Worlds 2016: Highlights from Ice Dance, Mens, and Ladies

I didn’t have time to do full reviews of the ladies, men, or ice dance at Worlds. But I thought I’d share my own personal highlights from those events. No scoring analysis here, just my opinions, based on seeing the competition live!

Ice Dance

Coming first, the ice dance competition certainly set the tone for this Worlds, with many record-breaking, crowd-pleasing performances.

My personal favorite performance in dance was Hubbell/Donohue‘s “Adagio for Tron” FD. This dance has captivated me more each time I’ve seen it. I love the music. The use of cello and organ gives the piece a deep, textured feel. There is drama, but no flamboyance here—it’s intense, soulful passion. Hubbell/Donohue are the perfect skaters to interpret this music, with their innate chemistry and big presence on the ice. I loved everything about this dance, from the tightly woven, seamless choreography to the stunning highlights. One of my favorite moves was the first lift, where Madison steps onto Zach’s feet and balances in a simple but amazing position. That lift encapsulates everything about this team’s skating. They wow you–not with lots of face or big, spectacular moves—but just with their own charisma and intimacy on the ice. They were terrific at Worlds.

The other great highlight was, of course, Papadakis/Cizeron‘s “Build a Home” FD. This couple is just so beautiful to watch. They have such exceptional fluidity, speed, and freedom, like no team I’ve ever seen. Their whole FD is lovely; it was particularly amazing to see how they handled that section toward the end, when the tempo picks up and builds; they flowed with it so effortlessly! Just a joy to watch. I do want to give a shout-out to Gabriella. So much praise rightfully goes to Cizeron, but Gabriella entrances me in this program. I find her placement of her arms and head exquisite.

Another dance I really enjoyed was Gilles/Poirier‘s Saudade FD. Piper/Paul have so many complex, unusual, interesting moves in this program. Yet at the same time, they skated with such uniform speed, flow, and fluency that the whole program truly felt like a dance, not a collection of moves/elements. I was disappointed that Piper/Paul only placed 8th, as I felt their dance was more interesting and smoothly executed than some programs that placed above them.

I’m no expert on ice dance teknik, but Piper/Paul’s FD pointed up an issue I have with the current scoring of ice dance. The dancers’ TES in the free dance is based on 8 technical elements—only 2 of which (step sequences) involve actual feet-on-the-floor dancing. The other 6 elements are lifts, spin, and twizzles. Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough technical reward for putting out a smooth, cleanly danced program. A program with all level 4 elements but rough or slow transitions between will easily outscore a program that has a few level 3 elements but is seamlessly danced throughout. This doesn’t seem right, as ice dancing should (to my mind) be all about the quality of the footwork/partnering. Theoretically, a smoother program with a few level 3 elements can get higher PCS than a rough program with level 4 elements. But the additional PCS is seldom enough to offset the TES disadvantage. I just question whether the TES score really provides a full picture of each couple’s technical dance skills.

Anyhow, moving on from that digression, I also very much enjoyed the ShibutanisCoppelia SD. They just sparkled in this program, with gorgeous posture, beautiful dance holds, nice even speed, and fun choreography. Of course I also loved their “Fix You” FD, but I did think their standout program in this event was the SD.

Guignard/Fabbri also impressed with both their dances. I had never seen this team live, and found them enjoyable to watch in person. What I liked best was their good, consistent speed throughout, and the emotion they portrayed.

Finally, I quite enjoyed both programs from Sinitsina/Katsalapov. This team’s dances are like candy: Appealing, sweet, perhaps not the most nutrient-rich (in terms of strong technical elements), but overall, hard to resist. Their “Swan Lake” waltz floats along delightfully, so classical and lovely. The “Io Ci Saro” FD is cheesy, yet at the same time … they create some really beautiful shapes during this program. I have to admit, I’m warming to this duo. It seems Viktoria’s role right now is to keep up, hit her twizzles, and look absolutely lovely in lifts and highlights; she succeeds completely in all this. Meanwhile, Nikita’s footwork and edges are so strong that I find him nearly as enjoyable to watch as Cizeron (when he’s not doing lifts or twizzles, that is). Altogether, they’re an interesting team and definitely have star quality IMO, even if they’re not quite there yet technically.

