By Amy Engeler
Last week, Ice Theatre of New York, honored Marni Halasa, long-time Chelsea resident and former City Council candidate, with their Alumni Award. The award is given to an individual who has gone on to develop something major within the figure skating community. The company also honored Olympian Jason Brown, as well as presented their Choreography Award to Rohene Ward — two of the most decorated artistic figure skaters today. Both champions expressed innovative and masterful performances at ITNY’s annual gala show on May 8th at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers.
Photo of Sky Rink All Stars performing Spice Girls at Sky Rink for the Skating Club of New York’s Showcase Competition last February: (from L to R) Juliana Sarich, Emily Farrell, Nessie Krim, Sofia Liu and Sarah Bluberg
“To be honored at the same time as artistic giants as Jason Brown and Rohene Ward is a dream,” said Halasa, a US Figure Skating double gold medalist who looks forward to seeing the two perform. “They have given the world the true gift of incredible skating and choreography—almost on a spiritual level—and our sport is undoubtedly better off for it.”
But Halasa has created something incredible of her own: the Sky Rink All Stars, a children’s theatrical skating troupe that has medaled eight years in a row at the United States Figure Skating National Showcase. The team continuously pushes the envelope of what is good theater—using innovative skating skills, choreography, acting and props with skaters from nine years to 17 years old. The team has performed at ITNY events at Riverbank State Park, Bryant Park, South Street Seaport and Rockefeller Center.
“Without Ice Theatre of New York, the Sky Rink All Stars could have never been the team that they became,” explained Halasa. “Ice Theatre has given the team many performance opportunities that allowed them to develop. It may not always be obvious, but it takes a lot of courage and split-second decisions to perform well—and you must do all this with a smile. You don’t blossom as a skater unless you have these crucial experiences.”
Performance has always been a way of life for Halasa. The daughter of academically-inclined immigrant parents—a Filipino mother and Jordanian father—Halasa graduated college from Carnegie Mellon University, achieved a law degree from University of Pittsburgh and a masters in journalism degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. For years, she worked as a legal reporter but it was her love for figure skating that solidified a career at Sky Rink—where she was involved in ITNY repertory pieces such as La Revolte Des Enfants and Hot Chocolate.
“I’ve always listened to that voice within all of us which asks if you are happy. Whenever I was skating, performing with my friends for Ice Theatre, I was happy. I knew these moments were golden opportunities that don’t always come around so often,” she said.
Marni Halasa performing “Spirit of Winter” at Rockefeller Center for Ice Theatre of New York.
It was then that she formed her team, which has skated to iconic pieces from the Cirque du Soleil, the Spice Girls and the Broadway Musical, Matilda. The entertaining programs with elaborate costumes got them their own segment on NY1 (https://youtu.be/GCNfqFoC40Q), a gig at celebrity Johnny Weir’s birthday party, as well as a second-place finish at the Coney Island Mermaid parade.
“I’ve always wanted to give the kids interesting experiences that take them out of their comfort zone, and at venues besides the ice rink,” she said. To this day, Halasa still continues to perform, figure skating as well as roller skating at events. “In my experience, if young skaters can learn how to perform on dime, take risks and be successful at it, that’s when real confidence becomes part of who they are. A little bit of adversity can be substantially transformative.”
Likewise, performance for Halasa did not just stop at the skating arena. Halasa’s run for City Council in 2017 and 2021 in District 3 helped push the Small Business Jobs Survival Act so small business owners would get affordable leases by law. Her newest venture is opening Hells Kitchen restaurant/wine bar, The Purple Tongue, with her entrepreneur husband Peter Cecere and friend Otis Banks. In her opinion, the skills that make the team successful are the same skills that can be applied to other projects.
“You have to have a compelling vision that has universal support, while at the same time give everyone meaningful input. When something is run very democratically, and every person contributes—something magical happens. Not only does the chance for success skyrocket, people are personally fulfilled. You become part of the creative process, become something larger than yourself, and create long-lasting priceless relationships in the process. At the end of the day, that’s what is important.”
Ice Theatre of New York presented their 2023 Home Season Performances at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers on Friday, May 5 at 7 PM and Saturday, May 6 at 7:00 PM with a Benefit Gala and Performance on Monday, May 8 at 6:30 PM. All performances featured solo performances by honorees Jason Brown and Rohene Ward, as well as choreography by Lorna Brown, Alberto Del Saz, Elisa Angeli, Sarah France, Milly Wasserman, the ITNY Ensemble, with World Junior Ice Dance Champions Oona and Gage Brown.