Edward Villella Takes to the Ice

The strains of Tchaikovsky’s Elegy drift from the speakers high above Sun Valley’s outdoor rink as a dozen skaters, members of Ice Theatre of New York, mark a new piece in their repertory. Couples stand face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder, hands on each others’ waists and backs, moving arms and legs slightly to the strains of the music and listening to the corrections and notes given by an elegant man, dressed casually in jeans and a New  York University sweatshirt, leaning on the rail.Edward Villella, Douglas Webster, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre take a short break from rehearsals for Ice Theatre of New York

Edward Villella, Douglas Webster, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre take a short break from rehearsals for Ice Theatre of New York

At the edge of the rink, Douglas Webster, the artistic director of Ice Theatre of New York, confers with this man, the legendary Edward Villella who is overseeing the rehearsal with laser-like intensity. “Do you like the arms here, or here,” Webster asks, demonstrating two possibilities. In response, Villella who is considered the most celebrated male dancer of his time, the greatest produced in America, responds by showing the port de bras he prefers. Even in that tiny gesture, Villella’s tremendous grace, passion and power, the hallmarks of his storied dance and choreography career, are apparent even to the untrained eye.

Villella joined the New York City Ballet where he became a soloist in 1958 and principal dancer in 1960. He is perhaps best known as the original male lead in many important ballets, especially a revival George Balanchine’s exquisite 1929 masterpiece, Prodigal Son. He left New York to found Miami City Ballet in 1986, bringing that company to international acclaim. He is a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton. In the rarefied world of ballet, he is royalty.

Villella is accustomed to working with the best ballet dancers in the world but, in Sun Valley, turned his attention to ice dance

Villella is accustomed to working with the best ballet dancers in the world but, in Sun Valley, turned his attention to ice dance (photo: Villelladance.org)

Transferring a lifetime of working with prima ballerinas en pointe and danseurs in soft shoes to dancers laced tightly into skate boots with sharp, inflexible boots on their feet is a challenge Villella said he is enjoying. “The flat foot is where it is hard for me to translate,” laughed Villella at a rehearsal at the outdoor rink earlier this week. “But the arms, they are universal.”

Reveries is a special piece Villella is choreographing for Ice Theatre of New York’s Gala, a tribute to Kurt Browning and Sonia Rodriguez, a ballerina, in New York City on October 25. Villella describes Reveries, an 11-minute work featuring five couples, as a “lush romantic ballet about unattainable love.”

Ice dancer Kim Navarro said it’s been an honor working with the ballet great. “A door has been opened to this rich and historic ballet world and it is an honor to get to peek through it,” she explained. “It feels like we get to peer into a world that is something much greater than us, just skating. Just to be in Edward’s presence is a great honor that has not been lost on any of the skaters. May I also say how humble he is? He keeps thanking us for being willing participants of his work. Amazing!”

Sun Valley favorites Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre rehearse Elegy

Sun Valley favorites Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre rehearse Reveries

Sun Valley’s audiences can enjoy a performance of the piece set to Elegy and see Villella’s signature style, as well as the well-known ice dance company’s other repertory for the upcoming season at a special show on October 2. The show is free and features skaters from all over the globe, as well as Sun Valley On Ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, Joel Dear, Ty Cockrum and Natalia Zaitseva.

In the meantime, Villella, who is in Sun Valley with his wife, Linda Carbonetto, is enjoying fall in Idaho. Villella said he hasn’t been here in 30 years. “It is the most serene place I have been in a long time,” he said in his soft voice. He added that he is truly enjoying working here amid our spectacular fall scenery at the iconic rink. Linda, a former Canadian Olympic figure skater, is also relishing fall in Sun Valley, even finding time to skate.

The legendary Edward Villella works with his dancers on the ice

The legendary Edward Villella works with his dancers on the ice

For me, who seriously studied ballet throughout my childhood and became a fervent (fanatical?) fan of the New York City Ballet, meeting Villella left me speechless. It is always interesting, how in this little rural corner of Idaho, so many of us have the chance to meet or see our heroes, whether they are ski racers, actors, cellists, mountain bikers, pop stars, figure skaters, or in my case, a ballet dancer.

