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Alumna spreads Laker Effect around the world by ice skating for Disney on Ice

  • Shanda DeWitt, '10, portrays Elsa from "Frozen" with Disney on Ice.

Posted on January 16, 2018

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 over the ice and Elsa, the queen of the fictional kingdom of Arendelle, bursts through the foggy 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 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and currently portrays Elsa for "Disney on Ice: Reach for the Stars."

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

DeWitt said she enjoys spreading her Laker Effect through creating a fun and positive experience for fans.

“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.”

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

“We perform either Wednesday or Thursday through the weekends, sometimes with three shows each on Saturdays and Sundays,” 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.”

DeWitt chose to more actively pursue her passion of ice skating after working in the Grand Rapids news industry for a brief period of time following her time at Grand Valley.

“During college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do; I was going to become a reporter and eventually an anchor,” DeWitt recalled. “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 when she began skating at age 6. After years of taking group lessons in her hometown of Birmingham, Michigan, she transitioned to training at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills throughout high school.

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

She said that her broadcasting education at Grand Valley 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 United States,” said DeWitt. “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 during every performance.

“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.”

DeWitt can be seen in action when Disney on Ice glides into Grand Rapids February 15-18 at Van Andel Arena.