When I was 4 years old I watched the 1992 Olympics on TV, turned to my mom and said I wanted to do that. So, when I was 7, I started figure skating. For almost 13 years, competitive skating was my life - freezing mornings before school, plenty of face plants, tears and bruises. I stuck with it though, despite my insane perfectionist tendencies and constant struggle of stubbornness vs. unnecessary unhappiness. I finally quit when I was well into college, unable to give 100% to either school or skating.
On one hand, it was tough for me to quit, but on the other hand, I was at a different point in my life, had accomplished several goals I had set for myself, and quitting felt right. Since then, I've hardly been on the ice, but I still get childishly excited when skating is on TV, or a competition is in town. So you can understand my excitement when my mom and I booked tickets to this year's Stars on Ice show.
Armed with my new Olympus E-10 Mark II, I enthusiastically made my way to the show at the Honda Center in Anaheim, the day before Mother's Day. I was more than aware of the lineup, and I even painted each skater, made a book and several other things to give them all as gifts. That being said, we indulged in meet and greet passes, which Stars on Ice made available on online.
Stars on Ice has been around for a long time, and it used to rival Champions on Ice, which I frequented. My impression was always that Champions on Ice featured more current champions, while Stars on Ice often paid tribute to figure skating legends and legacies. However, Champions ended its run, leaving Stars on Ice as the brand name of figure skating shows.
PRO TIP: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE SECURITY LINES. THE HONDA CENTER IS USED TO BIG CROWDS, BUT THE SECURITY LINES WERE MOVING AT A SNAIL'S PACE. WE ALMOST MISSED THE FIRST ACT!
Given that this was an Olympic year, I knew I HAD to grab the opportunity to meet the athletes I had watched so closely during the Games. We were able to grab great seats (even though our decision to go to the show was well after presale). My advice here is, don't sit TOO close. We had third row seats, and they were absolutely wonderful. Last year we sat on the ice, and I think the view made it a little difficult to see each skater's moves in entirety.
PRO TIP: don't sit too close! The skaters will zoom by you and sitting too close might compromise your view of their elements.
I won't go into too much detail about the show itself, but I will leave quite a few of photos here and insert some of my borderline unnecessary commentary. And I mean a LOT of photos.
I will tell you, however, what to expect: Some fun programs, some racy programs, and even some of the same programs you've seen on TV. There will be several interesting group numbers, as well as an overall theme for the show.
PRO TIP: FIGURE OUT YOUR CAMERA SETTINGS BEFORE THE SHOW. AN ACCIDENTAL FLASH MAY BE DANGEROUS TO THE SKATER, AND SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME FUMBLING WITH SETTINGS IN THE DARK WILL CAUSE YOU TO MISS SPECIAL MOMENTS IN THE SHOW.
I tried to play it cool for the first part of this blog, but I can't be true to my readers without being honest about my admiration for Alex and Maia Shibutani, an incredible pair of siblings affectionately known as the Shib Sibs. I got sucked into the world of the Shib Sibs during the Olympics - they'd already won me over previously with their Fix You program (which still makes me weep), but I started binging their videos, learning about them, and appreciating the representation they are bringing to the sport (side note: I'm half Asian, so seeing this kind of representation in ice dance makes me SO happy). They've been up against so much - the media has given them a hard time for being different, for not portraying the same romantic energy of other teams. I have so much respect for them, for standing against these unfounded expectations, for working hard and earning what they have. They've inspired me to remain myself, no matter what kind of pressures I'm facing. Seeing them skate in person was indescribably brilliant and inspiring.
I HAVE to take this opportunity to gush about Nathan Chen here as well. Yes, he is the "Quad King," but what made me a fan of his was not his jumps. He has this insanely lyrical style that is often overlooked because some skating fans only focus on the quads. Yes, they are impressive, but so is his skating! He is one of the most graceful, fluid skaters I've seen in a long time. The programs he chose to skate at this show really emphasized everything I love about his skating.
As a former synchro skater, I always have a soft spot for ice dance. To me, there is hardly anything more beautiful than the sound of a deep edge ripping into the ice. I love the beauty and grace of ice dance, the intricacy of the steps, and I am a sucker for a beautiful choc taw. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to see the Shibs skate in person for the first time, along with my long time favorites Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
PRO TIP: CLAP AFTER ELEMENTS. JUST DO IT.
Of course, I cried during Fix You, but the program that unexpectedly stole the night for me was this one. It was so beautifully simple, well-choreographed and full of emotion. I forgot how much I missed seeing Charlie and Meryl skate - they're truly legendary, and I was reminded of just how amazing they are.
Before I knew it, the show had ended and it was time to meet my favorite skaters!
We had picked up our meet and greet passes before the show (at will call), and the envelope told us where to go after the show. We met at the designated section and got in line with the rest of the fans. Security was absolutely wonderful. They didn't rush anyone, and were patient.
PRO TIP: Please take the time of the meet and greet into consideration. If you are with young children or older friends that don't normally stay up late, reconsider buying the meet and greet. It takes place AFTER the show and can run very late.
Soon it was our turn to enter the room - we didn't quite know what to expect... Just kidding. I just lied to you all. I'd been following the hashtag on social media so I had a vague idea of what to expect. The skaters were paired up at high tables, and fans could go up to them, take photos, get something signed, and chat.
We were told we had to do the tables in order; we could skip a table, but could not go back. This kept the flow of the meet and greet going, and I think it was smart and well organized. I whipped out my gifts and immediately became flustered.
The rest of the meet and greet, I was so starstruck I basically said nothing I wanted to say, my Polaroid selfie game was off (it's normally quite on point), but the time was still so special. The skaters sacrifice so much sleep and rest to meet fans in this way - it's not just a quick autograph and handshake. They took the time to talk to us (even though I was not a great conversationalist), take photos and were so gracious.
For me, it was a huge deal to meet the Shib Sibs, no matter how much I embarrassed myself. I was able to bring them some art I'd created, as well as some gifts engraved with the coordinates of the ice rink in South Korea where they won their Olympic medals. The whole night was worth it just to meet them.
Meryl remembered me from my art on Instagram, Ashley asked me about watercolors, and Alex asked if I wanted to be in a vlog (Has anyone ever said no to that???). Adam was an absolute riot (At one point, because he was so pleasantly shocked by my painting of him, he said, "I want to whack you across the face with it."), and it was an overall joy. Although the meet and greets are not cheap, they are full of these small, special moments that are hard to come by otherwise.
Even though my night wasn't perfect, it was still spectacular. Highly recommend attending next year's tour and maybe even getting a meet and greet!
Until next time,