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Moana and Maui make Salt Lake City Disney on Ice debut in ‘Dare to Dream’

March 5, 2019
Elsa performs during Disney on Ice presents "Dare to Dream."

All the magic Disney can muster and then some will be coming to the ice of Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City this week as Disney on Ice presents “Dare to Dream” skates into town.

The show centers on the power of dreams and finding the courage and heart to overcome obstacles to make them come true. Along those lines, it will feature five Disney princesses, including the live production debut of Moana, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” Elsa and Anna of Arendelle in Disney’s “Frozen,” Rapunzel of “Tangled” and, of course, the ever-classic Cinderella.

Though “Dare to Dream” toured through Salt Lake in November 2015, the show has been revamped to include new princesses and an all-new format featuring skater Emily Pestka as the live host and narrator of the action, along with Disney favorites Mickey and Minnie.

“I interact with the audience kind of as the bridge between the skaters and the audience,” Pestka said of her role. “At the beginning of the show, I get everyone pumped up and excited, and as the show goes on, I’ll narrate what story is about to come up and give hints of what’s coming on later in the show. It’s really cool because I get to skate and I get to use my voice, which is kind of a whole other dimension of performing that I never thought I’d get to do. I get to interact with the audience more than other skaters.”

According to Pestka, the concept of a live host is fairly new to Disney on Ice, and this will mark the first time one has come to Salt Lake City, providing a new experience for audience members here as well.

“It’s cool because I actually get to go up and ask people questions and hear what they’re excited about,” she said. Though she initially thought the update was just a fun and cool change she might eventually try, being cast in it definitely changed her perception.

“I really fell in love with it,” she said. “I’m not like a character – I get to be myself.”

Pestka’s journey to becoming a Disney on Ice skater is as unique as her role in the show itself.

Originally from Jefferson City, Missouri, Pestka didn’t begin skating until around the age of 8, and was inspired to start by the Disney movie “Ice Princess,” which premiered in 2005.

“I went to theaters and saw it with my mom, and then I remember after we got out of the movie theater, at like 10 p.m. I decided we should go ice skating right now. … I kept talking about it and (my mom) eventually signed me up for lessons. I was so excited about that, and I’ve been skating ever since.”

After experimenting with different types of skating, Pestka discovered she loved performance far more than competition and set a goal of going into show skating, a dream she’s currently balancing with her education as she works toward a degree in psychology.

“It isn’t the easiest, that is for sure,” she said of juggling schoolwork with travel and performances. “I like it in the fact that sometimes, just with this lifestyle, it can seem like we’re only figure skaters and that’s just what you’re doing all the time, 24/7. It’s a good outlet to have and to exercise other skills. … It’s hard to balance in that skating takes a lot of time and energy, but I am really interested in psychology and doing something with that someday.”

Taking on both a furthered education and her career with a traveling show has been a balancing act, but Pestka said seeing new places alone makes it worth the challenge.

“Usually we will have a couple days off toward the beginning of the week … on those days we rest or go out and just explore, hit up the sites that are unique to that city,” she said. “You really do get a good amount of time to be able to sight-see and explore cities, and that’s part of the reason why everyone loves this job – you get to see and do so many different things.”

Salt Lake City and even Utah in general will be new experiences for Pestka, who said she’s been able to travel to quite a few cool cities in the last year, even meeting up with family at a few stops along the way.

Pestka joined Disney on Ice in 2016 and said she plans to take it one year at a time continuing with the show, focusing instead on the excitement of each new stop.

“My favorite part … is probably just knowing that everyone that’s coming is excited to be there and they’re all leaving happy,” she said. “It’s just fun to be able to do a job that just brings a lot of joy and fun to people and also have people love it at the same time. It’s fun to see how excited little kids get when I talk to them. Kids are really good teachers too, and sometimes I feel like I can learn something from them.”

As to this trip to Salt Lake in particular, Pestka said she’s excited for Disney fans to see Moana on ice for the first time.

“It has all the fun songs, really cool props and really cool choreography,” she said. “It’s probably my favorite segment I’ve seen on any Disney show ever.”

“I really like that in our show, we have a really solid message weaved throughout,” she continued. “At the beginning of show, they talk a lot about heroes and we have this cute little scene with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy where they talk about being a hero and how they’re strong on the outside, have a cape and are fearless. (Then they talk about how) no, heroes are the people who are kind, generous and compassionate; who do their best every day and still fall down but keep persevering and just leading with their best selves. I like that message. Something kids can take away from it is it doesn’t matter what you look like or what you achieve. It’s how you carry yourself in your day-to-day life that adds up to make a big difference. I really like that some lines I have I realize, this is good stuff, and I need to say this to myself every day.”