When you watch a “Disney On Ice” show, with all of its iconic characters, colorful costumes and complex choreography, it’s easy to overlook the individual skaters’ humanity. The fact that behind the makeup and masks these are people with hopes, dreams and drama of their own can often get lost in the spectacle.
Fans will surely feel the love when “Disney On Ice: Reach for the Stars” hits the rink at Sunrise’s BB&T Center from Thursday through Sunday (the following week at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami), but they’re probably not aware that at least two of the performers — the skaters who portray Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from the film “Tangled” — are actually in love.
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Yes, Sofie Roberg, from Sweden, and Matvey Matveev, from Russia, are engaged to be married, having fallen for each other on the job. About nine years ago, Roberg was a solo skater in pairs class, and so she asked for a male partner.
“The director of casting said there were plenty of guys that would be good for me,” Roberg said. “And it was Matveev, and then we started to skate.”
It was hardly love at first sight, however.
“Yeah, it took me about three months to acquire her heart,” Matveev said. “I was all over her — she couldn’t hide.”
“He was a real gentleman, so I guess after a while I had to give up,” Roberg said with a laugh.
This time around, “Disney On Ice” brings usual suspects Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy, plus beloved characters from a quartet of classic films: “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” the Oscar-winning “Frozen” and “Tangled.”
Roberg says her relationship with Matveev helps enhance their performances.
“You’re obviously playing a love story on the ice, and having true love, I think it’s easier to act it out,” she said, “because you’re not shy, you know each other in and out, and it makes it more realistic.”
On tour, the couple is together “24/7,” says Matveev, but away from the job, things get a little more complicated.
“I’m from Sweden and he’s from Russia,” Roberg said, “so it’s always a little hard with the visa and the papers to be able to be together all the time. So that’s why also we’re a little bit behind with our marriage. It’s not as easy as being from the same country.”
Access to all things Disney is also different for their respective countries. Roberg and Matveev were both Disney fans growing up, but exposure for them was significantly less than for Americans.
For Matveev, the reason was political: “When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Aladdin,” he said. “I had a VHS cassette with Aladdin on it — I remember it was not a real one, because they’d sell it illegally at that time in Russia. You couldn’t get it legally anywhere, so you’d have to buy it from the black market.”
For Roberg, the reason was cultural: “I always grew up with Disney, but there are all the others in Sweden, like Pippi Longstocking — that was my favorite.”
Still, Roberg longed to one day join the Disney family.
“It’s actually been one of my goals since I was very little,” she said. “I remember writing in my diary that I want to win the Olympics and be part of “Disney On Ice,” so it’s been a longtime goal, and I am very happy I was able to achieve it.”
Matveev, who was raised as a professional sportsman and spent the bulk of his childhood training 35 hours per week, joined Disney in a more roundabout way.
“I spent most of my life skating on ice, and I was thinking of maybe finding something else to do,” he said. “I thought, this is the only thing I do? Maybe I should try something else. And I tried it, and then understood that I actually want to skate [laughs]. I was working as a manager in a coffee shop, and one of my friends texted me and asked me if I wanted to join Disney, and I was like, ‘Yes, yes, I want!’ ”
If you go
▪ What: “Disney On Ice: Reach for the Stars”
▪ When: 7 p.m. Thursday; 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday
▪ Where: Through Sunday at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise; from April 5-8 at AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
▪ Info: Ticketmaster; $16-$75