When we’re young, the holiday season can seem like a magical time.
It’s filled with flying reindeer, elves, Santa Claus, Christmas lights and hordes of presents for seemingly no reason.
While some of that magic may fade with time, there’s still something special about the Christmas season.
Whether it’s the lights twinkling in the trees and reflecting off the snow, the buzz of energy that flows throughout groups of people or the joy of watching little ones get their first taste of the holiday.
Through all stages of life, there’s nothing quite as magical as Christmas.
Except for maybe Disney.
It’s fitting then that this December the Xcel Energy Center hosts “Disney On Ice: Dare To Dream.”
The show tells the stories of some of Disney’s favorite princesses, including Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Tiana. Each princess is powerful and fearless as she conquers her fears and accomplishes her dreams.
In this production, Cinderella is portrayed by a Chaska woman, Lauren Anderson. Anderson took time to chat with me about her experiences on the ice and skating with Disney.
Obviously being form Minnesota, ice rinks weren’t difficult to find! But how was it you got started with figure skating?
Anderson: I was about 7-years-old. At the time I was trying a lot of different sports: karate, gymnastics, running, dance, and soccer. Pretty much every kind of sport there was I was trying it and seeing how I liked it. [At that time] the Olympics were on and I thought, “Oh, figure skating!” Being from Minnesota it was kind of a natural fit. You at least know how to walk on the ice from a young age. So I tried it, and I fell in love with it. It was clear that it was a passion for me at a young age.
That’s wonderful that you took to it so quickly! So, you mention that Minnesotans tend to have experiences with ice early on. Did you go out to skate at rinks or parks when you were young?
Anderson: Before I saw the Olympics I had never tried it. After that, I would go out and skate on a little pond by our house. We would clear it off and skate there when it was cold enough.
I can definitely relate to that! So, before you started skating with Feld (the company that produces Disney on Ice), where were you skating?
Anderson: I started skating in Chaska then I switched over to work with different coaches in Edina. It was a club that you could be a part of. There were about eight or nine girls around my age that were a part of the group. It was really cool to grow up in that atmosphere. We were all on the same level. We worked together and pushed each other. Figure skating can be pretty competitive, so it was nice to have that friendly competition to train with.
That sounds like a great way to experience the sport and build your skill. So, with figure skating you can do performance or competition. How did you pick the performance route?
Anderson: I always really loved the performance part about competitions. The second mark, what they call the Artistic Mark, it was always my favorite part. I enjoyed the technical aspect as well of course, but being able to skate to music and feel something is almost like watching a beautiful ballet on ice. My senior year of high school I decided I wanted to give professional figure skating a try. So I auditioned and I got it. Then in a few months, all of a sudden I was in Mexico City doing my first tour!
Wow! That’s awesome! Tell me, what is your favorite thing about being on the ice?
Anderson: I guess if I have to narrow it down, when I skate I feel like I’m flying for a bit.
That sounds like a wonderful feeling to experience. So, Disney is so iconic. What is it like to be a part of this show?
Anderson: It’s great. I grew up watching Disney movies and having a favorite story. I would read the stories, watch the movies and, when I was older, visit the parks. So, being able to help portray that magic and to bring it to different cities around the world is such an honor. It’s a very big responsibility. I love it. Then combining it with skating, it’s all my favorite things in one place.
I can see how that would be very surreal and magical. What is your favorite thing about playing Cinderella?
Anderson: Being able to portray the role of Cinderella is really a dream come true. She is such a lovely princess in that she is so kind. I feel like she has a really great message. Even though so many bad things happen to her she never gives up hope. She always hopes for something better, and I think that is such a nice message to portray and be able to share with people
She does have such a wonderful message to share with audiences; I can see how that would be very moving experience. If there was another Disney show you could be a part of, what would it be?
Anderson: I always really loved “101 Dalmatians.” Mostly because I’m a really big dog person. I think it’d be so fun to be part of a show like that too, where you’d have puppies everywhere!
That would be so much fun! But also very challenging! Tell me, what is one of the challenging things about this show in particular?
Anderson: One of the biggest challenges, which a challenge is always something good to overcome, is that we do have so many different cultures and backgrounds on the show. So, in the beginning it takes some time to figure out how all the cultures mesh together. But as in any job, it takes time to figure out how to meld as a group.
How do you help that process along?
Anderson: We just started in September so we’re only a few months running. But I think things are started to get ironed out and people are starting to learn from each other. One thing we do is we have different nights, so we have a Filipino night where we try to make Filipino food or and Indian night and we get Indian food. It’s nice because everyone is really invested in the relationships.
That sounds like so much fun! So, aside from trying different cuisines on your off days, what is something that people would be surprised to learn about these shows?
Anderson: Our cast is made up of performers from all over the world. It’s really cool because at the end of the tour we become so close that we’re almost like a family, so then you have family members who live all over the world! On our show right now we have 10 different nationalities.
That’s so great. It must be so much fun to not only get to travel to different cities around the world but experience their culture first hand. So, now you will be home in Minnesota. Tell me, what do you like about performing in Minnesota? What do you like about performing at the Xcel?
Anderson: I’m so excited. I cannot wait. I’m literally having a countdown. I am so excited to be able to be so close to my family and friends so close to the holidays. It will be nice to see all the decorations up. As for the Xcel, I’m really excited to perform there. I’ve never performed there. The last time I was in the Twin Cities I was at the Target Center.
Well, I’m sure the Xcel Energy Center is excited to have you as well! So, why do you think this show is good for the holiday season?
Anderson: It’s such a wonderful show in that it’d be such a great gift item, or it’s a great way to get the family together. It’s really a show for everyone. It has everything.
Final question, and it’s kind of a touch one, what is your all-time favorite Disney movie?
Anderson: I think I’d have to say, other than “Cinderella” and “101 Dalmatians”, it’s a tie with “The Lion King” and “Fantasia.”