• Aly Leia Wein

Canadian Stars on Ice 2019

HALIFAX, NS - Each year, Stars on Ice is given a theme: in 2017 it was the In Dreams Tour, in 2018 it was the Celebration Tour, and in 2019, it's the Unity Tour. The name is no surprise, given that nothing unifies people more than sports, and nothing unifies Canadians more than skating. Founded in 1986 by Olympic gold medalist and American skating icon Scott Hamilton, Stars on Ice made its Canadian debut in 1991 and has been going strong ever since. Every spring, the past, present, and future champions of the ice lace up their skates, pack their bags, and take their talents across the country, bringing entertainment and inspiration to audiences coast to coast.

(Cover photo by Max Gao Photography)

It's been over a year since the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics -

when Canadian figure skating added two golds and two bronzes to its overflowing trophy case - and people are still going nuts for twizzles and toe-loops. But why wouldn't they be? Canada grows champion skaters like Hawaii grows pineapples.

I was lucky enough to fly to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the opening night of this year's tour, and I was simply blown away by the pure magic that emulated from Scotiabank Centre's ice on Friday, April 26th.

The show opened with a fun music video (shown on the many video screens in the arena), featuring the cast lip-synching to the Buggles' 70s hit, "Video Killed The Radio Star," and at that point I inexplicably got goosebumps.

"Video Killed The Radio Star" (video by Jason H. Thompson)

The skaters then burst onto the ice for the opening number, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," which pumped up the crowd and set the tone for the rest of the night. The choreography, as always, was energetic and emotive, thanks to tour director/choreographer Jeffrey Buttle (who sat out performing in this year's show due to injury).

Next up was reigning national champion Nam Nguyen, who strut his stuff during an electric performance of Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby." His Act II Mumford & Sons program was also compelling in an entirely different sense. Nguyen was a late addition to the cast following Buttle's departure, but he seemed to fit right in.

Nam Nguyen entranced in a moment

(Photo by Greg Kolz)

Also joining the cast for the first time were current Canadian national silver medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. These vivacious ice dancers skated to Duke Ellington's "In The Mood," showing off their quirky personas and endless energy. Piper and Paul's unique brand of Disney-character-meets-vaudeville-star was a crowd favorite, proving that they were truly born to perform. The audience was also treated to a performance of their beautiful free dance from this past season, "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)." Oh, and don't even get me started on their gorgeous lifts, or I'll ramble on for days.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier performing "In The Mood" and

"Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)

(Photos by Max Gao Photography)

Another great natural performer was Olympic and world champion (and Skate Canada's favorite girl-next-door) Kaetlyn Osmond. Kaetlyn showed off her fun, flirty side with "Proud Mary," while making a statement with her breathtaking skate to "Million Reasons." With her powerhouse moves and signature K.O. charm, you can't help but love this Newfoundland-born star.

Kaetlyn Osmond working it during "Proud Mary"

(Photo by Max Gao Photography)

It wouldn't be Canadian Stars on Ice without Patrick Chan! This ten-time national champion went from "To Build A Home" to Justin Timberlake, and both programs were Chan-tastic. Patrick's skating skills are what really set him apart, though; his command of the blade and ease of edges make him soar through the ice like some ethereal being. It's stunning to experience in person.

Patrick Chan doing what he does best

(Photo by Max Gao Photography)

And speaking of edges, national champion ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are really rocking it this year. Kaitlyn and Andrew (or #WeaPo, as they're known to their fans) truly shine in a show setting, where they can let themselves go and just enjoy the ride. In "Uninvited," they show off their technical expertise and take the crowd on an intense journey, whereas in "Groove Me/Land of 1000 Dances," it's a party on the ice... and Kaitlyn wears a dress with more fringe than I have ever seen in my entire existence.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje - and lots of fringe!

(Photo by Max Gao Photography)

Three-time world champion (and Canadian idol) Elvis Stojko is definitely the "cool uncle" of the Stars on Ice cast. He dresses like a badass, skates to hard rock, and even body spins across the ice. Oh, and he also has jumps that rival those of skaters half his age and footwork that's fast and furious. 10/10 would recommend.

Elvis (Stojko) is in the building!

(Photo by @ivimages)

Meanwhile, four-time world champion Kurt Browning is definitely the "class clown" of the cast - literally! He stole the show with his "clowning around" bits between numbers, including an act called "Popcorn Perils" that left the audience in stitches. (Throwback to his Rag-Gidon-Time days?) Browning can do more than just be silly, though, as he proved with his beautiful skate to Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read my Mind." At 52, he's still got solid triples, great footwork, and a backflip. Yes, you read that right: a backflip. On ice. Can I please be Kurt Browning when I grow up?

Kurt Browning clowning around

Alternate title: my face when I saw Kurt Browning do a backflip

(Photo by @ivimages)

The sole pairs team on the tour is Canadian favorites (and world, Olympic, and national champions) Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. As one of the defining pairs of the last decade, they are always so much fun to watch on ice, and I'm constantly in awe at their form and the seamlessness of their elements. These two are hardcore - especially Meagan, who's three months pregnant while still killing it every night!

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, defying gravity as usual

(Photos by @daveothephotoguy)

Last year, Spain's Olympic bronze medalist Javier Fernandez joined the cast as an honorary Canadian, and this year, that title has been handed down to Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, two-time world champion, and two-time European champion. This season, Evgenia relocated her training base from Moscow's Sambo-70 to the Toronto Cricket, Skating & Curling Club. After almost a year in her new Canadian life, Evgenia is truly thriving under the care and support of coaches Brian Orser, Tracy Wilson, and their whole team. Her love of skating is evident in both her "7 Rings" and "Beautiful Mess" programs; her fire, passion, and joy just emulate out into the crowd, and it's a really wonderful thing.

Evgenia Medvedeva slaying "7 Rings," Ariana Grande would be so proud

(Left photo by @daveothephotoguy, center photo by Julie Larochelle Photography, right photo by Max Gao Photography)

A 90s medley closed Act I, which I have to say was one of the highlights of the evening for me. Everybody did dance now (pun intended), and boy, did they have a blast! Act II's group numbers ("Trusty and True" for the opening and "With A Little Help From my Friends" for the grand finale) were softer and more poetic, but nonetheless striking. No matter what your music taste is, there's something for everyone at Stars on Ice.

It was a special night and made me realize just how amazing it is witnessing skating - especially skating of that caliber - in person. Stars on Ice continues to be an annual reminder that there is beauty and joy in this world - figure skating is not just for Olympic years, folks.

The #StarsOnIce girls during the "Pump Up The 90s" number

(Photo by Max Gao Photography)

Catch Stars on Ice before it skates away until next year!

You have five more chances to see this incredible show:

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For tickets and more information, go to starsonice.ca