Carmen on Ice
By Olga Fluegge,
special to World Figure Skating
Figure Skating Movies
The movie Carmen on Ice is unique. This dance film is free of spoken scenes and differs significantly from the earlier ice-revue films, which have the movie character and mix of dialogues with dance performances. The story is told entirely through choreography.
The idea of making Carmen as a movie on ice appeared due to Katarina Witt’s performances at 1988 Olympics in Calgary. Figure skating fans can remember that her winning free program was on the music from the opera Carmen. According to Katarina “this crazy idea” was supported by two film producers: Thomas Bürger from the East Germany (former GDR) and Bernd Eichinger from the West Germany. After the Olympics in Calgary Katarina Witt become the first East German champion, who was allowed to travel freely outside the country in order to continue to skate professionally. She persuaded the GDR authorities to allow her to act in this film. Brian Orser and Brian Boitano were invited to play the roles of Escamillio and Don Jose. Sandra Bezic and Michael Seibert worked as choreographers for Carmen on Ice.
The film has been produced and financed by ZDF film company from the West Germany in the autumn of 1989 in Seville, Spain. Every production like that encounters some technical problems. Brian Boitano remembers that they had ten days of solid rain, so they couldn’t work at this period. In addition, the ice technicians had mixed the dirt with the ice so that it looked like they were skating on the ground. Producers had to remove all jumping scenes because the skaters completely lost the edges on their blades by the end of the movie shooting.
Despite the difficulties, Carmen on Ice was one of Katarina Witt’s proudest achievements. She recalls that it was a very stressful time: they learned choreography directly on the stage because there was not enough time to practice it. As the weather was very bad in Seville, the movie shooting had to move to Berlin, to Werner Seelenbinder ice rink. In February 1990 the film was released in West Germany first and then in the United States. The three main performers were honored with an Emmy Award for extraordinary achievement in the category Outstanding Performance in Classical Music/Dance Programming.
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