There’s no place like home, but Rebecca Andison’s life with Disney On Ice productions that have taken her to many parts of the world is so rewarding and enjoyable, she’s spent the last 17 years as a skater and performance director.
Andison, now 36, grew up on Thetis Island and still has a hard time believing her early days of skating with the Fuller Lake Skating Club eventually led to so many wonderful memories. It often seems like some kind of magical fairy tale.
Well, her life actually is a magical fairy tale every night as she journeys from city to city with Disney On Ice. Her latest tour was in Krakovice, Poland and on the way to Croatia when the Courier caught up to her.
Being in an environment that brings such great joy to people is one of the most compelling parts of the job to Andison.
“Gosh, there’s no better feeling than that,” she conceded.
Behind the scenes, it’s obviously hectic like any occupation but Andison wouldn’t trade any of her abundant experiences on the road for anything.
“You have the idea of what it’s going to be like,” she explained. “There are the glamourous aspects, but like anything it’s hard work.”
The people surrounding her are what make show skating so great, Andison noted. They’re like family to her until she gets back from tour to enjoy the pastoral setting of her childhood home on Thetis with parents Glen and Wendy each May.
It all began for Andison and childhood friend Jenny Aronson when they ventured from Thetis to a public skating session at Fuller Lake and then eventually joined the figure skating club.
“They both went on a Sunday and she never looked back,” remembered Glen. “She loved skating and she took off.”
“I really enjoyed the physicality of it,” recalled Rebecca. “I always really liked music and I played piano at an early age.
“It feels good to do this sport. You get the creative and athletic fulfillment.
“Everybody has their thing that clicks for them and this clicked for me. I can’t say I was the most graceful skater. I was more athletic and strong.”
Andison praised her coaches and instructors over the years for steering her in the right direction, a long list that includes Nancy and Jan Glerup, Ray Schroder, Penny Baker, April Robson, Reija Best and others.
“They really all did play a pivotal role in so many different ways,” said Andison. “It really is a sport that’s absolutely limitless. Once you get the basics down, there are so many interpretations.
“I never really got to a high competitive level. I had a lot more I still could have learned.”
Baker, being an ex-Ice Follies skater, liked to spread the word around to skaters she coached about ice shows. Andison eventually joined one of Baker’s synchronized skating teams (then called precision).
“It was an absolute blast,” recalled Andison. “She’s such a role model and team player.”
After graduating from Chemainus Secondary School, Andison had auditioned for Disney On Ice and started attending the University of Victoria when she got the call from Judy Thomas, still involved as talent director-production coordinator, about her acceptance. Andison withdrew from university and was soon on her way.
The first show she joined was Toy Story 1 in 1999, in a role as a green army soldier, during a North American tour through numerous U.S. and Canadian cities. Rehearsals were in Bradenton, Florida in October of 1999.
“I’d never been anywhere that far from home before,” Andison recalled.
Looking around at all the former Olympians and being surrounded by skaters of all cultural diversities struck a chord with Andison.
“It was such a unique learning experience to be with these guys,” she indicated.
“To learn from that calibre of skating, you feel like you’d won life’s lottery.”
After three weeks of rehearsals, her first show was in Tampa, Florida.
“I remember being kind of terrified, the exhaustion of it,” Andison said.
“Rehearsals don’t prepare you for anything like being in front of thousands of people. I remember tears streaming down my face and crying in my costume.”
Andison went on to skate for seven and a half years on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. “My entire Disney On Ice career, I’ve been an ensemble skater and character skater,” she pointed out.
Andison did nine different productions as a skater during those years, including two different shows of Jungle Adventures. The others were: Toy Story 1, 100 Years of Disney Magic, Dare to Dream, Princesses and Heroes, Frozen, Mickey and Minnie’s Magical Journey and Worlds of Fantasy. The shows typically run from August through May, but some dates differ in the Southern Hemisphere with its opposite seasons.
Between all the shows, Andison has managed to continue her education with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University in Victoria, and a diploma in Marketing Communications from BCIT. She hopes to one day get her Masters degree.
Along the way, Andison got called back into skating as a performance director for Feld Entertainment Inc.’s productions of Disney On Ice and has now spent nine years in that capacity – seven with Princesses and Heroes – along with the occasional fill-in skating roles like she’s doing now.
As a performance director, she’s responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the show, conducting rehearsals, organizing and overseeing public relation events with the media, maintaining a high level of performance and production quality and so much more.
“Being P.D., you’re responsible for the group 24/7 and in so many different ways,” Andison indicated. “It definitely is a lot of work.
“I had not expected to come back to Disney On Ice, but was excited to come back in a management capacity. It was an absolute twist of fate. It’s come full circle.
“When you have found something like figure skating, you wonder if anything can replace it. Being a performance director has been just as awesome in its own right.”
Living out of a suitcase has become part of life for Andison nine months of the year, but she loves to travel. The current tour of Worlds of Fantasy she’s filling in as a skater with will roll on through the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Germany and wind up in Scotland and England.
After that, it’ll be back home for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
“I love where we live on Thetis – we have a hobby farm,” Andison pointed out.
A total contrast from her life on the road, but just the right mix to keep her rejuvenated.