Cinderella on ice at Plymouth Pavilions this winter
WHEN sports stars hang up their competitive kit, then what?
In the case of figure skaters they spin a new career as a performer in an ice show.
Or they do if they are members of the Russian Ice Stars, the troupe whose skills and tricks while balancing on the thinnest of blades cause jaws to drop wherever they go.
This year's winter treat for audiences at Plymouth Pavilions is Cinderella On Ice.
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Think ballet rather than panto, but with some wonderfully athletic moves and a helping of circus-style gymnastic acts and you will get the picture.
Those showgoers who follow figure and dance skating will enjoy seeing some familiar moves played out in the tightest of spaces.
Scaling down expansive performances to the compact rink that is created on the Pavilions stage is one of the biggest challenges the artists face.
"When I joined [the company] ten years ago I found it very difficult going from a big to a small ice rink," says former World and European Figure Skating Championships competitor Valdis Mintals.
"You have to adapt the elements. On a stadium-sized rink you can use the space to get up speed for the big jumps. On a small rink you have to use power."
You might think that – those physical limitations aside – performing in front of cheery paying customers rather than under the hyper-critical gaze of judges would be a less of mental challenge.
If so, you would be wrong. Think different rather than lesser.
"You don't have the pressure of having only a couple of chances to get it right in one or two big competitions. You have to get it right six, seven, eight times a week for 300 or 350 shows a year and all of this time you have to be incredibly fit.
"And you have to act more. You have to make people believe in you, believe in the character. You have to open your soul."
One change that is not so difficult to make is to "up" the artist element in the performance. Even as a figure skater Valdis was used to doing dance classes. As an ice show performer it is a question of more – a lot more – of the same.
Despite the company name, not all of the performers are Russian. Valdis is from Estonia. He was born in the capital, Tallinn in 1979, and was initially a solo skater then changed to pairs. He and partner Viktoria Shklover won prizes at the World and European Championships and were Estonian National Champions for eight consecutive years.
Now he is wining plaudits playing lead characters in the Ice Stars shows. His is the Prince in Cinderella.
His love interest on the ice is Valeria Vorobyeva, a former Russian Junior National Championships bronze medal winner.
His real love is elsewhere in the cast: he is married to another Russian, Katya, who plays the Fairy Godmother. They met while performing with the troupe in the UK.
The demands of touring mean their son, Ervin, seven, is living with Katya's parents in Moscow. "I am proud to say that he now has the time to start skating," says Valdis. If seven sounds young, forget it: he'll have to get his skates on to catch up his dad who started at the age of four.
Cinderella On Ice runs at Plymouth Pavilions from December 26 to January 5 (for details call the box office on 0845 146 1460 or go to www.plymouthpavilions.com