London Welcomes “Art on Ice”

Nadin Vernon
Leona Lewis and Stéphane Lambiel

Attending figure skating events normally goes hand-in-hand with travel for me, so when the powers that be from “Art on Ice” invited me to a media event in my hometown of London, England this week to promote this tour, it made a nice change from having to catch an early morning flight to some international destination.

Why London you may ask? Well, it is home to Leona Lewis, the musical guest star of “Art on Ice” this season. The 27-year-old London-born singer will perform in shows in Switzerland, Sweden and Finland, together with world-class figure skaters that include Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, Shizuka Arakawa, Evgeni Plushenko, Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat and Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov.

And of course, two-time World champion and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Stéphane Lambiel, who was in London this week to meet with Lewis.

Anton Mosimann’s private dining club in London’s Belgravia provided the perfect setting. I arrived a little early and took my time to explore the different rooms, which were all cosy with roaring fires and a suitable Christmas atmosphere. As I made my way up the narrow staircase of the converted church to the Bentley room, I could already hear Lewis’ voice as she was preparing to meet Lambiel for the first time.

He and Lewis hit it off right away, chatting comfortably about their experiences as performers, their travelling schedules and the fact that they were born only a few hours apart.
Their excitement about working together was clearly visible with Lambiel admitting that he couldn’t wait to perform to his favourite song “Run.”

When I spoke to Lewis, she too expressed her anticipation about collaborating with the skaters. “It’s always great to see people interpret my music and put choreography to it. I really like visuals, and my tours in the past were quite big and dramatic with aerial acts. So I feel like everything is just going to be enhanced by the skaters.”

The Swiss-based show, now in its 17th year, is known for its elaborate productions and this is a perfect match it seems. Lambiel hit the nail on the head when he said, “Leona’s songs are made for skating. I could see so many pairs skating to her beautiful love songs and ballads. Shizuka Arakawa is also perfect for this style.”

Lambiel is planning to slip into two extremes of character for the upcoming shows. On one hand he will be skating a program to Lewis’ music that he described as “beautiful, with a lot of speed and freedom.” For his second routine, “Paint it Black” the band Seven will be providing live vocals to give the performance a rougher and rockier edge. Lambiel promised it will be “crazy and wild, with lots of power.”

Interestingly, I found out that Lewis and “Art on Ice” were independently attracted to collaborating with each other. The singer first heard about the production via her boyfriend, who used to work on the show. “I saw some parts and thought it was amazing. So I expressed my interest and they were really interested in having me,” Lewis said.

The attention of “Art on Ice” CEO Oliver Höner had already been caught by the singer as he watched Lambiel improvise a routine to “Run” at a practice in Davos one day, which led him to further explore the artist.

Lewis is no stranger to the ice either. She used to skate as a child. “I could go backwards, but haven’t done it in years,” she said. When I asked her if she would give it a go in Zürich, she confirmed without hesitation: “Definitely, 100%.”

She said that the love of skating comes from her family. “My mum loves figure skating, so I hope I can fly her out to see one of the shows.”

The X-Factor winner said she was really looking forward to returning to Switzerland. “I’ve been to Zürich before, but it’s so hard to see much when you’re on tour,” Lewis said. “I was there around Christmas time though, so I went to a Christmas market that was lovely. Freezing, but lovely.”

My interview continued on a friendly and informal basis, while mingling over lunch in the Lanson room. This gave Höner the opportunity to show Lewis the storyboards for the show, and for Swiss chef and restaurateur Mosimann the chance to express his delight and welcome the team to his establishment. “I’m very excited. It’s a great honor for us to have “Art on Ice” here with us in London,” he said. Mosimann had previously worked with “Art on Ice” in Zürich, treating VIP guests to his culinary expertise.

As the afternoon progressed, it became apparent just how easy going and down to earth Lewis is, a perfect platform for collaborating with the many acts that will perform at “Art on Ice” in 2013. When asked what special touch he thought the British singer would bring to the show, Lambiel said it would be her ability “to combine glamour and sophistication whilst having both feet on the ground.”

Lambiel recently added his own special touch to “Art on Ice,” in the form of his voice. “Live Your Fantasy” is the new theme song that has just been launched that he will perform live with Larissa Evans during the 2013 season.