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Los Angeles Ice Theater grounded by volcanic ash

April 17, 2010 |  2:19 pm

Ice President Obama is not the only one whose European travel plans were hampered by a cloud of volcanic ash Saturday.

As the White House issued a statement that Obama would not be traveling to Poland for the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski, a group of young figure skaters from Los Angeles wondered if their dream of becoming world champions was about to be sidelined as well.

Members of the Los Angeles Ice Theater have spent a year practicing their dramatic six-minute performance inspired by Cirque du Soleil that features elegant 18th century costumes and colorful airbrushed makeup. They had hoped their lyrical take on a clown’s funeral would earn them their first official world title at the 1st Nations Cup of Ballet on Ice scheduled for next weekend.

But half of the 30 members, whose ages range from 10 to 22, were booked on Sunday flights via London and Paris, while the rest were supposed to leave Tuesday. As airlines continued to cancel flights between Europe and LAX because of Wednesday’s Icelandic volcano eruption that left debris in air pathways, the team realized it may not make it to the international competition.

A backlog of thousands of stranded passengers has meant that the group would have to book new tickets in order to make the tournament on time. Originally about $1,000 each, the price has now more than tripled, said the team’s coach Danelle Cole.

“The flights are astronomical, so I don’t know if we can afford to go,” Cole, 45, said. “The kids handle themselves so professionally and they’re staying more positive about this than the adults are. They just think rain, snow or ash, they’ll get there. But their parents are the ones who have to deal with $3,600 tickets. I just feel really sick and upset and would like help. We’ve put a whole year into this and trained for this moment and it’s gone.”

Established in 2001, Los Angeles Ice Theater is a nonprofit organization that uses theatrical sets and costumed skaters to tell a story on ice. The team has performed at Los Angeles Kings hockey games, holiday shows and charity events and has featured guest skaters, including Surya Bonaly and Mirai Nagasu. The group, composed of 29 girls and 1 boy, practices at Pickwick Gardens in Burbank.

Cole said she would decide Sunday whether to pull out of the competition.

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Los Angeles Ice Theater