'We make dreams come true'

Alex Maycock, 37, is a professional ice skater from Cheshire. She's performing with Disney on Ice's new show, Disneyland Adventure featuring The Incredibles

What do you actually do?

I'm part of an ice-skating ensemble with Disney on Ice. I'm a line captain, so I mentor all the female skaters, making sure they are in the right place at the right time when we are touring, and helping them maintain straight lines on the ice during large group numbers.

It's not just about precision skating, jumping and spinning though; we have to act and develop characters, too. For example, if I'm portraying a pirate wench in the show, I need to be flirtatious and dainty.

What's your work schedule like?

Last year, we were on tour for 11 months straight, visiting more than 30 cities, with a break during the summer. The working day varies, but it might start early in the morning and finish late in the evening, and we get two days off a week. When we're on the road, we might perform in up to three shows in one day, each lasting an hour and 45 minutes. There are lots of quick costume changes during the show itself – you have to be " show-ready" and ready to fill in for another skater at the last minute.

What's the best thing about it?

I love seeing the smiles of people in the audience. Seeing Mickey Mouse skating, with all the fabulous lighting and music, takes them out of the stress and strain of their daily lives. They can just focus on having fun and enjoying the show. I really feel that we're making kids' dreams come true. As a teacher, I love seeing someone develop as a skater and gain confidence; and I also love all the travel. It's great to see different countries and their spectacular cultures.

What's not so great about it?

Being away from family and friends at home for long periods of time can be difficult. The rehearsal periods, where we prepare for a new show for six weeks or so before going on tour, are very exhausting. Your body is sore and tired, but it does feel great to see the performance come together in the end.

What skills do you need to do the job well?

You need to be a very strong skater, of course, with a good sense of balance and timing. You also need to be good at communicating, patient and aware of what's going on around you. There might be 37 other skaters on the ice with you, so you need to make sure you don't bump into each other. And you have to be able to laugh at yourself, because anything can happen on the ice – you're often wearing a silly costume and, occasionally, you fall over.

What advice would you give someone with their eye on your job?

It might seem like a glamorous career, but it can be gruelling. You might have to get up at 5.30am to do a radio interview, and still be chipper and lively. The most important thing is to keep your stamina up, and work on your ability and confidence as a skater. Jumps and spins are expected more and more, and the level of talent you need to be an ensemble skater is getting higher all the time. You also need to be able to gel with new people very quickly, as we work with an international cast of skaters and often new skaters join us midway through a tour.

What's the salary and career path like?

Ensemble skaters negotiate a weekly salary, depending on experience. Everyone is on a different contract. If you're an Olympic champion, the sky's the limit, but a new skater might earn roughly £300 to £500 a week. You could work up to being a principal skater, or be a manager or publicist. Or you could move into teaching or choreography.

For more information on ice skating, visit the National Ice Skating Association at www.iceskating.org.uk.

'Disneyland Adventure' will be showing in London at the O2 arena from 17-28 October, as part of a UK tour (0870 400 0777; www.ticketmaster.co.uk)