Combining artistry, athleticism


December 07, 2004|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PERFORMERS FROM ages 3 to 63 will combine artistry with athleticism this weekend and next in the Columbia Skating Club's 15th production of The Nutcracker on Ice at the Columbia Ice Rink

"In no other sport can you glide on an eighth-of-an-inch blade, jump 5 feet in the air and, hopefully, land on the blade," said Travis Mager, 14, of Fulton, who will perform as godfather Drosselmeier.

The skating club's Nutcracker has become a Howard holiday tradition.

"It is a community event that has a professional quality," said Pat Muth the club's artistic director. Some of the skaters are at the senior level in the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA), and have competed internationally. Others, whether preschoolers or adults, are just beginning.

Muth and about 20 other people founded the Columbia Figure Skating Club 27 years ago. Now there are about 175 members.

Muth started producing Nutcracker in 1990 as a fund-raiser for the club. Her daughter, Martha Muth, performed in Dorothy Hamill's Nutcracker on Ice for three years.

"After coming back from watching Martha perform, I thought, `We can do that,' " Muth said. The club was already producing winter shows.

"Our first [Nutcracker] cast was about 45 people," Muth said. "Our backdrop was black plastic pasted over frames. Then we had a tree. Each year, it became more elaborate. We used to use couches and clocks from people's basements; now we have things that are built for us. When you walk into the show, it doesn't look like an ice rink. It looks like a stage."

For many members, the club and the show are a family affair.

Amanda Buckler, 20, of Thunder Hill plays Clara this year; a second Clara will be played by Megan Raver of Reisterstown. Amanda's mother, Alicia Buckler-White, is the club's vice president and plays Mother Ginger. Amanda's sister, Amy, 15, plays a party guest.

Both sisters help special-needs skaters perform. Amanda coached the children, and Amy, along with Hickory Ridge resident Lindsay Sperling, 16, will help the young skaters during the performance by skating next to them and reminding them what the next steps are, and when to exit the stage.

"I really enjoy working with the special-needs athletes," said Amanda Buckler, who is a senior-level skater and choreographed parts of the show. "A lot of them have not performed before. When they skate and their families come to watch them perform, they realize anything is possible."

Amanda Buckler was 4 the first time she performed in Nutcracker. "I love being out there and showing people different kinds of skating," she said. "We skate in ensembles; it's not like you see on TV," where much of the skating is solo or in pairs.

Alexandra North, 17, of Long Reach plays the Snow Queen. Her mother, April, plays a soldier and is the club's membership chair. Alexandra's father, Robert, is in charge of props, and sister Brittany ran the spotlight until she left for college about two years ago.

"Alex wanted to skate out of the blue," April North said. "We didn't even know there was a rink here. Alex looked it up."

"They thought I wouldn't like it because I hate the cold," said Alexandra, who is performing for the ninth time in the show. "I just love the feeling of accomplishment when you land a jump after trying and trying and trying and never landing it."

Alexandra is a USFSA junior-level skater and hopes to audition for Disney on Ice. She proved her determination early.

"My first year of skating, I was doing some kind of backward movement and I slammed forward and pushed two teeth back," she said. After a trip to the hospital and a dental splint, her mother said she could never get back on the ice.

"She called her grandmother," April North said with a smile. "So my mom yelled at me and told me I had to let her skate. It's something that's held her attention more than anything else."

The Norths agree that with their busy schedules, rehearsals offer one of the few opportunities they have to spend time together.

Scott Dyer, 13, of Baltimore plays the character of the Nutcracker. He has been skating since he was 6 and has competed internationally.

"I love competing and going out and showing what I can do," he said. "It's always fun to jump in the air and do tons of revolutions. I love making up my own programs."

Muth said, "Anyone that wants to be in the show and can skate a little bit can be in the show," if they join the figure-skating club, adding that participation can help build a child's self-esteem. "Our kids are used to being in front of people," she said. "That can help them in all areas of their life."

But the fun of skating is the biggest reward for young people in the show.

"After rehearsals, they come running up and hug me and say, `Miss Pat, we had so much fun,' " Muth said.

The show is fun for the audience, too. "The costumes are very colorful," Muth said. "The whole thing is very festive."

The Nutcracker on Ice will be performed at 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, 5 p.m. Dec. 18 and 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Columbia Ice Rink, 5876 Thunder Hill Road. Tickets are $9. Group discounts are available, and children to age 3 are admitted free.

Ticket reservations are recommended.

Information: 410-730-0322.

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