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Riding High After All These Years – Two-Time National Bronze Medalist Dan Hollander Finds His Niche in Life and Love

2009 proved to be a banner year for entertainer extraordinaire Dan Hollander, who lives and trains in Michigan. From skating and consulting with his career idol Scott Hamilton last summer, to his engagement to the love of his life Ashley Wyatt on New Year’s Eve, Hollander admits he is on top of the World.

When Hollander won his first of two United States bronze medals in 1996, he knew he was well on the path to success in the sport of figure skating. Making the World team for the first time and then placing tenth in Edmonton at the World Championships just seemed like icing on the cake. Despite a repeat bronze medal in 1997, Dan was unable to capitalize on the momentum he had built in 1996, and he struggled in the eligible ranks until 1999 when Dan bid his eligible career adieu.

So what was the problem with his amateur career?

In 1996 when Dan won the bronze medal, he caught the watchful eye of Tom Collins, owner and operator of the “Champions on Ice” tour. Collins invited Hollander to join his tour for fourteen shows in the summer of 1996. The then 23-year-old blossomed that summer. He became an instant hit with the audience and with Collins and his contract was expanded that summer to forty-seven shows. Returning to the restrictions of competitive skating was difficult for Dan, and he struggled with motivation and consistency.

It wasn’t until he joined the pro ranks that Hollander really hit his stride.

Entertainment and innovation are Hollander’s strong suit. Thinking outside of the box Dan went on and created brilliant routines which he performed with Champions on Ice until its close in 2008. He rapidly became an audience favorite, and wowed crowds throughout the U.S., with clever routines such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Elmer Fudd. Demand for his comedic routines soared, and he performed in a variety of shows such as Art on Ice, the Jimmy Fund, and the Elvis Stojko tour. He began teaching and doing seminars in 1998, and also made routine appearances each summer skating in the Sun Valley Ice Show. Since the close of Champions of Ice, Hollander has spent his entire summer in Sun Valley as a regular in their summer series.

Unbeknownst to Hollander, as he hopped into his Subaru Baja on June 18th for this year’s trip to Sun Valley — his life was about to change forever.

“On my way out to Sun Valley, I taught a seminar in Kansas City, MO. My friend Katie Holmes wanted to fix me up with one of her former students, Ashley Wyatt. Katie thought Ashley and I would get along well together, so she set up this kind of blind date for us,” Hollander told Skate Today.

“With Katie’s prompting, Ashley invited me to a modern dance/Cirque du Soliel type show my last night in Kansas City,” he added. “We had a great dinner and the show was good, but I was really surprised that the time went by so fast sitting outside Cold Stone eating ice cream for three hours! I really wasn’t expecting to meet someone, nor was I even looking.”

Hollander left as scheduled for Sun Valley the next day, but as he drove off his thoughts kept drifting towards the 30- year-old perky blond with the twinkling eyes. It was as if lightening struck, and he was mesmerized.

“I talked to her on my cell phone almost nonstop during the following two day drive to Sun Valley,” the 2000 American Open Champion recalled. “A week later she came to visit in Sun Valley, but ended up staying the whole summer. Suddenly, I realized I must not have been very popular in years past because I never had a social calendar. That all changed when Ashley showed up, and we were invited to go out every night with a variety of very cool people…. I was totally EXHAUSTED!”

During the summer Dan also learned of Scott Hamilton’s return to the ice and that he would be coming to Sun Valley to prepare for his comeback.

“I can’t tell you how excited I was to skate with my idol. Scott is the reason why I skate! And to skate with him for the first time in my life was just awesome,” he said jubilantly. “He was really nice when I met him, and he gave me a few pointers. I remember each time I would skate past Ashley and whisper, “Oh my god, did you see that, Scott Hamilton totally gave me a correction.…how cool is that???”

While driving home from Sun Valley at the end of the summer Hollander was shocked when he was asked to skate at Scott’s annual charity show.

“I remember I received a call from Steve Lindecke, the producer of Scott’s Cares Foundation show. He told me Scott wanted me to participate in his annual cancer benefit in November. When he asked me I was stunned, but I didn’t even hesitate for a second. I just immediately said ‘Yes’.”

“The show was amazing. I have never learned so much in so little time! We rehearsed seven hours the first day in preparation of the show. We slammed out four of the five routines we would perform in the show and then I sped off to have a costume fitting.”

“The day of the show it was like a whirlwind,” the 37-year-old explained. “We had to learn the fifth number on the floor since the trusses with all the lights was still on the ice. We skated only a few minutes on the ice while Cheap Trick had a sound check before the dress rehearsal, and before we knew it was showtime! It was so fast, and we had so much information to remember that nobody had time to be nervous! I had such a BLAST!!!!“

Hamilton and Hollander hit it off right from the start.

“When I met Dan this summer we spoke a lot and laughed a lot,” the 1984 Olympic Champion said chuckling. “While we were together in Sun Valley, Dan and I tossed around a lot of ideas. I wrote them down and as I was getting ready for my return, I flew Dan down to Nashville. We worked together for a few days, and he helped me with my shtick. He stayed at my house, and we had a great time working out the routine.”

“Dan is so creative,” Scott added. “I found we have a lot in common and we both like to make people laugh. He has a great comedic sense,” Hamilton explained of his choice to work with Hollander for his comeback.

Hamilton’s request meant the world to Hollander.

“I remember I was at Great Lakes shopping with Ashley when I called Scott,” Hollander told Skate Today.

“He had emailed me that he had a favor to ask and he wanted me to call him. Scott asked me to fly to Nashville for two days to choreograph his new comedy routine, “Everything Old is New Again,” which aired live on Thanksgiving Day on Kaleidoscope. Sure, I may have been calm and cool on the phone, but I was totally doing the happy dance in the store, much to everyone’s amusement.”

“While in Nashville, Scott asked me to help spot his first back-flip since his retirement. We were both taught by the same person, Michael Weiss’s dad. I was honored, he trusted me not to kill him! Scott was training like a maniac…. and it totally showed.”

“Working with Scott was so much fun,” Hollander said smiling. “I would give a basic outline, and he would expand on it, and then I would add to that. To have a video of us side by side doing the same routine is surreal,” the Michigan native added.

“We are just two short guys trying to make people smile,” Hamilton said, in summary. “Dan has a great work ethic and I look forward to doing something with him in the future.”

Dan has also succeeded in other avenues within skating. For example, he is using his comedic ability to produce fun video résumés for skaters. 26-year-old Alberto Martinez, who picked up skating in college, worked with Dan and created a video. Three days after posting his entertaining video online, Martinez landed a major role in an ice show in Singapore.

As 2009 came to a close Hollander had a surprise to share of his own. On New Year’s Eve with fireworks setting the backdrop the 37-year-old proposed to his girlfriend Ashley Wyatt.

“Ashley was performing in an ice show at Busch Gardens in Florida. I flew into Tampa for Ashley’s final show on New Year’s Eve with my father,” Hollander said of the surprise. “The show ended about 11:30 PM. Ashley and I gathered backstage with others for the cast party. At midnight the fireworks started and we all went into the main park to watch.

“I left Ashley for a second to get the box from my father, and then I walked her to a park bench. I became tongue-tied and stumbled through my words,” he recalled. “I then reached into my pocket to pull the box out of my tight jeans and as luck would have it, the box got stuck! The story of my life….always a comedy.”

Wyatt and Hollander plan to wed in the near future. They are entertaining the idea of tying the knot in Sun Valley, ID where it all began. They plan to live in Michigan. No date has been set as of yet.

Hollander will continue his work with Dan Hollander Productions:

Photos courtesy of Dan Hollander

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