All photographs by Marni Gallagher
It’s early fall in Boston. For skating fans in the area, that means it’s time for An Evening with Champions (EWC). This famous show, which takes place at Harvard University, is an annual ritual for many Boston-area fans and skaters alike, and effectively serves as the local kick-off to the season. It’s always a fun event, and this year’s 46th annual Evening with Champions was no exception.
This year’s show was headlined by Polina Edmunds and Nathan Chen, both medalists at U.S. Nationals last season. The show was otherwise a bit short on big names. With participation in Challenger Series events increasing, it may be difficult for eligible skaters to commit to fall shows like EWC. Scheduling conflicts/illness also prevented the participation of some. However, there were still many beautiful programs to enjoy, as always.
The show was led off by Richelle Chang, a Juvenile lady who trains in Boston and won the show’s annual fundraising contest. Richelle skated a nice program to “The Prayer” and landed some double jumps.
Next to appear was local Intermediate pair Cate Fleming/Jedediah Isbell. Cate & Jedidiah are adorable together! They skated to an orchestrated version of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” and did a single twist and side-by-side double Lutz. The highlight of the routine was a fully extended star lift with several rotations. After several years together, Cate/Jedidiah are starting to have a more mature look on the ice and showing improvement in their unison and power.
Selena Zhao, the 2015 Canadian junior ladies champion, skated next. Selena just started her freshman year at Harvard. She skated a lyrical routine and landed a triple Salchow and (I think) a triple toe.
Kevin Shum is a sophomore at MIT and placed 7th at the first Junior Grand Prix event this season. He skated his Eleanor Rigby SP (wearing the obligatory purple shirt). I enjoyed this program quite a lot. Kevin landed a triple Salchow and two triple toe loops in the program, as well as a nice camel-to-sit spin. I feel like Kevin’s line, extension, and presentation have improved over the last year.
Heidi Munger, a Boston-area skater who was 15th at U.S. Nationals last year, skated to Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” This was actually one of my favorite programs of the evening. Heidi interpreted this music really well, with nice nuance, emotion, and attention to detail throughout. She is an elegant skater, with very polished positions. She landed a good triple flip and double Axel. I spoke briefly with Heidi after the show. She will be competing at Regionals in October and hopes to make her second appearance at U.S. Nationals this season.
Former U.S. competitor and Harvard student Yasmin Siraj skated a heartfelt performance to Haley Reinhart’s cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Yasmin’s edges/footwork seem almost deeper and stronger now than when she was competing. She included a double jump in the program and finished with a very pretty layback spin.
Shotaro Omori, who was 12th at U.S. Nationals last year, skated to Phantom of the Opera. He landed a triple loop and double Axel. I love watching Shotaro skate. He has gorgeous line and clarity of movement in everything he does. He interpreted the music so well that I really enjoyed it (even though it was the dreaded POTO!).
Christina Gao, former Skate America silver medalist and Harvard student, skated a lyrical routine to “Cherry Wine” by Jasmine Thompson, which she choreographed herself. The program included some double jumps and spins and was lovely to watch, showcasing Christina’s long, beautiful lines and gentle but strong style. I miss Christina on the competitive scene, so it was great to see her again in the show. Christina is a senior at Harvard. She recently did an internship with a finance company in New York, and may return there after graduating. She also hopes to remain involved with Evening with Champions in coming years. 🙂 She said the show has been one of her favorite experiences at Harvard.
The Haydenettes, current World bronze medalists, closed the first half with an energetic performance of their “Fantasia” free skate. This was a fun number! The team skated really fast, with nice interweaving patterns. One of the highlights of the routine was a four-person lift feature.
Legendary Olympic champions Ludmila/Oleg Protopopov opened the second half with a simple but beautiful romantic program. It’s amazing how, even at the age of 80/84, the Protopopovs can still captivate audiences with their elegance and beauty. They are so utterly in command of every aspect of their performance, down to the expert placement of their hands to accent each movement. Watching them underscores that triple and quad jumps come and go…but beautiful artistry in figure skating lasts forever.
