Michelle Hunt knows her way around an ice rink.
Having worked as a figure skating coach for 25 years, Hunt has often seen up close the passion many skaters bring to the ice. At the same time, she saw that a lack of the resources – both time and money – required of competitive figure skaters prevented many from taking this skating fervor to another level.
So, she did what any hyper-motivated, exorbitantly energetic person would do, and founded a company. The Harmony Theater Company, based in Hartland, provides an outlet for scores of impassioned skaters, gives back to the community, and wins a lot of competitions to boot.
We caught up with Michelle Hunt for a phone interview – not easy, by the way, given the endless hours she spends on the ice – to learn more about her Theater on Ice.
Patch: Can you explain the concept of ‘theater on ice’ for the lay reader/ me?
Hunt: Theater on Ice includes all aspects of figure skating, combined with theater. There’s a story, costumes, music. This avenue of theater allows kids to stay on the ice longer. They really love it. We all really love it. It’s a truly great outlet.
P: How is Theater on Ice different from figure skating?
H: First of all, it’s more accessible. Competitive figure skating can be very expensive and demanding, and the vast majority of skaters just don’t have the money or time for it. To really compete in figure skating, you have to give up your entire life.
P: In your opinion, what is the best show to have come out of Harmony?
H: Wow. Our teams have produced so many amazing and different routines that I can’t think of one that stands above all of the others. We are very competitive. In fact, we took three teams to Spain for international competition and were the only competitors from the U.S. to medal. We have grown so much, and every year the kids come up with even more interesting and creative ideas to bring to the ice. The rule is that you have to, in some way, make it your own. You have to do a story from a different perspective.
For instance, we did Adams Family. There is so much freedom in it and you can do whatever. It’s really wonderful.
P: How much time each week do you spend at the ice rink?
H: I am there every day from at least 1 pm to 5 pm. On Saturdays I get there at 7 am, and I’m on the ice until 5.
P: Has interest in the Harmony teams increased with the Winter Olympics in Sochi on everyone’s mind?
H: Our teams fill up in August, so the Olympics haven’t affected the size or make-up of the teams. But certainly interest in our basic skills program is up. Everyone sees skating on television and wants to do it.
P: What is the age range in the Harmony Theater Company?
H: It’s not just kids. The ages range from 5-years old to 78 on our teams.
P: Your proudest moment?
H: Again, that’s hard to say. There have been so many amazing ones. Every year the kids surprise me with what they are capable of. After only three years of building competitive teams, we went to Logrono, Spain in 2013 for the World’s. We currently hold four of the six national championship titles for Theater on Ice.
The experience has been so positive, that we wanted to give back, and we’ve started a mentor program where our skaters work with local Special Olympics skaters to form an exhibition team. I am so proud of this program. It’s incredibly positive for everyone. I am not sure who gets the most out of it at this point.
Patch note: For anyone interested in the fundraising efforts for the Special Olympics exhibition team, please contact Lisa Johnson at the Harmony Theater Company: Skateharmony@gmail.com.
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