Entertainment / Arts And Books

Genevieve Vieira
2 minute read
17 Dec 2013
6:00 am

Beyond the blades

Genevieve Vieira

Walking into the dressing room of Olga Sharutenko at the Teatro, Montecasino (which now contains a full ice-rink), it's noticeable that the building is significantly cooler inside than outside.

POISED. Russian figure skater Olga Skarutenko, dancer for the Imperial Ice Stars company.
Picture: Supplied.

Indeed, this is the type of cold Sharutenko is used to, not only because her hometown of Yekaterinburg in Russia is fraught with harsh winters, but because she spends most of her time around such ice rinks.

Sharutenko’s mother was a figure skater, so it seems natural that Sharutenko would follow suit. But her story is not quite so simple.

“Growing up I was a very sickly child, always getting the flu,” Sharutenko explains.

“The doctor advised my parents to take me outside to skate, because doing physical activity in the cold would help to build up my immune system and eventually make my body stronger. It worked, but I was never very good.”

Even so, Sharutenko managed to work her way up with the help of her grandmother, practicing every day from the age of six, and she now skates professionally for the Imperial Ice Stars company. Having done both ballet and figure skating in her early years, at age eight she was forced to choose, and skating prevailed.

“I was told to choose between the two because they work the body and muscles in a different way. I chose skating even though I wasn’t very good at it,” she says.

“In Russia every second child can skate and you really needed to practice if you wanted to compete, slowly learning how to move more freely on the ice. Today it’s second nature.”

Having competed in numerous championships, racking up a cabinet of medals, Sharutenko says there is nothing more liberating than theatre on ice.

She explains: “Figure skating has so many rules. You are told beforehand how you need to be and which way to go and then you’re judged on that. You can wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me to do a lift and I’ll do it with ease. In theatre we get to mix it up a bit, in order to develop our different characters. We use dance to tell a story and it’s a universal lanaguage. We mix single skating, pair skating and ice dance all in one. It’s like painting on ice within the music.”

Recalling the time she joined the Imperial Ice Stars, she says, “Our artistic director Tony Mecer tells all new dancers to the company to put their medals and achievements away and to start anew, because he understands that figure skating is not just a sport, it’s an art form. We use dance to express emotions, showing when we are sad, worried, angry or happy.”

It’s a couple of hours before Sharutenko needs to take to the stage for the premiere of Sleeping Beauty on Ice, and she admits to being nervous.

“We always get nervous when it’s a new show. But once the blade hits the rink, all worry disappears and life on the ice becomes breathtaking,” she says.