Be sure to come out on October 2 to enjoy a gorgeous night of ice dance and to get a glimpse of the greatness that is Edward Villella.

–RES  

Reaching Higher Ground at the Rink

What do you get when you mix a special performance by the Ice Theatre of New York, one of the world’s most famous ballet choreographers and Higher Ground of Sun Valley? You get a very special ice show coming our way on Wednesday, September 18.

Come out and enjoy a fall evening with a fantastic ice show -- all for Higher Ground, an organization that changes lives

Come out and enjoy a fall evening with a fantastic ice show -- all for Higher Ground, an organization that changes lives

Ice Theatre of New York, under the artistic direction of Douglas Webster, has made Sun Valley’s beautiful two rinks its home since September 11, bringing a three-week residency to our figure skating Shangri-La. Working with favorite Sun Valley on Ice show skaters like Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, Joel Dear, Ty Cockrum and Natalia Zaitseva, and other professionals from all over the country and the world, the residency is preparing the renown skating company for a special performance in New York in October. In the works are rehearsals on existing and new repertory pieces. Swing by the Sun Valley outdoor rink between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and, weather permitting, get a rare behind-the-scenes peek at how Ice Theatre of New York trains and prepares.

The one-and-only Edward Villella rehearses with members of Ice Theatre of New York

The one-and-only Edward Villella (right, with artistic director Douglas Webster) rehearses with members of Ice Theatre of New York

Now, cue the famous choreographer. The one and only Edward Villella, formerly of the New York City Ballet and founder of Miami City Ballet, is rinkside in Sun Valley lending his considerable talents to this project. To those of us who love ballet, he is a superstar.

Now, enter the excellent cause. All bleacher seats on Wednesday evening are being sold for a suggested donation of $10 to support the Higher Ground’s military programs. Higher Ground is a Ketchum-based non-profit that works with injured veterans and their families and loved ones. Men and women who have served and suffered physical injuries, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD and/or MST) come to Sun Valley to participate in snowsports, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and other healing camps under the care and expertise of Higher Ground.

Higher Ground offers numerous programs throughout the year to veterans that utilize Sun Valley's amazing, healing outdoors

Higher Ground offers numerous programs throughout the year to veterans that utilize Sun Valley's amazing, healing outdoors

A special group that is holding a convention in Sun Valley this week reached out to Higher Ground, offering to help them fundraise for their vital projects. Erin Rheinschild, Director of Philanthropy at Higher Ground explained, “they had a ice show on their schedule this week, but planned to enjoy dinner at the Lodge and then watch the show from the terrace. That left the bleachers empty. They said they appreciate and value the work we do and would like, with Sun Valley, to offer those seats as a fundraiser for our military programs. Of course we said yes!”

So, on Wednesday night, come out to enjoy a sneak peek of the Ice Theatre of New York repertory, a headline performance by perennial favorite Jumpin’ Joe, the amazing core skaters of Sun Valley On Ice, all while supporting the life changing work of Higher Ground.

Expect some exciting extras, too. According to Rheinschild, a Color Guard from Mountain Home Air Force Base will be in attendance. They will also have a terrific silent auction and a pass the hat. “This event brings a great deal of awareness to everyone about our programs,” Rheinschild said. “We encourage everyone to come out, enjoy a fabulous show and learn more about Higher Ground.”

Tickets are available at the door for a suggested donation of $10. Seats are first come, first served and doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, call 208-726-9298 or click HERE.

Members of the Ice Theatre of New York look forward to showcasing their repertory for Sun Valley audiences

Members of the Ice Theatre of New York look forward to showcasing their repertory for Sun Valley audiences

Please check back to this blog for both a detailed look at Edward Villella and the Ice Theatre of New York in advance of their free performance in Sun Valley scheduled for October 2. Please also watch for a story on the tradition that Higher Ground continues – a long history of Sun Valley as a place of healing.

