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Olympian LeDuc returns for Eastern Iowa Figure Skating Club show
Local skaters, guest performers spin into Broadway theme
The 30 or so skaters gliding into the ImOn Ice Arena spotlight Saturday will see that dreams really do come true.
Not only will members of the Eastern Iowa Figure Skating Club be spinning and leaping through the “Broadway on Ice” extravaganza, they also will share the arena with Cedar Rapids natives who have starred on Broadway and in the Olympics.
If you go
What: Eastern Iowa Figure Skating Club’s “Broadway on Ice”
Where: ImOn Ice, 1100 Rockford Rd. SW, Cedar Rapids
When: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, May 20, 2023
Tickets: $20, Alliant Energy PowerHouse Box office, ImOn Ice or creventslive.com/events/2023/eifsc---broadway-on-ice
Guest performers: Skaters Timothy LeDuc and Joonsoo Kim; vocalists Alisabeth Von Presley, Catherine Blades, Joe Wetrich and Jason Millsap
When you’re the director, choreographer and one of the producers for your final “big show,” you get to choose the theme. So Amy Blades of Cedar Rapids turned to Broadway.
“That’s my favorite thing, that’s my favorite music,” she said.
And she turned to her daughter, Catherine Blades, who performed in “Bye Bye Birdie” on Broadway and had numerous television and film roles while in New York, before coming back to Cedar Rapids during the pandemic and enrolling at the University of Iowa.
Blades also invited Olympics pairs skater and two-time national champion and two-time Grand Prix medalist Timothy LeDuc to return to the hometown ice arena, as LeDuc has done many times over the years. The other guest skater is Joonsoo Kim, a senior-level international competitor born in Seoul, South Korea, now living in Los Angeles.
Guest Timothy LeDuc
Coming back is special for LeDuc, who has skated at home and abroad over the past two decades.
“I am always so proud to say that I am from Iowa and that I started my skating journey at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena,” LeDuc said through an email interview. “I love to come back and skate here whenever I can, and I love any opportunity I have to perform or coach a clinic here.
“I remember participating in clinics and shows with Olympians when I was a young up-and-coming skater and it was always so much fun and so inspiring, so I am very happy to be on the other side of that.”
After placing eighth in the 2022 Beijing Olympics with pairs partner Ashley Cain-Gribble, LeDuc, now 33, retired from competition, and “is loving” a new career path as a full-time skating coach, based in Chicago.
“I love to be a part of my skaters’ journeys through the sport,” LeDuc said. “It’s so much fun to see them grow and accomplish their goals, and it reminds me every day how much I love this sport.”
On Saturday, LeDuc will be skating solo to a piece from “Fosse,” as well as “Melancholy” by Alexey Kosenko, which carries a personal significance.
“I was inspired by Jason Brown, my roommate at the Olympics, to use that piece of music,” LeDuc said. “It’s a piece of music he’s performed to many times and he’s one of my all-time favorite skaters, so I wanted to pay tribute to him and the ways he’s inspired my joy of skating.”
LeDuc also made Olympics news by being the first openly nonbinary athlete at the Winter Games. Besides fulfilling a lifelong dream of making it to that pinnacle platform, the Olympics experience also reaped other benefits for LeDuc.
“It gave me the opportunity to connect with queer folx from all over the world,” they said, “and it meant so much to me to feel their support while I was in Beijing.”
And LeDuc’s Cedar Rapids roots have played into every step carving a career path.
“My 20-year-long journey to the Olympics gave me a lot of opportunities to quit and give up on my dream,” they said. “However, my joy skating and my love of the sport kept me going and grinding away.
“Every time I took a step away from the sport to pursue other adventures, I was always drawn back to the ice because honestly, I’m just a big old skating nerd. I love this sport! I learned to love skating so much at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena where I took my first steps on the ice.”
The homecoming also is special, because of LeDuc’s connections with director Blades.
“Amy was my choreographer when I trained here in Cedar Rapids until I was 19, and I'm so happy I get to be a part of this show that she is producing,” LeDuc said. “I know this will be such a fun show with the Broadway theme, and I think there will be a little bit of something from everyone.”
About the show
Students at all levels — from the little ones just learning to skate, to group numbers featuring those moving up the ranks, as well as soloists — will be in the spotlight.
Audiences can expect to see competition-level skating, including triple jumps from all the male soloists, along with flying spins, death drop spins, and butterfly spins which Blades said is like Arabian cartwheels.
“This group of skaters has never done a big show, so I'm really excited for them to have this experience with the live music,” Blades said.
Featured vocalists are popular local professional performers Alisabeth Von Presley, Joe Wetrich and Jason Millsap, as well as Catherine Blades.
The show will open with Von Presley singing “Magic to Do” from “Pippin.” Also in the lineup are such favorites as “Razzle Dazzle” from “Chicago,” “For Good” from “Wicked,” and an Iowa section with songs from “The Music Man,” “State Fair” and “The Pajama Game.”
The skaters’ costumes also will pack plenty of razzle-dazzle, sourced through Amazon.com or dressmakers some of the skaters have been using for years, Blades said.
The club has mounted smaller shows over the years, but nothing of this size since 2011. Blades expects this production to cost between $25,000 and $30,000. Major benefactor is Cassill Motors, a familiar name to the local skating crowd and beyond. Echo Cassill, one of Blades’ former students, went on to skate with Disney on Ice.
Blades, now 64, began skating at age 6, and is a U.S. Figure Skating quadruple gold medalist in Figures, Freestyle, Pairs and Dance. Among her many other accolades, she was the 1980 World Professional bronze medalist in Spain; 1981 U.S. Professional Champion; and the Australian Professional Champion from 1982-86. She also has coached skaters at Regional, Sectional, National, Junior Worlds, and Worlds level.
As she reflects on the evolution of skating during her career, she said the judging system is “completely different,” to the point where it’s “a very different sport.”
Competitive routines also have become “very busy,” with “so much arm and body movement.”
“It's almost too much,” she said. “I think about Janet Lynn and Dorothy Hamill, and how clean and beautiful the lines that they made with their body were. They looked like they had classical ballet training. I don't feel like many skaters really look like that anymore.”
The new emphasis on athleticism over elegance doesn’t sit well with her as a skater or coach.
“I'm not a good choreographer for that particular style,” she said. “I don't feel like I can even choreograph really good competitive programs, because I don't get it, I don't like it.”
She’ll defer to her teaching partner, Tanya Street, to take over, adding more arm movements to a routine. It helps that Street also does a lot of judging, Blades noted.
Even as she eyes retirement, Blades isn’t ready to hang up her skates.
“I have several students that need to get some things accomplished, so I'm definitely planning to see them through that process,” she said. “I might not completely retire, but I'm definitely going to not teach as much.”
And in the meantime, after this show is over, she’s heading to Broadway to indulge her other passion: seeing as many shows as she possibly can in a week.
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