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oct 30

Free ice-skating returns to Manhattan

Workers out in midtown yesterday afternoon may have been surprised to find Bryant Park, a popular lunchtime retreat, transformed into a scene recalling Will Ferrell's hit comedy, "Blades of Glory."

Professional skaters were decked out in characteristically sparkly costumes to perform for the grand opening of the Pond at Bryant Park, a small seasonal rink surrounded by trees and gleaming skyscrapers.

First up was a pair of lively ice dancers from the country of Georgia, Isabella Tobias and Otar Japaridze, who zipped and toe-picked to what sounded like Georgian folk music. Sinead and John Kerr, four-time British ice dance champions from Scotland, also drew on their roots. They skated to traditional Scottish melodies—including strains of Auld Lang Syne—while sporting a highly untraditional take on tartan...

Silvia Fontana, who skated for Italy at the 2006 Turin Olympics, chose a power ballad (Christina Aguilera's "Hurt"), as did Michael Weiss, the first American to land a quadruple toe loop in competition ("I could be your hero, baby"). At the Pond, whose ice can be choppy and prone to puddles, Weiss opted instead for two mid-air flips—not quite as life-threatening as Ferrell's Iron Lotus move, but close!

After a number by native New Yorker Kyoko Ina and her partner John Zimmerman, the skating concluded with the crowd-pleasing Haydenettes, a troupe of peppy synchronized skaters who would likely meet the Rockettes' approval.

It was neat to be so close to the performers, many of whom are on the Stars on Ice national tour. You can see shots of them in all their glory by clicking on our slide show.

Beyond the splashy opening ceremony, the Pond wins kudos for being the city's only rink with free admission—skate rentals will set you back $10—and for its lovely setting. As the holidays approach, more than 100 artisans set up festive stalls in the park (Nov. 17-Dec. 30).

The sooner you can take a spin, the better: In mid-January, months before rivals like Rockefeller or Wollman, the Pond closes to make way for the white tents of Fashion Week.

Photo of the dramatic Georgian duo Isabella Tobias and Otar Japaridze by Kate Appleton.

RELATED: Top 10 Ice-Skating Rinks and Trip Coach: Romantic New York City.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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