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Stow skater scores goal with Disney.

Byline: Richard Duckett

"Disney On Ice: Passport to Adventure Presented by Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt''

When: 7 p.m. April 2; 1 and 7 p.m. April 3; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. April 4; 2 p.m. April 5

Where: DCU Center, 50 Foster St., Worcester

How much: $16 (opening night), $26, $36, $46, $61; $10 children April 5. Tickets are available by visiting the DCU Center Box Office, by phone at (800) 745-3000, or at www.ticketmaster.com

Jennifer Danowitz is teaching by example, even though she isn't a high school teacher right now.

Actually, Danowitz, who is from Stow, is a performer for Disney on Ice, and will be at the DCU Center in Worcester April 2-5 with the show "Disney On Ice: Passport to Adventure Presented by Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt.''

The show travels the world, but Danowitz said she likes it best when it comes to New England so that family members can see her. "My favorite part is looking around for my family and see them waving like crazy,'' she said. Some of her former students might also be on hand. They could well be college students now, having followed her example. " 'If our teacher can do this ... ' A lot of them are in college now,'' Danowitz said.

In fact, Danowitz has plenty to impart about her life over the past five years. "It's been one life-changing experience after another,'' she said.

"Passport to Adventure'' takes audiences to experience the Disney worlds of "The Lion King,'' "The Little Mermaid,'' "Peter Pan'' and "Lilo & Stitch.'' As a member of the ensemble, Danowitz has several different roles, including a monkey in "The Lion King'' segment and as a tuna in "The Little Mermaid.''

"It's a very fast-paced show,'' she said. "There are a lot of group ensembles and great solos.'' Her favorite sequence is when the pirates in the "Peter Pan'' segment take the ice -- from a pirate's ship.

Danowitz has had some varied roles in real life. She began ice skating at age 9, with her mother taking her to the local rink.

"She was a really big part of my figure skating growing up,'' Danowitz said. While a high school student at Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton, Danowitz was not only competing nationally as an accomplished figure skater, but also writing news stories as a freelancer for local newspapers.

When Danowitz went to the University of Connecticut in Storrs, she played for the women's ice hockey team and became captain and an American Collegiate Hockey Association Academic All-American. "I kind of put figure skating on hold,'' she said.

She graduated with a degree in English in 2010, and began working as a Teach For America high school teacher in Lawrence. Teach For America is a nonprofit organization that recruits recent college graduates and professionals to teach for at least two years in low-income communities throughout the United States.

However, a sad loss cast a long shadow over all of Danowitz's activities. Ten days after she graduated from the University of Connecticut, her mother, Linda Danowitz, passed away at the age of 50. Remembering the times her mother had taken her to practice, Danowitz thought about taking up figure skating again, she said.

Meanwhile at the high school, "I was trying to get them (students) to have goals. I explained to them that I had had goals, both academic and athletic,'' Danowitz said.

The students turned the tables. "They said 'Why not set a goal for yourself?' ''

Danowitz mentioned figure skating and joked (perhaps only half jokingly) that she wanted to try out for Disney On Ice. Pretty soon the classroom blackboard had students' goals next to Danowitz's.

"I started figure skating before work. My dad would come and watch me. It was good for both of us to go through that,'' she said.

She kept up her example, and even made an audition tape that she sent to Disney On Ice. When Disney On Ice came to Worcester with a show in 2012, she was invited to a live audition. Lo and behold, a few months later she was in Florida rehearsing as a Disney On Ice performer for the show "Worlds of Fantasy.''

"It's been awesome since then,'' Danowitz said.

Both "Worlds Of Fantasy'' and now "Passport to Adventure'' have taken Danowitz to many destinations with lots of traveling involved.

"It can be hard to move in an environment where things change every day, but it's definitely worth it,'' Danowitz said.

"I love making people smile, and performing gives me a chance to interact with the audience in a really positive way,'' she said. "I want them to feel my energy and be absorbed by the story of the performance.''

Traveling, she's noticed that "some audiences are louder than others.'' She was in Latin America last year when the World Cup was taking place. "I think the excitement of the World Cup carried over to our event,'' Danowitz said.

Much closer to home, "Everyone's coming to Worcester, so it's going to be super,'' she said of the DCU Center appearance.

Her father, Jay Danowitz, and brother, Steve Danowitz, will be among those waving.

"It's been really great to play in New England. My mom was always out watching me skating. When the family comes now, they say, 'This is why she spent all that time.' It's been a great thing to heal together.''

Still, traveling with Disney On Ice remains alluring. "If you had asked me three years ago, I would have said just one year (with Disney On Ice), but I really love it.''

She noted that "Passport to Adventure'' will be going abroad next year, and Danowitz figures to at least stick around for that.

"In the future I'll bring my experiences back to the classroom,'' she said.

"I can say, 'I set a goal and did it. You can do this too.' ''
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Title Annotation:Living
Author:Duckett, Richard
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 2, 2015
Words:986
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