Hawarden ice dancer gets her skates on to where it all began

Reporter:

Jamie Bowman

It could be every little girl’s dream: to dress like a Princess and travel the world dancing with the likes of Woody, Buzz and Olaf the snowman.

But for Keri Nicola Jones, of Hawarden, the dream became a reality when she swapped Flintshire for life as an ice skater with Disney On Ice, with whom she spent 13 years performing across the globe.

Today Keri, 44, remains with the company and has spent the last few years working as a tour
co-ordinator for the huge production as it travels from continent to continent, with a forthcoming date in Liverpool giving her the rare opportunity to pop home and put her feet up as well as visit Deeside Ice Rink – where it all started as a youngster.

“I first went there when I was about five,” remembers Keri on the phone from Sweden, the latest stop on the tour.

“One of the girls in the village was going and I went with her. Although I don’t remember it at all, according to my mum they couldn’t get me off the ice.

“I spent a lot of time there and have some great memories, because we had a great group of kids who I grew up with.”

She fondly recalls competitions that took place between Deeside, Liverpool and Altrincham, as well as visiting Scotland.

“I did ice dancing, but I struggled for a while to find a partner until I found this guy in London,” she adds.

“But that meant at the age of 15 having to leave Abbeygate College and move to Deeside High, who gave me two days off a week to train.”

As she get older, Keri was forced to decide on where her career was going.

With not many options open for an ice dancer she returned to college until fate intervened.

“I was aware that there were ice shows and in my late teens one of my coaches joined an ice show and there were other skaters too,” Keri recalls.

“When it came to stop competitive skating I didn’t have the confidence to think I could get in, so I went back to Deeside College until a friend of mine said she was going to audition and I should go with her.

“She nagged me for a few days and I went to get her to shut up.

“Now every time I see her I remind her it’s her fault I’m still working for Disney On Ice!”

Keri was 27 when she joined the production in 2000 on a seven- month contract, but ended up staying as a member of the cast for 13 years.

“In the first year I went to the USA and then Puerto Rico before ending up in Venezuela and Argentina and that’s where I got the bug,” she says.

“We’re so lucky on Disney On Ice. We get to do something we love and on top of that you get to put smiles on people’s faces and make them laugh for a couple of hours.

“Then there’s the travel and I’m lucky to have been to nearly every continent and that’s what keeps me coming back.”

With one eye on the future, Keri began training to become a cosmetologist and learnt how to style all the wigs in the show.

She also started to help out the tour co-ordinator with the tour’s PR and press.

“I was very fortunate that the company saw something in me and gave me the chance to go in this new direction as a tour
co-ordinator,” she says.

“I’ve learnt so much, have new life skills and still get to travel the world.”

A typical day on the road for Keri can involve everything from dealing with lost passports to booking the crew’s transport to the venue they are performing at.

“I am in charge of making sure every person has the correct visas for each different country and we have 14 different nationalities at the moment so it can get a bit complicated,” she says.

“I’m in charge of all the travel and getting the 41-member cast and 13-man crew to get from venue to venue and then home at the end.

“We are in a different city every week and I also deal with all the PR for the whole season and any injuries or medical issues that any of our personnel have.”

With nine different ice shows traveling the world at any one time, getting back home to Flintshire can be difficult. But Keri relishes it when she does.

“Playing in Liverpool is brilliant for me as it’s just a short drive across the water and I love sleepy old Hawarden,” she laughs.

“We’re very fortunate we live in a beautiful area with the coast and mid-Wales nearby. We can get anywhere really easily and I treasure my time back here.”

Disney On Ice’s latest show, Worlds of Enchantment, comes to the Echo Arena in Liverpool from April 11 until April 15 and features beloved characters from Cars, Toy Story 3, The Little Mermaid and Frozen, with Keri calling it a “spectacular show”.

“It has great special effects and some very talented skaters from all over the world but you will have to come to the show if you want to see if we actually have real snow,” she says.

As for the future, Keri recalls her early years and insists anything is possible when it comes to what happens next.

“I spent so many years at Deeside Ice Rink,” she adds.

“My mother used to help out with the organisation of competitions and was the treasurer, so for me to be able to go back there and talk to some of the kids was great.

“If skating is your passion but competing is a bit too pressurised, what I’ve done is another option.

“I’d love the kids at Deeside now to have the same opportunities and the fantastic life I’ve had.”

l Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment will be skating into Liverpool from April 11 to 15. Tickets are priced from £18 to £43 plus booking fees and family packages are available.
For the complete list of tour dates and a breakdown of ticket prices, visit www.disneyonice.co.uk

Email:

jamie.bowman@nwn.co.uk

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