Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a day in the life of a Disney on Ice performer?
If your kids love the Disney characters or you’re just looking for a fun family night out, Disney on Ice brings families an immersive story experience and an evening of happy memories. Disney on Ice is about wonderful skating skills, but it also includes exciting stunts, beautiful aerial moments, and a magical evening filled with music, lights, and energetic entertainment.
Family Fun Calgary was fortunate enough to receive an exclusive interview with one of the Disney on Ice cast members who will be skating in Disney on Ice Road Trip Adventures, coming to Calgary from November 18 – 20, 2022. Shaylyn Jackson is from Calgary, now touring with Disney on Ice, and we were so excited to connect with her over an email interview.
Hi Shaylyn! Can you tell us something about yourself?
Hi, my name is Shay Jackson, I am 20 years old, and I was born and raised in Calgary. Growing up in Calgary has definitely influenced the majority of my life as it inspired me to develop a very active lifestyle. Living an hour away from the mountains and only a couple of hours from my grandparents in British Columbia is what got me into hiking, swimming, dirt biking, bike riding and many other outdoor activities. But for my whole life, the biggest thing (whether it’s in a rink training or outside in the winter) has been figure skating.
How did you get into figure skating?
My mother grew up figure skating and actually had the opportunity to travel throughout Japan with Disney on Ice when she was just slightly older than I am currently. Her love and passion for the sport led her to a coaching career which is actually how I developed my love for skating.
When I was about two years old, my mom would drive out to Cochrane, just outside of Calgary, to teach lessons and would bring me to the daycare in the facility so I could play while she taught. Afterwards, the ice would be open, and every once in a while, my mom would skate with me around the rink. I absolutely loved it, to the point where she would have a hard time getting me off the ice. They, of course, tried me in other sports like soccer, dance, rock climbing, and so on, but all I ever wanted to do was skate. I just loved the challenge; there was always something to work towards and things to improve on, and I’d realized that I had a major love for performing.
Two years after I started skating, my mom got a job in Calgary at the Jimmie Condon Arena, working for the Calalta Figure Skating Club. This is the club I have stuck with from the time I was four up to the day I left for Disney and it is sure to be a forever home to me. I have a whole family and community there and they have been by my side my whole life, cheering me on through everything and watching me grow up. I sincerely think they are a part of the reason I love this sport so much. It was the second home and the much-needed escape from reality that they all helped me create. Even on the worst of days, I would get to the arena and every negative emotion or thought would simply disappear, all thanks to the supportive loving environment I got to skate in.
I have to ask because I love skating, do you have a favourite move?
In general, I love everything about skating, every spin, jump, and trick, so it is quite hard to pick a favourite. But jumps, whether it’s an actual technical element or just a fun little choreographic move, would most likely be the thing I enjoy working on the most.
Can you tell us how you got involved with Disney on Ice?
When it comes to Disney on Ice, skating in this specific show has actually been my dream since I got into skating at about four or five. As I mentioned earlier, my mother had the chance to skate with Disney on Ice and actually had a video camera she bought for the tour. Over the years, she was able to convert her videos into VHS tapes and I would spend loads of free time hiding in the basement watching all of her adventure videos, going through her tour book, and looking through all of her photo albums. This is what truly inspired me to join Disney on Ice and why it became one of my biggest goals and dreams growing up.
Another factor was that my mother actually met some of her best friends there and her best friend is actually my godmother. Lots of her Disney friends live in and around the Calgary area and we would often get together for Christmas parties and little celebrations. With all of the get-togethers, they have spent pretty much my whole life preparing me for Disney, from telling me their stories to taking me to Disney on Ice shows to just coming to support me in our club’s annual ice show! So, you could say being exposed to their stories, having their support, and even just looking up to the lifelong friendships they’ve created has been a massive part of my inspiration for being here today.
Though I lost most of my hope after COVID had done its damage, I met Carlotta Edwards, a former professional skater who started working with me a few nights every week at Calalta. She really motivated me to push through and do everything I could to get here today and even helped me to put my audition video together to apply for a spot on Disney in the first place.
Considering that I am now exploring and doing what I love most, I am pretty grateful for her being there to push and support me the whole time. With all the work put into getting here, all the waiting and steps backwards, I have no timeline for how long I plan to skate with Disney yet. I know I’m going to work with FELD Entertainment for as long as I possibly can and hope to see as much of the world as I can in that time, as well!
Tell us about the show itself! What does a day look like for you, with training, performing, and life on the road?
With it being my first year, I was lucky to be placed on FELD’s newest Disney on Ice show Road Trip Adventures with lots of different, exciting opportunities, like one day portraying one of my favourite Disney characters or even performing in the air. Right now, I am an ensemble skater in the show which means I get the chance to play a part in almost every group number and step into other spots when I am needed! It’s definitely a lot of work, with multiple quick changes and running back and forth, but we all make it work. When I hear the crowd cheering or even see all the kids dressed up, it’s very motivating and gives me all the energy I need to get through the shows! The energy our audience brings is also what I think calms the nerves, just knowing they’re here to make memories with their families and see their favourite characters all together on the ice.
Tour life has definitely been an adjustment but the more it goes on the easier it gets. Normally on our first day off once we’ve reached a new city, I’ll go grocery shopping with my roommate and if it’s not too late, we either end up at the gym or out exploring whatever there is to see! The majority of our off days actually look like that and it just adds to our excitement of performing in a new place each week.
Show days, on the other hand, involve us spending our whole day at the facility! The first day is normally aerial ice, where we practice all of our air segments in the show to warm our bodies back up after a few days off, and the day of our opening night show always includes an edge class to help us adjust to the new arena. Then, of course, that leads into three show days and so on! It’s busy but we always find ways to take care of ourselves and stay organized, whether it’s packing ourselves a lunch, going straight home to sleep, or just taking a mental break to collect ourselves.
I’m so grateful for all the opportunities this job provides. Being able to travel around the world, do the thing I love most, and be paid to do so seems more like a dream than a reality. I really do enjoy the travelling aspect, especially considering the fact I never actually travelled as a kid. I think, in total, that I had been on a plane maybe four or five times before flying out for rehearsals, so this is a massive adjustment for me. You could say I’ve definitely been taking advantage of my days off to get out and explore as much as I possibly can. It has been worth it every single time, waking up at a decent time to actually get out for the Uber rides or long walks. At the end of the day, the memories and experiences are worth more than the effort put in and what it takes to get ourselves there.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
It is a pretty special feeling to work a job that puts a smile on so many faces and inspires kids all around the world to follow their dreams. With all that being said, I just want to say, if anyone is considering skating for Disney, or even just applying for a job that involves a lot of travelling, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on. If it’s your passion and something that fills your bucket, in general, it is extremely worth it.
Family Fun Calgary would like to thank Shay Jackson for such a wonderful glimpse into her world. It’s been a privilege to hear from one of our own Calgarians and we cannot wait to see her on the ice this November!
Get your tickets now to see Shay and the other Disney on Ice cast members in Road Trip Adventures from November 18 – 20, 2022, for a family night to remember! You can also enter to win tickets here until October 24. See you there!