Douglas Razzano, former U.S. competitor, followed with a great performance to “Sound of Silence” by Disturbed. This is the same song that was used to good effect in a Stars on Ice number this spring. It’s very powerful, strong music, and Doug intrepreted it really well, with nice speed and big, dramatic moves. He landed two triple toes and a double Axel. Doug often skates to upbeat, funky music for shows, so it was nice to see him successfully go for something different here.
Courtney Hicks, who won a Grand Prix silver medal last year, also performed to big music, choosing Adele’s “Hello” for her program. Luckily, Courtney is a skater with more than enough power to match Adele’s soaring vocals. As I’ve mentioned before, I just love watching Courtney skate live. Her edges & speed are to die for. She did have an out-of-nowhere fall on footwork in Saturday night’s program, but got right up and kept going. She landed a triple flip, triple loop, and double Axel. All her jumps looked gorgeous, high, and secure. She also performed her trademark Russian splits and closing scratch spin. After the show, Courtney said that her training with new coach Todd Sand is going well. She enjoys performing in Evening with Champions whenever she can, and was able to do the show this year because her senior B assignment is one of the later events, Finlandia Trophy.
Shawn Sawyer, former Canadian competitor, performed an exciting routine called “Mutation.” Shawn’s style is so inventive and musical; the audience loved his fabulously extended spirals and cantilever. He also did a triple loop and triple toe (fall). I feel like Shawn’s skating is exactly what audiences want to see at shows: Exciting, accomplished, and entertaining, all at once.
Shawn is now doing choreography, in addition to performing in shows. He enjoys the choreographic process and likes to be involved in all aspects of it, including selecting the music. He prepares for choreographing by studying his skaters’ previous programs, to help assess their strengths.
I took a (rather bad) fancam of Shawn’s program at EWC. Here it is.
Oleksii (Aleksei) Bychenko, reigning European silver medalist, skated a quite entertaining number to “Chambermaid Swing” by Parov Stelar. The music had a very rapid tempo, and Oleksii did a long, fast, complicated step sequence that was most impressive. He also landed a triple toe and double Axel in the program. It was nice to see an international skater in the cast!
Kimmie Meissner has been one of the mainstays of Evening with Champions the last few years, and it was a pleasure to see her in the show again. Kimmie skated an elegant, soft performance to “Ave Maria.” She did not perform any jumps, but her spins and spirals were lovely.
Nathan Chen had a breakout season last year with his bronze medal at U.S. Nationals/gold medal at the Junior GPF. He entertained the crowd in Boston with a cool, upbeat program to Kygo’s “Stole the Show.” Although coming off an injury, Nathan looked to be fully back in form in Boston. He landed a triple Lutz, triple toe, and (I think) triple flip. (No quads; I’m sure he’s saving those for competition!) He also performed a series of mini-jumps into a spin–interesting. Nathan showed nice flair and projected well to the audience in this number. He can still work on refining and extending his posture /positions a little more, but overall he looked really good in this program.
I tried to fan-cam Nathan’s program but, sadly, only got the first half. Here it is.
Polina Edmunds closed the show with a pop-music dance number (which I believe she also performed in Stars on Ice last spring). Polina really sold this number and had good speed. Unfortunately she tripped on some footwork and fell, but laughed it off, raising her arms in a victory sign as she slid into the boards! Which got the crowd laughing, too. 🙂 Polina did not include any jumps in this routine.
Emily Hughes did a great job hosting the show (although Paul Wylie’s customary presence was missed). Overall it was a really nice evening of skating. And I’m so glad all the cast members could come to the event this year. An Evening with Champions was created to benefit a great cause: cancer research. It’s a nice feeling to contribute to that cause–while also enjoying some early-season skating fun in Boston.
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