–RES

Fire, Now Ice

After the stress and uncertainty of the past two weeks, it is probably safe to say everyone in the Wood River Valley could use a little entertainment right about now — preferably something cool after all the heat generated by the Beaver Creek Fire.

Sun Valley On Ice is the coolest ticket in town and this week it's free

Sun Valley On Ice is the coolest ticket in town and this week it's free and for a great cause

Sun Valley has just the ticket and invites you to be their guest this Saturday night, August 24, for the spectacle that is Sun Valley On Ice. These ice shows are synonymous with the resort and have showcased the finest figure skaters in the world for more than 70 years. If you haven’t been to an ice show for a while, or even if you have, be sure to come by on Saturday night when general admission is free. Seating in the bleachers will be first come, first served and it promises to be a night to remember!

Best of all, not only will you enjoy a wonderful evening of excitement beneath the wide expanse of Idaho’s summertime, nighttime sky, you will be supporting a great cause. In lieu of charging for entrance Saturday night, Sun Valley is asking that patrons donate to the Wildland Firefighters Foundation. Without the bravery and dedication of more than 1,500 firefighters waging war against the flames up and down valley this month, much of what we collectively cherish could have been lost. This is one way Sun Valley is thanking the firefighters for their efforts.

More than 1,500 firefighters protected the Valley from the monster Beaver Creek Fire. We thank them and raise money for them Saturday night. (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

More than 1,500 firefighters protected the Valley from the monster Beaver Creek Fire. We thank them and raise money for them Saturday night. (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation, located in Boise, focuses on helping families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assisting injured firefighters and their families. Head of Marketing Jack Sibbach said Sun Valley “honors and acknowledges past, present and future members of the wildland firefighting community,” and “wishes to bring recognition to wildland firefighters.”

We profoundly thank the wildland firefighters for putting themselves at risk day after day to protect this amazing place (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

We profoundly thank the wildland firefighters for putting themselves at risk day after day to protect this amazing place (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

 

Among Sun Valley’s core skaters, keep an eye on Joel Dear and ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre who recently electrified the country with their eye popping Aerial Ice act on the television show America’s Got Talent. The threesome advanced to the final rounds with the rest of their ensemble at Radio City Music Hall before being told that they wouldn’t be moving on.

The only fire you will see Saturday night is in Ashley Clark's hot act (photo Bob McDowell)

The only fire you will see Saturday night is in Ashley Clark's hot act (photo Bob McDowell)

And you will see some fire Saturday night, but it will come from skater Ashley Clark. One of her solo acts this season incorporates her recent training as a fire dancer. It is truly mesmerizing.

Grab a blanket to sit on, come early for a glass of wine or a beer and be sure to bring a jacket for cooler evening temperatures. The suggested donation is $20, but that is by no means a requirement for attendance. The evening’s entertainment begins at dusk (around 9 p.m.) and doors open at 7 p.m.

If you’d like to make a real night of it and celebrate the growing containment of the fire, dinner and show tickets are available for purchase for $99 and include a wonderful buffet at Gretchen’s Restaurant terrace and a great view of all the action on the ice.

Sun Valley On Ice is one of the Resort’s longest-running traditions and a big part of what makes Sun Valley, Sun Valley. Come to the rink Saturday night to honor the firefighters, cheer on the skaters and enjoy what is sure to be a spectacular, and relaxing, late summer’s night. Once again, thank you firefighters.

–RES

Let us entertain you. The cast of Sun Valley On Ice performs beneath the stars earlier this summer.

Let us entertain you. The cast of Sun Valley On Ice performs beneath the stars earlier this summer.

