For the first time an all-star Canadian cast of figure skaters are bringing a Christmas production to the Langley Events Centre, and fans have responded enthusiastically.
The Holiday Festival on Ice comes to the 4,000-seat arena this Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. and spokesman Jared Harman says public interest has been great and “tickets are selling really well. The 90 minute holiday-themed show on the ice promises to be one of the most unique and anticipated events to come to the facility since its opening in 2009.”
With a line-up headlined by champions Kurt Browning, Joannie Rochette and Elvis Stojko, as well as Jeffrey Buttle, Shawn Sawyer, and Sinead and John Kerr, and rising star Kaetlyn Osmond, figure skating fans will be getting a variety of programs that highlight their individual styles and characters.
One of the stars, Elvis Stojko called on Monday from his home in Mexico, Ajijic, to talk about the upcoming Holiday Festival on Ice show. Stojko and his wife, Mexican figure skater Gladys Orozco, have made their home there in a gated community near Guadalajara.
“There’s an arena nearby to rehearse in, in the main city, that my wife andy I can go and train on, get prepared for shows,” said Stojko.
“We did rehearsals in Newfoundland a few weeks ago — we did a show there for CBC, Holiday Festival on Ice, the same one we’re doing at the Langley Events Centre. We’re going to show up (at Langley) a little before and review what we did, and then we’re going to do our thing.
“My wife is not coming on this trip though. She is away in Mexico City, performing and organizing a show there. But, yes, she does the choreography, she’s been doing my programs for the last little while.
“I’ve got two programs (for the Dec. 1 show) — one is a Christmas program, ‘Northern Lights’ by Mannheim Steamroller,” said Stojko.
“There’s a singer in it, it’s a beautiful piece. I’ve done it before but it’s a new version, it’s got vocals in it. It’s just a beautiful piece; we didn’t even cut it, we left it at four minutes and thirty seconds. It’s pretty long but it went over really well in Newfoundland and I did it again in Phoenix.
“And I’m re-doing a version of My Sharona by a group called HammerFall, it’s a sort of progressive hard metal group — it’s a fun song and gets the people going. So one’s a Christmas song and one is getting everyone on their feet, clapping.”
Stojko is renowned for his athletic prowess, with much of it due to his interest in martial arts that dates back to his childhood. He has often brought that aspect into his skating programs. At the 1991 World Championships, Stojko became the first person to land a quadruple-double jump combination.
“I have that (athletic reputation), it’s kind of what I’ve been labeled as, even though when I did the Northern Lights program people were amazed because, ‘wow, it’s so fluid and you’re so artistic,’ and I’m like, yeah ,it’s been there the whole time, it’s just a matter of people being able to see it. (Laughs) Sometimes in our sport it’s like people talk and paint a picture for other people and they end up following that typical stereotype, what has been said in the past, they keep repeating the same thing, and you kind of fall into a category.
“I haven’t done any (martial arts) in a while although I do train and keep myself in shape off-ice. I was competing back in the mid-2000s when I took a break from skating, and went to the nationals and won that and then the kung fu world championships and got a silver there. Played around with that a bit, which was a lot of fun.”
Stojko, who was given his first name because his parents were Elvis Presley fans, has also indulged in a singing career. However, he downplays that aspect: “I did that as a hobby on the side. A few years ago I did a tour through Ontario and I sang ‘live’ and my wife skated, a song for her. We got married in 2010 and in 2011 we did the show. It was a lot of fun, really enjoyable, but I won’t be doing that on this tour, I’ll just be focused on the skating aspect.
After retiring from competition in 2002 Stojko says he “did a lot of professional shows and touring” as well as guest commentary at competitions.
“It varies, skating’s changed quite a bit since that time. Back in the day I used to do anywhere between 80 to 140 shows a year. That’s dropped down to anywhere from 10 to 25. Usually, from September all the way to April, it’s really busy.”
Then, in the summer, Stojko gets to play with race cars.
“I’m busy racing go-karts in Canada and in Mexico. It’s the next venture I’m going to be going into. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and now I get a chance to do it. We have a really good track here for go-karting and the shifter karts we use are basically what the F1 guys train on, on the off-season; they’re fast and you learn a lot.
“The drivers are really good here. I’m the only Canadian in the group but they took me in and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been doing races down here and the Rotax series in Canada, which I went to nationals with last year. I couldn’t finish the final, my seat broke, but I was only four- or five-tenths off the guy that won. I’m in the hunt and hopefully next summer I’ll be raring to go and be on top of things.”
However, now aged 40, Stojko says he’s careful with his body and tries to stay injury-free.
“I don’t even think about those things, I just go out and enjoy myself and stay balanced — don’t go out when I’m tired, only when I have energy and am feeling good. You’ve really got to think responsibly and go by the way your body feels, go with the flow,” says Stojko.