The inside edge with Sarah and Drew

Behind the scenes at Ice Chips

Emily Hughes, Stephen Carriere, Kurt Browning and showgirl pose after the show.
Emily Hughes, Stephen Carriere, Kurt Browning and showgirl pose after the show. (Sarah Brannen )


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By Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(04/07/2008) - It's time for Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins to catch us up on what is going on in the world of figure skating.

All about Ice Chips

Harvard's Bright Arena was buzzing this weekend for the annual Ice Chips show put on by the Skating Club of Boston. The show has been running annually since 1911, even longer than the 96-year-old club has been in existence. This year's edition starred Kurt Browning, Emily Hughes and Stephen Carriere, along with approximately 10,000 skaters of all ages.

We're kidding, sort of, but there were literally hundreds of skaters on the ice at the end.

Elegant 1956 Olympic champion Tenley Albright was in attendance, with her granddaughter. The were cheering on Dr. Albright's delightful daughter Elin Schran, who was skating in the show (playing the role of "a tourist" in a purple-sequined bathing suit). Schran has also been coaching and choreographing for Hughes.

The show always has a theme, at least it has for the 150 years we've been attending. (Kidding again. About 20 years). This year it was Viva Las Vegas, which called for three showgirls in high feathered head-dresses and a "Rat Pack" number starring some of the club's spectacular male teenage talent. Also, amusingly, the show paid tribute to the famous wedding chapels of Sin City, as coach Tom Lescinski officiated over the "nuptials" of Shep and Emily Holt. The Holt's were appearing for the sixtieth time in a row, having never missed a performance, and they took a few turns around the ice in nice unison. As Dick Button would say, our hats are off to them.

Act I of Boston, SCoB's theater on ice troupe, presented a circus theme for their number, with a first for us: jumping rope on skates! But later Harrison Choate did some push-ups on skates, and Ross Miner did a cartwheel, so unexpected tricks must have been in fashion.

Like most club shows, younger skaters were the first performers. We were delighted by 11-year-old Adrian Huertas, full of flair as a cowboy. Some kids are born to play to a crowd! There was, in fact, an extensive cowboy theme for several early numbers. Pink cowgirls, mostly. Another 11-year-old standout, tiny Yasmin Siraj, skated with effervescence. Her sister and brother were in the show too, and she said she had been in the show every year since she was three. "This year was the best," she said enthusiastically.

It was nice to see Kylie Gleason again. She has decided to go to college in the fall and leave competition behind, for now. She'll have a tough choice, as she has been accepted to Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Dartmouth. If she picks Princeton, she'll know one of the other freshmen, Katrina Hacker. Hacker skated extremely well, incidentally, which was to be expected after her superb competitions at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Intermediate dancers Susan Enright and Michael Bramante skated with a lot of sophistication to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." It's fun seeing young skaters grow up before your eyes; it doesn't seem that long ago that Carriere was just one of the young kids with a short solo in the show. Una Donegan and Andrew Korda, Jason Wong, Jessica Houston and Molly and Chris Schleicher rounded out the first half, along with the three stars.

There was a swan song too, amidst the Vegas hoopla. Dance team Kate McDermott and Colin McManus performed together for the last time; Colin told us he's about to leave for Delaware, where he'll be teaming up with Anastasia Cannuscio.

In the second half, Gretchen Donlan, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, Ross Miner, Curran Oi, and Brittney Rizo were all delightful. We wish we had space to review each and every one of them! But on to the headliners...

Carriere skated a flamenco-style program to Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and a Spanish version of "My Way," from Happy Feet. No. Really. It sounds odd but we really like this program, and Carriere is really getting dynamic and stylish. He did a beautiful triple flip, double Axel and triple toe, and finished with a nice fast scratch spin (remember those?).

In the second half, Carriere performed to Chris Cornell's version of "Billie Jean," sung by American Idol contestant David Cook. We asked him if he felt proud about finishing 10th at his first worlds last month. "I am proud of myself, with all the pain and drama; I fell hard on my back [in his first practice] and bruised my sacroiliac -- it was hard to land jumps on that side. I didn't skate at all the next day, but then I just had to."

Hughes skated to Celine Dion's "What Do You Say," landing a double Axel and double flip. In the second half, she did a half-and-half number that started with "Fur Elise," and morphed into Flo-Rida's "Low," with a costume change to boot. We talked to her afterward, and we thought, as always, how pretty and just plain nice Hughes is. We asked about the injury that forced her to withdraw from U.S. championships in January.

"It's a lot better now. I took quite a good amount of time off. I'm taking an additional class this semester so that I have all my options for next year. Right now I'm not skating that much. I'm working with Elin -- she's awesome, she's hilarious -- so she helped me with my programs. I'm going to see what happens over the summer, and get new programs and stuff."

Browning stuck his face between us. "What are you talking about?" he whispered fiercely.

"I've been working with Kurt, and he's just the man!"

"I just keep telling her, 'do it again! Do it again!'"

We shooed Browning away and Hughes continued: "I really did miss going to nationals, I missed the whole competition and the people there, and I missed being able to qualify for worlds and Four Continents."

How's Harvard? "I love it. It's a lot more work than I ever thought it would be, but I like it a lot more than I thought I would."

Browning is still recovering from a badly twisted ankle last October, and talked to us he stretched it. "I have this ankle injury, and I'm still coming back -- I'm not the skater I want to be right now. I was completely off the ice for three-and-a-half months, and I had to come back pretty slow. So the program doesn't have the hours on it I'd like, and while it's happening, I'm just thinking, 'what's next, what's next.' I'm usually not nervous while I skate, but I got really nervous today. It's a nice program, and I hope I did it justice."

Any plans to choreograph for people next season? "I'm going to work with Brian Joubert in some way, shape or form."

In the second half, Browning brought out the purple in a big way. He mentioned that Jef Billings made his shirt for the first half, and he said it shrank when he washed it -- not sideways, because he is in the same great shape as when he won four world titles, but up and down. "I'm never washing it again!"

As he left, he clutched my (Sarah's) arm. "I'm looking forward to a few more years of skating, but right now, hold your breath for me!" And as he scampered away, he slapped me on the butt.

Oh, Kurt.

Next time, Drew will be reporting on the National Pair Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. And maybe he'll be ready to make a big announcement. Until then, skate pretty!

Sarah and Drew