Last week, Danielle Leong, a Disney on Ice performer who portrays the character Mulan, talked to me about her career as a figure skater, her time with Disney on Ice and explained why students should come out to the Royal Farms Arena between October 28 and November 1 to see the performances.
How long have you been figure skating?
I have been skating since I was seven years old, and I’m 29 now, so for quite a long time.
How did you get started with figure skating?
At first, it was just something that my mom had put me in to just try out and see if I liked it, and I just fell in love with it and have been doing it ever since.
How long have you been with Disney on Ice and what first got you interested in being a performer with them?
I have been skating with the show for four years. I was just ready for a different kind of skating. I had done all of the training and the competition and I just wanted to experience a side of skating where I could just perform for the audience and not worry about nerves as much as in a competition setting.
Do you ever regret leaving competitive skating?
No, not at all! I did it for quite some time and was just ready for something different. It’s pretty hard to explain the feeling you get when you get to perform with Disney on Ice and how the audience perceives all the stories and everything, so I have absolutely no regrets.
What do you think of 100 Years of Magic?
I love this show because it tells a really good mix of classic and modern stories, so there is something for everyone in the family. We have Pinocchio and Snow White, then we move to Aladdin and Mulan and Toy Story, and then we have some of the newer stuff like Finding Nemo. We just recently added Frozen which we are really excited about because it is so popular right now. All the kids get so excited when it comes on!
What has been your favorite show to perform in and why?
I’ve actually only ever been with [100 Years of Magic]. I started with this show and I’ve stayed with it. It’s a great show. It’s so much fun, and it moves fast, and it’s super exciting, so audiences seem to love it.
Is Mulan your favorite Disney movie?
It’s one of them. I just like how her story is a little different. She is expected to be one way by her family and then, in order to save her dad, she takes his place and I just think it’s a different take on your traditional Disney story.
Do you have a favorite song from Mulan?
I mean the solo, “Reflections,” is a beautiful song. I love singing to it.
What did you think of Mulan when it first came out? Was it always a favorite of yours?
I remember when it came out in theaters I was so excited to go and see it as a little kid. I liked it a lot, right away.
Did you have any other favorite Disney movies or princesses as a child?
I was always a fan of The Little Mermaid, and now she’s in our shows, so it’s great to see that story brought to life, too.
Did you ever think that you might perform with Disney on Ice as a child?
No, I had no idea. It never even occurred to me [that I would one day perform with them]. But it’s pretty cool to know that something I got to watch as a child I can be a part of now. Especially with the performers bringing to life all of these magical Disney stories; it’s just very cool.
What do you think a younger version of yourself would think if they knew what you did now?
[If I knew], I probably wouldn’t have believed it, just because you don’t ever think you’re going to be part of something so cool and so special.
What is the most difficult part of being a Disney on Ice performer?
To be honest it’s a really rewarding job. Sometimes you get a little bit tired, but [when] you step on the ice, that all goes away. When you see all those kids dressed up and you have their undivided attention, all of those things go away.
What is it like touring the country with such a large group of people?
[They] become your family. It’s a really close group of friends and is just really fun to see all of these different places and share all these different experiences with them.