Ice Stars for Wounded Warriors 2015: Review

So, ’tis the season for skating shows! This weekend, I went to Ice Stars for Wounded Warriors 2015, a benefit show at the UMass campus in Amherst, MA. Proceeds from the show will benefit U.S. veterans returning from duty overseas.

Most of the show’s cast consisted of local New England skaters, so it felt a lot like a club show. However, there were several special guests: Caydee Denney/John Coughlin, Courtney Hicks, and Yasmin Siraj.

You see some fun things at these local shows. A couple weeks ago at Ice Chips, a group number to the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” featured a little kid dressed up as a yellow sun! My skating friends dubbed him/her “Tiny Sun,” and he/she provided much amusement. Here at Ice Stars, one of the highlights was twin brothers Joe and Sam Fitzgerald, approximately 10, who came out and skated to “Saturday Night Fever” in matching white leisure suits. They were pretty entertaining! 🙂

The UMass Synchronized Skating team performed two numbers. Their first program was set to somber, moody music, with the team in nearly all-black costumes. The routine included some intricate patterns and complex holds. Ocean State Theatre, a mixed-age theater-on-ice group from Rhode Island, skated a fun number to Annie, portraying the story of the musical on ice.

Several ladies who compete at the juvenile/intermediate/novice levels in New England performed solo numbers, among them Dayoon Chang, Emile Laws, Madeleine Weiler, Gabriella Izzo, and Cate Fleming. These young ladies have lots of double jumps, nice spins, and quite good programs! A couple of them even landed double Axels.

Local skater Gabriella Izzo
Local skater Gabriella Izzo

Also appearing was ice dance team Kimberly Wei/Ilias Fourati. They competed at Nationals this year at novice level and will move up to juniors this season. They performed a routine to Masquerade Waltz, which I assume is their SD for the upcoming season. It’s a nice program, although it still needs further polishing.

Junior men’s competitor Bennett Gottlieb skated to a Beatles program that showed off his strong, clean lines. He performed his signature backflip.

Yasmin Siraj, former senior ladies Nationals competitor and current Harvard student, skated to Fergie’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody.” Yasmin wore a hot pink fringed dress and landed some double loops in this upbeat program.

Courtney Hicks performed two standout numbers in the show. Her first program to “Fire” included a beautiful triple loop and double Axel and ended with a fast, crowd-pleasing headless scratch spin. (See video.) For her second program, Courtney skated to a lovely version of “Amazing Grace.” This routine featured a gorgeous, high triple flip, another double Axel, and amazingly fast, centered spins. The audience loved it, and many were standing at the end.

Seeing Courtney skate live at a show is a quite different experience from watching her do competitive programs on TV. In a small arena, free of competitive pressure, you can really appreciate her exceptional speed, her soft knees, and her power. I haven’t seen many other female skaters who have the speed and flow that Courtney does in her exhibition programs. Her jumps are also amazing—so high and easy–and the runout on the landings is wonderful. I enjoyed the straightforward, emotional programs Courtney chose for this show. Although not widely noted for her artistry, Courtney definitely has the ability to connect with an audience when she has the right music and programs, as she did here. I was really, really impressed with her skating.

Courtney landing a jump: Look at how deep her edge is!  (Matt Gade/Deseret News)
Courtney landing a jump: Just look how deep her edge is!

In the program notes for the show, Courtney said she was initially drawn to the sport because she liked skating fast on the ice! Now, her favorite part of skating is the jumps. I got a chance to chat with Courtney briefly after the show. She was very nice and said that she’s starting her preparations for next season. She has “some ideas” for new programs but apparently hasn’t made final decisions yet. I told her that many fans are hoping to see something fast-paced and exciting! Courtney smiled at that. 🙂

Courtney after the show
Courtney after the show

Caydee Denney/John Coughlin were also special guest stars in the show and performed two fun routines. Their first program was to “Uptown Funk” and included many crowd-pleasing athletic moves. (See video.) I heard lots of “wows” in the crowd around me. Caydee and John’s second program to a Bruno Mars song was softer and enjoyable to watch. In both numbers, Caydee and John performed a split triple twist, which was exciting to see! However, there were no throw or side-by-side jumps. Both programs also featured a new carry lift, which involves Caydee standing up on John’s shoulders with both feet (hope he has shoulder pads on!), then dismounting with a flipout exit. The crowd loved this move. It was nice to see Caydee & John back on the ice again.

Overall, it was a fun show for a great cause!

A group picture following the show
A group picture following the show

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