The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A free-wheeling show that beats the heat

On a roll. And chilling out. Since mid-May, a bunch of 10 tweens and teens on their wheeled footgear has been kicking up snow white dust at Clown Town, marking the return of ice-skating shows to the city after a long hiatus. On Saturday, Zenith, a newly-formed group of skaters, will hit the rink to show a twist and a turn to the beat of music on ice. After all, it will be dance on skates that will be on view.

Nine items will be put up in course of the one-hour afternoon show, with a repeat performance in the evening. Formations with colourful ribbons to gypsy gyrations with a tambourine to a torch-lit march. All this while careening down the snow white surface.

Instructor Madhuchhanda Sanyal has chosen her top students at her Lake Club skating class for the show. “These kids are roller-skaters. But an hour on ice is all that they took to adapt to the surface. And they are thrilled with the experience,” she says, while putting two helmeted eight-year-olds through the rhythmic paces of pair skating.

Helping Sanyal put the show together is her student Sprihi Kanoria, a bronze medallist at the recently concluded National Roller-Skating Championship held in Salt Lake. “Dance on skates is doubly tough as you have to control your skates as well as adjust the footwork to the rhythm,” the student of Mahadevi Birla Girls’ School says.

Yet the item has caught the public imagination after two national medals came to town. “I had 30 students last year. The figure has doubled since the championship in May. And they all want to learn dance on skates,” says Sanyal, at a loss to explain the surge in popularity.

And in the process it is skating that is seeing a revival in Calcutta. According to Sanjay Maheswari of Clown Town, “Calcutta had a tradition of ice-skating. The rink at Modern High used to be a popular hang-out about 25 years ago. Now people of that generation come over in the weekend to our rink. But it is the youngsters who form the crowd,” he says, adding that girls are more seriously into the sport on wheels.

Clown Town has held ice-skating courses for more than 150 children this summer. “We are so happy with the response that we plan to introduce round-the-year classes in the afternoon,” Maheswari says.

And guardians of children are happy as well. “Skating is not just fun. It is a good exercise as well. Especially in summer, it is an alternative to swimming,” points out Shalini Charles, mother of Inika, a budding skater.

Says Pradip Ganeriwal, president of Roller-Skating Federation of India and a former national title-holder: “We have to make the most of the successfully organised championship in Calcutta to raise the popularity of skating here. Such displays will help on that count.”

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