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VIDEO: American Ice Theatre Moves to Chicago, Brings Dance to Ice

By Jackie Kostek | December 20, 2013 7:31am
American Ice Theatre
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DNAinfo/Jackie Kostek

IRVING PARK— Less than two months before the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics — when public interest in the sport of figure skating is renewed — Chicagoans needn't look any farther than Millennium Park for their dose of elite-level skating.

For the first time, the American Ice Theatre — a decade-old artistic skating company that started in San Francisco and is made up mostly of former competitive skaters — has taken up residency in Chicago, with free outdoor performances in the works for Millennium Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo through the winter, and indoor shows at McFetridge Sports Center on Jan. 4 and May 31.

Stephanie Bass, one of seven principal skaters in the Chicago corps, said many of the company's performers have skated in national and international competitions.

"It's great for our company because we've set a foundation of good quality skating so that we can kind of break the rules and break out of the regular confines of the sport of figure skating," said Bass, who recently moved to Chicago from Salt Lake City.

The American Ice Theatre "breaks the rules" of figure skating with choreography and programs more reminiscent of a ballet than an Olympic skating program (which typically highlight triple jumps and dizzying spins.)

"We definitely have skaters who can still jump and spin, it's totally part of our company, but it's not the central theme," said Garrett Kling, another principal skater who moved to Chicago from Minnesota.

If there was a central theme to the company's work, Kling said it would be "bringing dance concepts to a sheet of ice."

"There's an opportunity for a lot of movement, expansion, things you aren't able to do on the floor," said Kling, who recently signed a six-month contract to skate on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

Although AIT skaters do not currently get paid for their work with the company — which practices once a week at the McFetridge Sports Center in Irving Park — Bass and Kling agree it gives skaters a much needed opportunity to continue skating when they're done competing.

"Unfortunately, competitive figure skating is a young kids sport," said Bass. "When you turn 18, it's hard to find avenues for figure skaters. This is an amazing opportunity to continue in the sport and put some quality on the ice."

For event information, go to the American Ice Theatre's Facebook page.