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Skating around the world with 'Disney on Ice'

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Disney on Ice's "Worlds of Fantasy," which opens at the Civic Center Thursday, features beloved Disney characters from "Toy Story," "Cars," "The Little Mermaid" and more.
WANT TO GO?Disney on Ice presents "Worlds of Fantasy"WHERE: Charleston Civic CenterWHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday.TICKETS:  $13 to $45. Promotional pricing available for some shows.INFO: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bryan Santiago said you might not think it, but ice skating is kind of a big deal in sunny California.The Disney skater, who appears Thursday through Sunday with Disney on Ice's "Worlds of Fantasy" show at the Charleston Civic Center, grew up in Solano County, which has more ice skating rinks than the entire state of West Virginia."There are more than a dozen just where I'm from," said Santiago, who got into skating when he was 12 years old."My grandmother was working at an ice rink that had just opened," he said. "My cousins and I would go there after school to have fun, and we learned to skate." Santiago said he was a natural at it because he'd been a dancer for a few years. He had good balance and knew what his body could do. Applying that made skating easy.Just goofing off with the other kids led to lessons and then to private instruction. By the age of 13, he was competing locally, then regionally, and eventually skating for medals at tournaments in Europe."I competed from the age of 13 to around 21," he said.Santiago joined Disney two years ago, currently skating the role of "Toy Story 3" era Andy."It's an easy character for me to relate to," he said. "He's a 17-year-old boy growing up and saying goodbye to his childhood."
Santiago said, through touring, he felt like he's grown up a lot, too.Skating has been good to him. He loves the travel. In the two years he's has been with the show, he's seen a lot of the United States and parts of Canada. He's been to Europe, and last summer, he went to South Africa."It was amazing," he said. "It was just one of those places I always wanted to see but never really looked into going there because it's just so far away."While in South Africa, Santiago said, participants stayed in luxurious hotels, went on wine tours and even took an overnight safari."We saw elephants, lions, zebras, rhinoceros, hippos, giraffes -- all the typical animals you'd want to see on an African safari."Some of the troupe members even went shark diving while they were visiting Cape Town.
"I didn't get to do that one," he said, not sounding particularly disappointed.Santiago hopes to keep skating for a good, long while, but he's also looking towards the future. He'd love to eventually get into producing ice shows, though he thinks that if he did, his shows would probably be for a slightly more mature audience than what is usually found at a Disney on Ice show."I enjoy every aspect of the show," Santiago said. "But it's more geared to children. I'd like to do something more for the grownups."If he never realizes that dream and eventually has to leave ice skating, Santiago said he had a backup plan. He can always finish school and become an RN."I was inspired by my stepmother," he said. "She's an RN at an ICU. I just thought it was an amazing job, and she feels so rewarded by what she does."It's similar to how I feel when I perform, the satisfaction of it."If he couldn't bring smiles to people's faces skating, helping people would be pretty good, too."But right now, I'm happy skating." Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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