Ice Network

Lambert carves open new path in choreography

Boston-based coach helps mint 'Platinum' for 'Holiday on Ice'
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Melanie Lambert at work on the 'Holiday on Ice' show "Platinum." -courtesy of Melanie Lambert

As competitive skaters, Melanie Lambert and pairs partner (and now husband) Fred Palascak struggled to find their groove at times. Once they began skating professionally, everything fell into place. Work ethic, persistence and professionalism propelled them to exciting opportunities.

Lambert and rugby player Kyran Bracken won Season Two of Dancing on Ice, and Palascak and soap opera star Rebecca Budig claimed the trophy on Skating with the Stars. Today, they work as coaches in the Boston area.

Lambert is also a sought-after choreographer, and her work ranges from competitive programs for all levels of skaters to elaborate professional productions. Last fall, she served as assistant choreographer for the newest Holiday on Ice production, "Platinum," which is currently on tour. She worked with the show's creative director, Mark Naylor, from pre-production through casting, to rehearsals and opening, a process lasting more than two months.

"It was really cool to be there from the beginning and see it all the way through to when we opened," said Lambert, who had previously worked with artistic director Karen Kresge on Holiday on Ice's "Festival" but had not been as integrally involved in the entire process.

"You try something in pre-production, and then when you actually have 20 bodies on the ice, sometimes it just doesn't work," Lambert said. "There's a lot of quick decision-making and moving people around. It's challenging."

There are 22 skaters in "Platinum." The first half of this year's "Platinum" tour went through Germany. For the French leg, Surya Bonaly, Philippe Candeloro, and Sarah Abitbol and Stephane Bernadis have joined the cast. Prior to going to France to oversee their rehearsals with the cast, Lambert flew to Bonaly's home base in Las Vegas to put together her individual routines.

"I really enjoyed working with Surya," Lambert said. "We have a number called 'Nostalgia.' It's supposed to be a number that they did that you would remember them by, some number in their careers that was really important.

"[Surya] said to me, 'I don't want to look like I used to look. I want to have my skating evolve,'" she added. "That was kind of cool. We got to work together on transitioning her skating from what she used to look like, which was skate-jump, skate-jump, into being more creative."

Working with professional shows helps keep Lambert energized. She brings that energy back to her students at home, which Palascak looks after while she's away.

"I build up my confidence," Lambert said. "When I'm in the show world, I get to let everything go, do whatever I want choreographically. Then I come home fresh with really cool ideas."

With components scores being a huge part of the international judging system, Lambert tries to infuse her competitive programs with performance skills.

"That's basically what I do in the show: performance, skating skills, transitions," she said. "I take that professionalism I teach my professionals in the show home to my students."

As performers, Lambert and Palascak did three Holiday on Ice tours: "In Concert," "Hollywood" and "Diamonds." They still perform on occasion, but as their coaching and choreography grows, they only accept special, short-term gigs. She directed, produced and skated in a show at Boston Harbor during the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.

She and Palascak will hold a summer camp at the Skating Club of Boston from July 21-Aug. 1. Palascak, a trained school teacher, is also developing an after-school program that involves skating and science.

This past Sunday marked the series finale for Dancing on Ice, which was won by Ray Quinn and Maria Filippov. Lambert said the four years she and Palascak spent with the show were instrumental in their lives.

"Being able to work with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean and go through the choreographic process with them was life-changing," Lambert said. "I don't think I would be as good of a choreographer, learned as much, if I hadn't worked with them on the show."