Photo by Jenni Simpson of 208 Images & Media
Figure skaters may have glided off the ice in South Korea for the final time this year, but more opportunities exist to watch these artists dance through the frozen rink — blades swishing, sequins sparkling and smiles flashing. On March 8, Ice Dance International (IDI) will host the premiere gala screening of “The World of Ice Dance International” at the American-Scandinavian Foundation, located on New York City’s Park Avenue.
The film stands apart from the world of competition. Instead, it sweeps viewers into the artform, both the traditionally ballet-structured pieces and the contemporary innovations set to the electronic music of Moby. American ballet master and Kennedy Center honoree Edward Villella and founding artistic director of IDI Douglas Webster ’90 choreographed each performance.
Saying the name “Douglas Webster” turns as many heads in the skating world as dropping Mike Tomlin’s ’95 name does in football circles. Webster performed in the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics hosted in Salt Lake City, served as the artistic director of the Ice Theatre of New York and choreographed for Olympic champions and medalists like Sarah Hughes and Sasha Cohen. He grew up skating in New Hampshire and became a nationally ranked competitive skater after his family’s move to Northern Virginia. Surprisingly, skating didn’t rank as Webster’s top priority when he was searching for a college.
“I longed for the traditional prep school, Ivy League, New England feel rooted in great academics. I was an in-state student, so William & Mary made terrific sense to me. I loved its history, and I loved the look and the feel of the campus. At the time, I wasn’t looking for a school with an ice rink nearby. I wanted to move away from skating and start a ‘new’ life,” said Webster.
Freshman year, Webster pursued typical college activities: He focused on academics, joined a fraternity and became involved in the theater program. Sophomore year, skating called him back. He performed as a principle skater in an ice show at Busch Gardens. “That started the career that I have today,” he said.
His career has taken him from rehearsing in East Berlin and traversing Checkpoint Charlie a few short weeks before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 to the plains of Spain to shoot the three-time Emmy-winning HBO special “Carmen on Ice.” The adventure, though certainly a perk, pales in comparison to the tight-knit community that Webster has developed over the years.
“I feel that skating has given me many families,” Webster said, “It’s a small world. We’ve grown up together, performed together, nurtured each other and shared hilarious, creative, and wonderful adventures all over the world. Skaters share a common bond of experience and this has been beyond fulfilling. I’m amazed at how skating keeps giving back and providing new and interesting opportunities.”
As artistic director of IDI, Webster helps create those opportunities. In 2014, he co-founded IDI with Edward and Linda Villella, Dick Button and Debbie Gordon. Their collaboration has fused the ballet and skating worlds to create some of the most articulate expression in non-competitive skating. They share their talent and their passion through their clinics and day-long workshops, their residency program in Sun Valley, Idaho, and their community outreach programs.
Proceeds from the March 8 gala — an event Webster describes as “a skating-star-studded event with Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill and Olympians and national and world medalists JoJo Starbuck, Sasha Cohen, Elaine Zayak, Tim Goebel and Ryan Bradley” — will benefit IDI’s upcoming community engagement efforts. During their September residency in Sun Valley, the IDI team will partner with Higher Ground to share their love for skating with special-needs children. At the Labrie Family Skate and Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N.H., IDI is building their Get Out and Skate program for local first graders and their Future in Sight program, guided skating for the visually impaired. IDI’s performers and staff will direct and teach each program.
If you can’t hop on a train to New York this week for the premiere of “The World of Ice Dance International,” public television stations across the country will begin broadcasting the film after April 3; check your local listings for playtimes. Whether you decide to attend the gala or curl up on your couch, you’ll want to see Webster’s graceful choreography.
You can purchase tickets through IDI’s website: www.icedanceinternational.org