Aliens, Animals & Artists of the Autostadt: A backstage pass to the German outdoor ice show

On any given night at the Autostadt, its ice show Urmel Aus Dem Eis presents all the ingredients of a professional production – effortless triple jumps, soaring back flips, high-flying bounce spins and fast-paced ensemble numbers. But this show is anything but ordinary.

Here you will find life-sized space ships, Tyrannosaurs Rex’s, meat grinding machines and remote controlled couches. You will see skaters as chocolate tortes and cherry souffles, pandas and parakeets, nuns and priests, runway models and bullfighters, farmers and Carnival showgirls, baroque waltzers and Star Trekkies.

And don’t forget, lots and lots of pyro.

Under rain, snow, sleet, torrential winds and even melting ice the outdoor show must go on. Located in Wolfsburg, Germany, the Autostadt is widely known for its museums of Volkswagen automobiles, but its ice show is the biggest attraction of the holiday season running until Dec. 28.

The entire experience is a whirlwind of rehearsals and performing. An ensemble of 22 skaters collectively learn 46 numbers over a three week rehearsal period in Bad Sascha, Germany. Stephanee Grosscup, the show’s choreographer, sometimes teaches up to four numbers per day in order to finish all the productions.

“We never let up. Everyone starts to get overloaded with steps and stories [however] these young, athletic, creative and talented skaters are a constant source of inspiration to me,” she said. “There is a spirit amongst [them] that is so unique. We are trained athletes first and foremost, but we are dancers, actors, characters, musicians, muses.”

Once they arrive in Wolfsburg, the skaters perform twice each day and open a new show every Sunday over four weeks. Installation for the following week’s show takes place late at night, often in less than favorable weather conditions.

“We have exactly five days [for installation each week] to clean and add huge props, attempt to get everyone through insane quick changes, add numbers to the show if necessary, drive cars, trains, helicopters, ride on fish, fall in ponds and wells, cast spells, have pyro on skates, disappear, reappear, be a dragon, walrus, panda, the list goes on and on,” Grosscup said, who is in her fifth year as choreographer. “In the end, it is over the top hilarity!” Continue reading

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