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Martha Harding

December 1, 2015
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Shortly after starting private lessons, my coach suggested I participate in our club’s annual ice show. I was a shy, awkward 10-year-old with legs for days. I was placed in a group number wearing a sparkling tutu outfit skating to “It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter.”  We were so proud, skating together under the colored house and spot lights. This, in itself, was exciting enough until I sat in the audience to watch the rest of the ice show.  Onto the ice came 24 strong, tall skaters dressed in toreador outfits with fringed hats and short capes performing a precision routine to “Espana Cani.”  There was speed, exciting formations done completely in synch with music and lighting changes, and a catch-on pinwheel. I was hooked! These skaters created a magical place.  I thought if I work really hard, I could be one of that elite group someday.

My coach, Norvetta Tribby Pinch, and her mother, Lillian Tribby, were the show directors and choreographers. “Miss Lillian” was a former professional show skater who would accept nothing but the best. The quality of our shows was excellent due to the standards set by Norvetta and Miss Lillian.

Every year I lived for ice show season, running to the bulletin board to see what new skating adventure we’d experience that year.  It was so exciting to see what the theme was and what new magic was to be created. Back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, there were few open competitions to skate your free skate program, so having the opportunity to get a new program for the ice show was a welcome relief from daily training. Looking forward to the ice show was the thing that would get me through a long winter trying to perfect the next figures test and the next challenging spin or jump.

One year our guest skater was John Misha Petkevich.  He was such an inspiration to watch and was very approachable. He chatted with the skaters and involved us in his secret plan to join the end of the precision routine of that year’s production (the show directors were not aware of his plan). Right on cue, he flew out from center curtain, skating with all his senior-level power, and perfectly catching onto the end of our pinwheel! This was my Toreador moment – a national champion was, for a brief moment, one of “us”.

Shortly after starting my coaching career, Norvetta, who was still directing the annual show, asked me to be the assistant show director. Now it was my turn to help create the magic and inspire younger skaters. Creating that magic was much more involved than just teaching steps, though. It was creating the concept, choreography, music choice and editing, costume design, props, and lighting. I learned to draw on the enthusiasm I had as a skater and now attend to details. I was hooked once again!

Each year during show season, I still feel the same excitement I did as a skater. I am excited to be a part of creating the magic and watching the skaters perform in the magical space that is the annual ice show. I actually used “Marshmallow World” for some young skaters. However, I spared them the tutus and had them frolic on the ice with fleece marshmallows. They had a blast, and all signed up for the next show where they went to Neverland. May the magic continue!