Stars on Ice
Kurt List

Gotta Skate III

An Interview with Kurt Browning
by Tina Tyan and Debi Oreste

For the past two years, Kurt Browning's Gotta Skate has brought a unique twist to the traditional skating show, blending dance, live music, and skating in fun and creative ways. It has also provided an opportunity for Kurt to combine his talents with those of his wife, National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Sonia Rodriguez. This year Kurt and Sonia proudly created their greatest production yet, their new son Gabriel Browning Rodriguez. This big change in their lives was reflected in the third installment of Gotta Skate. For the first time, Sonia didn't dance in the show. In fact, there was no dance at all. Instead, Kurt, who is executive producer, creative director, and the headliner, took the show in an entirely new creative direction, building it around an interesting central theme with the skaters playing characters.

Copyright Debi Oreste
A night at Chez Shae's
(l-r) Michael Buble, Jennifer Robinson, Brian Boitano, Kurt Browning

Copyright Debi Oreste. Used with permission from IMG.

Enter Chez Shae's, the hottest nightclub in town. It's the night of the big party. Everyone cool is coming, and you're invited. Groove to the smooth sounds of hot new Canadian artist Michael Buble, as the host and M.C. David Foster welcomes you. Check out the dance floor, where you'll enjoy the familiar moves of Kurt Browning, Brian Boitano, Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz, Todd Eldredge, Jennifer Robinson, Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler, Jenni Meno & Todd Sand, and David Liu. And be ready to have fun, but beware of that tension in the air, as Kurt and Brian just might have a little something brewing.

Tune in to NBC on Dec. 21, 2003 from 4-6PM EST and check it out. In the meantime, here's a little something to whet your appetite: an interview with the man behind (and in front of) Gotta Skate on the subject of the show and more, brought to you exclusively by The Kurt Files and Kurt Browning: A Star Among the Stars.

What is the theme for this year's show? How did you integrate that into the structure of the show?

The theme came from two places, three maybe. I wanted it to go closer to the feeling we had with Gotta Skate 1 in Vancouver. Of course it is a totally different show but I think my target audience was similar. Michael Buble obviously has a very specific sound with his music, and this was the main influence with the style and look of the show, as well as Brian Boitano's routine Hernando's Hideaway also had an influence.

This is the first year without dance of any kind. Does that change how you approach the show?

Yes...it allowed us to get rid of a raised stage. Mostly we just were trying for a different feeling and with David Foster and Michael we felt we had enough guests already.

How much of this year's show did you choreograph?

I had a lot to do with putting together my own programs as I always do and Brian, Lea Ann Miller and myself all worked on our duet together. I hired David Liu to help Lea Ann with the show and so I did not have as much to do with the opening and closing steps. Each year we learn and this time we kept the steps very simple so that the skaters had a better chance of looking as a unit together after only 2 days hard work.

What did you skate to in this show/what should we expect to see?

Moondance..was chosen because both Michael Buble and myself love that song.

Ding Dong Daddy was chosen by Roberto Campanella, the choreographer, and it was chosen because it matched the theme of the show and the song rocks.

Who choreographed your programs this year for Gotta Skate?

Roberto Campanella. We have worked together many many times before; he did the fast number in the 2nd half.

Lea Ann Miller did the Moondance number in the first half, in combo with the group.

Brian and Kurt...our number was organized and the concept belongs to Lea Ann Miller too...but all three of us had a hand in making up the steps. For example, hats on the ice was my idea, etc.

Copyright Debi Oreste
"Party Boy" and "Hernando"
Kurt Browning and Brian Boitano's duet

Copyright Debi Oreste. Used with permission from IMG.


You and Brian did a duet together in the show. What can you tell us about it? How was it working with each other instead of competing against one another?

We laughed the whole day we put it together and had sooo much fun. Brian and I have always got along but never had a chance to tour together or work together and so I called him up and invited him with the specific hope we would try to put something together on the ice. I feel sometimes that fan camps are so strong that people think we don't get along, not true, and I hope that we get to do that number together again someday. It is very hard to compete against Brian as a skater but not as a person. He is a great skater but also a great guy.

If we had had a chance to interview your cast members, we would have asked them to talk about you. Since we can't, let's turn the tables =). Tell us a little something about working with each of your cast members.

Well..except for Brian, I am very used to my whole cast having toured for years together we are all friends. A good show has a mix of skaters with varied talents and having this cast felt like a good mix. David Liu was new to me, and I met a wonderful person full of talent and very full of energy and maybe I will see more of him in the future since he has a great feel for skating.

What's the most challenging thing about getting all of this together?

I suppose the time restraint is the biggest hurdle, and money of course. Having to be on the side of the table spending money is hard. I am used to showing up with skates, costume and music and going home. Being a part of every single moment of a two hour NBC tv special is a time consuming, difficult learning experience. Thank goodness for Smuckers or none of this would ever take place.

Where do the ideas for these shows come from? How far in advance do you start working on the show?

The night the show is done, the next show is already being worked on by Steve Disson. He is the sponsor guy on the team and without some money and sponsors, nothing gets done. That has already started. Ideas, well that comes from what is going on in your life at the time, could be a show you saw and can't get out of your head. Could be a sad or happy time in your life. This one came from Michael Buble and his music mostly.

Have your roles and responsibilities changed from year to year with this show? If so, how?

Not really, basically I am in charge of hiring the right people to put a good show on. I also have tons to do with the concept. I have to be the battery for everybody, the motivator too. I help Lea Ann get my ideas and her ideas into reality.

How has this show evolved since the first one two years ago?

I don't know that the evolution is something you can see on the ice, I think mostly that most of the growth has taken place behind the scenes. I am proud of each show and think they are all different enough to stand alone. I like each one for different reasons. I missed Sonia in this one but really enjoyed skating with Brian for example.

   Copyright Debi Oreste
Kurt Browning - Ding Dong Daddy
Copyright Debi Oreste. Used with permission from IMG.

What should we expect to see from you in the upcoming season?

A few competitions for fun, hopefully some good skates with good energy and 20 shows with Stars US.

You're a guest star on Stars on Ice this year - how will this differ from being a regular (aside from the number of cities)? Can we expect to see you in any group numbers?

I will be in the opening and closing, like all the guest skaters will be, but just a little I assume. It will be strange to not be (in the loop) as a real cast member but when the time is right then it feels right. I said almost 10 years ago that I would do 8 years of Stars and I did 8 seasons as a cast member just like I thought I would. It was a coincidence that we had a baby at this time and that is not the main reason for me not doing Stars anymore.

The skating world, both professional and eligible, seems to be in flux these days. What are your views on the current state of skating?

I read magazines and wonder how lucky I am in that I still work the shows I want, do the tours I want and have everything from skating I need to make me happy. I know a lot of great skaters are not getting to say that and I realize how great the timing of my career has been. How is skating doing, maybe in a discussion type interview we could talk about it, but I don't feel that I could put into one paragraph what is going on. I know that by putting, or trying your very best at least, to put out Good Quality Work on the ice for people to enjoy that you ensure your existence in this competitive world of skating.

How is Gabriel and how has being a daddy changed your life?

Right this minute I can hear him, grumpy, upstairs as my sister is taking care of him. I can hardly wait to finish this so I can see what he is crying about, it is an example of how distracting a baby can be to your life. Everything else takes second place now.

What's the best piece of advice anyone has given you about fatherhood/parenthood?

If you truly love your child, you will be a good parent. (within reason of course)

And finally, the most important question of all...blond??