Ice Network Article by Lois Elfman
Dan Hollander ho ho ho's for the holidays
Former national medalist finds his niche as a performer
By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
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(12/18/2008) - The holidays are a busy time for two-time U.S. men's bronze medalist and two-time world competitor Dan Hollander. Every weekend from Thanksgiving through Christmas he flies from his home in Detroit to Dallas to skate an elaborate Santa Claus routine at the Galleria Mall.
Although he certainly appreciates his accomplishments as a competitive skater, these days when Hollander, 36, steps on the ice, he is living the vision he had for himself when he first started skating. It all began when he saw Scott Hamilton skate a comedy routine ("In the Mood" wearing a chicken suit) on Champions on Ice more than 30 years ago.
"I laughed so hard and thought, 'I so want to do that and make people laugh,'" says Hollander. He sort of forgot about it, but after finishing 10th at 1996 Worlds, Tom Collins invited him to perform 47 shows with Champions on Ice. Hollander decided to do a humorous routine where he played a janitor. "At intermission some kid leaned over the boards and said, 'Hey Mom, there's the funny guy.' I thought, 'OMG, I finally made it!' Do you get type cast? Yes, but that's what I wanted to be type cast as."
Hollander's competitive days didn't end on the happiest note. Battling injuries and confidence issues, he called it quits after finishing 11th at 1999 Nationals. He concocted a routine inspired by the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. "I remember watching '99 worlds on TV in the den of my mother's house and sewing the outfit, thinking, 'What has my career come to?'"
But the following year, Collins called and invited him to join Champions. He did the full tour every year from 2000 to 2007. He also received requests year-round, where comedy was always his key.
"Touring with Champions on Ice was very self-satisfying for me," he says. "To be able to pull the same amount of applause that some of the big-name skaters could."
Beside his own program as well as the opening and finale, Hollander's job on Champions entailed assisting hula-hoop girl Irina Grigorian with her routine. This past summer, both Hollander and Grigorian were part of the cast for the weekly shows in Sun Valley. Grigorian's husband was also part of the cast, and decided he'd bring her the hoops while she performed.
"I had my Hoop Boy shirt," jokes Hollander. "I said to him, 'Now listen, you're not doing it exactly right. If you need some advice, I'll help you.' He said he had it all under control, but that show he messed up. We were laughing so hard. Seriously, Irina is such a sweetheart. I'd do anything for her." With Champions on Ice now part of the past, Hollander still grabs every opportunity to perform, but he also fills his time with coaching at the Birmingham and Royal Oaks skating clubs. He's currently got about nine young students. For a while he was also working with a Canadian senior competitor. They'd practice together each morning and then Hollander would give the skater a lesson. These days, he practices on his own.
"Slowly making the transition," he says. "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. So I'll keep doing shows and teaching."
Who knows where life will lead. For now, the balance of coaching and performing allows him to fuel his passion for motorcycles. He drove from Detroit to Sun Valley last summer and brought his Harley along in a trailer. He loved riding it in the mountains.
He bought his house in the Detroit area a couple of years after joining Champions and a friend helped him rip it down to the studs and rebuild it. "It's kind of like my dream house," he says, adding that dream requires constant maintenance. "There's always a project that comes up. It never quite ends."
You can follow Hollander's performance schedule and learn more about his coaching, choreography and seminars at Dan H. Productions.