Skater lives dream with ‘Disney on Ice’

Photo provided by The Ehrhardt Group -- Dancers raise Maria Starr, who plays Belle, off the ice in a number from the 'Disney on Ice' show 'Rockin Ever After.'
Photo provided by The Ehrhardt Group -- Dancers raise Maria Starr, who plays Belle, off the ice in a number from the 'Disney on Ice' show 'Rockin Ever After.'

For a kid from Louisiana, ice is magical enough as it is, but adding a bunch of talented ice skaters dressed as Disney characters into the mix is the stuff of which dreams are made.

Since 1981, “Disney on Ice” shows have entertained millions across the globe, and their newest spectacle, Rockin’ Ever After, will continue that tradition in the Baton Rouge River Center beginning Thursday through May 12.

In Rockin’ Ever After, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy put on a talent show full of Disney favorites. Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel from Tangled, Merida from Brave and Beauty and the Beast’s Belle all make solo appearances before coming together for a grand finale.

Maria Starr, who plays Belle in the show, comes from a traditional ice skating background. Growing up, she never expected to be skating alongside talking clocks and candelabras, but now she loves it.

“I definitely am more of a performer. I like the technical elements, but my favorite part is presentation and really performing for an audience,” Starr said.

There’s no Fairy Godmother for figure skaters, so instead, Starr spent years honing her skills on the ice.

“I knew people that I worked with that were home-schooled so that they could skate daily for hours and hours, but I went to normal high school and skated two hours every day after school. It’s a lot of skating, but that’s really what it takes to become a figure skater,” she said.

Starr remembers seeing The Little Mermaid on Ice when she was a child. Now that she’s the one performing, she gets to see the same joy and wonder she once felt on the faces of the audience.

“It’s a lot of fun to portray those characters and make those kids really believe that these characters are coming to life,” Starr said. “You can see in their eyes how amazed they are that they’re right in front of their favorite characters.”

Bringing a beloved character to life on ice can be tricky, especially considering the Disney princess tradition of wearing long dresses. Maria said that learning to skate in Belle’s iconic yellow gown was worth the extra effort.

“It’s definitely something that you get used to,” she said. “The costumes are so impressive. They put so much into them, and we have so many talented costumers that make them all. They look amazing up there, and you just adjust to it.”

Starr had to learn on the job. After all, most figure skaters can triple axel to their heart’s content without having to worry about colliding with a talking teacup or being dropped by Prince Charming mid-routine. Starr embraces the learning experience.

“I love what I do. I get to do the single skating that I love, and I’ve also gotten to learn pair skating, or adagio skating,” she said. “It’s a new challenge, and I really like that. It’s rewarding. And the audience always finds it impressive when you’re flying through the air and a guy is holding you up with one arm.”

Starr seems as enchanted by “Disney on Ice” as her audience members are bound to be. To her, skating in part of such a huge production is a dream come true.

“I never even thought it was possible to be a part of this production, so I guess I want to share that with kids who skate and those who don’t. They can start any time. I just want to share that it’s possible. You can be a part of something like this,” Starr said.

Starr loves that the show brings stories, costumes and classic Disney characters to the world of ice skating, and she thinks that audiences will, too.

“I think this is a really awesome way to reach people that wouldn’t normally watch figure skating. They can see it in a different light with the theater aspect of it, too,” Starr said.

“It’s just awesome to be a part of that and to know that we can perform for that many people and make that many people’s days. That’s pretty cool.”