Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dream Big with Skate Dance Dream!

Photo courtesy of Sara Thellman

The U.S. figure skating team has been doing a fabulous job at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, most recently taking home the gold medal in the ice dancing competition. Not surprisingly, figure skating is one of my favorite sports to watch, probably because it has so much in common with dance. Parker Pennington, a former U.S. figure skating champion, thinks so too. “I find them both to be very artistic and athletic,” he told me during a recent interview.

The reason I was interviewing Parker is because he is the founder and executive producer of Skate Dance Dream -- a unique live performance show that fuses figure skating and dance. Parker is a huge fan of the television show So You Think You Can Dance, and two of the past performers on the show -- Sara Von Gillern and Gev Manoukian -- had backgrounds in figure skating. This gave Parker the idea of combining the two art forms into a single performance in which stars team up with young up-and-coming artists.

Skate Dance Dream is also unique in that it caters to the different locations where the performances take place. At each location, about 100 young skaters and dancers from that particular region are cast. The stars, who are finalists from So You Think You Can Dance and Olympic and World Class figure skaters, also change from show to show depending on the locations.

Photo courtesy of Allen Clark Photography

“So you could see break dancers or ballerinas, or you could see a comedy act on ice. You could catch people back flipping or sliding on their heads across the ice,” says Parker. “We are always trying to keep things fresh and innovative while serving to inspire the performance arts community as a whole.”

Skate Dance Dream is a wonderful opportunity for young dancers and skaters who are following their dreams. It actually reminds me of two recent picture books written by another figure skating champion -- Kristi Yamaguchi -- with illustrations by Tim Bowers. The first book, called Dream Big Little Pig!, is about a pig named Poppy who wants to be a star

“Follow your dreams!” said Poppy’s mother, who loved her no matter what. “You go girl,” said Poppy’s grandparents, who were her biggest fans. “Dream big, pig!” said Poppy’s best friend, Emma, who was always there for her.

With the support of her family and friends, Poppy tries dancing, singing, and modeling before finally realizing that figure skating is where she shines the most. In the book’s sequel, It’s a BigWorld, Little Pig!, Poppy gets to travel to Paris to compete in the World Games, where she meets new friends from around the world and continues to chase her figure skating dreams.

As someone who has chased his own dreams, Parker has some important advice for others like Poppy, whether they are pursuing figure skating or dance. “Be confident yet humble, work hard, realize you will experience ups and downs in your personal journey, listen to your coaches and teachers, and push yourself to be the best you can be,” he says. “Always come back to why you do what you do…because you love it! That passion will drive all and will help you get through anything. Last but not least, don’t forget to dream big!”

The next stops on the Skate Dance Dream tour are Mentor, Ohio, on April 12, 2014; Charleston, South Carolina, on July 19, 2014; and Dayton, Ohio, on September 6, 2014. For ticket information, to learn more about the show, or to sign youth up for auditions, visit www.skatedancedream.com. And keep dreaming big!

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