The Oxford Ice Rink's Christmas Gala was a spectacular evening with many thrills and fortunately few spills. These youthful skaters must be developing very strong leg muscles as they performed their challenging show twice on Saturday. Everyone ought to see it as it is extraordinarily impressive – my seven year old thinks we ought to get the forthcoming DVD to show his grandparents at Christmas!
I took some time to look up the names of the figure skating elements – there is a lot to learn, so apologies if I get these wrong. There were fantastic moments when multiple skaters were doing low sit spins but the most impressive move we saw on the ice was the Biellmann spin where the skater lifts up one leg behind them and takes hold of the skate above their head. There was some very good dancing as well, especially Daniel Weston's moves in the souped up 'Singing in the Rain'. Our absolute favourite parts were the very fast upright spins by the top-billing medallist Harry Mattick and the graceful ribbon work by Tammy Sear-Watkins. We also loved Charlotte Davis' flowing style in the Frozen medley – she makes it look easy! How on earth figure skaters practice the jumps and spins for the first time is so intriguing, not to mention the physics of it all. It was nice to hear that both Tammy and Charlotte have returned to Oxford Ice Rink as coaches, having started skating here as children before going on to have glittering careers in ice shows all over Europe.
At half time, the mysterious ice rink mascot – Marvin the Penguin – skated expertly in what must have been a very unwieldy costume and with David Jeffries, the narrator, really got the audience participating and having fun. My son really liked meeting Marvin the Penguin and seeing him skate. Also very popular with the audience were the Zamboni ice smoothing machine, driven by a man in a reindeer onesie, and the amazing acrobatics by Afreaka Aerials, who offer classes in Oxford in aerial silks and hoop work. According to the FAQs on their website, one may expect to experience soreness and stiffness after a class, but what a way to develop abdominal strength – the incentive being to avoid crashing to the ground!
The young skaters were the real stars of the show – it made me remember that wonderful book by Noel Streatfield White Boots, and my own short-lived childhood skating dreams sparked by Torvill and Dean, facilitated by the wonderful Oxford Ice Rink and a few glorious winters when there was skating in Port Meadow. These ice-cool children were all magnificently well-co-ordinated and choreographed – the boys in the Blues Brother piece, the orphans in the Annie medley, and the Bollywood skaters were particularly good but they really were all wonderful! Even the tiniest snowman, tigers and princesses stuck one leg out behind and glided along smoothly.
Watching unbelievably talented but still quite small children jumping on to the backs of their skates, landing in the splits on ice, and skating along holding umbrellas was a little bit tense – so I have to say the best bit was seeing everyone skate round at the end in the grand finale, trying out their moves and having fun!