Brian Boitano was surprised when Salt Lake City was on the calendar for the "Skating II" production that he and Katerina Witt are headlining.
The show is coming to the Salt Palace next Sunday as part of a 40-city world tour. It will spotlight some of the world's finest Olympic-caliber and professional skating talent.The one-night-only exhibition, which will focus attention on Salt Lake City's bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics, will be presented on Sunday, Jan. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Salt Palace arena. All seats are reserved and priced at $15, $20 and $30, with discounts of $2.50 for youths (16 and under) and senior citizens. Tickets are available at the Salt Palace box office and all Smith'sTix outlets. Discount rates are also available for groups of 25 or more, along with several dinner/reception packages (call 534-4777 for further information on the packages).
Boitano was in Frankfurt, Germany, to see his longtime skating partner Katerina Witt perform, when we interviewed him by phone from Salt Lake City. He had just picked up his sixth consecutive first-place figure-skating victory in a competition in Barcelona, Spain.
Boitano has skated several times in Salt Lake City in Olympics trials and professional exhibition performances. He was a little wary, he said, about bringing his "Skating II" production to Utah, feeling that, just possibly, Salt Lakers had been inundated with so much skating in recent years they wouldn't be interested in seeing even more skaters in January.
But, we assured him, largely because of the Olympics bid, the performance should attract quite a bit of attention.
The show will feature 15 of the world's finest Olympic and world-champion skaters from the USA, Canada, Germany, Spain and USSR.
What you'll see is the sleek, graceful elegance of professional skating in a variety of solo, pairs and mixed routines - but none of the high-tech gimmickry or cartoon character "stars" that are central to most of the commercial ice shows.
It'll be similar, in many respects, to the dazzling Torvall & Dean show that came to Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. Eric Yallen, public relations director for the Salt Palace, noted that while costuming will be fairly simple and scenery will be minimal, the state-of-the-art lighting will be spectacular.
Boitano said he hand-picked the performers for "Skating II" with an eye to showcasing a diversity of skating styles. Everything from classical music to Broadway show tunes to fast-moving, MTV-type hits will be featured in the ice show.
"I wanted a broad range of styles - that's how you attract a wider audience," he said.
Despite the grueling "one-night stands" schedule for the tour, Boitano finds that performing professionally is considerably less stressful than it was during his amateur competition days.
"Nothing can even come close to competing with the Olympic pressure, although after the Olympics, people expect you to be perfect all the time, and that's a problem, but (competing professionally) is still a challenge," he said.
Boitano noted that the Olympics trial several years ago in the Salt Palace helped raise the awareness of Salt Lakers regarding professional-caliber skating and that he was impressed with how sophisticated local audiences had become when it comes to viewing a skating performance.
Following the first show in mid-November in Maine, Time magazine called it "a spectacle for thinking adults" and the Portland Press-Herald said it "brought ice dancing and figure skating to new heights of audience enjoyment."
As Salt Lake City continues to work toward cementing its Olympics ties, the audiences' knowledge and support of ice skating as both a sport and a performance event should add to the city's allure as a winter sports center.