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Hamilton wins praise "Dancing on Ice"

Kids' TV host receives top marks

TV presenter Laura Hamilton and her professional partner Colin Ratushniak have skated to the front of the pack on this season of <i>Dancing on Ice</i>.
TV presenter Laura Hamilton and her professional partner Colin Ratushniak have skated to the front of the pack on this season of Dancing on Ice. (courtesy of Rex Features)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(02/24/2011) - Although Laura Hamilton has loved watching figure skating all her life, she'd never really done it.

She has skied since the age of nine and calls herself quite "sporty." So when the opportunity arose to join the cast of the British hit show Dancing on Ice, starring British ice dance icons Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, she jumped at the chance.

"I love a challenge," says Hamilton, known to both British and American audiences for her work on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. "Once I set my mind on something, I want to be able to do it."

Paired with Canadian skater Colin Ratushniak, the duo has even received high praise and great scores from notoriously snarky judge Jason Gardiner. On Sunday's show, Hamilton finished a point ahead of this season's early frontrunners, actor Sam Attwater and partner Brianne Delcourt.

"The level has definitely gone up," Hamilton says. "It's getting harder and harder.

"Every day, I have to pinch myself and say, 'I'm so lucky to be here,'" she adds. "I'm learning to ice skate with Torvill and Dean.' There are so many people who would love this opportunity. I'll never forget how lucky I am to be here."

Neither will Ratushniak, who grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. He got a rather late start in figure skating, switching over from hockey at age 12. He enjoyed some success, but when he turned 18 his parents asked him what he was going to do with his life. He'd been accepted into a pilot's training program in Calgary, but on a whim went to an open call for Disney on Ice.

"Disney called and offered me a position. I almost turned it down to do the school route because I thought you can't make a living as a skater," says Ratushniak.

He ultimately decided even though professional skating didn't appear to have long-term potential; he'd try it for a year.

"One year turned into five with Disney (touring with three different productions) and here I am in my eighth year as a professional and I'm on this amazing TV show now," he says.

Ratushniak's Dancing on Ice connection came through a random meeting while in Hong Kong skating a show for Rand Productions. His professional adagio partner Isabelle Gauthier is also on DOI, partnering reality star/TV host Jeff Brazier.

Hamilton says Ratushniak has brought a Canadian good luck tradition to their pre-performance ritual.

"Before Colin and I go out onto the ice, we're in the tunnel and we touch a Loonie (a lucky coin), then we look at each other and say, 'Let's just go out and have fun,'" says Hamilton. "That's what we do -- we go out there and enjoy it. Frankly, it comes across in our performances that we're enjoying ourselves and hopefully people are enjoying watching us.

"Every performance has been different and has elements of it that I really enjoyed," she continues. On Sunday's show, they executed an overhead lift, which Hamilton struggled with a bit but pulled off. The week before, they did a routine to music from Hairspray, which included Hamilton flipping confidently over Ratushniank's head despite being unable to land the move in dress rehearsal. Christopher Dean commented that they're a couple who often don't nail a move until showtime.

"When you do Disney or another show, you're doing the same show 300 times in a year and you know what to expect," Ratushniak says. "With this, we have to teach them something completely new every single day. They're expected to learn something and turn it around in eight hours of training and do a completely new routine every single week. It puts them under a lot of pressure.

"Every day when I see Laura do something new, I end up laughing. I'm so jealous that the celebrities are able to do it. Not just Laura, all the celebrities on the show are nailing it somehow."

Although Hamilton is accustomed to getting attention, the media spotlight has undoubtedly increased due to the show's incredible popularity. The couples, now down to seven, practice separately, but come the weekends they show their support of each other.

"We can empathize with each other because we might have fallen over and hurt our elbow or hurt our knee," Hamilton explains. "Chances are, someone else has done that too, so everyone knows how you're feeling -- bruises, sore ribs and sore ankles."

After the couples skate their programs, there's an area to the side of the ice where they watch the remaining performances.

"Whoever is skating on the ice, we give them a standing ovation when they come out and then a standing ovation again at the end," she says. "Then sadly every week someone goes home."