Ice takes center stage: 'Sleeping Beauty' depends on deep freeze

Sunday, December 07, 2008
STAMFORD - Twenty-four hours before the first of two performances today of "Sleeping Beauty on Ice," a layer of ice cubes occupied the stage of the Palace Theatre.

If all goes according to plan, by 2 p.m. today, this 36-foot-by-42-foot tray of ice cubes will be transformed into a 2-inch-thick sheet of ice for the performers' skates.

At home in Russia, ice shows such as the St. Petersburg State Ballet's performance of "Sleeping Beauty" took place on rinks. But when the show arrived in the United States about 20 years ago, the producer, Carol Bresner, came up with the idea of creating an ice rink within a theater, said Dasha Oganezov, spokeswoman for Maestro Artist Management, the producer of today's shows.

"It's a much more intimate setting," she said. "And also, because the choreography is so much inspired by ballet, they really felt it was doing service to the ballet."

Because the Stamford Center for the Arts, which operates the Palace Theatre, is in bankruptcy, it cannot produce its own shows. Instead, Maestro Artist Management is acting as an independent producer, renting the theater and assuming the risk for the show, Oganezov said.

Despite the ice, the temperature in the theater at the two performances will remain the same as usual, said Paul Thury, the house manager.

This is possible because the ice is cooled from below. A refrigeration system pumps a mixture of water and antifreeze cooled to 10 degrees Fahrenheit through tubes beneath the ice cubes, which are drenched every 15 minutes by a thin layer of water from a sprayer on a garden hose, said Ed Armstrong, an ice engineer with Yontz Corp., which creates ice rinks like this around the country.
Without the ice cubes, this process would take two days, he said.

Two crew members are scheduled to work throughout the night, spraying down the ice, said Peter Duhaime, a carpenter at the Palace.

By Wynne Parry
Stamford Advocate

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