The family-friendly Stars on Ice tour will stop in Allentown and Hershey—less than two hours outside the city, on April 28 & 29
In February, American figure skaters took center stage at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Nathan Chen was victorious, winning the first Olympic gold for an American man since 2010. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue took bronze in the Ice Dance event.
Along with Chen, Hubbell, and Donahue, ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates, pairs skaters, (and newly-crowned World Champions), Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, and singles skaters Karen Chen, and Vincent Zhou, delivered clutch performances to win silver in the team event.
Many other American skaters finished in the top 10 in their individual events with memorable performances. One of those skaters was Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. National Champion, who finished sixth with two masterful programs that showcased his artistic talent.
Fans can see Chen, Brown, Hubbell and Donahue, and the majority of the U.S. Olympic team, when they come to two locations in PA, Allentown and Hershey —both less than two hours from Philadelphia— on the Stars on Ice Tour, which is back after a two year hiatus. “Everyone is in for such a treat!” said Brown. “It’s going to be a post Olympic celebration!”
Stars on Ice is a family-friendly ice show featuring solo and ensemble numbers under theatrical lights. The show includes fun, upbeat music, opportunities for audience interaction, and the chance to enjoy exhibition performances from the nation’s elite skaters in a laid-back, enjoyable environment.
The Allentown show on Thursday, April 28, will be held at the PPL Center, 701 Hamilton St., and the Hershey show on Friday, April 29, will be held at the Giant Center, 550 Hersheypark Dr. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.starsonice.com/buy-tickets. For more information about the featured cast, visit https://www.starsonice.com/.
Philly Happening contributor, Susan Field, recently caught up with Brown in a phone interview to discuss what it was like competing at his second Olympics, the influence behind his positive attitude, and what fans can expect from the Stars on Ice show.
Brown, 27, who has long been a fixture on the national and world scene, finished the Olympics with two personal best scores. The only skater to receive higher component, or artistic scores, in the freeskate was Chen. Brown's achievement at the Olympics were even more impressive considering he hadn’t been back to the Olympics in eight years, after competing in Sochi in 2014, where he finished ninth, then not making the team in 2018. In the following seasons, he reinvented himself and pushed the sport in new artistic directions. Brown cut his signature ponytail, moved to Canada to work with new coaches and choreographers, tried new styles, and perfected his already-superb skating skills.
The skater, known for his exuberant personality off the ice, and his iconic Riverdance freeskate from the 2013-14 Olympic season—it went viral on YouTube, garnering millions of views—wowed the skating world this season with his brilliant, soulful rendition of “Sinnerman,” by Nina Simone and his haunting, heartfelt performance to “Schindler’s List,” by John Williams and Itzhak Perlman. For the Stars on Ice tour, Brown will be skating a show version of his acclaimed “Sinnerman,” program.
In Beijing, Brown did not attempt any quadruple jumps (for perspective, Chen landed seven total), yet his remarkable skating skills, intricate choreography, and musical interpretation racked up enough points in the free skate to equal the value of two quads. On the NBC Broadcast, commentator, 1998 Olympic Champion, Tara Lipinski, said that Brown will be remembered as one of skating’s greatest artists
Your Riverdance program went viral and it circulates on social media each year around St. Patrick’s Day. What are your thoughts on how that program has remained so popular eight years later?
We [skaters] put our entire selves into our programs for a year, and then we move on and continue to create and constantly try to evolve and create new pieces. I’ve grown so much since that program. The fact that it has stood out, drawn so many people into the sport, and made so many people smile, is amazing!
The two programs you skated this season were also so memorable. Your short program, in particular, was spectacular! I know it was a passion project between you and your choreographer, Rohene Ward. Can you talk a little bit about what makes that program a unique, signature piece for you?
