Passion, Persistence, Determination

From Woodslee to the
Wonderful World of Disney On Ice

Story by Karen Tinsley
Photography courtesy Rubie Diemer

For 19-year-old Woodslee native Rubie Diemer, dreams really do come true. It takes a passion for performing, plenty of persistence and unflinching determination to be chosen as a Disney On Ice skater. Rubie has all that and then some!  

“I’ve been skating since I was 2 years old—before I can actually remember,” Rubie laughs.  

A few years later, Rubie also began studying ballet under the tutelage of famed Windsor dancer Janice Brode (a National Ballet School of Canada alumnus who founded the Windsor City Ballet Company and the Janice Brode School of Dance). Under Janice’s direction, Rubie had progressed to advanced levels by the time she turned 16.

Ruby recalls, “Growing up, dancing and music were always front and centre in my family’s world. I have three sisters; we’ve always loved making up dances and performing them together.”

Trampolines and gymnastics were also part and parcel of Rubie’s athletic childhood.  

However, “I certainly would not be where I am today without Janice!” she exclaims.

Skating competitively from the age of 7 until she was 17, Rubie pursued competitive figures, free skating, skating with a partner, culminating with ice dancing. 

At age 17 Rubie competed in ice dance in the Canadian Figure Skating Championships—the annual competition organized by Skate Canada. This event determines the Canadian teams for World Championships, World Junior Championships and Four Continents Championships, as well as the Canadian national team. For Rubie, “It was an absolutely amazing experience to compete against so many big names! I was in awe. It was really cool to be in on all the action.”

Then came COVID.  

Rubie remembers, “There was no rink access for quite a while. During that period, my skating partner and I decided to part ways. For me, it was a turning point; that’s when I decided to look at other career options.” 

Growing up in the figure skating world, of course Rubie knew about Disney On Ice.

“But I didn’t know that they’re the largest employer of professional figure skaters in the world.” (Over the past 40 years Disney skaters have hailed from 48 different nations from around the globe). 

Rubie’s Disney On Ice initiation could almost be described as a trial-by-fire. 

“Typically, you send in a portfolio that includes a resume, photo and audition video. If there is interest, you get a call for an in-person audition at one of the productions happening close to where you live,” she explains. 

However, when Rubie received the call, there was no show happening anywhere near where she lived. 

“I was so surprised…I sure wasn’t expecting to be hired so quickly—and solely on the merits of my audition video!”

Although they make it look effortless, Disney On Ice performers give it their all to make magic for audiences around the world. Not only do they bring beloved Disney characters to life—they do it while executing some highly complex skating maneuvers (wearing costumes that can weigh up to 50 pounds), spinning on average of 300 rotations per minute and flying across the ice at more than 20 miles per hour.

For every Disney On Ice show, there’s a rehearsal period so every performer can nail their roles and moves prior to touring. Skaters practice in their costumes for 3 weeks—learning the lifts and choreography for the entire show, reviewing all the tricks and getting into peak physical shape. Typically, it takes more than 550 hours of preparation for each tour. 

But not for Rubie, who joined the show in Orlando, Florida—one month into the tour schedule.    

“The rehearsal period was long over. I just had to learn and perfect on the fly!” 

Some skaters perform multiple roles in a single show, which means they must become adept quick-change when it comes to costumes and makeup.   

In just one tour, a Disney On Ice performer will travel almost 14,000 miles—the equivalent of driving between Disney World and Disneyland nearly 6 times!

All skaters who audition for Disney On Ice must be of very high caliber—each skater is usually an understudy for a lead role in the show, so only the very best are considered.

Disney On Ice counts over 50 former Olympians and Olympic hopefuls in both lead and ensemble roles. Disney On Ice gives these former competitors the opportunity to continue displaying, perfecting and refining their unique skills. This time though they’ve traded in being scored by judges to impressing and bringing smiles to families around the world. 

Each tour also comprises an elite, dedicated team of top-notch costume designers, choreographers and directors. 

“But as you might expect,” Rubie adds, “it’s really like being part of a big family since skaters are together so much and away from home for so long—we’re on tour for 8 to 10 months a year, performing in a different city each week. Cast members are very connected; more often than not, lifelong friendships are formed.” 

And of course, being a part of Disney On Ice is an educational opportunity—potentially the chance of a lifetime for talented young figure skaters considering their educational options before, during or after post-secondary studies (all skaters must be high school graduates).  

“Bringing beloved characters and their stories to life—for audiences around the world—is pretty inspiring. The best part for me is seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter and applause at each show,” Rubie says. 

What’s not to love about making memories that will last a lifetime?

For Rubie Diemer, it’s been one fun, rewarding and worthwhile journey.

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