Holiday show helps young skaters break the ice

Opening number cast members peek at the audience from under a background banner Sunday as they prepare to begin their number "All I Want for Christmas is You" at the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink. This kicked off the winter skating season with a performance titled "The First Snow."

Norwich - For skaters, an event like this weekend's "The First Snow" is pure fun.

"You get to do more that you want instead of focusing on the judges," said 14-year-old Courtney Studwell. "It's kind of like a practice. You get to focus more on the artistic element of skating."

Courtney, a figure skater from Colchester, participated in a show this weekend at the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink that featured exhibition performances set to holiday music.

The performance, held Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, was an opportunity to showcase talented skaters and an opportunity for new skaters to perform before a crowd, said Mia Sanca, the rink's operations manager.

"This holiday show is an opportunity to showcase our own local talented skaters, who are doing their programs to their favorite holiday songs," Sanca said. "We have everything from traditional holiday music to a song by Taylor Swift."

Many of the skaters were young newcomers performing on the ice for the first time, said accomplished skaters Sara Bailey, 20, of Norwich, and Evan Roberts, 22, a Pennsylvania native living in Norwich, who coached a group of youngsters between 4 and 12 years old.

"Yesterday went really well," Bailey said ahead of Sunday's performance. "It's really nice to see our kids do these programs."

They said exhibition events like this weekend's performances are important for young skaters because it gives them an opportunity to show off their talents without the risk of off-putting criticism from judges or coaches.

"They get out there and see all the people, and they can get a bit nervous," Roberts said. "We just tell them to smile and have a great time, and there's a big applause at the end."

Though performers started preparing for the show, one of several held each year in Norwich, a few weeks ago, they were still putting finishing touches on their routines an hour before Sunday's performance.

"We spend a couple weeks doing the choreography and practicing the program," Bailey said as her young skaters began to gather around her, each wearing a red jacket and a red, green, or black skirt. She gave some final notes to the girls before they prepared to step onto the ice.

The rink was a veritable winter wonderland this weekend, with Christmas trees and other decorations surrounding the rink and holiday merchandise on display and for sale in the venue's lobby.

The performance, overseen and choreographed by figure skating director Yulia Borisson, included performances by children and teens of all skill levels, including three synchronized skating teams.

"It's a lot of fun for everybody," Sanca said. "And the skaters are just having a great time."

Mikayla Lebron, 4, of Jewett City stands with her ice skating instructor Yulia Borissova of Lisbon, a member of the Russian National Team, as they watch skaters perform at the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink on Sunday.
Mikayla Lebron, 4, of Jewett City stands with her ice skating instructor Yulia Borissova of Lisbon, a member of the Russian National Team, as they watch skaters perform at the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink on Sunday.

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