For me, Cappellini/Lanotte‘s best moment came not in the compeition, but in the gala. Their comedic gala program featuring the two of them as a couple trying to sleep and fighting over a blanket and other things, was funny, clever, and memorable.

Ladies

The biggest highlight of ladies, for me, was seeing Mao Asada live for the first time. I’ve loved her skating for such a long time, but had never seen her live. She did not disappoint: Such beauty and grace. To me, she was in a class by herself artistically, although technically she was not perfect.

It’s Mao’s programs that I’ll remember most from the ladies. Her “Bei Mir Mistu Shein” SP was charming and lovely, with a wonderful step sequence. And Mao’s Madame Butterfly was like a throwback to an earlier, better era of ladies’ skating. The choreography shows off Mao’s exceptional gracefulness with sustained moves and long edges such as we rarely see any more in ladies’ skating. Mao was emotional and beautiful in this LP. And, I must say, her triple Axel is enormously exciting to watch, whether it gets full credit or not! Mao is a skater whose special skills and talents are not measured well within IJS.

Another main highlight of ladies, for me, was Mirai Nagasu‘s “Demons” SP. I absolutely love this program for Mirai, because it seems so personally significant to her. She performed it beautifully in Boston. It made me cry happy tears!

It was also a thrill to see Ashley Wagner finally put 2 clean performances together to claim silver! To be honest, I found it a bit difficult to fully take in Ashley’s and Gracie’s performances at Worlds. It was just hard to concentrate, knowing the huge pressure they were under to break the U.S. ladies’ medal drought. All I could think was: Will she land the next jump? I’m thankful Ashley broke through for a medal—what a moment! The roof almost blew off during the last 30 seconds of her program!!

I was pleasantly surprised by the performances of Evgenia Medvedeva and Anna Pogorilaya. I had not previously been a big fan of either. However, Evgenia’s LP was a highlight; obviously very clean, and I was more impressed with her musicality and phrasing than I was at Skate America last fall. Was it better than Yuna Kim’s 2010 Olympic gold-medal performance? Certainly not, but a fine program, for sure. Meanwhile, Anna’s speed and presence on the ice are far more striking live than on video!

Another lady who impressed more than expected: Gabrielle Daleman. I liked how Gabrielle went out and really attacked her programs! She seems to be reaching a new level of maturity and sophistication. I enjoyed her skating at Worlds.

Men

I feel like we can always count on the men to take us to the highest heights and lowest valleys of all at Worlds!! I’ll concentrate on the high points here. 🙂

The skater I enjoyed most in the short program was Ivan Righini. Ivan landed an easy triple Axel to start the program, then followed with a beautiful Rippon triple flip and Rippon 3Lz/3T combo. Not only were his jumps good, Ivan really gave everything in this program, skating with so much passion and intensity. Afterward, he said the program was done partly in memory of Russian skater Igor Pashkevich, who died the week before Worlds. A great tribute.

My other favorite in the short program was 16-year-old Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia. Whereas Righini’s program was emotional, Vasiljevs’s was flat-out fun. His “Puttin’ on the Ritz” SP was lively, energetic, and packed with interesting choreographic detail. He had wonderful speed throughout and landed some great triples, too. No quads, but it was a terrific Worlds debut for the young Latvian (who’s certainly one to watch for the future).

All the American men did an incredible job in the long program, skating wonderfully to place 6th, 8th, and 10th. It seems so unfair that they lost a spot for next year’s Worlds despite all of them placing in the top 10; I think their placements show once again how deep the American men are (even if they are not at the very top).

Grant Hochstein had a career-best performance of his Les Miserables LP, landing a quad Salchow and 8 (mostly clean) triples, and earning a season’s-best score. Grant has been one of my favorite skaters this year, so I was thrilled to see him close out his season with such an incredible LP at Worlds. There were so many wonderful moments in his program, for example his deep lunge into a camel spin and his closing spread eagle sequence. Grant skates from his heart; he didn’t hold anything back in this performance, and it was great to see.

