Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Boitano And Witt's Skating Tours


I don't think winning an Olympic gold medal is something anyone would call easy, but surely forging out into the unknown and designing your own skating tour can't be either. Following their wins at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt did just that, headlining in a series of tours aptly called Skating, Skating II and Skating III and bringing a who's who cast of the world's best figure skaters along for the journey.

Marketed towards younger, 'hipper' audiences, the Skating tours were produced by Cellar Door and Bill Graham Presents, sponsored by Chrysler and directed and lovingly choreographed by Sandra Bezic and Michael Seibert. They had three successful runs in North America from 1989 to 1992 and even visited Europe and Japan. At the time, Skating was in direct competition with several other touring skating productions including Stars On Ice, the World Cup Champions On Ice tour, Benson and Hedges Symphony On Ice and Tom Collins' beloved Tour Of World Figure Skating Champions. Despite this, the tours certainly fared well in the height of their popularity, so much so that they became the first skating production to sell out Madison Square Gardens in ten years at one point. Much of the reason for the tour's successes was Boitano and Witt's name recognition but thoughtful choreography and the show's diverse cast made for a well rounded and entertaining tour all around.

In a November 1990 article from "The Christian Science Monitor", Boitano said, "It's the people around us who make the show so good, but it's difficult to cast because a lot of times the producers only hear names. From a personal standpoint, you want people who are good, who will bring a lot of entertainment to the show." Joining Boitano and Witt in the cast were Rosalynn Sumners, Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, Gary Beacom, Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev, Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert, Caryn Kadavy, Yvonne Gomez, Robert Wagenhoffer, Vladimir Kotin and Renee Roca and Gorsha Sur.



For Witt, the tours proved liberating after so many years of skating in Communist East Germany. In an April 1990 article from "The Sun Journal", she explained "I can now do whatever I want. I do not have to ask somebody 'Please, can I do this?' I do not have to beg somebody to get out of the country and to work with Brian." Liberation and freedom was a strong undercurrent of much of the skating even - Gary Beacom performed a number showcasing his edges to complete silence in one number. Another highlight of the tours was a truncated version of Boitano and Witt's "Carmen On Ice" act.


After the tour's third run in 1992, Skating sold its dates to Stars On Ice and Sandra Bezic started working with Stars On Ice in time for the 1992/1993 season's tour. Concurrently, Boitano and Witt were both preparing for comebacks when professionals were allowed to reinstate to the amateur ranks in time for the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway where the pair of Olympic Gold Medallists finished sixth and seventh respectively. Although the tour may not be as remembered as many others due to its relatively short run, it produced some excellent skating and provided opportunities for many professional skaters who may not have had the opportunities to tour North America otherwise. With a cast like that though, I don't know how anyone could forget it.

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4 comments:

  1. I was actually at the first of these tours -- it was incredible to see them live. I remember that Brian did a great routine to "Big Man on Mulberry Street" that included a Tano Lutz. His edges and speed across the ice were impressive, and markedly different than Witt, who was also at the height of her creative powers.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your memories of the first tour! Would love to be able to track down more footage to share... They both were (and are) something else!

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  2. Thanks for sharing these videos. Really enjoyed them.

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