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Duo’s next performance will be in Claremont

Every December thousands flock to the annual performances of Disney on Ice to watch as fairy godmothers help make the dreams of figure skating princes and princesses come true. For Claremont newlyweds and former Disney on Ice pair Junichi and Kelly Takemura, that world was their reality.

Just months after finishing their last season skating with Disney on Ice, the world-traveling figure skaters have settled down in Claremont to coach, hoping to sharing their passion for figure skating with others.

“We never realized that in 20 years we'd meet the person we were going to marry and still have skating be such a huge part of our lives,” Ms. Everett-Takemura said. “We are so grateful for what the sport has given us....we want to give it to others.”

For the pair, their lives and ice skating are synonymous.

“It almost becomes a sense of your own identity. Everyday you are constantly trying to do better. It is a challenge mentally, physically and emotionally...I have never heard a figure skater say they have ever gotten bored of skating,” Ms. Everett-Takemura said, and the Takemuras are no exception.

Mr. Takemura began skating at age 6 near his hometown of Yokohama, Japan. While his parents were at work he would take a bus and ride his bicycle to get to his daily skating lessons in a town nearby.

“I just loved it,” said Mr. Takemura, who began skating competitively by age 9, qualifying for nationals every year from age 14 to 22. “I loved it so much I wanted to keep going with it.”

Mr. Takemura knew he wanted to pursue a career as an ice skating coach, but his home rink required him to gain experience as a performance skater before returning to teach. He joined a Japanese skating show in 2002 and participated in several other performance troupes before being cast in Disney on Ice in 2004, where he would eventually meet his wife.

Long before joining Disney on Ice Ms. Everett-Takemura’s life centered on her skating. The love affair started after attending a friend’s birthday’ party in elementary school.

“Until 9 skating was totally foreign. I had never seen it on the TV, I had never known another ice skater, that was my first time at the ice rink,” Ms. Everett-Takemura said. “It was a whole new world. It totally captured my attention.”

By the time she was in high school, Ms. Everett-Takemura would go to school until 11 a.m., drive an hour to the University of Delaware where she took 2 hours of private figure skating lessons in addition to dance and gym, and then return home to go to night school.

“I look back now and I think ‘I don’t know how I did that,’ but at the time you just do it,” she said. “I was really hungry to learn and move up fast.”

She continued to compete while attending Penn State, where she stumbled into coaching for the first time.

“If you taught at Penn State, you could skate for free. It was one of the draws for me,” she said.

After graduation, Ms. Everett-Takemura decided to audition for “Holiday on Ice,” a renowned European ice show.

“My mom encouraged me to try Holiday on Ice, travel for a year, get it out of my system. I think my mom knew it wasn’t out of my system,”  Ms. Everett-Takemura said, “and then one year became seven years.”

After Holiday on Ice, she did a brief stint with an ice show in Mexico, and then was cast as Cinderella in Disney on Ice’s "D20: 100 Years of Magic" in 2006. Mr. Takemura, a 2-year veteran of the show, was playing Woody from Toy Story.

“I remember all the Japanese people came up and introduced themselves to the new people and we were so impressed,” Ms. Everett said of one of her first memories of meeting her husband, who said he was equally as impressed by her show skating experience. 

“Right away I was very interested. I wanted to hear her stories and what [Holiday on Ice] was like,” he said, adding that he was also struck by her work ethic. “Rehearsal and remembering all the choreography is tough.  During rehearsal time she was writing all the time,  putting down everything in a memo. I was so impressed.”

Shared interests, in addition to skating, helped move them from friendship to courtship. The couple dated for 4 years all while still touring with Disney. The couple was on a tour stop in Germany when Mr. Takemura asked her to marry him.

“After he proposed it was exactly midnight and all the church bells went off. It was kind of perfect,” Ms. Everett-Takemura said.

The couple continued with Disney on Ice after their marriage in June 2010, playing famous love matches such as Aladdin and Jasmine as well as Prince Eric and Ariel. Though it sounds like a fairytale, dancing as a pair was not ideal, the couple agreed.

“Usually we never fight,” Mr. Takemura said, “but when we were skating...”

“All the time we were fighting,” his wife finished. “His mentality was with singles skating. Though I grew up as a single skater my mentality changed through experience pair skating in shows.” If you fall, a pair boy’s first instinct is to help you up. Junichi’s first instinct is to go do a triple-jump!”

Despite the challenge of skating as a pair, the couple was drawn together by their common bond shared on the ice.

“It is such an important part of our lives. We have a lot of friends who are skaters that date non-skaters and we’re always like what do they talk about? We are always talking about skating,” Ms. Everett-Takemura expressed. “While we loved to perform, our ultimate goal after show skating was to settle down somewhere and become skating coaches.”

After turning in dozens of applications across the country, the Takemuras were offered a job in September at Ontario Center Ice Arena, owned by Danny Kwan, father of Olympic skater Michelle Kwan. Unlike pair skating, coaching together has been a perfect fit.

“It’s amazing to see your students really changing...it takes you back,” Ms. Everett-Takemura said. “Our hope and dream is to help others fall in love with ice skating the way we did. Skating provided us with so many opportunities and changed our lives in ways we never imagined it could.”

For more information on the Takemuras and Ontario Center Ice, visit www.ontariocenterice.com.

—Beth Hartnett

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