Stars on Ice
Kurt List

On the Road with the Pros: A Day in the Life of Touring Pro Kurt Browning

SPOTLIGHT ON Kurt Browning (Riedell Skates)

The popularity of Ice Shows has risen to a new level. Today, because of strong interest from skating fans young and old, many top competitors pursue their skating passion as professionals touring with Ice Shows. Although the pros make their performances appear effortless, make no mistake, much preparation goes into each performance. Ice Shows command top amateur and professional skaters, including four time World Champion Kurt Browning. Kurt takes us through a day in the life of Stars on Ice to give us some perspective on performing for audiences throughout the country and the world.

How many years have you have skated with Ice Shows?

I have been performing with organized tours since 1984. I can't believe I am still touring! The 84 tour was only four shows total and I remember not believing we were half done after just two of them. Now we are half done after 42 shows with Stars on Ice. How things have changed...

How many performances have you been a part of through the years?

It is hard to guess how many shows I have done over the last 16 years, but I would have to say over 750. (This is a big guess of course.)

How long are you on the road touring each year?

For the past five years I have been on the road much, much more than I have been off of it. I suppose I am on the road (lingo for away from home) 6 to 7 months of each year. This includes rehearsing, touring and competing.

With so much performing and competing, how long do a pair of skates work for you?

There just doesn't seem to be a formula that works when it comes to skates. Each pair works differently from the last alities. Every skater has certain qualities that they demand from their skates. For me, I need skates that get along with me. This doesn't sound very technical I suppose, but it is what is important to me. I usually go about one season with a pair of skates. This is probably the average for most professional skaters. Maybe we would like to change more often, but it takes time to break a new pair of their will. It can be an easy process, but usually it is more like taming a wild horse. Once a pair of skates feel great on your feet, and do as they're told on the ice, a skater usually likes to keep them as long as he or she can still lace them up. I had this happen a couple of years ago. I twice tried to switch to a new pair but time restraints and missing the great contact with the ice I had in the old ones kept making me put the old skates back on. I had them for two and a half years or me. Thanks Riedell!

Do you use a competitive program routine or do you create something especially for the tour?

Each program you see a skater perform has its own history. Some are created because the skater loves the music and sometimes the music is just handed to the skater. Other programs are made only for competition and they follow the rules of that event, others are made especially for a show.

What is a typical day like for an Ice Show performer?

A typical day? Sorry, this just does not exist, but I can walk you through what a day might be like. Waking up to the phone at 7:10 am because you forgot about the phone interview with the radio station three cities away. You said you would do the interview about three weeks and twenty shows earlier and now you have forgotten.

The extra perky, loud and irritating voice on the phone is very animated, you are not. If you are lucky you will have a good interview, and if you are not, you just might:

a) Forget which city you are in at the moment when they ask and have to read your location beside the phone.

b) Fall asleep during the interview. (To avoid this it is advised to actually get OUT of bed to do the interview.)

Now that the interview is over, you may go back to sleep g back into your suitcases. Why you unpacked last night, you will never know!

This is really what tour is all about. Oh, sure, there is the occasional show, but really tour is all about trying to get everything home in those bags you brought. I once saw Tara Lipinski fit an elephant she had just bought into her makeup case just to get it home. Just kidding... or was I?

Usually the skaters meet at the local coffee shack or muffin shop for a quick bite to nibble on during the bus ride to the airport. Eating always gives us something to do when you are on tour. And, of course, somebody is always a bit late for the bus and gets heckled as they fly out of the hotel doors. Sometimes the airport is easy, sometimes you run into a cheerleading squad who is in love with Scott Hamilton or a precision skating team who is in love with everybody. Mostly we get to the next city with no problem. I don't think I have to mention the high level of tension that exists when a flight is canceled. After a successful flight we usually have a couple of hours in the afternoon to do laundry, get a bite to eat, make phone calls, nap, search for that computer part that has kept you off e-mail for the past two weeks because they have to send for it somewhere and all you do is keep moving on... Sorry, I got carried away there.

Now it is time to go to the rink for the next show. I always wonder before I leave the room how the day will go. Of course, shows do not have the same nerves and tension as competitions do, but it is still very important to us. How we perform influences our moods and attitudes. It isn't hard to pick out somebody on tour that is having a tough go of it out on the ice.

We warm up, we practice, we eat, we rest, we warm up again, we do the show. Each one of us has our own way of getting these things done. Some like to stretch and stretch, some skaters you never see stretch. Some like to eat and eat, some you never see eat. Everybody is different but no matter how we all get ready, come time to gather in the tunnel before going out on the ice, we are all fired up.

The show is an extension of who we are. Each of us puts so much of ourselves into the show, making us a team. When one person has an injury or skate problems, it affects us all. There are always a few different things that happen each and every night. Sometimes even the bad nights can be good, if only in stories told later.

After the show, the shower feels great. Ice gets put on all the injuries and we clean up for the reception. These can be hectic since our receptions can be anywhere from 100ck is to run in and grab at least one little shrimp before starting to sign autographs. This ensures at least one bite of food. After the reception you might go to bed, or catch the bus to ride it all night to the next town. This is okay if you can sleep on the bus. I like it because it is better than doing the airport thing. The crew takes care of carrying our skates and costumes. They have much, much longer hours than we do and take such good care of us. After a long day it is good to share a laugh with your friends.

Tomorrow a radio station from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan calls you at 6:30 am. You didn't forget this time, they just thought they would call without an appointment. And so on, and so on...

What are your views on competing vs. performing? Is it difficult to get motivated for performing when you know that there won't be pressure from judges scoring you?

Once you figure out that competing is just another form of performing you get much better at it. I find it easy to get motivated for each and every show, but sometimes I have trouble talking my body into joining me in that state of mind.

What's the camaraderie like between the skaters on tour?

Since we all leave our homes and go out on the road together, we become a sort of traveling family. We really do rely on each other for smiles and motivation to get through a long tour. Being friends really helps both on and off the ice.

Have you seen changes in the way skating is perceived by the public?

I suppose that anybody who is on television on a regular basis gets absorbed by the public. When I see a character on my television every week, I feel as though I know that person. People are now doing that with skaters. They feel quite close to us as people and it makes meeting people on the street very interesting. They sometimes act as if they have met you several times before, asking personal questions that strangers just should not know anything about. I am very happy and lucky to have this life. I don't think I would love skating so much if I couldn't share it with people.