Michael Helgren began skating at 12 years old in Santa Rosa at the Charles Schulz Ice Rink with the Santa Rosa Figure Skating Club under Coach Colleen Phillips. He has made his way to the big time as a member of the elite Feld Entertainment performers and will be performing in Disney on Ice Presents Passport to Adventure this weekend in Oakland from October 16-20 and at the SAP Center October 23-27.
Michael used to follow his older sister Devon to work at the local ice rink in Santa Rosa where he began taking lessons and very quickly started to compete. Right away he fell in love with the sport. “I always enjoyed competing, but my passion was to perform for an audience.” He took some time off the ice to answer some questions for the Examiner:
Examiner: Do you have a favorite memory of learning to skate at the Charles Schulz Ice skating Rink in Santa Rosa?
Michael: My favorite memory of learning to skate is when I would practice at 5:00am every morning before school. Most kids would think it would be crazy to be getting up that early, to go into a freezing cold ice rink. But not me. There were only about 7-10 people on the ice at that time, so I had a lot of space to glide around and run my programs without too much distraction.
Examiner: Did you perform in the famous annual Christmas show at the Schulz rink?
Michael: I did not perform in the Christmas show in Santa Rosa. I wasn't old enough to be in the show during its final years. However my first professional show was in Santa Barbara and it was called "It's Christmas Snoopy," which was produced by the Schulz family. So I do feel like I got a taste of what it was like, just on a smaller stage and a less extravagant production.
Examiner: What Character(s) do you play in Passport to Adventure?
Michael: In the "Little mermaid" part of the show I am an under the sea creature. In the "Lilo and Stitch" part of the show I am a bongo boy and I am in a couple pair skating number. And in the Peter Pan part of the show I play Peter Pans Shadow. It's an exciting scene where Peter and his "shadow" skate in unison with side by side jumps, spins, splits, and tons of other dynamic tricks!
Examiner: Is it possible to both compete and perform in a professional show?
Michael: It is not possible. Once you start performing professionally you lose your amateur status. You can request to be reinstated back into your amateur status, but only once in your career. I don't have any plans of returning to competition so I don't need to worry about that.
Examiner: What is your favorite thing about skating in Disney On Ice?
Michael: My absolute favorite thing about skating with Disney on Ice is seeing the kids’ faces light up when they see their favorite Disney character. It might sound a bit cliché, but getting to portray the role of a Disney character is an incredible feeling. You become the real life character for these children who have been watching them through television for years. Learning how to move like one character can be completely different from another. It's a fun process to study each one and understand their body language and mannerisms. I have been fortunate enough to play over 20 different roles throughout the company. Some of my favorite roles to portray are Buzz Light Year, Pinocchio, Flynn Ryder, Ken, and my current role Peter Pans Shadow.
Examiner: Do you have any advice for young skaters with dreams of becoming a professional performer like yourself?
Michael: My advice to young skaters who want to become professional performers is to always remember why you skate. I skate because it makes me happy, when I am on the ice I feel at home. No matter where I am in the world or where my life takes me, as long as there is a frozen surface I can skate on I'm happy. No one can take that feeling away from me. Performing professionally is not only my job but my passion. I feel like the luckiest person in the world that I get to do what I love and share that with other people on a weekly basis. If you love skating as much as I do then you will have no problem becoming a professional performer. You just have to show your love of the sport through your facial expression and body movements. If you're having fun then the audience is having fun, it's that easy. :)
You can teach your little ones to ice skate on the same ice Michael started on at Snoopy’s Home Ice Parent and Puppy Practice. This is a special session for children 12 and under and their parents each Sunday from 10:30 am-12:00 pm that includes a group lesson for the children as well as the adults. Beginners may use chairs to get started. This lesson costs $8 for adults and $6 for children.
Pack your bags and come watch the Piner High School graduate skate in Passport to Adventure! Your family will travel with Mickey and Minnie to four thrilling destinations in one delighting ice production. Ticket prices range from $20 - $80 with special opening night tickets for $15 each and are available for purchase online at Ticketmaster, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or visit the venue Box Office.