It’s such a different type of program; it’s very modern and very sleek. It’s inspired by Alvin Ailey (a legendary dancer, choreographer, and visionary who founded the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater). We worked on making very modern lines and shapes. To be skating to Nina Simone is so incredible—her artistic genius is beyond words. This piece meant so much to Rohene, and he put his entire self into the program. He entrusted me with it and allowed me to make it my own. In the last two years, we really let it adapt and evolve and let it take on a life of its own. It’s been really fun to work on— and really challenging!
Your artistry and how you seamlessly blend beautiful technique with emotion and the most incredible movement and flow makes your skating so special. What are your thoughts about the sport going to such heights with the number of quads being performed?
I have so much respect for the technicians. It's incredible; the way they’re pushing the sport is really amazing. What makes our sport so unique and special is the beautiful balance of both athleticism and artistry. I was never willing to sacrifice the artistry or willing to compromise being able to push the sport in that direction.
I don’t want skaters to give up on themselves if they struggle on one aspect of the sport. If they’re having trouble landing a jump, they shouldn't feel like there isn’t a spot for them in the sport.
What was it like to compete at your second Olympics last month? How was it different from your first Olympics—other than the obvious that there was no audience?
The venues were beautiful! The arena was stunning. It was so special to skate over those rings. We almost got used to skating without an audience. When you close your eyes and imagine your Olympic moment, you wouldn't imagine it without fans, but to be able to put out two of my personal-best programs, and to be top six, I’m so proud! It was amazing to be there with the other athletes.
You overcame so many hurdles to make it back to the Olympics, which really speaks to your resilience and strength as an athlete, both mentally and physically. How were you able to stick to your goals and remain so dedicated over the last eight years?
I had the most incredible support system: my parents. There wasn't any pressure of needing to succeed. That was huge in going after goals and dreams. I took two months off after the 2018 season, then I started getting an itch. I kept thinking, ‘is there more that I want to give to the sport?’ There was, and that was the driving factor. I didn’t know how to untap it, or what it might look like but, I knew it was in me. The next years were about slowly unlocking those puzzle pieces, exploring. Slowly step by step, putting the pieces together.
In addition to your longevity as an athlete, and your artistry, you’re also known for your enthusiasm and the positive energy and attitude that you bring to the sport, on and off the ice. How do you remain so positive?
If you met my parents, you would know why. I have the most optimistic and loving parents! They look at every situation with a glass-half-full-attitude. Every event, good or rough, we celebrate the event; we celebrate getting there. There’s a sense that no matter what happens, we’ll wake up to another day and get through it; we’ll learn from it and we’ll figure it out. It’s about not letting something get you down because there’s so much to celebrate and there's so much to do in this world. Even when I’m having a really bad day, I remember that I get to do what I love, and do it while traveling around the world!
I’m calling you today from Philadelphia, which is less than two hours from both Allentown and Hershey, two of the stops on the Stars on Ice Tour. Do you have any Philadelphia or Pennsylvania connections?
My cousin went to Penn State and he loved it! I’ve skated on tour in Pennsylvania before.
Can you tell our readers about this year’s tour and what fans can expect?
Everyone is in for such a treat! The majority of the Olympic team is going to be there, including Nathan Chen, Hubbell and Donahue, Chock and Bates, Karen Chen, Alysa Liu, and Mariah Bell. It’s going to be a post Olympic celebration! It’s going to be so much fun!
What will you be skating?
I’m doing a show version of “Sinnerman.” I’m so excited to get it out in front of an audience! What’s so exciting about the post Olympic tour, especially this year, is that we’re so excited to perform for an audience! We’re so excited to have the Olympic celebration and connect with audiences. There’s so many fun group numbers, and there will be time to interact.
I’m sure everyone is asking you this, but have you considered your plans beyond the Stars on Ice Tour?
I’m going to take the six weeks on tour to figure it out. People I've talked to have said about retirement that ‘when you know, you know.’ I’m not sure if I’ve had that feeling yet. I need to really think about it.
by Susan Field