May 7, 2024 at 10:51am

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Elena Ferrarin

Article by Elena Ferrarin

Communications Coordinator
Northbrook Park District


When Northbrook-On-Ice coach and choreographer Deanna Joyce talks about the history of the decades-old show and how much it means to her, her emotion is palpable.

“I get excited the day we begin to talk about the next show, and when the set goes up, my heart swells,” she said. “The hardest moment for me is Sunday night, when the curtain closes for the last time. I know the next show is just around the corner, and soon we will begin the creative process again. But the magic of Northbrook-On-Ice is something I can’t describe in words.”

That magic is coming back this weekend to the Northbrook Park District’s Sports Center, with performances from May 10 to May 12. New this year is a special sensory friendly performance on May 9, designed for audiences who want a quieter and less bright, but still dazzling, version of the show.

About 260 talented skaters, from toddlers to high schoolers, will glide and spin on the ice to this year’s theme, “Skate to Paradise,” transporting audiences on a warm tropical vacation with beachy tunes evoking the palm trees and blue skies of the Caribbean.

All levels of skaters will take the ice —from little stars, lively dancettes and celebrated icettes, to wonderful Spartan and SPICE skaters — after having spent months perfecting their parts, said Northbrook Park District Ice Skating Supervisor Ania Lopez.

Show planning begins in July, with careful attention devoted to crafting a new theme each year and curating costumes, music and set design, Lopez said. “Northbrook-On-Ice is such an amazing event to create every year,” she said. “The excitement we get to witness from the participating skaters and their parents warms my heart.”

Dancette twins Kellsey and Cassidy Hunt, 14, said the choreography of the show perfectly captures the “Skate in Paradise” theme, not an easy task for an environment with a wintery feel. Their mother, Suzanne Hunt, is one of the show’s coaches and Joyce’s sister.

Cassidy, who does theater tech at her high school, added she’s come to appreciate how much skill and effort is required to build sets for the ice show.

This year’s lineup of songs truly evokes the feel of a summer vacation, said icette June Pollak, 18, who will be participating in her 11th Northbrook-On-Ice. Because this will be her last show as an icette, June said, it’s impossible for her not to feel some sadness.

“I look forward to it every year. My family and my extended family – they all come to the show, and they are always so excited for it,” June said.

All the skaters take the show extremely seriously, said icette and soloist Ella Marks, 16, who is performing in her 9th Northbrook-On-Ice. “Even the younger kids and the toddlers – they have rehearsals, they are practicing and making sure they are getting their numbers perfect,” she said. “There is so much that people don’t even realize goes into the show.”

Eleven-year-old Gia Kaporis, who’s been performing at Northbrook-On-Ice for five years, said she felt “on top of the world” when she found out that she’d have a two-night solo this year.

“When last year’s Northbrook-On-Ice ended, I was already looking forward to this year,” Gia said. “It’s one of the biggest and most amazing weekends in my whole life.”

Northbrook-on-Ice was created in 1969 by performer, teacher and choreographer Frances Dorsey and co-director Shirlie Barth. It has been described as the best amateur ice show in the country, and has attracted scouts from national ice-skating entertainment shows such as the Ice Capades and Ice Follies.

Joyce has participated in ice shows at the Northbrook Sports Center through high school, skating in group numbers, pair teams and as a soloist, as well as a variety of characters. After graduation, she continued to perform as a character and icette alumna, and eventually stepped into her current role, in which she relishes mentoring and encouraging the next generation of ice skaters.

“Northbrook-On-Ice provides skaters a magical place where they dress up, step on stage, capture the spotlight, and show their family and friends all the skills they’ve learned,” Joyce said. “Their smiles are as wide as the Grand Canyon and their eyes sparkle like diamonds.”

Performances of Northbrook-On-Ice — “Skate in Paradise” take place at 7 p.m. May 10, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. May 11, and 1 p.m. May 12 at the Sports Center, 1730 Pfingsten Road in Northbrook. The special sensory friendly show takes place at 6 p.m. May 9. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit