Kurt Browning found his calling in skating as a child and he hasn’t let up since. By bringing home four Canadian and four World championships in the late ’80s and early ’90s he became a dominant figure in professional figure skating.
Since “Stars on Ice,” Canadian edition, launched in 1991, Browning has performed in every show and fans have loved him for it. This year as he celebrates 25 years with the production, he is taking a creative lead, directing and choreographing the show.
“This is where I want to be,” he said in a phone interview.
“I’m 48 years old and things don’t work as well as they used to, but man, I get on the ice and the adrenaline goes, and so do I.”
This year, Browning is adding in special moments of celebration, recalling highlights of his skating career, a look back at memorable “Stars on Ice” moments, and also achieving a choreographic dream—a 20-minute group number he has been planning since 1995.
“I hope it’s going to be a lot of fun for people who like stage and theatre and storytelling,” he said.
Set to the music of rock band Supertramp and inspired by the lyrics of their song “Rudy,” (“Rudy’s on a train to nowhere”), Browning is taking both the audience and the skaters on a new adventure.
“I’m kind of a tramp, a vagabond who travels along, and I stumble across a group of people who work in a factory and this factory creates airplanes or jet engines or helicopters—any flying device,” he explains.
“But the world inside the factory is very sad—it’s very controlled, it’s mean, people don’t know how to be nice to each other, and through acts of kindness with little paper airplanes as symbols, I kind of inspire these people to see life again, to not be told what to do, to actually have their own inspiration, their own motivation.
“And I kind of motivate a revolt, and what happens when these people see there’s something better than what they have now, and there’s a beautiful, very touching ending that we’ve worked very hard to create.”
He is particularly happy with the piece and his team.
“If you watch a young child skating, they’re usually so proud of their program and their music that they enjoy their skating so much, that you do too. It doesn’t matter if they fall, because you just feel the joy from their skating,” he said.
“And quite honestly, I think that’s what you’re going to feel from the whole cast this year.”
Another special moment will be a group number with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford—who just won the world championship in Shanghai—and bronze medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
“We’re giving them a quartet to celebrate that moment,” he said. “Kaitlyn usually dances with Andrew, but she’s going to do lifts with Eric, and Meagan is usually thrown by Eric but we’re going to let Andrew throw her instead.
“So skating fans are going to see something they never expected—Andrew with Meagan and Kaitlyn with Eric.”
Performing alongside them will be Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir; Olympic medallists Patrick Chan, Joannie Rochette, Jeffrey Buttle; three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner; and Canadian silver medallist Shawn Sawyer.
Browning said this “Stars on Ice” is turning out to be his favourite so far, but will it be his last?
“If I never come back, I feel like I will have had the goodbye I wanted with this show. That said, you might see me next year.”