By Terri Tabor

Daily Journal

In the fairy tale, Cinderella would have given anything to get out of her rags and into something more exquisite for the ball. But in the Ice Capades' interpretation, rags suit this Cinderella just fine.

"My rags costume is more the skating costume," said Elizabeth Manley, a 1988 Olympic silver medalist and Olympic freestyle champion, who is skating the role of Cinderella. With its short, flimsy skirt, Manley's rags costume is more suitable for twirls, jumps and axels than her ball gown, which entails several hoop-like skirts.

Even though the ball gown costume is quite light, Manley said it still can be cumbersome for her pair skating routine with the prince. "I'm doing more in it than I thought I'd be able to do," she admits.

Pulling off a smooth routine with her partner Vadim Shebeco while dressed in a layered ball gown is quite a feat for the 30-year-old, who had skated solo until she took on the role of Cinderella in 1994.

"I think the hardest move for me is the pair skating," Manley said. "That was the biggest challenge for me." Shebeco's strength and Manley's gracefulness blend so well together that the two are considering entering some professional pairs skating competitions. "He is wonderful. He's very, very strong," Manley said about her partner. "It's really like putting yourself in someone's hands every night."

And as if she didn't have enough to worry about, there is always the sneaking possibility of falling.

"Nobody wants to fall," Manley said. But because this is one of the few ice shows that incorporates high-caliber moves such as double and triple axels, the ice skater said falls are part of it. "There's a lot of falls that can happen out of fluke," she said.

Falls are especially aggravating when they are caused by things like ice conditions, she adds. "It's very frustrating for a skater [to fall]. It kind of ruins the whole move." And with 31 skaters, the "Cinderella" cast has be careful not to let a blunder upset an entire scene.

"We're at a level you know how to get up and move out of their way," Manley says.

Two's company, but 31?

With a 31-member cast that has been together since September, it wouldn't be unusual for there to be some run-ins off the ice as well. However, Manley says unlike a lot of shows she has skated with, this cast is more like a family. "With this group, everybody hangs out with everybody," she says, adding that cast members usually eat out and explore malls and other sites together.

Manley says one of the best things about working with this "Cinderella" cast is the commitment to the show.

"This particular cast is very dedicated. We try to work out as much as possible." Practice runs can sometimes be few and far between with cities like Tupelo that don't have an ice-skating rink. "With the amount of shows and performing we do, we seem to maintain the stamina we need," she says.

"The hardest thing about skating is maintaining your health," she adds. With a cast as large as that in "Cinderella," Manley said injuries and illness are likely, so understudies have to be ready to go on a moment's notice. Even the star had to sit out a few shows in Jackson due to pneumonia. "I'm fine now," Manley says. "The entire cast is in right now. We're doing good."

A happy ending

Staying in tiptop shape and health is a must for Manley, who skates a solid 75 minutes five or six times a week in the "Cinderella" production. "It feels like a three-show day," she says, adding that there is scarcely enough time to take off her skates and wipe the sweat off her forehead.

Anyone who thinks skating the part of Cinderella is a lot easier than competitions is wrong, Manley says. "It's actually a lot harder because I have to maintain that role in the show.

"It's a big challenge," she says, especially on days when she is tired.

In addition to "Cinderella," Manley still competes professionally. A three-time Canadian national champion and a three-time World Cup professional champion, Manley will not be going back to the Olympics. "I'm just really happy as a professional skater," she says, adding that if she were training for the Olympics, she wouldn't be able to skate character roles like Cinderella.

"I love playing the character roles. It's a lot of fun, especially to see the little kids' faces," she says. "I'm no longer Elizabeth Manley, I'm Cinderella."

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