Today is already the last day and also the last Live Show of Dancing on Ice 2019-2020. Produced by Talpa and broadcast live on SBS6 every Saturday night starting December 7 at 8 p.m. Many questions come along, “Wow, what’s that like? Is it fun working with the BNs? What exactly do you do? Can they do it a little bit?” But one thing all questioners have in common: they talk about it with a twinkle of enthusiasm in their eyes. It does something to people, that television. As if it is a magical world that is unreachable and very far away. Therefore, herewith my story to make this unattainable world more realistic!
In 2006 (damn, 2006…) I skated on the program “Stars Dancing on Ice. Not to be confused with Dancing on Ice. Oh yes, I’ll clarify that too: a very long time ago “the skate war” was on television. SBS released Sterren dansen and RTL came out with Dancing on Ice. The difference? Dancing on Ice is a format originally developed in England. For that reason, they own the rights to Dancing on Ice. The rights to such a format are “borrowed” by other broadcasters, worldwide. Like The Voice, for example. At the time, Stars Dancing on Ice was a somewhat different format than Dancing on Ice. Indeed, there was more focus on the entertainment value of skating and many group numbers were added. At that time there was a real TV -war with 2 almost identical programs at the same time on TV. In the end, “Stars dancing on Ice” “won” over “Dancing on Ice” in terms of ratings, but so this edition anno 2019 is Dancing on Ice based on the format from England.
Back to the story. In 2006 was the first edition of Sterren dansen op het ijs, I was the only Dutch person who had the privilege of skating along as an artist. During this season I got to accompany make-up artist Mari van der Ven’s first steps on the ice, which was so much fun! I also skated in the group choreos afterwards and for one of the broadcasts I skated the opening with Gerard Joling. There is almost no footage of it, because back then YouTube had only just been launched and we still had a folding phone. Time flies…. Anyway, this was one and only adventure for a young girl. I got to look into the TV world and that was very exciting. In general, I don’t always look back on this in a positive way, because I found it to be a harsh world where people were sometimes not always pleasant towards each other.
13 years later, the phone rang. “Madelene, do you want to participate in Dancing on Ice again?” My first response was, “In what capacity? Because I don’t skate as an artist anymore.” The idea was for me to do a screening as a judge, but the call-out was also to learn how to skate this season’s BNs. I ended up doing the screening, but unfortunately did not become a juror. I did say YES! to training the BN’ers. I’m going for it!
Then, on Oct. 14, 2019, the Dancing on Ice adventure began. The first day, at the studio in Baarn, was another press day where all the BN’ers took their first steps on the ice and where the meeting took place. The day was intense and long, but I met many new people. And all in all, the day was very positive, as the skills of the BN’ers were far from bad! There was no chair involved, no one fell and some were even able to transfer already!
Then we began two months of incredibly long, cold and intense days. Starting at 9:00 am and sometimes not finishing until 8:00 pm. Back to back, every two hours two other BN’ers on the ice for a lesson with a half-hour lunch break in between. With lots of sore muscles (both the BN’ers and me) and lots of cold, we trained rock hard. At that time there was no glitz and glamour, the hall was just a bare hall with four walls and an ice floor.
After 1 week I thought the following: Charly is guaranteed to injure himself terribly, because he has absolutely no coordination. Of him, I thought he should wear a helmet, and I really don’t say that easily. All the more proud I am of him (and myself as a teacher) that he has come so far and still managed to develop that coordination to get on the ice in a controlled way.
I thought Sabine would make it very far. She is a natural: fast learner, flexible and has mastered sliding. So I really didn’t expect her to be out after only live show 2. After only 1 week, it was more than clear to me that Tommy is incredibly good. A natural talent with incredibly good dance background, muscle control and incredible learning ability.
How did I approach that teaching? I recently had the opportunity to develop lesson cards for the KNSB for the IJSTIJD program “Chill out on the ice” and for the ST1 training to teach children how to skate. This was also a perfect time to grab these lesson cards. No kids, but basically it started with the same exercises. Making a pizza point to stop and making courses with pawns. I brought my grab bag of props to make the lessons more fun and enjoyable. The water pistols that were in there did come out at times, and we were barely playing “skipper may I sail over. Learning through play! Just goes to show that you are never too old to learn (or play games)!
