by Michael P Coleman
For decades, Disney “heroines” could hardly be called that at all. For the most part, they languished through countless animated features, starting with 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, waiting for their prince to ride up on a white horse and save them.
Not that being rescued by a handsome prince is necessarily a bad thing. In fact it’s a good gig if you can get it, but I’ve always felt that Disney Princesses — and princesses in general — were so much more than that.
Starting with The Little Mermaid’s Ariel and Beauty and the Beast’s Belle, the crew got a little mojo, and they’ve been on a roll ever since. Disney Princesses have also been doing a lot better in the melanin department over the last decade or so, with the ladies from films like Moana and The Princess and the Frog making it clear that you no longer have to be white and / or blond to be a Disney Princess.
In the off chance that you don’t know her, The Princess and the Frog’s heroine is a young lady named Tiana. She’s being brought to life — along with seven other princesses like Jazmine, Aurora, Rapunzel, and the sisters from Frozen — in cities all over the country this fall in Disney On Ice presents Dream Big. The show plays Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center November 2nd-5th.
Chicago native Chelsea Ridley, 24 plays “Tiana” in the production. She says the line between herself and that Disney Princess is quite blurred.
“I’m very much like Tiana,” Ridley shared by phone. “Years ago, Disney Princesses were different. Now Disney’s showing that you can be ambitious, and talented, and hard working, and confident. So going out there and skating as this Princess is amazing for me, and it’s even more amazing that I can inspire others.”
Ridley is undoubtedly doing that, as Olympian skater Surya Bonaly inspired her years ago.
“Bonaly was on TV competing for the Olympics, she was amazing, and she looked like me,” Ridley recalled. “She was my inspiration growing up. So here I am in my 20s and seeing other little girls looking at me the way I looked at Surya. It’s so humbling to be a part of this. It’s really cool.”
Ridley is joined by a world-class cast of athletes in this production. They make it all look so beautiful and graceful, but make no mistake: ice skating is a sport practiced by seasoned professionals.
“The audience sometimes doesn’t realize that this is a sport,” Ridley reflected. “It’s beautiful and it’s artistry, but it’s still a lot of strength and training that goes along with it. Many of the people in our cast have been skating for 20 years or more, and we’ve all competed all the way up the Olympic track.”
Ridley promises a not-to-be-missed show in Sacramento with Disney on Ice presents Dream Big, including “…tons of fireworks, and a fire-breathing dragon!” And just before each those shows, Ridley will pause to give thanks to her higher power.
“I really believe that the reason I am here is because of my faith,” Ridley shared. “I’m here to inspire others and perform in front of audiences all over the world. Every time I get ready to go out on the ice, I give thanks and ask for protection, and I go out there and do what I do.”
And just as Ridley puts everything she has into every performance, she encourages others to do the same — independent of what their own calling is.
“Always push the envelope,” Ridley offers as advice to those — of all ages — who dream. “Don’t let anyone tell you ‘no.’ Go for it!”
You can watch Ridley and the rest of the cast “go for it” in Disney On Ice presents Dream Big at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center November 2-5. Tickets start at $20 each, and there is a 50% discount on select seating on Opening Night. Tickets are available for purchase online at ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000, or in-person at the box office.
Michael P Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelance writer who knows every word of every song from The Little Mermaid. He and his eldest daughter, Janet, watched the film together at least once a week when she was little. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.