Swans on a frozen lake

The Imperial Ice Stars offer the chill of the ice with the elegance of ballet.

Swan Lake on Ice performance (photo credit: Courtesy)
Swan Lake on Ice performance
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Often, when I watch Olympic stars compete, I wonder what they do when there is no big event to prepare for. Obviously, athletes train year round, keeping themselves in the best of shape.
But in the four-year gap between competitions, they must have other ways of keeping busy.
In recent years, ice skaters have come to perform in productions, most notably Disney on Ice, which will tour in Israel later this month.
In these shows, audiences can see their favorite competitors from the Olympics up close, gliding to familiar tunes. Here, there are no scores for perfect execution but rather stories that children and adults know and love.
For those who prefer The Nutcracker to The Little Mermaid, The Imperial Ice Dancers offer the chill of the ice with the elegance of ballet. Next week, the Moscowbased Imperial Ice Stars will perform Swan Lake at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. They will then perform in Jerusalem and Haifa.
In the past, The Imperial Ice Stars have taken on beloved ballets such as The Nutcracker, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Their productions are always grandiose, bringing overthe- top glamour to stages around the world. What sets The Imperial Ice Stars apart from other ice dance companies is their close tie with ballet technique. Watching them pirouette, it is easy to forget the clunky boots on the performers’ feet and to image that they are weightlessly flying through the air.
The stars of the company are men and women who have spent the better part of their lives on the ice. Nearly all these performers began skating at an early age, some as young as four, and continued to hone their skill through years of tireless training.
Today, as a company, they work as a solid unit, supporting one another on and off of the ice.
When Tony Mercer, artistic director of The Imperial Ice Stars, first decided to reinterpret Swan Lake, he embarked upon a journey into the strange history of the ballet. Tchaikovsky, it turns out, worked separately from choreographer Julius Reisinger, which was very uncommon. The 1877 Russian premiere of the ballet left many audience members confused.
Then, in 1895, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov reworked the choreography, making Swan Lake one of the most cherished ballets of all time.
Of his inspiration for this production, Mercer said, “Inspired by my research into Tchaikovsky’s original score and intentions for the story, I wanted to create a more realistic interpretation of this much-loved tale and transpose it onto ice, creating a new art form in the process… ice dance in a full theatrical setting. I always felt it was a natural fit, to have swans gliding on ice.”
Mercer began his career as a technical crew member for artists such as Dionne Warwick and The Supremes. In 1993, he was invited to join the production team of the Wild Rose Ice Theater. One year later, Mercer directed his first ice show, Summer Ice Spectacular. In 2004, after directing a long list of shows, he founded The Imperial Ice Stars.
The chilled-out version of Swan Lake features more than 100 costumes designed by famous Russian costume designer of the Stanislavsky Theater, Albina Gabueva. Once sketched, the designs were taken to the heart of the ballet world to be cut by the seamstresses and tailors of the Bolshoi Ballet. And there are more than 150 lighting cues in the show.
Unlike virtually every other production of Swan Lake, tons of ice are required for each performance of The Imperial Ice Stars. While the skaters warm up their muscles, 18 trained technicians focus on keeping things as cool as possible. To set up the ice rink properly, the technicians spend two days meticulously transforming theater spaces before each engagement.
Every step of the process must be executed perfectly; otherwise, the performers would have to swim through the scenes.
This element, along with an endless list of other technical supplies, spare ice skates, props, costumes and cast members, have traveled around the world multiple times since the show’s premiere in 2007.
Swan Lake on Ice will run from September 17 to 21 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, on September 23 and 24 at the Jerusalem Theater, and on September 26 and 27 at the Haifa ‘Convention Center. For more information, visit www.imperialicestars.com. ‘ dance