Shanda DeWitt skating as Elsa in �Disney on Ice:  Reach for the Stars.�

From Allendale to Arendelle

Alumna spreads smiles throughout the world skating with Disney on Ice

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Butterflies, bees, seagulls and dandelions float and fly around an arena filled with excited children as a magically created snowman named Olaf sings "In Summer" from Disney's popular animated film "Frozen."

On the final note, snow begins to fall on the ice, now shrouded in fog, and Elsa, the queen of Arendelle, bursts onto the scene and into the Academy Award-winning song, "Let It Go."

"The kids usually lose their minds when I throw off my big purple cape and appear in the iconic blue Elsa dress," said Shanda DeWitt, who graduated from Grand Valley in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in broadcasting and portrays Elsa for "Disney on Ice: Reach for the Stars."

DeWitt has been traveling around the world skating alongside 42 other professionals since 2016 with Disney on Ice, which is produced by Feld Entertainment. Her travels have taken her to Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and across the U.S.

When DeWitt flew to Tampa, Florida, to audition, she certainly had to earn her role as arguably one of the most popular fictional queens in history.

"The audition happened in front of the casting director and one of the main choreographers, and I did literally every jump, spin and trick I'm capable of," DeWitt recalled. 

Spreading her Laker Effect by creating a fun and positive experience for fans is a perk of the job for DeWitt.

"Hopefully I'm making memories for kids and families, and they will look back on their experience attending Disney on Ice with happiness," said DeWitt. "The world is so full of negativity these days, but I can help be a part of making that all go away for two hours by bringing out the magic of a Disney story."

Elsa skating

“The world is so full of negativity these days, but I can help be a part of making that all go away for two hours by bringing out the magic of a Disney story.”


DeWitt said the most challenging aspects of performing on the road are the vast number of shows and an abnormal schedule.

"We perform either Wednesday or Thursday through the weekends, sometimes with three shows each on Saturday and Sunday," DeWitt explained. "The show is two hours long, so that's a lot of time on the ice. But as athletes, we really work to eat healthy, warm up together as a family and stay in shape. It's motivating having other people around doing the same things as you and makes the process more fun."

The current run of "Disney on Ice: Reach for the Stars" wrapped in May, and DeWitt said she is planning on skating for at least one more tour, which will travel throughout Europe in the fall.

She chose to pursue her passion of ice skating after working briefly in the news industry in Grand Rapids.

"During college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do; I was going to become a reporter and eventually an anchor," DeWitt said. "I enjoyed all of my classes and internships immensely while at Grand Valley, but, as many people find out, sometimes what you think you want to do isn't what you're meant to do. Skating has always been my passion, and returning to that felt right, but I never thought I would be skating professionally."

DeWitt's skating career dates back 22 years to when she was 6 years old. After years of taking group lessons in her hometown of Birmingham, she transitioned to training at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills throughout high school.

Elsa skating

While at Grand Valley, DeWitt taught group classes and private lessons in Grand Rapids and Holland, which also allowed her to keep her blades sharp. She also competed in the National Collegiate Figure Skating Championships in 2007 and 2008 and has won various national and regional awards.

She said that her education in broadcast communications helped prepare her for the promotional side of Disney on Ice.

"We do quite a bit of PR for Disney on Ice, especially in the U.S.," she said. "I have done TV interviews frequently, and it's pretty cool to be able to combine the knowledge I have from my degree with my current profession."

While there are many aspects of skating for Disney on Ice that DeWitt enjoys, she said what resonates with her the most is the excitement of the crowds.

"One of the best things is seeing all of the kids dressed up as their favorite Disney characters and watching them get so excited when we all skate out," she said. "I feel very lucky because I portray a very popular character, and when 'Let It Go' comes on, sometimes I can't even hear the music because the audience is singing along so loudly."

"That's probably my favorite part."

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