Icing the Competition
Rockledge skaters dazzle on the world stage
Talia Favreau, 17, has mixed emotions about her figure skating team being selected to compete at the 2024 Nations Cup, an international Theatre on Ice competition in Europe. “I’m nervous, excited and a bit scared, all at once,” she says.
Theatre on Ice is a competitive sport that combines the grace of figure skating with the excitement of theatre and dance. A team of 8 to 28 skaters forms a cast that tells a story with both free skating and choreography. Judges evaluate them on technical merit and presentation, with emphasis on originality, costuming, artistry and musicality.
Of course, most people assume that teams from frostier climates would be the odds-on favorites in these competitions. But the Frozen Hurricanes — hailing from a sub-tropical, coastal county with one small rink that has limited access for practice and ice time — has beaten those odds. A team of skaters from the Space Coast Iceplex in Rockledge, affectionately known as the Frozen Hurricanes, has brought international glory to Brevard County with Theatre on Ice wins over the past 18 years. The team collected four consecutive gold medal titles between 2007 and 2010. This year, both the preliminary and intermediate teams won gold.
To lead her intermediate team to victory at June’s U.S. Theatre on Ice Nationals in Fraser, Michigan, Favreau played the title character of Aladdin, based on the 2019 Disney musical. While she has future ambitions to perform with Disney on Ice, her short-term goal is to train this fall and winter to prepare for her team’s April trip to the Nations’ Cup [international competition] in Bordeaux, France.
The Theatre on Ice coaching staff has hit the ice “running” since program director and coach Katie McGovern Nyman arrived in 2004. The popularity of the program has escalated from an inaugural group of 14 skaters to more than 100-plus members, who make up four teams. “This will be an amazing opportunity for our skaters who will travel to France,” Nyman says. “We have had the privilege throughout the years to attend five previous world championship events, including three held in Europe.”
Cheryl George Smith, who has been coaching at the Rockledge rink since 1997, assists Nyman. She calls it a “year-round, monumental task. With all the growth we’ve encountered comes a lot of work — not just on the ice, but countless hours of brainstorming, emailing, phone calls, fundraising projects and, of course, the gathering of music, editing, choreography, prop building, costume design, and outsourcing for vendors to accommodate skaters of all shapes and sizes, just to name a few.”
Smith’s daughters, Tara, 27, and Ashley, 30, were two of the first members of the Theatre on Ice intermediate team. They have coached and competed for years. “Tara literally learned to skate at 16 months,” Smith says. “And it won’t be long until her first child — my grandchild — will, no doubt, become a member of this team one day.”
Cammi Bruns Acosta, who has been assisting Nyman with different TOI teams for seven years, began skating 19 years ago.
She is now a member of the adult team.
“While actually skating and competing is thrilling, being a part of the coaching aspect is amazing,” she says. “I love helping skaters realize their potential and understand their role as a group. Theatre on Ice has given all levels of figure skaters here a chance to skate on a world platform, and I am excited to be a part of our representation in France this coming April.”
Charlotte Gamblin, 10, a member of this year’s introductory team, got her start at a summer skating camp in 2022. For her, the theatrical part of competition is the most fun and exciting. Anxious to continue learning advanced skills, she is now taking private lessons and hopes to be selected for a spot on one of the competitive teams this year. “I really enjoy all TOI has to offer, especially meeting new friends that also share love for skating,” Gamblin says.
Jean Chance has been part of Theatre on Ice teams for the past 11 years. Now 22, she’s performing with the program’s adult team. “I started skating in elementary school, and the sport, the people and the whole adventure have been wonderful,” Chance says. “It would be special to get another opportunity to compete at both the National, and Nations’ Cup [international competition].”
Joining Chance on the adult team is Nyman’s son, Tommy Jo [T.J.], one of the male superstars of the program. He recently returned to the Rockledge rink to coach, as well as to skate for the adult team. He began as a toddler, competing with the Theatre on Ice teams as one of the youngest male skaters. Now 22, he has multiple regional, sectional, national and international awards on his resume. He’s eager to get back into competition.
“I’m looking forward to joining the adult skaters, and again be a part of the good times here at home,” he says. But he hasn’t forgotten how important it is to inspire the next generation. “It’s great to have witnessed this program come so far and to now be able to mentor new talent from this incredible group of young skaters,” he says. “Seeing the smiles on these skaters’ faces after rising to the challenges with such energy certainly puts a smile on my face as well.”
And his own history with the program helps him keep in mind that the most important part of being on a team isn’t the medals. “All of the lifelong friends and memories that all of us have made here, during these Theatre on Ice competitions throughout the years, have been the best part of this experience,” he says.
SAVE THE DATE
Skaters and coaches from the Theatre on Ice teams and the Skate Academy will be performing a Christmas Gala on Dec. 16 at the Space Coast Iceplex, 720 Roy Wall Blvd., Rockledge. For more information, visit www.spacecoasticeplex.com or call 321.504.7500.
Sue DeWerff Panzarino
Sue is an avid surfer, shark attack survivor and storyteller who loves to write about the wonderful people and great organizations on the Space Coast.