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ITNY to showcase 'unforgettable' home season

New York City institution to honor Mr. Debonair at gala exhibition on Oct. 22

Joel Dear and the Ice Theatre of New York Ensemble perform "Transitions."
Joel Dear and the Ice Theatre of New York Ensemble perform "Transitions." (Julie Lance)

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By Kim Navarro, special to icenetwork.com
(10/12/2012) - This yearʼs Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) home season and gala performance will honor skatingʼs past, incorporate skatingʼs present and continue to highlight the often-neglected artistic side of skating.

The home season takes place Oct. 19 and 20 at the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers in New York City, followed by the gala performance on the 22 honoring one of skatingʼs most beloved: Mr. Debonair, Richard Dwyer.

Dwyer is known throughout the world for his passionate, sweet and sincere skating performances. He first joined the professional ranks at the age of 14 and has been entertaining audiences ever since.

It is this type of Dwyer-esque skating and showmanship that inspired the creation of one of ITNYʼs newest works, "Unforgettable," choreographed by ITNY Artistic Director Douglas Webster.

"Unforgettable" is a love story centered around one female soloist, former U.S. team member Erin Reed.

There are 14 skaters in the piece, including seven-time British ice dance champions Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, two-time U.S. bronze medalist ice dancer Brent Bommentre, two-time French pairs champion Line Haddad and nine-time U.S. national pairs skater Jonathon Hunt, among others.

Throughout "Unforgettable," Reed dreams of, realizes and then celebrates her romance with the male soloist, 2011 U.S. champion Ryan Bradley.

The piece is "a throwback to the glamorous waltzes and sweeping ice dance numbers of the past," Webster described.

Jennifer Langeberg-designed costumes from the Charles Schulz collection -- some of which were used in professional shows alongside Mr. Debonair himself -- have been graciously donated, and these, combined with new costumes designed by ITNY skater Alicia Jackson, will beautifully display the idea of "honoring the past while incorporating the present."

The second new piece created this year by Webster is "Horizon," and it showcases skating in its purest form, focusing on the length and simplicity of the skating edge.

" 'Horizon' is a work about flow and glide," Webster said. "It aims to communicate the feeling you get from skating, that gift that is unique to us skaters."

To represent the long-standing relationship between ITNY and modern dance, "Inclusions," created in 1997 by Alberto Del Saz, artistic director of the Nikolais/Luis Foundation for Dance, will also be performed for the home shows and gala performances.

"Inclusions" is a work that "looks into the deepest molecular structures of a rock formation, from its most simple combination to the most complicated refined outcome," Del Saz explained.

"The skaters -- Nicole Bobek, Ty Cockrum, Joel Dear and Andrew Lavrik -- use their bodies to manipulate the space as well as to create relations among them that suggest the qualities of coolness, purity, strength, vibrancy and beauty that become a specific way of moving through space."

Special to the home shows will be "Angel, Part 1" and "Transitions," both selected from the ITNY archives.

"Angel, Part 1" was created in 1989 by renowned dance choreographer Ann Carlson and is a meditation piece.

"During the time that this work was commissioned by the Ice Theater of New York, I was also working with Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass," Carlson explained. "Allenʼs insistence on meditating at each meeting influenced me enormously and extended into everything I was doing at the time. ʻAngel, Part 1ʼ is a meditation about meditation."

Former U.S. national ice dance competitor Patrick Connelly finds "Angel, Part 1" to be a comment on life itself, with the props used in the piece having "a life of their own."

"You have to respect its fluidity and unpredictability, and such is life," Connelly said.

"Transitions" was created in 1997 by Webster, during a time when he was reconciling his feelings about HIV and AIDS, and how they were affecting the skating community.

In the piece, the protagonist, played by Dear, transitions through four distinct feelings -- anger, despair, acceptance and release -- in response to dealing with grief.

The ensemble, Reed, John Kerr, Cockrum, Bommentre and I represent the protagonistʼs emotional life and psyche.

Although the piece was created in response to a very personal experience, Webster feels it has a universal story.

"The piece plays to the human condition of suffering and compassion," Webster explained. "Because suffering is a shared experience, through it, we have a greater sense of compassion."

It was this piece that caught John Kerrʼs eye last year and made him reach out to ITNY.

"I hadnʼt fully appreciated the Ice Theatreʼs work up to that point," John said. "But when I saw ʻTransitions,ʼ I wanted to be a part of it."

"It is rare to skate a number with such emotional undertones," Bommentre said. "It is reassuring to know that skating has importance past competing."

Whether it be when showcasing skating as a vehicle to entertain, meditate, reconcile deep human experiences or simply show off the pureness of skatingʼs own mechanics, ITNY aims to showcase an area of skating many feel is sorely lacking: the artistic side of the sport.

"To have Olympic and world competitors skate in the ensemble work is a continuation and culmination of Ice Theatreʼs mission," ITNY founder Moira North said.

"And I think it shows that there is an appetite within this level of skaters to deepen their skills and performance qualities, and collaborate with different choreographers and skaters."

"For me," Bobek said, "It is about being with this group."

"I enjoy this work so much," Sinead Kerr added. "It feels like I am actually part of a theater show, which fulfills my artistic side!"