Parker Pennington has a colorful resume that includes three national championships. But the accomplishment that he is most proud of is organizing the Skate for Life show, which raised $21,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association last year.
“The idea for Skate for Life came from being a part of so many great charity shows, as well as my desire to see people unite for a wonderful cause,” he said. “I thought skating would be the perfect opportunity to have an impact on the community. Through this show, I believe we can all help make a difference.”
The show also has relevance to Pennington’s personal life.
“My dad was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy 10 years ago, and I am aware of the wonderful programs the organization provides,” Pennington said. “I am producing this show to benefit others who have been affected by the same debilitating disease. It is my hope that one day there will be a cure.”
Skate for Life gets a second showing this year at the Hoover Arena, in Strongsville, Ohio, on June 27. “I do feel like last year’s show was a great success and I believe there is still plenty of room to grow,” said Pennington, who will be joined by his younger brother Colin in the show.
Tickets for the show are available through www.mdaskateforlife.org for $18 or tickets can be purchased for $22 at the door. Premier on-ice seating is $80 and includes entrance to a meet and greet after party with the shows stars and Olympic gold medalists Hayes Jenkins and Carol Heiss-Jenkins, who coaches Pennington.
The show features an array of former, current and future skating champions including U.S. Champion Alissa Czisny, six-time Canadian Champion Jennifer Robinson, who is a sought after performer on the Stars on Ice tour, and five-time national medalist Tonia Kwiatkowski. Also skating are two-time national medalists Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, 2007 novice national champion Angela Maxwell and 2009 novice national champion Kiri Baga.
Skate for Life also includes some of the nation’s best ice dancers. Four-time U.S. silver medalists Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, 2009 World Junior Champions Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein and 2006 Junior Grand Prix Final Champions Madison and Keiffer Hubbell are among the cast.
But skaters are not the only element of the show. Skate for Life also features life music and performances by dancers Sara Von Gillern, a Top 8 finalist on Fox show So You Think You Can Dance, and Gev Manoukian, who was a Top 10 finalist.
The show is a part of Pennington’s new production company Parker Pennington Productions. The company specializes in ice show production and performances but Pennington has also branched out to include choreography, costume design and seminars.
“To me, choreographing is about providing an adventure for the skater,” Pennington said. “It is meant to be fun and enjoyable for them. I try to highlight their best attributes and build from that. In addition to the choreography, I provide design ideas to supplement the image I want conveyed.”
His favorite program is the free skate he worked on for his brother.
“I choreographed his long program last year for the first time and it truly was an amazing experience for both of us,” he said. “His natural gift of flow, feeling and body movement makes my work seem so easy. And in my first year of choreography with him, he nearly made nationals as a first year senior with the program.”
Pennington’s second favorite number that he worked on was a hip-hop program for Annie Okada.
Parker Pennington Productions also includes artwork and modeling.
“I always had an interest in art, I just never acted on it,” he said.”When I lived in Virginia, one of my former coaches Ross Lansel, showed me a few things to get started and I have since taken off with it.”
Art “is definitely a great release for me from my skating,” Pennington said. “It helps me focus in on what I am doing and hone in on being present with the creation of the piece. It really helps to free my mind.”
When the show wraps, Pennington will turn most of his focus back to competitive skating. “My goals this next season are to stay healthy and to just perform the way I know I can,” he said. “I proved a lot to myself through all of the adversity I had to deal with throughout the season – diagnosed with vertigo, sprained ankle – and I am looking to build from all of my great performances last year.”
Pennington finished third in the short program at the 2009 U.S. Championships.
“I was so excited to be able to perform in front of my home crowd and to skate the way I did was just the most incredible feeling,” he said. “The crowd was totally behind me and I was really feeding off of their energy. This short program was one of those nostalgic moments that I most certainly will never forget.”
Skating with an injury, he finished eighth at nationals. He qualified with a win at the Eastern Great Lakes Regional Championships and the Midwestern Sectional Championships.
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