My work changed incredibly over time and through the process. I experienced the first two months very intensely as I worked day in and day out with the BN’ers to teach them how to skate. The moment the Pro-skaters (their skating partners) arrived and we started rehearsing in the Hilversum studio, this dynamic changed. After all, the BN’ers had all gotten their “private” coach. It was time to “let go. On the one hand, very nice to see them continue to develop in skating with a partner. On the other hand, I had to give up “my babies. This took some getting used to at first, but I soon realized that the function did not change. I was no longer literally teaching them how to skate then, but I was still coaching them. I watched and developed along in the choreography of their dances and my “redeeming” confirmation that they were doing well sometimes worked wonders. Communication was also clearly a stumbling block at times. My lessons were always in Dutch and now suddenly they had to communicate everything in English with their skating partner. So that’s how my position grew from trainer to “coach,” and in that regard, too, the BN’ers have made tremendous leaps over the course of the Live shows. Suddenly they began to believe in themselves that they could do it a bit, and that gave a boost in self-confidence, which was reflected in the live shows.
The live show weeks were structured as follows: On Saturday, of course, the Live show. The new dance was started on Sunday, then finished on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the finishing touches were added. On Friday the “review” day. Here the dances were then performed with all the trimmings (costumes etc) and then the production of the program could see a bit of how they were going to portray it. On Saturday during the day, there was then a camera rehearsal. So basically “the live show” as it should go in the evening and then at 8 p.m. the circus went off again. Basically not at all different from making theater, just on a shorter term. The only difference was that it was recorded by a camera making it available for anyone in the Netherlands to follow. This really wasn’t all glamorous behind the scenes either. Very long days for everyone with long waits, conflicts that did occur from time to time (just like in any other workplace), but also real fun, jokes and gags out of meanness. Just like any other job really. Sometimes nice and sometimes not.
I especially enjoyed sitting with the judges Ruben, Joan and Marc on the Saturday during camera rehearsals for a while. Nice to hear what their first impression was then and give them a little input on how the week had gone. And then when they responded very positively to something I also glowed with pride, of course.
Now, looking back on the whole process, I really enjoyed teaching the BNs how to skate the first two months. That which at first I thought ‘mwoah…. teaching a little adult skating” turned out to be the most fun of all. And not just to learn their skills, but especially to discover the person behind them. I realized after the first week that the BNs were making themselves incredibly vulnerable by taking on this adventure. Learning something new that you’re not quite sure you’re going to be able to do and then having to do it in front of maybe a million people sitting in front of the tube watching. Actually tremendously special and brave of them all. In terms of personality, too, I got an immediate glimpse into their souls after two/three days by seeing how they reacted to setbacks (falls), successes (when a trick succeeded right away) and their tremendous perseverance. I was and am truly incredibly proud of my “pupils” and not only for the skills I was able to teach them, but especially for their personal victories that come with taking on the Dancing on Ice adventure. I also really got to bond with some and make new friendships. But what they all have in common is that they are incredible go-getters and therefore achieve what they have achieved. People who are not afraid to pursue their dreams and work very hard for this. I found that incredibly inspiring despite the fact that I also found some days in the studio terrible. Just as I experienced the TV world of Stars Dancing on Ice in 2006, I sometimes experience it that way again now. As a hard unpleasant work environment. Although now, of course, I myself have grown a little older and wiser and have dealt with this a lot better. So I’m very proud of that, too.
Today is last day of Dancing on Ice. Am I sorry? Or am I glad it’s over? Actually, a little bit of both. I feel very sad that I no longer have a reason every day to hang out with the people I’ve bonded with. On the other hand, I am relieved that it is over. Compare it a bit to elite sports. You train all the way to the moment of the final match. You look forward to that, but when the race is over, it’s also “just as well” and time to blow out. I’m going to miss it on the one hand and not on the other. What I am very much looking forward to is being able to throw myself back into Entertainment on Ice and THE ATTACK. There are great plans ahead again and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into them 100% again.