“Thin Ice” — held at the Premier Ballroom at the MGM Grand Hotel at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn. this past weekend — was a smashing success. “We had the greatest collection of pro skating talent ever assembled, the finest artistic director in skating, Lea Ann Miller, and the No. 1 television director in skating, John Gonzalez,” said the show’s executive producer Terry O’Neil of O'Neil Entertainment. “With assets like those, we couldn’t miss.”
Those in attendance in the 2,500 seat glitzy ballroom and TV viewers across the United States and Canada were treated to an entertaining show on ABC with a new twist. Show producers took 10 skaters from the sport’s three disciplines and mixed things up. No duo who had previously skated before was teamed up, which made for an interesting concept. Each team faced unique challenges. The skaters on each of the five teams had to get comfortable performing with new partners very quickly and in most cases combine their skills with stars from different disciplines.
Overall, $220,000 was doled out with each pair earning a nice payday. Marie-France Dubreuil and Michael Weiss took top honors and a $60,000 cash reward. Yes, that is the same Dubreuil who is a Canadian ice dancer and Weiss, the American singles skater. “I haven’t felt that kind of pressure in a long time,” Weiss said.
Looking at the numbers, the show was a big hit. "Thin Ice" aired live on ABC Friday and Sunday nights. The ABC audience over two nights was 8.5 million viewers, according to O'Neil, and the Sunday evening broadcast ranked second in the television ratings, which is very impressive considering March Madness (the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament) was in full swing and generally dominates the airwaves.
Additionally, more than 30,000 people voted online at abc.com. The judging was split 50-50 between judges and online votes Friday with Sunday’s show’s including a vote by the audience. Along with the two shows, the four dress rehearsals also included full audiences of enthusiastic skating fans.
The five teams that competed were Shizuka Arakawa and Stéphane Lambiel, Shae-Lynn Bourne and John Zimmerman, Jamie Salé and Patrice Lauzon, Elena Bereznaia and David Pelletier, and Dubreuil and Weiss.
“We were really the underdogs and we didn’t think we had a shot at winning,” Dubreuil said.
But Dubreuil and Weiss gelled their skills quite well. For their final number, they skated to “Broken Wings” by James Morrison and Nelly Furtado. Dubreuil and Weiss gave a rather emotional performance with theatrical touches that ended with Weiss doing a back flip over Dubreuil. It was definitely a “wow” moment.
Hosted by four-time World champion Kurt Browning and Elisabeth Hasselbeck of “The View,” the competition was judged by legendary figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi, Dick Button and Katarina Witt.
Joannie Rochette, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist, skated an exhibition program on Friday night. It was her first performance since the Games. The six-time Canadian champion and 2009 World silver medalist paid tribute to her late mother, Thérèse Rochette, by performing a special piece set to the music "Vole" by Céline Dion. It was a program that Rochette skated a few years ago, and it was one of her mother's favorites.
Rochette received two standing ovations in both the dress rehearsal Friday afternoon and the at the live show that evening — one as she stepped on the ice and one after she finished her program. They were, perhaps, the most touching moments of the weekend.
The live audience was treated to a pre-show featuring some fabulous performances that was not televised.
For our special coverage of this event, see the May/June 2010 issue of International Figure Skating magazine.