If you’re like me, very occasionally, when the sky takes on a darker hue around 16:00, there’s a nip in the air and someone in the office suggests a festive outing, you’ll find yourself tottering around an ice rink hoping you don’t end up with a soggier bottom than a badly cooked Great British Bake Off pie.
But despite having not tried on a pair of ice skates or put my fingers in such steely peril for half a decade, the opportunity to glide gracefully across the stage of the London Palladium accompanied by entertainment legend Keith Chegwin and former World Junior Ice Dance Champion Olga Sharutenko was one to which I could not turn a cold shoulder.
The chance came at the photocall for The Imperial Ice Stars production of The Nutcracker On Ice, the production in which the pair is currently performing at the iconic London venue for a very limited time. The show takes the famous festive ballet about a girl’s adventures with her enchanted nutcracker doll and adds an icy twist, a touch of stage magic and a dusting of spectacle.
Let’s be honest, I was never going to be quite as polished as the award-winning performers impressing the photographers before I took to the ice. In my imagination I stepped on to the rink with the panache of Christopher Dean; in reality I made Bambi look assured. I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone to find out that it takes more than a glittery costume and a pair of blades to make you an ice dancer.
Besides, between them the talented team in The Nutcracker On Ice boasts more than 250 medals. I haven’t even got my ‘I can skate 25m’ badge.
The production, created by The Imperial Ice Stars’ Artistic Director Tony Mercer, premiered two years ago in South Africa, where it ran for 12 successful weeks. Of course, back then it didn’t feature presenter, actor and Dancing On Ice star Chegwin. The former Cheggers Plays Pop presenter, five minutes of whose time could raise a grin from Grumpy McSnarl of Surlyville, joined the company having competed on ITV’s ice dance show as the partner of Nutcracker lead Olga Sharutenko.
“I just thought it would be fun,” Mercer tells me as we sit in the Palladium’s stalls following what I’m calling my professional ice dance debut. “He enjoys challenges and for me it was a challenge to bring him to the company as well.”
This isn’t the first time the London Palladium has been chillier than a penguin’s freezer. The site was previously the National Skating Palace, though it’s far more famous around the world as the home of the best variety and musicals.
The equivalent of three elephants’ weight worth of ice has gone into creating the temporary rink that, Chegwin told me as I fumbled my way across the surface, is not as smooth as you might expect once the international stars have dug and cut huge slices and divots into it performing their jaw-dropping feats. Should you have 100 cars worth of anti-freeze, that’s how much you would need to help keep such a rink solid.
The numbers are impressive, though not as impressive as the stars themselves who make graceful movement on ice look like a beautifully choreographed walk in the park. To be honest, even my woodland strolls don’t look that graceful.
See the full video, including an interview with Keith Chegwin, at the top.