Robin Cousins glides back with ice cool new show
10:54 15 March 2014
The last time Robin Cousins was at the Theatre Royal in Norwich he was starring in Grease as Teen Angel — more recently, however, he has been seen in his role as head judge on ITV’s Dancing on Ice, which finished its eight-year run last weekend.
Despite it now being 34 years since gliding to victory in the Olympic Games, and bringing home a gold medal, the former British competitive skater is as eager as ever to keep performing, presenting and promoting ice skating to the masses.
Robin’s current passion is his sparkling new ice spectacular, currently touring the country and sliding into the Theatre Royal for five nights from next Wednesday.
Robin Cousins’ Ice features top skaters from across the globe, many of whom have themselves won medals and performed on television.
“This show is really quite unlike any other — it is certainly very different from anything I have ever done before,” says Robin, who has both directed and choreographed the production. “I wanted challenge people’s expectations and to offer them something unique, something that ticked all the boxes but also left them feeling amazed at what they had just seen.”
The cast of 14 includes Lisa Brewin, who was discovered by Robin himself at an ice rink in Newcastle, and has gone on to skate professionally worldwide on stage, television and Wembley Arena.
Others among the handpicked line-up of skating talent include Canadian Olympian, medallist and coach Vaughn Chipeur, top Australian performer and coach Katie Endriulaitis, and Blackpool-based Adam Jukes who has skated worldwide.
“These are all people who can respond to the music and will captivate the audience within the first 30 seconds of being on stage. People have a lot going on in their lives now and you have to grab their attention almost immediately.
“These skaters and the music we have chosen will enable the audience to really feel the show right from the beginning.”
Robin has long been keen to take ice dance beyond competitive sport. He was the creative force behind the Holiday on Ice shows, and developed his own ground-breaking productions Electric Ice and Ice Majesty which were both huge hits.
“It has been 30 years since I created Electric Ice, which really changed the look of ice shows,” he said. “With that and with all my shows, I started with the audience, thinking about what would captivate them.
“This time that line of thought really took me to the music – there is no storyline here and this is a show where the choreography is driven by the music, where the movement has room to breathe, and the skaters can let their blades do the talking.”
“For me, it is 100 minutes of glorious skating with fabulous music. It’s not themed, but if you love movement, if you love dance of any kind, and great music...it’s the type of thing that, if I was still skating, if my body could still do it, this is what I would want to be doing.”
The music for the show was over seen by Maurice Luttikhuis, who has worked in film, television and musicals for more than 25 years. His credits include the likes of the Dutch productions of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon, and Disney’s The Lion King. He has also previously worked with Robin composing, arranging and recording the music for numerous Holiday on Ice shows.
“I was very clear about the sort of music I wanted to use and how I wanted to use it,” says Robin. “I wanted to bring in all sorts of different types of music, from exquisite classical pieces, with a romantic feel, to lively pop tunes that bring excitement.”
He adds: “At the same, it all has to work well together. I didn’t want it to be a shopping list; it had to have originality as a whole.”
Robins admits he loves the whole process of creating a show, from initial concept to watching the audience’s rapturous response. Working on a theatre show, with the confines brought by a stage setting, can be a challenge.
“But that is part of the fun and excitement – you have to use every millimetre of the space you have and the skaters have to have the skill to turn on a dime.
“Those who have worked on television are used to that of course. Although it looks big on stage the studios are really quite small.”
The final series of Dancing on Ice – won by Ray Quinn – finished its eight-year run last Sunday with a three-way skate-off, constant recapping and a shameless number of perfect scores, but Robin will also be taking part in the show’s tour.
“I love the flexibility of what I do, working in live entertainment, television and developing shows like this,” he admits. “Being able to visit places like Norwich too – I came here with Holiday on Ice and then Grease, and it is nice to be able to return again now.
“It is important to keep things varied and interesting.”
After his judging desk bound role on Dancing On Ice he is relishing live theatre again.
“I think the most important thing for me is that I’m not constricted by judges or by a routine having to be four-and-a-half minutes and having to shoehorn choreography and big tricks in, I can actually let the skating breathe and let the movement speak for itself and have those moments where it is just literally a piano with a skater in a spotlight.
He adds: “Even though each scene stands on its own the music and the choreography and the way the show has been put together will allow that moment of ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know that was coming’ or ‘That’s pretty’.
“The audience have their chance to breathe. Hopefully when they sit on the edge of their seat it’s for the right reasons and to really, again, be able to showcase the sport and the craft of figure skating in a way that people may not have seen it for a while.”
Robin has now been working ‘on ice’ for more than 40 years, from his start in regional club competitions to World and Olympics, choreography and performance for film, television and theatre. It has given him the perspective on what makes a good live show.
“I’ve always spent my career doing what I think people want, just maybe not the way they expect to get it, and this is the same,” he says. “I like to keep people on their toes. I don’t want to be complacent with the type of thing that I choreograph, or how I was as a performer.
“I think that’s important…the expectations of people who are going to be able to come into the theatre and see something that they can’t see on television and they won’t see by watching the Olympics.
“So this takes all the elements that they’re used to and just gives it to them in a beautiful simple setting of the theatre stage, where the audience and that immediacy is different.” Theatrical routines are very different from competitive ice dance however. “The biggest factor for me is that I don’t have an Olympic ice stage to play with. I have a theatre stage, so choreographically I have to be clever. It has to be seamless.
“You have to know your craft, as these skaters will, in order to use every millimetre of ice and stage in a way that they don’t need to if they’re on an Olympic stage.”
Being back in Norwich has brought back memories of his roles in Grease and the Rocky Horror Show which he also appeared in one the Theatre Royal stage.
“I’m thrilled to be able to bring ice back into the city, albeit onto the stage,” he says.
“The Theatre Royal is a wonderful space and I know it gets well used and supported by the community, so I’m very happy to be back and putting the show back here.”