Ice dancing on the big stage: How one Disney Princess found her way to Eugene
EUGENE, Ore. - Today, you can find Elaine Pruett teaching children how to figure skate at the Eugene Rink Exchange, but it wasn't long ago that she was touring the world as a professional with Disney on Ice.
It is a path that she paved on her own, despite some overwhelming odds.
In northeast London, at the age of nine, Pruett found herself standing on an ice rink for the first time. She laced up her skates, stepped onto the ice, and and that moment, something clicked.
"I knew, that's what I would do," said Pruett.
She was taken to the rink by her babysitter, while her single mother, Helen, worked an overnight shift at a local potato crisp factory to provide for her two children.
Money was tight, and paying for skating lessons was not an option.
So instead, Pruett began to teach herself. For months, she observed other kids at the rink, learning the sport by mimicking their movements. At last, she had a breakthrough.
"One day, one of the coaches noticed me and asked who was training me," said Pruett. "I said 'nobody, because my mom can't really afford this.' So then, they coached me for free for a year until I could afford the skating."
Pruett possessed a natural passion for the sport, but her work ethic was fueled entirely by her mother.
"She always told me, 'do what you love. If this is what you want to do, I'll do whatever I can to help you make your goals work,'" said Pruett. "And so she did."
At the age of 16, Pruett began her first world tour with Disney on Ice.
Her most notable performance was as the evil witch in Snow White. However, some of the most fulfilling performance during her decorated career were the ones where her mother was in the stands.
"She worked really hard to get me to where I am," said Pruett. "It was really nice to give back to her and I could give her treats."
Today, it's been five years since her mother's passing, but her passion remains unchanged.
Following her retirement from Disney on Ice, Pruett moved to Oregon with her husband. Now, she resides in Eugene, teaching aspiring skaters at the Rink Exchange.
"If I can give back to these kids what I did, the technical performance, if they can go out and have a career like I did, then I've done my job," said Pruett.
Pruett spent nearly 20 years skating with Disney on Ice, and she also spent several years in costume design as well towards the end of her career.