BY JOHNNY WEIR
For the past two weeks I’ve been touring Taipei, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, China, with Artistry on Ice, a skating tour in its fourth year, which was started in part by 2010 Olympic pairs champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao. Every year the show gets better and oddly enough, I am the only cast member to have performed with Artistry since the beginning.
Performing in a new market, like China, can be especially daunting for someone like me. I don’t have a world or Olympic title to rest on and I never quite know how an audience is going to respond to my own special brand of skating, music and costuming. Luckily for me, I have had very few negative experiences in all my years on the ice, and this year’s tour was no different.
Bringing figure skating to a nation whose figure skating history really only starts from the 80’s is a really exciting thing to do. Artistry brings top-level celebrities, DJs, musicians, skaters and sponsors to some of the most populated cities in the world and they do it with class and grace. This year’s special addition was computerized projections onto the ice that enhanced our themes and music. Two-time European champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France skated one number to a pharaoh/mummy theme and pyramids and sand were projected onto the ice, while for two-time U.S. champion Alissa Czisny, who skated to “Moon River,” the ice rippled the way water does when you touch it and followed her around the entire ice rink.
In addition to the incredible light show the audience was treated to, the cast was stellar. Four-time world champions Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, two-time Olympic medalist and two-time world champion Irina Slutskaya, three-time world champion Patrick Chan, the legendary Kurt Browning and of course me, along with many others. The skaters were such a diverse mix, and a mix that all gets along for the most part on a human level, that each show from beginning to end improved and entertained us. The show was great because the entire cast cheered each other on and supported one another.
I performed happily and strongly in all the cities. I skated to Christina Aguilera’s song “Army of Me” in a crazy garter-inspired costume by Sena NYC and to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” in a white lace onesie complete with fox fur and a rhinestone-encrusted private zone! The thing about China is that I am referred to as “Lady Gaga on Ice” in pretty much every article and on every poster so I almost have to skate to Gaga when I’m there. In any event, skating to a friend’s music and doing it so consistently over the years makes it such a nice escape to be out on the ice shaking my butt like I know everyone else does in their mirrors at home while they’re listening to their favorite tunes.
My fan base in China is continuing to grow and I’m so honored to represent my own brand of skating in such a foreign country and to be accepted for all that I am and all that I do on the ice. It’s rare that you get a virgin audience who is enamored and interested in everything the skaters are doing, so they can learn, and I cherish this rare opportunity every summer when I represent the U.S. and myself, touring through the new skating mecca of China!