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Johnstone, Buchanan step into new characters

Married adagio duo to tour U.K. with Professionals on Ice

After touring with <i>Disney on Ice</i>, Robin Johnstone and Andy Buchanan received a new level of individual acclaim in <i>Dancing on Ice</i>.
After touring with Disney on Ice, Robin Johnstone and Andy Buchanan received a new level of individual acclaim in Dancing on Ice. (courtesy of Andy Buchanan)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(04/11/2013) - The married adagio team of Robin Johnstone and Andy Buchanan, who made their debuts on the British TV show Dancing on Ice in 2013, will soon head back to the U.K. to tour with The Professionals on Ice (theprofessionalsonice.co.uk/), which starts in Nottingham, England, on April 27.

It's another forward glide in their professional careers, which each hesitantly began at age 20.

Johnstone, 38, grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and moved to Edmonton, Alberta, to train when she was 16. Buchanan, 35, grew up in Edmonton skating at the renowned Royal Glenora Club along skaters like Kristi Yamaguchi and Kurt Browning. He was infatuated with Johnstone, but it took a while for her to notice him.

"I always had a crush on her, but she didn't know who I was because I hadn't hit puberty yet," Buchanan said. "Then, we ended up in the same show [as pros]. We became really good friends for about three years before we even started dating."

Married six years in June, they are also skating partners. Touring with Disney on Ice, Johnstone and Buchanan played Jane and Tarzan as well as Jasmine and Aladdin.

They both competed at the national level in Canada, and Johnstone had even won a bronze medal in the artistic competition that used to be held at Skate Canada. She accepted a contract in a Willy Bietak Christmas show in Montreal, figuring she'd put the money into an athlete's trust fund if she qualified for the Canadian championships. A disastrous free program at divisionals was her final competitive performance, and she subsequently did two park shows and then joined Disney on Ice.

Buchanan had run out of money for training. He was coaching and going to school when a friend told him Disney was in search of strong male skaters. He figured he'd do it for a year but quickly became hooked on performing.

After finishing their last Disney on Ice tour in 2012, they were coaching in Pennsylvania and thinking about what they'd like to do next. Choreographer Cindy Stuart put in a good word for them with the producers of Dancing on Ice. Because the TV show involves a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, they were asked to send video of themselves talking.

"It was one of those coaching days where we were busy from five o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock at night," Buchanan said.

During a short break, they stopped at a Subway sandwich shop and shot a video in the hallway.

They got the jobs.

Buchanan partnered with TV presenter Anthea Turner, while Johnstone was paired with rugby legend Gareth Thomas.

"I thought I'd be kind of nervous trying the lifts, but ... I actually never was really nervous doing anything with Gareth," said Johnstone, who skated one of this season's most memorable routines, an emotional props week number utilizing a rugby ball.

Thomas was in peak condition, and although he had never skated before, he quickly showed balance and agility. Turner, who has a background in dance, struggled a bit.

"I was really patient with her because she worked so hard," Buchanan said. "I couldn't get angry or frustrated because she never once stepped on the ice and complained."

Despite having skated professionally for years, the attention surrounding Dancing on Ice was new for them, especially because in Disney they'd always portrayed characters, not themselves.

"We had the time of our lives," Johnstone said. "Every part of it -- the training, the live shows. People ask you for an autograph on the street. It's really exciting."

They said it reinvigorated their love of skating, and they hope to be asked back for 2014. In the meantime, there's performing to do. They'll actually miss the last stop of The Professionals on Ice to return to the U.S., where they'll spend the summer performing in the ice show at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.

"We really pride ourselves on learning new things and becoming better every year," Buchanan said.