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Browning has case of nerves over show

Source: Vancouver Sun
Date: October 24, 2001
Author: Lyndon Little

Kurt Browning isn't going to try and hide it.

He's as jumpy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

You'd figure a man who has won four world figure skating championships and performed in countless shows for Stars On Ice would be beyond an ordinary case of the jitters. But the 35-year-old native of Caroline, Alta., is about to make that most anxiety-riddled of artistic steps: From performer to performer/creative director.

"Before this, I've always just been somebody who brought their skates and costume and showed up," admits Browning, who takes his Kurt Browning's Gotta Dance into GM Place Friday evening.

"I've never been involved in production or done a live show with my name on it. This is a first for me. I can guarantee you, I'm not taking any of this for granted. So I'm nervous. Extremely nervous. Not really about my own skating, but mostly that my guests are happy and the fans get what they expect."

In an era when skating entertainment normally consists of a show put together for an 80-city tour, Browning's adventure into production stands as something special. It's strictly a one-night-only event that has the ambitious goal of bringing together the skating, dance and music worlds into what is hopefully one coherent package.

Apparently it's economically feasible to attempt such a thing because network giant NBC is backing the project and plans to air the show on Dec. 2.

On the skating side, Browning and business partner Steve Disson have lined up talent such as Scott Hamilton, Josee Chouinard, Nicole Bobek, Steven Cousins, Brian Orser, Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, Renne Roca and Gorsha Sur as well as the husband and wife pairs team of Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen.

Non-skating guests -- who will do their numbers on a separate stage -- include Browning's wife Sonia Rodriguez, the principal ballerina with the National Ballet, and her normal male dance partner Rex Harrington; Barenaked Ladies' singer/guitarist Ed Robertson; Tony Award winning dancer and choreographer Ann Reinking as well as singer/dancers Tommy Tune and Ben Vereen.

Browning is particularly excited about finally getting the opportunity to collaborate professionally with his wife.

"We've had a couple of previous ideas to work together that, for whatever reason, didn't happen," he explains. "Either the money didn't come through or the timing wasn't right. Then you start to realize, if we don't do something soon our careers are going to be over and we're going to be saying to each other, 'How come we never did something together?'"

Always a multi-dimensional skater (from Marlboro Man-type cowboy themes to Gene Kelly's Singing in the Rain to Humphrey Bogart's Casablanca), Browning continues to stretch himself professionally. Dance, it seems, has always held a special appeal.

"I think, without really knowing it, I was always sort of drawn to shows where there was dance involved," he says. "When we discussed the show Steve said to me: 'I know your wife's a dancer and people I've talked to who have watched you skate have noticed that dance has had a lot to do with your career.'"

Browning sees Gotta Dance as a chance for hard-core skating fans to experience some of the other side of the arts.

"We're not, by any means, going to be recreating the wheel," he cautions. "But we want to do something different. I'm trying to stretch the boundaries of figure skating a bit. If you watch figure skating it doesn't necessarily mean you watch ballet. Or that you even know anything about Broadway.

"But after watching this show, if you're a skating fan, you're going to know a bit more about those worlds."

IN SHORT -- There is a rehearsal for Friday's show booked for Riley Park Arena today between 1 and 3 p.m. that is open to the public . . . Hamilton, who has retired from regular show touring, is a late addition to the Gotta Dance cast.

Copyright 2001 Vancouver Sun