Playing a Disney character is no easy feat. There's a lot of pressure to keep the dream alive for kids. It's even harder on ice skates. But Disney on Ice is a favorite childhood pastime. This week, catch Disney on Ice Let's Celebrate at the Pepsi Center, where more than fifty characters will celebrate holidays through the year.
Skater Robin Johnstone has been with the company for eighteen years and has played several characters, including Mulan and Jane from Tarzan. For Let's Celebrate, she'll be reprising her favorite roll as Princess Jasmine.
Born in Canada, she first got on the ice at the tender age of two. Skating "is pretty much a given for most people in Canada," Johnstone says. "I just loved it. And I'm still here 38 years later."
She began competing when very young and eventually placed in several shows, including the Skate Canada International Artistic Ladies competition, the Canadian Figure Skating Association Freestyle and Dance category, and she skated in both the Junior and Senior Canadian National Championships.
But Johnstone had always loved the glitz and glamor of shows like the Ice Capades, which she saw as a child, so when she turned twenty, she decided to go professional and join an ice show. She worked with the Ice Theater in Toronto, Paramount Canada's Wonderland and Paramount Kings Island before joining Disney on Ice,
"Competing is a lot of training and a lot of pressure," Johnstone says. "You would only do a few competitions a year. So I'd get pretty nervous. But here, we're doing hundreds of shows, and you always have to make it seem like it's the first time. You get excited, and lost in the character. It's way more fun, and you don't get stressed out."
When Johnstone was growing up, Disney on Ice never made it to Canada, but she was still a big Disney fan. She has fond memories of going to Disneyland, and she has pictures wearing a Minnie costume in a hometown ice show.
Through the years, Johnstone says her skating has grown, but she's also learned some other skills. During her stint as Jane, she learned the Spanish web, which is an aerial circus act where the circus performer is suspended by long hanging rope.
"We had to go in and figure out how we could climb this rope with no safety thirty feet in the air, with two people, with skates on," she says. "We were the first people to ever do that. Normally you climb not in skates and with one person. It was really challenging and something I'll never forget."
Johnstone also picked up something else from Disney on Ice: her husband, Andrew Buchanan. In 2000, the two were in a show called Jungle Adventures. She was Jane, and he was Simba. Over the years they started dating and eventually got married. Now they skate together as Jasmine and Aladdin.
"We can concentrate on growing together," Johnstone says. "We are still learning stuff every day and we try new things. We know how each other works, and it's really nice."
Ever since Johnstone was a competitive skater she loved to focus on the artistic side of skating. Since joining Disney on Ice, she's added acting to her repertoire. It's her job to be convincing for the kids who come to the show.
"It never gets old," she says. "When we get close to the audience we can see every child has their favorite costume on. They completely believe that we were on their television yesterday, and they get so excited."
Disney on Ice Let's Celebrate will be at the Pepsi Center December 4-7 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15-45 and can be bought at disneyonice.com.
Follow Amanda Moutinho on Twitter at @amandamoutinho.
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