In Augusta, where ponds and lakes don't support much ice fishing and ice skates could have gone the way of the Edsel if not for minor-league hockey, folks might not know a triple axle from a camel spin.
But that didn't matter Monday night at a sold-out Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
A horde of international figure skating champions, including Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano, Phillipe Candeloro and Katarina Witt, dazzled the crowd as the 40-city Champions on Ice 1999 Winter Tour skated into the Garden City for one performance.
In a high-tech marriage of cabaret and athletics, each skater was introduced as spotlight images of the Olympic rings were shown in colorful display on the ice. Each performer skated short introduction routines, then circled the ice together, with lights swirling and sound system pumping.
The skaters performed full-length routines to music they selected, ranging from dramatic pieces from Les Miserables to funk numbers such as Tower of Power's Give it Up.
Dressed in swashbuckling attire and brandishing a fencing foil while skating to D'Artagnan, France's Mr. Candeloro, a 1994 and 1998 Olympic bronze medalist, was the first to work the crowd into a fever pitch.
South Augustan Sheree Lamb counted herself as one of the skater's screaming fans. "Oh, yeah," she said.
The Frenchman hammed it up, blowing kisses into the seats, winking and letting a woman on the front row kiss his leather-gloved hand.
A treat for the fellas wasn't far behind as German-born Ms. Witt, who was featured in a nude photo spread in a recent issue of Playboy magazine, followed Mr. Candeloro.
Wearing a sheer, bluish-purple outfit, thunderous applause followed her slow-paced routine set to Sarah McLachlan's Angel.
"He had his zoom lens out on that," said Mrs. Lamb, poking funIn the second half of the show, 1996 U.S. champion Rudy Galindo raised the rafters skating to a medley of Village People hits.
Wearing a white U.S. Navy outfit, Mr. Galindo had the crowd clapping along to In the Navy and spelling out the letters to disco anthem YMCA.
For the song Macho Man, he ripped off the sailor shirt to reveal a sparkling U.S. flag-adorned tank top.
Another crowd-pleaser was Viktor Petrenko's high-flying homage to entertainer Michael Jackson. The audience erupted as he moon-walked across the ice, dressed like the King of Pop wearing a single white glove and faux military jacket.
Mr. Candeloro, sporting a Saturday Night Fever-style white suit, wooed the crowd once more skating to a Bee Gees medley. He jumped up on the railing, pulling off his jacket to reveal a bare-backed jump suit.
Champions on Ice is the first ice show at the civic center since a $1 million ice floor was installed in the arena last summer. Other ice shows were staged at the arena previously, bringing their own portable ice floors.
The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, the public board that oversees the civic center and Bell Auditorium, voted in 1997 to install the ice floor, clearing the way for Augusta Lynx hockey and other ice-based entertainment.
Martha Long of North Augusta, who attended Champions on Ice and has caught a couple of hockey games, said installing ice was the right decision for a complex that has struggled to draw crowds in recent years.
"Nobody was coming to the civic center," she said.
In preparation for Monday night's show, glass shielding used during hockey games was removed from the boards surrounding the ice surface, said Christine Loftin, the civic center's sales and marketing director.
The Lynx's logo and other hockey markings on the ice were covered with white paint and another layer of ice, said Mrs. Loftin.
The boards running the perimeter of the ice were covered with mauve, black, gold and blue Champions on Ice logos. The hockey scoreboard, suspended from the ceiling, was encased in a massive speaker system.
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