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The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - Aug. 21

Bryce Gruwell, Emanuel Sandhu and evening postponements

Kathryn McSwain backstage at the 2009 National Showcase in Colorado Springs with friends Anna Moore and Cara Rogers.
Kathryn McSwain backstage at the 2009 National Showcase in Colorado Springs with friends Anna Moore and Cara Rogers. (courtesy of Kathryn McSwain)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(08/21/2009) - Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins cover all the bases in the latest version of The Inside Edge, from Bryce Gruwell to the sixth annual National Showcase in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Sports kid
Back in 2006, plenty of skating fans were following the Bravo reality series, Sports Kids Moms and Dads. For several weeks, viewers followed young athletes -- a football player, an equestrian, a figure skater -- as they pursued their sports. The show focused as much on parents as on the kids.

The figure skater, Bryce Gruwell, was a 15-year-old intermediate as the show began. During the run, he turned 16, competed at Junior Nationals, and, at the end of the show, tested up to novice. He also switched coaches, from Vicky Heasley to Eric Millot. We wondered what had happened to Bryce after the show, and tracked him down by phone to talk to him about it and find out what he's up to these days.

"I forgot I was on it sometimes," said Bryce. "They followed me from five in the morning until I fell asleep, every day for four months."

Bravo found Bryce and his family by contacting ice rinks in the Los Angeles area and asking if they knew any skaters with families that would be good for the show. Although Bryce's family lived in San Diego, Bravo called and asked them to come to L.A. for an interview. They started filming the show three weeks later.

"There was a camera man, a sound guy and the producer in the house all the time," said Bryce. "They didn't go to their hotel until I had gone to bed. There were times I wanted to rip off the microphone, but after two weeks I forgot they were there -- you get so used to it. I'd be at school, people would stare at me, and I had forgotten I had cameras on me."

Bryce said it wasn't as intrusive as it sounds. The family had committed to the show and understood what it would involve. "The way they edited it, though, it may have seemed worse than it was at the time," he admitted.

There's a downside to fame, of course, even the modest kind. Although the show aired three years ago in the U.S., it was on in Canada in 2007, and it's playing in Europe now.

"Last year someone recognized me in a McDonald's in Denmark!" said Bryce.

"My mom got a lot of hate mail -- that's a part of being on TV. To this day we still get a lot of phone calls."

Bryce competed for a year after filming ended, and turned pro after graduating from high school.

"I was fifth at regionals the next year and that was it," he said. "The reason I quit was that my mom didn't believe I was progressing enough, and it was too much money. I was getting my triples and I would have liked to go a few more years. But with four other kids, it's so much money."

Bryce joined Disney on Ice and skated with them for three years, in the Princess Wishes and High School Musical on Ice shows. These days, he's a principal skater at the Freestyle Music Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"It's a summer show. It's country western, a 23-minute show. There are some great skaters in it, former Ice Capades skaters, and some great skaters from all around the world. I've been doing it since May 1, and it goes until Sept. 7, and then I leave Sept. 8, and fly straight to Europe to join Holiday on Ice. I'm not going to be home for a year and a month. I've only been home for three months total since turning 18."

Bryce has dreams of becoming an airline pilot someday, and plans to attend college when he's done with professional skating. But for now, he loves it.

"I love professional shows," he enthused. "It's so different, when you're skating for people, not judges. People aren't scary. Judges are so scary. I probably would have done better as a competitive skater if I could have performed for people, but that's what it's all about, I guess."

He hasn't given up completely on competition though.

"When I'm done with shows, I might fill out the paperwork and reinstate. It may be different after being in shows. The judges might not seem scary any more."

Eman can dance
Keeping up with the reality show theme for a moment, Emanuel Sandhu auditioned for the Canadian version of So You Think You Can Dance on Aug. 11, and blew the judges away with a well-crafted and strikingly danced tango. Canadian fans will find out on Sunday if Eman made the cut for the final 20.

