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Speaking With... Dorothy Hamill 03.08.13

Dorothy Hamill is among all-star lineup for 'Stars Ice.'

Dorothy Hamill is among the all-star lineup for "Stars on Ice."

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‘STARS
ON ICE’

♦ 7:30 p.m. March 8

♦ Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont

♦ Tickets, $25-$50

♦ (800) 745-3000;
www.ticketmaster.com

Updated: March 7, 2013 11:10AM



She captivated the world at the 1976 winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, winning a gold medal in women’s figure skating and winning the hearts of her homeland, where she would come to be known as “America’s Sweetheart.” The joy of victory was capped off by Hamill’s boblike haircut, which ignited a craze among women and their hairstylists across the globe.

She captivated the world at the 1976 winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, winning a gold medal in women’s figure skating and winning the hearts of her homeland, where she would come to be known as “America’s Sweetheart.” The joy of victory was capped off by Hamill’s boblike haircut, which ignited a craze among women and their hairstylists across the globe.

Hamill’s skating career eventually led her to four primetime television specials, world tours with the “Ice Capades” in the late 1970s to mid ’80s, and eventually to “Stars on Ice” in 1986 for a two-year stint. She returned to “Stars on Ice” in January for the current national tour, which arrives in Chicago on March 8.

More pressing is that other engagement on Hamill’s schedule — “Dancing with the Stars” — premiering at 7 p.m. March 18 on ABC.

The Chicago-born Hamill, 56, talked to the Sun-Times about her life on the ice rink and in the ballroom.

Question:It’s been quite some time since your last tour with “Stars on Ice.”

Dorothy Hamill: It’s been a while to say the least. We’re actually in rehearsals now. We have to rehearse almost every day to maintain the level of professionalism we want in the show. We have the last two shows of the tour coming up, the one in Chicago and then Portland. Then this tour is over. It gets a little harder to stay focused when the end of a tour is in sight, but we do. Once I started skating with the shows it was so eye-opening. Skating up to 12 shows a week is unbelievably exhausting and demanding.

Q.So how do you build up your stamina to sustain a skating show tour?

DH: Since I hadn’t toured in a while, I was trying to get my feet to cooperate on the ice again by spending hours each day skating. I’d missed that actually. It wasn’t necessarily about getting into the gym and working with weights; it was more just tooling around and slowly getting the movement back.

Q. What routines do you perform in the show?

DH: I do a solo to “As If We Never Said Good-Bye” from “Sunset Boulevard,” and Kurt Browning and I have a duet to “Me and My Shadow.” I never thought I’d get the chance to skate alongside him, so that’s been such a thrill for me. And this is his last full-out tour, so it’s kind of bittersweet. I also dance as part of a quartet for another number to music from [the film] “Neverland.” Then I’m in some ensemble numbers. It’s a lot of skating!

Q.Why do you think these ice shows still resonate so much with audiences around the world?

DH: It’s a chance to see these amazing world-class champions and Olympians showcasing a side of skating that is all about entertainment, not competition. This is an extraordinary group of skaters. Back in the day, the “Ice Capades” and “Stars on Ice” were the only really big family tours that “came to town,” outside of the circus. There wasn’t a lot of family entertainment choices in these arenas like there are today. Cities would wait for months for the shows to come to town. It was traditional family outings. And I think it still is.

Q.Did you ever get tired over all the fuss that was made of your iconic Olympics haircut?

DH: No. But it was always kind of interesting to me as to why anyone would be so fascinated or care about hair so much. I lucked out because I did research and found a guy to cut it, and I guess it was just became stylish back then. [The late actress] Bonnie Franklin and [her “One Day at a Time” co-star] Mackenzie Phillips and I all had the same variation of the cut for many years.

Q.Now you’re about to embark on “Dancing with the Stars.” Were you a fan of the show, and how did you get approached to join this season’s cast?

DH: I’ve been a big fan from the very beginning. I’d been to the show a few times to visit with [Olympic skating champion and season 10 “DWTS” competitor] Evan Lysacek. And I always wanted to be considered for it. But I didn’t get the call to be on the show until four days before they made the cast announcement. I just got lucky I guess.

Q.Olympic figure skaters (not to mention Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ono) have done well on “Dancing with the Stars,” namely Lysacek and Kristi Yamaguchi, who won season six. Did you get any advice from Evan or Kristi?

DH: Kristi said, “Listen to your partner!” We’re solo skaters and used to making our bodies go where we want. That’s not at all the idea when you have to dance with a partner.

Q.You are partnered with Tristan McManus. What kind of a coach is he? Tough love or laid-back?

DH: Tristan is patient, patient, patient! He’s a saint. I’ve never seen frustration on his face though we’ve only been training for three days. I know he’s gotta be frustrated, because I am.

Q.How similar are skating and ballroom dancing? Or are they worlds apart?

DH: The dancing is sorta similar to skating but dancing really isn’t about movement; it’s all about the rhythm. People think skating would translate very easily to dancing but it really doesn’t. Dancing is a lot of fun and not as dangerous as being on the ice. But I’m starting to feel like the hippo in “Fantasia” [Laughs] and that’s embarrassing and humiliating. I have the most incredible partner in Tristan, but I’m starting to think he has the worst partner in me. We’ll see.

Q. Did you study dance when you trained as a skater?

DH: I didn’t study dance. I had some ballet lessons because I needed it for posture and for my arms, mostly. My skating coach said I really needed it, from the belly button up, as opposed to the footwork. In skating, the shoes don’t move. In ballroom, your feet move in all sorts of ways. So it’s very different. The dancing is a different kind of physically demanding work.

Q. What has early training for “DWTS” been like? Is it all about the basic steps or do you jump right in and learn a dance right out of the gate?

DH: Well, after four steps I’m pretty much lost right now! But Tristan has been teaching me basic steps. And we just got our music for our first dance. It’s a contemporary dance. We started the choreography yesterday. We’ll be getting the music for our second dance soon. As for rehearsals, we’re only allowed right now to work four hours with a half hour break, for the first two weeks of competition. After that I guess we’re on our own in terms of how much time we choose to rehearse.

Q. Do you notice the audience, or does it all become a big blur when you’re out there on the ice and presumably when you’ll be in the ballroom?

DH: I was trained to perform live as a skater in front of an audience so that’s not daunting to me. A lot of the competitors have never performed in front of a live audience and that can be very hard. I really admire people who’ve never done that and now they’re just going out there and training to do that. The mind is pretty powerful. In skating you learn to click into that zone and focus not necessarily on what you’re doing but if you’re doing it well. The same is true for dancing. I hope. But I do notice the audience. Especially in an ice show. That’s a huge part of it.

Q. What’s your take on the “Dancing with the Stars” costumes, which can be very revealing and have often been compared to the sparkly costumes of professional skating?

DH: The costumes are very different, though I haven’t had a wardrobe fitting yet. They are very revealing, that’s true. I’m just hoping mine won’t be too revealing. I’m the oldest person on the show this season. That was a revelation! I just have to make sure they cover up as much as possible. But I am looking very forward to the spray tan on my legs! That will be fun. My legs are ice skaters’ legs. No tan in sight.

Q.Which dances are you dreading and which are you looking forward to the most?

DH: I’m intimidated by the Jive and the Quickstep, I think. The quickness and the rhythm of the steps of those dances as far as I’ve seen are very intimidating. In skating we get to glide. Interestingly, Kristi said the Fox Trot was the most difficult for her.



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