Growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada, it was only natural thatCory Obst started ice skating as a toddler. By middle school, he already was playing hockey.|
Today, the friendly 43-year-old has 20 years of touring the world with ice shows under his belt -- eight as a performer and the last 12 as performance director for Feld Entertainment, which will bring its "Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic" to Moline's i wireless Center from Dec. 13 to 16.
"Around sixth and seventh grade, I started to excel more in figure skating," Mr. Obst recently said. "I really enjoyed it. I liked the competitive nature and the combination of athletics and artistry."
Training in his teen years with a coach and choreographer in Edmonton, Alberta, the young skater was recommended to work in the Ice Capades. Mr. Obst skated in those shows for four years. In his early 20s, he saw his first "Disney on Ice," a production of "Beauty and the Beast," and was hooked.
"I was just blown away by it," Mr. Obst said. "I was blown away by the whole professional quality, the spectacle of it. Even at that age, it just caught me."
He joined Feld Entertainment in 1995, and would treasure seeing the wondrous expressions from kids of all ages in the audiences.
"I love to see the reactions -- all different people's reactions," Mr. Obst said. "It's amazing -- in '100 Years of Magic,' there are so many characters. It's amazing to see Mom react to one character, Dad react to another, and the kids to another."
In the wide-ranging Disney variety show (which includes characters from Pixar films like "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo"), there are 65 characters from 18 screen stories on the ice, portrayed by 47 skaters from 10 countries, Mr. Obst said.
"The girls most love the princesses, and the guys are into Buzz and Woody from 'Toy Story'," he said. "Everyone responds to Mickey and Minnie Mouse."
Seeing the show during the holiday season makes it even more special, Mr. Obst said.
"It's an awesome time of year. People come to the show for that family experience for the holidays," he said. "It's amazing to see the effect you can have on someone. You see grandparents come with grandchildren."
And kids often enjoy coming dressed as their favorite Disney character, he noted. Mr. Obst has seen one whole family dress up as Pixar's "The Incredibles."
Histoughest career challenge wasbecoming a performance director, after skating for years. "I had to learn all the new technical aspects of the job.Then continuing to keep up with the pace of new generations that come into the ice show," Mr. Obst said. "Learning from their point of view and what makes them tick."
Even though he's not on the ice during the show, he gets the same sense of satisfaction in hearing the audience responses, and rehearsing each week on the ice with the cast. "You have to keep in shape," Mr. Obst said. "It definitely gets hard as you get older. You have to listen to and know your body."
He really enjoys travel (ice shows in 35 countries so far), seeing new places, exploring cities and the countryside around where they perform, and catching up with old friends all over the world.
Advice Mr. Obst gives to young skaters includes: "Never give up. Don't letanyone put limitations on what you believe you can do. Believe in yourself and you cando almost anything you want to."
Given Disney's recent acquisition of Lucasfilm and the "Star Wars" franchise, could he see Princess Leia joining the beloved stable of Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, etc. as an on-ice princess?
"I think we could do a good job with it," Mr. Obst said.
To learn more about the show, visit disney.go.com/disneyonice.
If you go
-- What: "Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic."
-- When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13 and Friday, Dec. 14; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.
-- Where: i wireless Center, 1201 River Drive, Moline.
-- Tickets: $12 for all on opening night (except $33 VIP and $47 ice side), and the last show each day for kids age 2-12; others are $15, $20, $33 or $47, available at Ticketmaster outlets, the arena box office, (800) 745-3000 or ticketmaster.com.
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