OLGA Sharutenko returned to ITV’s Dancing On Ice last year for the first time since 2006. Then she teamed up with musical theatre favourite John Barrowman - her 2012 partner was Keith Chegwin.
“I just needed a change, a challenge. Something different. And of course there was the chance to work with Chris Dean and Jayne Torvill again.,” she explains
“You can’t say no when you are given the chance to work with them and spend days watching them skating, still learning from them.
“They are legends. They were legends to me when I was in the sport and they still are. Watching them working is incredible and reminds you that you still have a lot to learn.”
Sharutenko’s return to TV after half a decade begs the question; where has she been in the intervening years? It’s a question that fans of Russia’s Imperial Ice Stars already know the answer to - Sharutenko has been doing what she loves best, touring the world inspiring audiences to have a go on the ice themselves.
The former world champion ice dancer, who was born in Yekaterinburg on 1 April, 1978, returns to the Capital this week to star in Sleeping Beauty on Ice at the Playhouse
“I love anything that raises the popularity of figure skating,” she says. “That is my greatest wish. Travelling around the world with this show, I want to inspire people to go and try skating just for fun.
“Maybe get their children involved. Who knows, in a few years’ time they could be champions.”
Sharutenko herself started skating at the age of six, dreaming of emulating her figure skater mother. Two years later she could be found training twice a day, six days a week.
Paired with Demitri Naumkine, they soon became junior champions, forging a partnership that would last 15 years.
By the time her competitive career came to an end, Sharutenko had 15 gold medals, four silver and 11 bronze to her credit.
Transferring her sporting skills was at first a huge challenge she reveals, not least because of the difference in size between the sporting rinks she was used to skating on and far smaller stage rink.
“It’s a shock for everybody at the beginning. When I started and saw the size of a stage for the first time I was sure I wouldn’t be able to use half of my skills in the show.
“Working inside the theatre, however, I soon understood that there are a lot of things you think are impossible that, after a few hours, weeks or even months of work, become possible.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent music, Sleeping Beauty on Ice tells the timeless love story through mind-blowing high-speed leaps and throws, graceful and sublime ice dancing, awe-inspiring acrobatics and aerial gymnastics, stunning stilt skating and spectacular visual effects.
Artistic director Tony Mercer, widely recognised as the world’s leading creator of theatre-on-ice, has teamed with the distinguished Russian Olympic coach Tatiana Tarasova to take contemporary ice dance to a new level, inspiring the 26-strong cast of Olympic, world, European and national championship skaters to further raise the bar with feats so daring and complex they haven’t yet been named. “Ten years ago I joined the company and Sleeping Beauty was the first performance that we created together,” she says.
“We thought we would be touring with it for a few months and we ended up on the road for two years, and now it continues with a different production.
“We have recreated that original production for this tour, refreshed it. It’s a different production and a different story. We are still telling a beautiful love story but it’s not a fairy-tale anymore, it’s a life story.”
• Sleeping Beauty On Ice, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, today-Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £10-£34, 0844-871 3014.
From stage to rink
Monday, 7am: Technicians arrive at Playhouse and unload two 45ft trucks.
Then the base and sides of the rink are pieced together.
What looks like a giant baking tray is then built on the theatre stage, lined with a 16mx16m heavy-duty pool liner.
15kms of pipe work are laid inside the tray and connected to the header pipes before being spaced out across the base of the tray and secured. The spacing is incredibly important and must be exact, if it’s not, sections of the rink won’t freeze.
The header pipes are connected to the chiller units outside the theatre and the system starts to fill with a mixture of glycol (antifreeze) and water.
The chillers are then turned down to a temperature of minus 15 degrees.
Monday, 6pm: As the outside of the pipes frost over, four tonnes of crushed ice are spread over the pipes to speed up the ice making process.
Overnight and throughout Tuesday: The rink is sprayed every 15 minutes until the ice is three inches thick.
Tuesday, 3pm: Final dressings are given to the top of the ice surface to make it perfectly smooth for the skaters.
Nice ice, baby
• 14 tonnes of ice are created in the production, the same weight as three elephants
• 2500 litres of anti-freeze are used, enough to fill 100 car cooling systems
• The ice rink takes more than 140 man-hours to build but only 30 man-hours to dismantle
• The show always requests a hot water supply when ‘dressing’ the ice rink because hot water freezes quicker than cold - the Mpemba effect
• The Imperial Ice Stars have performed to nearly 3,000,000 people across five continents
• Some moves performed by The Imperial Ice Stars have never been attempted before, either in competition or on the stage and are so complex they haven’t yet been named
• The performers between them have won more than 250 competition medals
• 44 people tour with the show, including performers, technicians and a doctor, with a further 17 people required in each venue
• An average member of the company has travelled around 115,000miles - in a Boeing 747, that would take 230hrs and is the equivalent of going around the earth nearly five times