Sun Valley’s Got Talent

The Sun Valley Pavilion became a rehearsal space this week for Aerial Ice, a skating act electifying America's Got Talent and starring skaters from Sun Valley on Ice

The Sun Valley Pavilion became a rehearsal space this week for Aerial Ice, a skating act electifying America's Got Talent and starring skaters from Sun Valley on Ice

Anyone who has attended a world-famous Sun Valley on Ice show in the past few years knows that ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre and cast member (and skating aerialist) Joel Dear have talent. And they have it in spades. Now the rest of the country will know it, too, as our three skaters, along with aerialist Angela Kim and professional pairs skaters Tosha Hanford and Chris Trefil electrify the country with “Aerial Ice.” During tryouts in Los Angeles, Aerial Ice debuted on America’s Got Talent to a standing ovation from the judges and audience alike. America’s Got Talent, or AGT for short, is one of the most popular programs on television. Each season, AGT invites singers, dancers, magicians and acts of any and all persuasions to compete to win a cool $1 million prize.

Until this year, AGT had never had a skating act. Now they have one no one will ever forget. Aerial Ice, led by artistic director Jill Schulz, received a unanimous “yes” vote from judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel to move through to the second phase of the competition in Las Vegas. Klum said the act was “nerve wracking, it was exciting, it was dangerous, it was spectacular. I loved it!” Click here to see the audition performance.

Though his preferred aerial apparatus is a hoop, Sun Valley on Ice skater Joel Dear makes easy work of the silks, too

Though his preferred aerial apparatus is a hoop, Sun Valley on Ice skater Joel Dear makes easy work of the silks, too

Skating to Krewella’s hit song “Alive,” the troupe performed on a large sheet of synthetic ice while Joel and Angela “flew” above the stage, performing beautiful choreography on dramatic “silks” that hung from the ceiling. During the audition it was hard to know where to look — every member of the group was so, well, talented.

During the Las Vegas week on AGT, the six skaters appeared onstage before the judges unsure of their fate as one-third of the acts that made it through the first round were sent home, one-third had to audition again and one-third were told they were going directly through to the big show – the stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Aerial Ice heard those magic word, “We’ll see you in New York!” —  one of 60 acts to make the finals. For the next few weeks about 12 acts will perform live during each episode that airs on NBC Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Aerial Ice was not at liberty to reveal the date of their performance, so we will all just have to stay tuned!

The Sun Valley Pavilion provides a pretty nice space for rehearsing and planning

The Sun Valley Pavilion provides a pretty nice space for rehearsing and planning

This week, however, the six performers have been practicing right in our backyard, in what Brent calls the “most beautiful rehearsal space in the world.” With Sun Valley’s support, Aerial Ice took over the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion, working for eight hours a day on the program that will bring New York to its feet. A huge sheet of plastic ice dominated the Pavilion stage and technical experts rigged silks and other flying apparatuses from the rafters. The entire team, that also includes highly accomplished skaters Karen Kresge and Lisa Navarro, and everyone else that helps make the magic happen, came to Sun Valley. 

During long days of Aerial Ice rehearsals, Kim, Brent and Joel still found the time to walk a few hundred yards to the Sun Valley skating rinks to give a lesson or rehearse for this week’s highly anticipated Sun Valley on Ice show featuring Olympic Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek.

For Kim, the support of the skating community for Aerial Ice has been amazing. “So many accomplished skaters are on board, Tweeting about Aerial Ice and sharing their enthusiasm,” she said. Her ultimate goal with this project is to increase viewership of the sport and this evolving genre that is so beautiful and that she is so passionate about — to connect with the audience in a whole new way.

Two-time US Bronze Medalists Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre bring grace, elegance and daring to each performance

Two-time US Bronze Medalists Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre bring grace, elegance and daring to each performance

Be sure to buy tickets to Sun Valley on Ice to see all this talent for yourself, as well as the rest of the supremely wonderful, entertaining cast. Then, tune into AGT, call in your vote for Aerial Ice and cheer on the home team!

Congratulations to Brent, Joel and Kim for taking Aerial Ice all the way to New York! Stay tuned to this blog for updates on their progress.

–RES