's a beautiful bridge going up to the hotel and a spectacular Christmas tree for the holidays.

"The tree lights change according to the music," Hinzmann noted. "It really is the perfect place to be if you want to be in the holiday spirit."

Hinzmann got an unexpected surprise on opening night when actor Gilles Marini, who appeared this fall on Dancing with the Stars All-Stars, served as host for the opening.

"We were at the rink getting ready for our performance, and, all of a sudden, he came in with his wife and children," Hinzmann said. "That was exciting. He was so friendly. He took pictures with us and he asked us lots of questions about skating. He actually knew a lot about the sport, which was really nice to hear.

"I asked him about Dancing with the Stars and I told him about my Battle of the Blades experience, since they're similar premises," she added.

Hinzmann's mother visited her in Las Vegas, and the two enjoyed the great shopping, picking up gifts for friends and family back in Columbus, Ohio.

In another part of the country, skaters from Ice Theatre of New York are getting visitors at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., into the holiday mood with four shows a day. Twelve skaters perform on a 37-by-48 real ice surface, accompanied by six live singers. Dollywood's Christmas on Ice is part of the park's presentation of A Smoky Mountain Christmas, which involves a range of shows celebrating the holiday season.

"It's a beautiful show," said ITNY Artistic Director Douglas Webster, who choreographed and directed Christmas on Ice, which is in its second year.

The 45-minute show is in three parts. The first is "Rocking Christmas," which includes songs like "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." The second section is "A Romantic Christmas," and the skaters perform to songs such as "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

"The singers talk and present the transitional narrative," Webster said.

At the end of the second section, the angel is introduced.

"It's sort of like the Christmas spirit, who is a silk act," he said. "It's so beautiful. There's video projection in the show as well, which I designed with the video designer. This whole part with the aerial is Northern Lights and aurora borealis. She harkens 'A Spiritual Christmas,' which is the third section."

Despite the grueling schedule, the skaters love it, and many who performed last year have returned.

"They kind of feel like rock stars," Webster said. "They get standing ovations every show."

Webster grew up in New Hampshire and remembers skating on outdoor ponds with his family. Directing a Christmas show seems a perfect reflection of his best holiday memories.

Other skaters from ITNY are performing a winter suite in New York City, with performances at Riverbank State Park and Rockefeller Center.

"Skating is kind of the consummate Christmas activity, as well as show to see," he said.