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The Inside Edge: Bradley cruises through busy life

From Royal Caribbean to skating shows, 2011 U.S. champion is constantly on the go

ProSkaters president Ashley Clark doing a backflip in Sun Valley.
ProSkaters president Ashley Clark doing a backflip in Sun Valley. (courtesy of Ashley Clark)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(07/05/2012) - Vacationers aboard the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas cruise ship have been enjoying a nice treat during the skating shows since March: a star turn by 2011 U.S. champion Ryan Bradley. We managed to catch Bradley for a moment last week when he alighted in Colorado for a few hours.

"It's chaos," Bradley said, laughing. "I literally just landed and I'm having a pickup at 5 in the morning to fly to Kansas City for my cousin's wedding. The morning after the wedding, I leave at 5 in the morning for a tournament I take part in every year, run by David Santee. Then I'm home for about 12 hours and then I leave for Sun Valley."

We asked Bradley what had drawn him to try skating on a cruise ship. He told us that his girlfriend, skater Erin Reed, is the line captain for the cast of the skating show on the Liberty, and he wanted to find a way that they could work together. On top of that, Bradley took a vacation last year on the Allure of the Seas and liked it a lot.

"I really enjoyed the lifestyle, seeing a lot of people, having a lot of fun," Bradley told us. "The small rink makes it really personal. You can look into their eyes; it's like they're all sitting in the front row. It was very appealing to me."

Bradley said he started on the ship on March 22, two days after he finished touring with Stars on Ice.

"I had already packed during a break, and I came home and panicked around the house for a day and a half and then took off for Florida," he said.

Bradley has some prior engagements that take him away from the ship sometimes, so rather than being integrated into the full show, he does an extended solo in the middle of each show. We asked Bradley to tell us about the act. Not wanting to give too much away, he said, "Well, you'll have to come on the Liberty of the Seas!

"My act is kind of a spoof: lots of quick changes and props," he went on. "It's something very different from anything I've done."

We all laughed, because when Bradley was competing, he often did humorous programs.

"I like to take programs and look at it from a comedic point of view," he admitted. "But this program started as a comedy, which was really scary actually. I hoped the audience would think it was funny. Sarah Kawahara choreographed it. From the first five seconds, I hear the audience laughing, and that makes me relax and really get into the program. Part of the comedy is that it's a surprise, but I come out as a stagehand and then basically put myself into the show."

While on the ship, Bradley spent some time in the Caribbean, and then sailed across the Atlantic into the Mediterranean, where he spent two months cruising through ports in Italy, France and Spain.

"Rome is probably my favorite city in the world," he said.

Bradley is in the midst of a five-week hiatus while he honors some prior obligations, including shows at Sun Valley and the "Grassroots to Champions" camp in Lake Placid. He'll return to the ship for another three weeks.

While in Lake Placid, Bradley participated in the finals of the Young Artists' Showcase competition. He and ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue skated two trio numbers, choreographed by competition finalists Mark Hanretty and Garrett Kling. The choreographers were assigned the same piece of music, which was a challenge.

"I was a little out of touch with real life and I had no idea that was what was happening, but the choreographers were really well prepared, and we came up with two intricate programs," Bradley said. "You have to use musical cues to remember the program, and it was a little stressful using the same piece of music. We didn't want to make a mistake!"

Bradley told us that after he's through skating on the ship, his schedule will open up a bit -- a very little bit.

"Since Stars on Ice started, I have probably spent eight or nine days at home," he said. "It's so frustrating because I come home and I'm exhausted, but I want to catch up with my friends. I've been working so much. As of right now, the fall is a little more open. It's good; it's kind of nice to look at the calendar and see four or five consecutive days with nothing planned. But I don't have a weekend off until October."

Auditions

Staying with the theme of professional skating, we next spoke with Ashley Clark, the president of ProSkaters. Clark has helmed the nonprofit organization, which connects skaters with show producers, for the past six years. ProSkaters was founded in 1998 by Scott Williams.

"Anyone can join," Clark said. "Our main focus is to connect talented skaters with trusted producers around the world."

Dues are $65, which allow a skater access to the members section of the ProSkaters website for a year. Skaters under the age of 17, who have not yet performed in a show, can join as junior members at a lower rate.

"Members have access to see all the different shows that the producers are putting up, and specific job opportunities. Joining doesn't lose your eligibility," Clark added.

Clark is a featured performer in the Sun Valley on Ice show, and assists with show's choreography and direction. She mentioned that the permanent cast this summer includes former U.S. pairs champion Jeremy Barrett, who will be skating with Natalia Zaitseva.

Most of the cast will be helping Proskaters hold its second live auditions and show-skating seminar in Sun Valley on July 22-23. Skaters who participate can audition for producers, including Judy Thomas (Disney on Ice), Sylvia Froescher (Bietak Productions) and Karen Kresge (Karen Kresge Productions).

Clark told us how the auditions proceeded last year.

"We started with class, led by one of the pros," Clark said. "It's mostly edging and learning how to guide, learning how to stay in line. We'll form shapes, boxes, two lines. It's a simple step, but doing it in formation is harder than it sounds.

"From there, we taught them some choreography, some faster steps. The producers watched how they picked up steps and performed them in a short period of time. And then we had an open skate, and each skater who wanted to performed a short solo.

There was one male skater that they all wanted, and they were all after him. He was able to choose, and it probably made negotiating easier for him."

On the second day, a two-hour show-skating seminar will include topics useful to professional skaters. Presenters at the seminar will include the Sun Valley ice show cast, along with Lisa-Marie Allen, Judy Blumberg, Gia Gudatt, Joel Dear and Stephanee Grosscup.

"Skaters can expect to learn ... pairs/adagio skating, show tricks, performance ability," Clark said. "Kate McSwain did a great demonstration about Theater On Ice last year. We also talked about character building, acting on ice, skating with props, learning to improvise to music and how to create a video resumé."

Along with the live auditions, Proskater has an online professional competition, called the Virtual Skate Off.

"It's at virtualskateoff.com," Clark said. "The winner gets $500, and there are cash prizes for second and third place. The deadline is Nov. 1. We encourage anyone to enter -- they don't lose eligibility, because it's online."

Clark herself is a veteran of the world of professional skating, having skated in 32 shows in the past 14 years.

"I've pretty much worked for every producer in the book," she said. "I worked for Disney on Ice, Holiday on Ice, Willy Bietak Productions on board Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, pretty much all of them. I didn't make nationals my senior year and I was really upset, but I got pushed to audition for Disney on Ice by my coach, and I got a job offer. I started in the back of the chorus line and I worked my way up to principal skater."

Clark urges retiring competitive skaters to consider skating in a show.

"I feel like we lose so many skaters when they think they're just done," she said. "I want everyone to know that there is life after competition. The show business is actually an amazing opportunity and career. It's not so bad to get paid to do what you love to do and travel the world at the same time. All those years of countless training sessions and exorbitant fees are finally paying off for me."

Changes

Nick and Tricia Laroche's benefit for their U.S. Athletic Foundation, An Evening on Ice, has a couple of cast changes: Alissa Czisny will not perform, due to her recent hip surgery. Alex Johnson has been added to the cast.

Drew will be covering the event from the stands and backstage, so look forward to lots of dish from the star-studded July 21 event at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif.

More soon,
Sarah and Drew
sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com
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