For The Madera Tribune
Disney characters gather to invite attendees to Disney on Ice’s “Follow Your Heart” tour event that began this week and continues through the weekend, ending Monday evening.
When the ice skaters from Disney on Ice Follow Your Heart tour venture into the Central Valley this week, they are continuing doing something they love to do while getting paid for it.
Most of the skaters in the Disney on Ice production have grown up in the figure skating community, working their way up the ladder with Olympic dreams in their head.
For 20-year-old Xinghua Turner, it was an opportunity to do something she loved while performing in front of a different audience every performance.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I competed until 2016 and I decided I wanted to do shows. It’s an amazing opportunity to travel, do something I love and make families happy. I’m so glad to be here.”
Disney on Ice: Follow Your Heart begins Thursday in Fresno’s Selland Arena at 7 p.m. Show times include Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m.
Tickets start a $18 and can be purchased visiting disneyonice.com or call 800-745-3000.
Turner is part of the ensemble in a cast that includes about 45 skaters with about 20 on the ice at the same time.
“I play a napkin in Beauty and the Beast, I’m a fish in Finding Dory, I am one of the hockey players that help Riley win the game,” she said. “I’m in all sorts of numbers. I can change in and out of costumes really quick.”
Because there are so many skaters on the ice, plenty of practice and rehearsal goes in to make sure skaters aren’t running into each other.
“We usually rehearse the first day of shows,” Turner said. “The principles have their ice time. Ensemble people have their time. We practice a few times a week.”
Turner became a part of the Disney on Ice cast last year after her competing career ended. She advanced as far as the nationals. The native of Eagle River, Alaska, began skating at 3 just couldn’t stop skating. She enjoyed performing too much.
“After I competed, I knew I wanted to do shows,” Turner said. “I tried out for this show and I made it. It’s a definitely a different side of skating. I really enjoy the flip side of this. It’s something I can do and love, get paid and travel. I love performing for an audience and making people happy.”
Although she wasn’t able to see any Olympic dreams, Turner is still happy with what she is doing now.
“I think every skater has Olympic dreams,” she said. “When I finished up my career, I knew it wasn’t going to happen so I wanted to move on and do shows. I really like getting to perform for families and seeing the kids’ faces light up when we get on the ice. When I was competing, my favorite part was performing.”
Turner auditioned for Disney on Ice and was accepted last year.
“They are looking for someone with good show presentation, someone who can skate, someone who can play to an audience,” she said. “Basically, someone with good showmanship.”
Turner and the Disney on Ice cast just finished a week in San Diego before heading north to Fresno and then further north to Stockton the next week and San Jose the week after. In addition to the performance part of Disney on Ice, Turner also enjoys the traveling.
“It’s amazing and I love it,” she said. “My favorite city so far as been Denver. I’m from Alaska so I liked being in the mountains. Denver has a great vibe and it’s a great place to be. Every city we’ve been to, we find something to do. It’s exciting to go to every city.”
Turner said that her group heads into town late Sunday or early Monday and usually stays for the week.
“We usually head into the city on Monday and stay for about a week,” she said. “We typically do about seven shows. We always have a couple of days to explore the city.”
The first thing Turner will look for in a new city is where to eat breakfast the next day.
“It’s like a local food stop,” she said. “We try to find something to do in each city.”
Turner keeps herself busy on the road taking photos and also taking a college class.
“I love taking photos,” Turner said. “I am more of a landscape photographer, but I love exploring cities, like finding places to eat or things to do. I’m taking a college class so I’m also doing homework.”
She and the cast have spent about a month in California and Turner is enjoying the weather.
“When I competed, I came here all the time,” she said. “The weather is perfection and the ocean is very nice.”
While Turner is enjoying her first year with Disney on Ice, she hopes to be with the production for a while, but would eventually like to become a pilot.
“I want to something in the aviation field, but I’m leaning to be a pilot.”