Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Behind the scenes with Cirque de Glace

Carlisle doesn’t have an ice skating rink so when I was offered the chance to skate “with a star” I couldn’t refuse.

Cirque de Glace – an ice show combined with daring circus skills – was in Carlisle last week.

John Hamer is the only British skater in the troupe and brings his Olympic-style skating to the show, which tells the story of the creation of our planet and man’s evolution – the big bang theory.

Most of the ice skaters are Russian.

Starring in this performance is the world’s tallest ice skater Andrey Chuvilyaev – 6ft 8ins – who creates the world’s tallest lift with skating partner Svetlana Kouprina.

John said: “It’s a good show to be in because the skating is very professional.

“There are lots of ice productions where the skating is not of a very high quality. In Cirque de Glace the quality of the skating is very high.

“The language barrier can be a problem at times because most of the performers are Russian and obviously I am English.”

It is only when I see what the professional skaters can do on a rink the size of a postage stamp that I realise how accurate they have to be.

They take part in the Russian bar exercise which is performed over a real ice surface. Impossible to rig any safety equipment, the performers rely on years of training to avoid serious injury in one of the most dangerous circus acts.

Tour manager Julian Deplidge asks if I would like a go on the ice. He hands me a pair of black ice skates and I put them on – tightly.

In my head I imagine myself spinning, jumping and skating on one leg in a fancy sparkly costume, but I doubt this is going to happen.

Now I understand how hard it is for those taking part in the TV show Dancing on Ice.

I walk with trepidation towards the ice when it dawns on me that there are no ‘sides’ to this ice rink and if I fall or go slipping and sliding off the stage in true Todd Carty style then there really is nothing for me to hold onto.

John takes my hand and we step over a wooden board onto the ice.

“Have you skated before?” he asks. “Yes but not for a long time,” I say. I try to remember the last time. It was when Carlisle – for a brief moment in its history – had an ice rink at Willowholme. It didn’t last long.

John demonstrates some easy steps and tells me to stand in what I know as ballet’s first position. Heels together toes pointing out.

I find my balance quite easily so we shuffle in small steps across the ice. So far so good.

John skates on the ice as if he is walking on water. He makes it look so easy.

We skate across the ice together a few times to get a feel for the surface. Then I learn an important step – how to stop.

You need to turn the tips of your skate in to stop – a bit like a giant V. This looks like what is known as a snow plough in ski-ing terms.

After learning to stop, start, turn and skate towards the on ice volcano, John suggests bending down to touch my toes.

He demonstrates by skating across the ice stretching his arms out wide, then in front and then he bends down to touch his toes.

I ask him to do it again and then follow. I don’t fall over but I am not travelling at high speed. It’s all a question of balance – don’t lean forward, don’t lean back.

The next task is to glide along the ice and then stretch my arms out to the side and lift one knee to my chest – skating on one foot. I manage to do this too, if only for a few seconds.

The ice skating lesson is over but John seems quite impressed by my novice performance.

“You did quite well as you didn’t fall over and you seem quite confident on the ice. You just need to practise.”

Now where am I going to do that?

Cirque de Glace is currently touring the country.

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