Have you wondered what goes on during a live Disney On Ice audition? On April 4, 2014, Jo Ann Schneider Farris observed and attended a live audition. This article is a summary of what went on.
Performers, Show Director, and Talent Director Present:
The audition took place at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado and was led by Disney On Ice: 100 Years of Magic’s Performance Director, Cory Obst, and the company’s Talent Director and Production Coordinator, Judy Thomas.
In addition, some of the performers in the show were present including 1992 Olympic pair skater and Disney On Ice principal skater Natasha Kuchiki, Elyse Labossiere (who skated the roles of the Lion King’s Nala and Beauty and the Beast’s Belle), and Disney On Ice skater and choreographer Adam Blake (who is also a Young Artist Showcase champion), and Isao Matsuura, a former Japanese figure skating champion and Olympic figure skating choreographer who skates the role of Pinocchio in the show.
Eight high level figure skaters (seven girls and one boy) took part in the audition. The skaters had been invited to audition after they’d already sent in portfolios to Feld Entertainment which included resumes, videos, and photos. One of the skaters present was a US national senior level ladies singles competitor. There were also pair skaters and ice dancers auditioning.
Talent Director and Production Coordinator, Judy Thomas, and her assistant, Lisa Scuffell, had already reviewed the skaters’s resumes, photos, and videos, but wanted to see more of what the skaters could do in a live setting.
Off-Ice Introductions and Paperwork:
The skaters (and their parents, grandparents, coaches, and supportive friends and family) met first in a room off the ice. Introductions were made. Mr. Obst tried to put the eight very nervous figure skaters at ease. He gave everyone present a brief overview of what would take place during the audition, and he talked about performing and presenting on the ice. He explained that traveling entertainment makes people happy and to keep that in mind during the audition. He encouraged each figure skater to keep a smile on his or her face during the on-ice audition.
All the skaters signed a release that gave Feld Entertainment permission for the skaters to audition for Disney On Ice for the 2014-15 season. The skaters who were present who were under eighteen years of age also had a parent present sign the form.
The skaters also filled out a form that answered the question on why they wished to join a touring ice show.
Mr. Obst thanked the parents for giving their children skating, and everyone left the room, took their skates and belongings, and headed towards the ice.
Height and Weight Recorded:
Four of the skaters present had already taken part in a previous on-ice audition, but the four who had not auditioned before, stopped at a locker room for height and weight measurements, and then headed towards the ice.
On-Ice Warm Up:
After the skaters put on their skates at rinkside, they all took to the ice as a group and were given time for an on-ice warm up. They were told to stroke around the rink and also get used to the smaller than regulation size ice sheet.
Note: The audition took place inside the main Broadmoor World Arena ice sheet which is also the arena where the actual Disney On Ice: 100 Years of Magic ice show took place in Colorado Springs. The ice sheet that the show skaters perform on is smaller in length since some of the ice sheet is used for a stage and also smaller in width since some of the ice is used for on-ice spectator seating.
Ice Class Edge Exercises:
Next, the eight skaters were divided into two groups of four. Elyse Labossiere led the first group of four skaters and Natasha Kuchiki led the other group of four skaters. In a formation and block style, they were shown various ice edge class exercises that were done in both directions. The skaters were given a few moments to watch the steps and then perform them.
The following exercises were done by the skaters and all the exercises included arm movements, legs extensions, and covered the full length of the arena to the stage and back. Sometimes the exercises were repeated up and down the length of the rink three or four times. Music was played in the background and the skaters were expected to try to skate to counts of six or eight and keep a smile on their faces.
- Forward mohawks to back extended outside edges
- Forward outside three turns to extended back outside edges to a step forward two foot glide type slide
- Forward inside double threes ending with free leg extended in front
- Windmill mohawk exercise in figure eight pattern covering full ice surface
- Quick bracket sequences done from inside edge from forward to back then back to forward and then forward to backward
- Back inside loops ending with an extended leg stretch
- Chaine turns to a count of eight
- Tango stop exercise – Front T-Stop Exercise (Three-turn, back crossover, step forward and tango stop)
- Fun skid stop dance step exercise (short runs on curved inside edges, skid stop, turn on toe pick, toe skips to side, repeat)
- Mazurka jumps exercise in both directions (three-turn, back outside edge into mazurka, then repeated in other direction)
- Half loop jump and ballet jump sequence in both directions (barrel roll mohawks, half loop, ballet jump)
- Mohawk curves and then step forward into high extended type swing roll with leg extended (pointing parallel to rail)
Free Skating Skills:
Once the edge class exercises concluded (which took about an hour), the skaters immediately were asked to show off their jumping and spinning skills. The following was asked to be demonstrated by the skaters:
- Split jumps and Russian split jumps
- Split falling leaf jumps
- Half loop with toe ending
- Arabian Cartwheels or Butterflies (from outside running three turns)
- Favorite or best solo spin
- Favorite or best combination spin
- Spread eagles
- Edge moves
- Favorite and most consistent single, double, or triple jumps (most of the skaters did high quality and clean Axels, double Salchows, double toe loops, double loop jumps , and double flip jumps, but one or two of the skaters did some triple jumps)
After the skaters demonstrated their figure skating skills, all eight skaters were asked to act out certain Disney parts on the ice as a group. They followed both Natasha and Elyse around the ice sheet and pretended to be the following characters:
- Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother
- The Blue Fairy (from Pinocchio )
- Ariel (from The Little Mermaid)
- Simba (from The Lion King)
- Dash (from The Incredibles)
- A monkey (from Tarzan)
The on-ice portion of the audition ended with a group photo shoot. The skaters were lined up by height in front of the stage for the first pose and then were given a chance to pose in various creative positions for the second pose. The skaters then took their skates off and headed back to the meeting room.
