When she was just a little girl, Marie Hanford’s parents took her to a frozen pond in Idaho to learn a very important lesson — how to skate.
Hanford and her sister took to the ice like naturals, and when it came time to choose between gymnastics or skating, it quickly became clear the two weren’t hanging up their skates anytime soon.
Now, Hanford skates as part of Disney on Ice, this season portraying Moana in the group’s production of “Dare to Dream.” The show runs from Nov. 30 through Dec. 3 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
In the years after that chilly day on the pond, Hanford honed her skills and skated competitively throughout her teens. On the cusp of adulthood, she reached a crossroads in her young career.
“When I was around 18 or 19 and on the competition circuit, I realized I no longer wanted to compete,” she says. “But I also didn’t want to stop skating. So the transition from competition to performing was pretty natural for me.”
Hanford has performed in ice shows for the past nine years, and this is her second season with Disney on Ice.
The “Dare to Dream” show features a mostly female cast portraying some of Disney’s most beloved characters — Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel, Elsa and Anna. Hanford’s character, Moana, makes her Disney on Ice debut this year, after the wildly popular film release last year.
With that lead role, there’s certainly more pressure, but also a sense of excitement for Hanford.
“I feel so honored to have been cast in that role and be able to perform it,” she says. “I hope I’m doing a good job bringing the character to life.”
With all those Disney princesses hitting the ice, the show definitely packs a punch of girl power. That means a lot to Hanford, especially knowing how many little girls look up to her and her fellow cast members.
“I feel very empowered out there,” she says. “There’s something for everyone in the show, but there’s definitely a strong cast of ladies, and I feel very honored to be part of it.”
But this isn’t just a bunch of princesses flouncing around in ball gowns. The show features musical numbers, eye-popping special effects and cast members showing off their athletic prowess on the ice — some even flying above the rink.
“The athleticism is unreal,” Hanford says.
For Hanford, being able to continue to do what she loves — skate — is a treat, but the real joy is seeing her young audiences delight in witnessing their favorite characters come to life.
“When you see all the little kids dressed up as their favorite Disney characters and singing along to all the songs, it’s just so sweet,” she says. “It brings me back to my childhood. I was definitely that little kid dancing in the living room and singing my heart out.”