By the way, we think they should give the show a new name! Unlike most of the other current talent shows, any contestant who makes it past the first cut doesn't just think they can dance, they know they can. They're all extensively trained and amazing to watch.

Showcase
The sixth annual National Showcase took place Aug. 13-15 in Colorado Springs. More than 190 skaters competed in singles, duet, mini-production and production ensemble events. Singles participants had to have placed in the top four at a contested artistic or theatrical skating event in the previous 12 months.

After the event we chatted for a while with Kathryn McSwain, who won the senior extemporaneous improvisation and the senior dramatic events, and came second in the Parade of Champions final standings.

"National Showcase is an event for skaters that's all about the artistry and theatrical side of skating," Kathryn told us. "It doesn't matter what elements you do; actually, it takes away from your presentation if you miss anything. It's to encourage skaters who aren't interested in the technical side of their skating but who want to emphasize the artistic side."

There are three major events: Extemporaneous Improvisation, in which the competitors spend thirty minutes in a closed room while a piece of music is played over and over; they then have an on-ice warm-up, in which the music is played twice before they skate an improvised program to the music; Artistic Light, in which the skaters do a funny, cute or theatrical program; and Artistic Dramatic, with more emotional, darker or heavier programs.

Men and ladies compete against each other in the same events, and all the winners of each event compete against each other in the Parade of Champions, which is only divided into junior (juvenile and younger) and senior (intermediate and up). The event is judged under the 6.0 system, and rightfully so it seems. Being in the audience for the event was like watching 'vintage' figure skating. After being so trained in the points system, whenever someone does a spiral or a spin we automatically start counting. It was really refreshing just to watch skating and have no regard for all the international judging system. It was all about interpreting music and skating to the music, rather than counting to four.

We wondered what the participants thought about the event being judged in the 6.0 system, rather than the IJS.

"You can't assign points to facial expressions, use of props, costumes, theatrics," said Kathryn. "When a judge is looking at the program as a whole, it's like when you look at a painting -- you're not going to break it down. That would make it not artistic any more, or emotionally involving.

"I think in general the international judging system is taking away the emotional creativity of skating," added Kathryn. "Your program becomes a list of elements, things you have to check off. It's no longer a piece of art or really creative."

Of course, some skaters are able to create compelling artistic programs under the new system.

"Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek, and Ryan Bradley are really good at doing something for the audience," said Kathryn. "But that's such a difficult level to reach that you're not going to find many skaters that are going to be able to do that. Jeremy has such an emotional quality to his skating, and he wants his programs to be pieces of art.

"You have to work within the constraints, obviously," Kathryn, who is also a coach and aspiring choreographer, went on. "I would definitely know all the rules inside and out. But I would make each of my skaters desire to go over and above and make something special of their program."

Kathryn's dramatic program was to "Tango de Roxanne."

"Every competitor had to write a little passage about the theme of their program," she told us. "My theme was passion and conflict, and I portrayed that with my program."

One particularly entertaining contestant, Joseph Johnson, skated to "If I Were a Rich Man." He did an entertaining theatrical piece with a set and props, including a bucket, and got a lot of laughs from the crowd. He was third in the Parade Final standings.

For the Parade of Extemporaneous Champions, the music selection was "Carousel Waltz." Jennifer Jones, the champion, used a hula hoop and did a lot of tricks with it, doing a circus-themed performance. Kathryn's interpretation was that of a child at a fair, wanting to get on the carousel; she included an axel and a couple of spins.

Evening postponements
Nick Laroche and his sister Tricia have had to postpone their benefit show, An Evening on Ice, originally scheduled for Sept. 19 in the Los Angeles area. There was a conflict with a television taping and they weren't able to resolve it. The show will be re-scheduled for next summer.

Skaters interested in participating should email info@usathleticfoundation.org.

The organizers of Harvard University's Jimmy Fund show, An Evening with Champions have informed us that the show will be next April, rather than in the fall as it has been for forty years.

That's it for now - stay cool!
Sarah and Drew
sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com
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