“Charlotte”: Skating spiral inventor

The first star of the ice show on Broadway in 1916

By Olga Fluegge,
special to World Figure Skating

Figure Skating History

Charlotte Oelschlegel (1898-1984) was the first skating theatre star. As a young girl she skated in the cast of ice ballet in “Admiralspalast” in Berlin (1909-1912). This show was held in the style of a musical comedy and largely was based on pantomime and dance presentation.

Charlotte became the first woman to include an Axel jump to her ice show programs as well as the camel spin. She showed some earlier unknown acrobatic elements. Oelschlegel did not skate at any competitions. A skating element she invented was a spectacular spiral in which the body is brought forward until the head is near the ice with a free leg extended very high.

1914 she and 20 members of the ice show company travelled to America for the reopening of the New York Hippodrome. The ice ballet acted in a musical revue “Hip-Hip-Hurray”. The successful production was continued with 425 performances in 300 days. Oelschlegel´s hard to pronounce last name was dropped. She has appeared under her first name “Charlotte”.

Charlotte showed the first ever ballet programs on ice long time before Norvegian star Sonja Henie. The background was the innovative approach of the “Ballet Russe” performances with adding new forms of expression. In 1916 Charlotte played in the first ice skating movie “The Frozen Warning”. Ten years later she and her skating partner Curt Neumann invented the backward outside death spiral. After the World War II the couple lived in West Berlin where Charlotte taught skating for many years. In 1985 she was elected to the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

Sources:
Hampe, M: Stilwandel im Eiskunstlauf, 1994;
Polednik, H: Sport und Spiel auf dem Eis, 1979;
Hines, J R: Historical Dictionary of Figure Skating, 2011.

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