For my first several years of competitive figure skating, I only used Disney music for my programs. At first, it was because it was age-appropriate, theatrical, and recognizable for the judges and the audience.
Young, beginner-level skaters are hard to rank. Judges distinguish their single jumps and scratch spins by noticing which skaters are looking at their feet and which ones are smiling, exercising musicality, and engaging the crowd. So, by skating to music from movies I loved, I learned how to skate as a character and how to perform. Before I advanced to double jumps, I’d always place on the podium. Therefore, Disney music became my lucky charm, and I purposely didn’t choose any other music until I was a teenager.
Then skating became stressful. My falls were harder and freestyle events became more technical. I still did well in certain events, but it became more apparent when my competitors were skating most days a week and I was barely juggling musical theater, other sports, and after-school clubs on top of my schoolwork.
I found my niche in the showcase, artistic, and interpretive events, where I wasn’t judged on the most difficult jump I landed but rather how I used my skills to perform a number. I always dreamed of being on stage, and skating was my foundation for that.
I auditioned for Disney on Ice in my last year at my university. I had met two coaches at Carleton University who had either retired from or were currently performing with the show, and they inspired me to send an audition video. Because of my inconsistent jumps, I doubted the show would accept me, but within two hours of sending my video I received an email back inviting me to come in for a live audition.
I still remember my live audition more vividly than I remember the shows where I performed for tens of thousands of people. I remember the pride I felt landing all my jumps. I remember my heart swelling as I performed my signature move, the spiral. And I still cringe remembering how I decided to add vocal “ooh ooh, ahh ahhs” to my character interpretation when they asked me to skate like a monkey would skate. Four months later, I was in Mexico City rehearsing with Disney on Ice.
This is the profession I was meant to have. And these past six years as a show girl have been everything I dreamed they would be and more. So why am I leaving it?
I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish a goal I’ve had since I watched Michelle Kwan skating to Disney specials on TV in the 90s. When I watched Disney on Ice on YouTube, I yearned to even be in the ensemble, but I dared to hope I could play a character. There was one commercial that featured a character running and waving to the roar of the audience, and I wished I could do that. As fate would have it, I played that exact character for five of my six years with the show.
Just being on the show was my first goal. When I was hired, playing a character was my next goal. I’ve played two dozen step-out or principal characters plus a variety of characters without dialogue. And then my goals were to challenge myself to leading roles, which I eventually achieved as well.
I would’ve been content with just doing the ice show, but Disney on Ice had the added perk of traveling the world. Initially, I wanted to see Europe, and I did a tour there. Then I wanted to visit Japan, and I spent a year in Asia. I’ve worked on five continents and visited three dozen countries, and though I want to keep traveling, I’m at the point where I want a real home to come back to.
I was thrilled that I could interview with television, print, radio, and new media, although I was advertising the show on the other side of the microphone than I was when I was a journalist. I advanced into leadership positions within the company, too, and I loved mentoring new hires who were as wide-eyed and eager as I was when I joined.
With all of these incredible opportunities, I realized that I couldn’t make any more goals. I had already achieved everything I wanted and more, so I thought that when I peaked I would be happy.
But I knew I couldn’t settle on what I had already achieved. We only grow when we keep reaching for new goals, and with nothing left to overcome I wasn’t the best person I could be. I found pettier elements to criticize and couldn’t find the same joy I used to have when I was still exploring my potential. My focus redirected outside of my job and I began to long for the adventures that come from getting off the road.
When I was in university, constantly blinking off a lack of sleep and scrambling to finish all of my assignments on time, I questioned whether I studying the right field. It was when I had two hours left until deadline — and a page and a half to write with no ideas –that I would open YouTube and re-watch a Disney on Ice commercial, dreaming of a life with little stress and pure confidence in what I was doing. Nowadays, I open YouTube and watch people younger than me moving to big cities, taking risks I didn’t take, and living lives even more exciting than mine.
I love performing. I always will. I hope to do it more in the future. But it’s time for me to discover what else I can do. If living on the road and working from contract to break work contract have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t need concrete plans to be successful. I’m moving to New York City, a city I’ve always admired but I felt too overwhelmed to truly commit to it. I’m using the bachelor’s degree for which I fought so hard and seeing where it takes me. Working in live entertainment taught me not to rely on Plan A and to invent Plan B, C, and D without wasting time doubting myself.
The little skater who refused to skate to anything other than Disney music once dreamed of being in the Olympics. That never happened. However, I used “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid as my first competitive showcase music. 16 years later, I performed “Under the Sea” in a lead role professionally for thousands of people in central and South America. Following my passions allowed me to travel to places I thought I’d never see.
I’ll always be grateful that I achieved my dream job. Now, I’ve learned that you can have more than one dream job.
Our network of cast, crew, and staff with Disney on Ice is so globally interconnected that when we retire, we always say, “It’s never ‘goodbye;’ it’s ‘see you down the road.'” I’m ready to see where that road takes me now.
And as Walt Disney would say: “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.” Let’s see where this Disney alum goes now.