TORONTO - For Elvis Stojko, it's the perfect marriage of two of his passions — the stage and the ice.
"Performing is performing," Stojko said. "Whatever skill it is, there is still a certain aspect of being able to connect with the live audience."
The three-time world figure skating champion will team up with former ice dancer Shae-Lynn Bourne and other skating stars for "Blades on Stage," a skating show with the intimacy of a stage production that opens Christmas Eve at the Princess of Wales Theatre.
Stojko is no stranger to the stage. He played slick defence lawyer Billy Flynn in the hit musical "Chicago" earlier this year.
"It's neat because doing 'Chicago,' and feeling the stage, I saw the similarities between performing on the ice and that," Stojko said. "At first I felt like a fish out of water, performing without my skates and using my voice and that type of thing.
"Now with this, being on stage with skates, it's really cool to be up close and personal with the people."
The show is being held on real ice — there is such a thing as synthetic ice — on a surface measuring 40 by 56 feet. Skaters are accustomed to competing on NHL rinks that measure 85 by 200 feet.
So the 42-year-old Stojko and his castmates, including Bourne, Violetta Afanasieva and Pete Dack, among others, have been laying down pylons to practise, marking out the smaller size of ice surface they have to work with.
"It's intimate, (audience members) are close," Bourne said. "We're so used to having to present to all four sides. But now, you just have the audience, and that's very new when you're designing your program to fit the stage.
"It's that intimate setting, because we're used to having to project to way up there, to 15,000 people. But everyone has a good seat in this, and we can really look into the audience, and they'll really see much more than they'd ever see in any competition or big show that you'd see in an ice rink."
Stojko and Bourne, who won gold with partner Victor Kraatz at the 2003 world championships with a memorable "Riverdance" program, said it wasn't difficult to train for the show.
Both still skate on the professional circuit.
"We never stopped training so it just bleeds into the next show," Stojko said. "The two numbers I'm using here are numbers that I've had before, one I just did in Brazil. The other one is a Christmas number I did a few years ago. We're skating almost all year round. . . We're always trying to stay in shape, and when we get here, we have a couple of days to put together the group numbers, strategically laid out."
Bourne is a skating coach and choreographer. He clients include ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., who recently won the Grand Prix Final.
She's choreographed dozens of programs for skaters this season, from all around the world.
Constantly being on the ice has kept the 38-year-old lean and strong.
"With choreography, you're on the ice with the skater, it helps them to see, and I think you exaggerate as a choreographer or as a coach, to really make somebody understand. . . . I think that keeps me in shape," she said.
"As a choreographer, I'm not training all the time but I'm moving all the time, and dancing all the time."
Bourne and Stojko said their professional skating careers take them around the world, but rarely to cities in Canada. They're thrilled for the opportunity to skate at home in the Mirvish Productions show.
"I haven't performed much in Canada. A lot of my work has been in Asia. I've been doing a lot of shows in the States, Japan, Korea, China," Bourne said. "This is kind of great for Canada too.
"Canada has been known to be one of the best countries producing wonderful skaters but there hasn't been a lot out there as far as shows go, in Canada. So it's kind of nice to be able to actually perform here where family is. It's a nice change."
By Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press