Jessica Koller grew up in West York, but she always knew she was destined for Disney.
The former White Rose Figure Skating Club member is part of the ensemble skating cast for Disney on Ice, which returns to southcentral Pennsylvania on Thursday, Nov. 1, for a four-day stop with eight performances at the Giant Center in Hershey. The "Rockin' Ever After" show features characters from the Disney films "Brave," "Tangled," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid."
That last one is a favorite for Koller, 23.
"When I was little I was all about Ariel, and she's in the show, so it's pretty exciting," she says in a recent phone interview. "I remember seeing 'The Little Mermaid' on ice in Hershey when I was little."
On the ice: Even then, Koller knew where she wanted to be when she grew up.
"I liked to see my favorite Disney characters out on the ice," she says, "but I knew then that it was just normal skaters in the background -- and I wanted to be out there skating with the characters."
For the last five years, that's exactly where Koller has been: on the ice with Disney characters. She still gets time to skate for fun, too, when the crowds have gone home.
"Sometimes after the show, we can skate to maintain our tricks ... and have fun and learn new tricks from other skating friends," she says. Some skaters focus on developing new tricks to land a lead role, but Koller's comfortable right where she is.
"I'm always there to help or go into other roles when needed, but right now I'm just enjoying doing the show," she says. "It's great to travel the world; it's really a job that's fun while you do it."
The beginning: Koller's skating career started "the summer before I turned 6," she says, when she "fell in love with show skating watching Scott Hamilton" on television.
The White Rose Figure Skating Club was the first step on her path from dream to reality.
"I started with their learn-to-skate program, and that's how I met my coach, Cindy Bear," Koller says. "I worked with her ever since I can remember."
She still does, she says, getting tips from her former coach when she's on a break from the Disney tour and back in York County.
"I live in hotels most of the year, but in the summer I come home and live with my mom," she says.
Having a show in her own backyard is extra-special, because it means her biggest supporters will be there in the audience: Mom and Grandma.
"She was definitely the skating mom that always drove me to practice and competition, and my grandma was always a big supporting role," Koller says. "I'm excited to have them both come."
Feeling the fun: As a child, Koller competed in regional and national figure skating showcases, keeping a practice schedule of two hours a day for four or five days a week, but she always knew competition wasn't her ultimate goal. The figure skating club's Christmas and spring shows for the public held more appeal.
"At the competition you feel like you're performing for five or six judges, as opposed to a show where you're just there to entertain people," she says.
When she skates in the Disney on Ice ensemble, Koller becomes a new character for each segment of the show: a fish for "The Little Mermaid," a townsperson for "Beauty and the Beast" and so forth. The costumes, she says, help bring the setting to life for the crowd -- and watching the crowd is still her favorite part of being out on the ice.
"The children's faces in the first couple rows that I can see" are definitely the highlight, Koller says. "When you see them smiling and waving back, you know they're excited and shouting out characters' names."
See the showThe all-ages Disney on Ice "Rockin' Ever After" show comes to the Giant Center in Hershey on Thursday, Nov. 1. Shows run through Sunday, Nov. 4.
The performances start at 7 p.m. Nov. 1; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 3; and 1 and 4:30 p.m. Nov. 4.
Ticket prices range from $25 to $60.
The show is on now at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, where ticket prices range from $15 to $60.
The remaining performances in Baltimore start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday; and noon and 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information or to get tickets at either venue, call 1-800-745-3000 or visit www.disneyonice.com.
Learn to skate
The White Rose Figure Skating Club offers classes and special events at the York City Ice Arena.
This year's holiday show features music from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and other seasonal tunes from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at the rink, 941 Vander Ave.
Learn-to-skate sessions are offered at the rink for ages 3 and up in all skill levels. Registration is required.
-- Reach Mel Barber at email@example.com.