Also terrific was Adam Rippon‘s Beatles LP. Adam had tremendous fan support in Boston and said he “felt like … Michael Jordan” when he was introduced–the roars from the crowd were so loud! With such attention on him, Adam could have easily been overwhelmed. But instead, he was a rock in his long program. He delivered. He opened the program with a quad Lutz—underrotated, but landed. And it just went from there. Triple Axel combo? Check. Triple Axel #2? Check. Rippon Lutz and ‘Tano Lutz? Check. Plus 4 other triples. And not only that, Adam gave the crowd the performance they were looking for. What I like about his Beatles LP is that it has everything. It’s funky (“Get Back”), pensive (“Blackbird”), and fun (“Sgt. Pepper’s”) at the same time, and yet somehow feels coherent all the way through. I was so proud of Adam in both his performances at Worlds! To see a skater who has struggled so much with inconsistency put it all together like that was amazing. Adam truly skated like the national champion he is. Well done, Adam!! 🙂 (And 6th in such a field was a very good placement, too!)

Of course, the greatest moment of the night came from Javier Fernandez. I’ve never seen him skate so well! If you’d asked me 2 years ago if it was even possible for Fernandez to deliver such a performance—3 quads, 2 triple Axels, 5 other triples, all completely clean—I would have said, No way, it’ll never happen! Because as great as Javi is, he’s never been the most consistent skater. Usually he has some great jumps in his LP … and then he has mistakes. But he was like a new man, a superman, in this LP! 🙂 The best part of the program was the performance itself. Javi just relaxed into this routine, loosening up rather than letting the pressure get to him. I love this program—no one but Fernandez could skate to Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady” with such ease, such charm. At times, the roar of the crowd was so loud you could hardly hear his music!! But Javi just stayed with it, went with it—and ended with a second world championship. Wow.

For Yuzuru Hanyu, of course, the competition didn’t go quite so well. His short program was masterful, yet controlled. I enjoyed the program, but felt like I wasn’t quite seeing the Hanyu that I’ve grown to love and admire so much. The freedom that I adore in his skating was missing. And his LP was just an exercise in frustration; you could feel how tense he was. But then, seeing Yuzuru in the gala on Sunday … Suddenly, he was himself again! As he started his “Requiem of Heaven and Earth” program, I immediately felt that special freedom, flow, and feeling for the music that he has. He was brilliant! His triple Axel was very good, and I loved the two sit spins placed one right after the other, so perfect for the music, and done with such amazing speed. This was the Hanyu I’d been waiting for. I was so very happy I got to see him skate this lovely program!

Wrap-up

What an incredible week it was at Boston Worlds 2016. Great skating, fine venue, great event overall. The local organizing committee did a fantastic job running this Worlds. Many fans got to know the @Worlds2016 team members personally, and can attest that they did just about everything possible to support fans who wanted to come to Worlds and to ensure it was a great experience. And it was.

There’s one other thing that made Worlds special this year, for me: The American fans, who turned out in force in Boston, helping generate sellouts and near-sellouts of a 15,000-seat arena. Of course there were lots and lots of international fans as well: Canadian flags waved proudly, as did the flags of Japan, Spain, Russia, and so many other countries. But this was the first home Worlds in 7 years–and American fans were excited!! Traveling from all over the country to come to Boston, sitting in whatever seats they could get, leading the cheers to the rafters, tweeting about it nonstop. The support they gave the American skaters was amazing. “The audience was unlike anything I’ve ever heard,” said Ashley Wagner. And it’s my feeling that this crowd was 100% ready to cheer for anyone who skated well! I can’t even count the number of standing ovations, and partial standing ovations, that I was part of, for skaters from Canada to Latvia!! The atmosphere in the arena was electric, particularly during the finals of ice dance, mens, and ladies.

I thought Nationals 2014 in Boston was exciting, but Worlds 2016 topped it exponentially. You hear so much about declining ratings and popularity for figure skating, but Boston proved how much fan support there is for skating in the United States. Throughout the week, it was great to meet so many other skating fans. And I honestly think we played our own small part in making Boston a World Championships to remember!!

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2 Responses to Worlds 2016: Highlights from Ice Dance, Mens, and Ladies

  1. Jessica M says:

    I absolutely agree with your digression. It was really nice to see to hear!

    Like

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