Once everyone, the skaters, the parents, grandparents, coaches, and family and friends, were together again in the meeting room, the show director, Cory Obst, first led everyone in a group applause and he talked about how great it was to see the group skate so well in the audition.
Next, he asked the performers who had helped during the audition, to say something about why they like being part of the Disney On Ice cast.
Natasha Kuchiki, who plays both Mulan and Jasmine (Aladdins’ princess), became a professional ice show skater when she was only seventeen years old and has been skating professionally as a performer for over twenty years. Isao Matsuura has been with the show for fifteen years and created the role of Disney On Ice’s Pinocchio. Natasha stated that she’s performed over six-thousand times in front of audiences all over the world. Isao said that seeing smiling faces of children and adults over and over again means that he must be doing something right. Traveling the world has been a wonderful perk.
Adam Blake, who came from primarily an ISI, Ice Skating Institute skating background and can do back flips on and off the ice and ride a unicycle, said the following about his first experiences being out in front of a happy audience.
“This is SO COOL!” said Adam, as he remembered his thoughts when he first began to perform with the show. He also reflected on the feeling he has when he becomes a Disney character on the ice. He says he’s transported suddenly to a different world.
Elyse Labossiere, who skated the roles of both Nala (Lion King) and Belle (Beauty and the Beast), was not a pair skater before joining the show. She shared how in the five years she has been in the show that she learned adagio and pair skating skills.
A question and answer period followed.
Question #1: “What kind of schedule do skaters have in Disney On Ice?”
During the wrap up meeting, a skater asked what a typical schedule was like.
Mr. Obst explained that Monday and Tuesday are days off. Usually on Tuesday, the cast takes time to sight-see and shop. Some of the performers seek out dance or acting classes or culture in the area. Some go to the gym or swim or exercise at the hotel.
The hard work begins on Wednesday or Thursday with a 3:00 pm on-ice edge class and an off-ice warm-up. An hour before the show, the cast meets as a group and the show begins at 7:00 pm.
After the show, skaters can practice all night long on an open ice session. Most of the cast works hard to maintain their skating skills and also works towards developing new skills that can be shown off at once a year in-house auditions.
Friday may be filled with meetings and press appearances, and then it is time to perform in a show at 7:00 pm. On Saturday, there are three more shows and on Sunday, there are usually two performances.
After the final Sunday performance, it’s time to travel to the next city and begin again.
Question #2: “When will we know if we are selected for the cast?”
During the wrap up meeting, a parent asked what kind of time frame to expect if her daughter was invited to perform with Disney On Ice.
Judy Thomas explained that in early April she begins meeting with the current cast to find out their plans for the next season. Once she knows which skaters are leaving and which roles need to be filled, she begins casting new skaters in the shows. Some skaters may be offered contracts by late May or early June, but for others it may be later in the summer. In late July and early August, many skaters begin their tour, but some skaters may be asked to join the show during other parts of the year if a certain role needs to be filled.
Mrs. Thomas explained there are nine Disney On Ice shows which include shows that tour the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. The contract period is for eleven months.
Parents should know that skaters are in a highly structured environment and that there are many rules and guidelines since Disney is family entertainment.
Question #3: “Who should we contact if we have concerns or questions?”
“If you forgot to ask anything, feel free to email Lisa Scuffell,” said Mr. Obst. “All questions are welcome.”
Judy Thomas added, “Don’t be afraid to email us at any time for updates on casting.”
The skaters met individually with Judy Thomas and were asked a few more questions.
- Do you have any tatoos or piercings on your body?
- Do you know anyone who is in any of the Disney On Ice shows?
- Do you sing or play any musical instruments?
After that, everyone said their good-byes and left feeling happy and “high on Disney!”
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