Sunday, August 20, 2017

Aerial Ice Has Got Talent

August 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured Articles

By Nicolette House

Joel Dear always knew he wanted to fly; it was just a question of how. Certainly the feeling of an effortless glide across the ice was close to flying, but not close enough. Caught between the idea of attending flight school to become a pilot or continuing with his figure skating career, Dear took a risk and took up aerial acrobatics. He then took his newfound skills to the ice.

Ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre found themselves in a similar situation to Dear. Looking to continue their skating career they advanced their already supburb skating skills and learned new tricks such as the “headbanger” and adagio moves to enhance their professional career.

As luck would have it the three became fast friends while performing in the Sun Valley Summer Ice Shows many years ago. They maintained contact and worked on several projects together, until they landed their biggest opportunity of all- the chance to be part of a skating act called Aerial Ice on America’s Got Talent.

“I was most excited about it because of the people involved with the project. I just always enjoy working with Kim and Brent. I was on board because they were on board,” said Dear.

Jill Schultz, the daughter of Charles Schultz, orginally approached Navarro with the idea. At first Navarro and Bommentre were hesitant to take part in AGT, due to time constraints and the sheer fact that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. As Navarro said, at some point they crossed a bridge with the project where there was no turning back. And they are very glad they didn’t.

The process to get on AGT was not without its challenges, but Navarro says it is one of the coolest projects they have ever done. Aerial Ice had a mere four days of rehearsal in warehouse in LA to prepare for the first round of auditions. Those four days were the first the entire cast had rehearsed together. In addition to Dear, Navarro, and Bommentre professional pairs skaters Tosha and Chris Trefil and aerialist Angela Kim round out the cast of AerialIce.

“I was on the ship and my sign off date was the day before rehearsals.I signed off on Sunday and flew to LA. We started rehearsals Monday morning and auditioned that Friday so it was a really fast experience,” said Dear.

Not to mention all the Aerial Ice performers had some new equipment to get used to. Dear had previously done his aerial work on a lyra, or hoop. In less than a week he had to be ready to audition using silks instead. All of the skaters needed to learn how to skate effectively on plastic ice.

Synthetic ice may look like real ice, but the cast can ensure you that it does not feel that way. They noted how difficult it is to skate backwards and that even gaining momentum to go forwards can be a challenge. For aerialists the synthetic ice can pose an even greater risk. Plastic ice is covered with glycerin, a slippery substance, that if aerialists get on their hands or clothes make it almost impossible to fly. The aerialists must be cognisant of how they skate leading up to airborn tricks.

Most impressively Navarro and Bommentre opted to perform the headbanger, a dangerous move in which the woman’s head appears to almost graze the ice multiple times. As Dear pointed out, Navarro and Bommentre are one of the few teams in the world willing to perform the move on plastic ice. Most couples simply refuse.

“It’s just hard to get that force going. I think that speaks a lot to Brent’s skills,” said Navarro.

Aerial Ice hasn’t had a break since the AGT process began. All the cast members were fortunate enough to practice out in Sun Valley, Idaho. They put up their set on the Sun Valley Pavillion stage  and treated unsuspecting travelers to exciting rehearsals.

As they prepare for the quarterfinals coming up in August Navarro, Bommentre, and Dear have had some time to reflect not only on what the show has meant to them, but what it means to the entire skating community.

“This is actually a pretty big deal for ice skating. I think that skating is in a place where it’s ready to become popular again and I’m really hoping that this  kicks off non-skaters becoming interested in skating,” said Bommentre.

Lack of popular interest in skating is often spoken about in skating circles. They cast of Aerial Ice hopes that their act will spark a movement to increase skating’s visibility to the public.

“It’s a great sport and it’s fun to watch.I think it’s alittle underappreciated in the current media climate. I’m really hoping that this inspires people to like and try skating; and also show that skating is a great medium for creative endeavors that are not just about winning an Olympic medal,” said Bommentre.

For Dear having his family and friends watch him do what he loves has been an added bonus.

“I have a large family and friends that I grew up with that had never seen me skate or seen me do aerial work. I think I didn’t realize how unincluded they were in this huge aspect of my life. It’s been an opportunity for my aunts and uncles that can’t travel and people that would probably have never seen me perform to get excited about what I’m doing,” said Dear.

Navarro was amazed by the skating community’s outpouring of support. It wasn’t just support for one cast member, it was support for skating as a whole.

“The act itself and being on AGT showcases skating in a younger way, a new way, a more contemporary way. I’m realizing now how lucky we are that Jill is doing this because it’s her taste and her style. There could have been a different skating act that was a little bit more old school and didn’t have the element of aerial work. I think it’s showcasing a different side of skating. It can interest people in skating itself and also in the combination of aerial and ice and in how contemporary skating can be,” Navarro said.

One thing is for sure- Aerial Ice is helping to bring skating’s popularity back. That is what the sport needs right now; skaters and hidden gems of the skating world showcasing their talent for all to see.

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