Stars on Ice 2019: Notes & Impressions

Yesterday I went to the Worcester, MA show of Stars on Ice & really enjoyed it a lot!! Here are some notes & impressions from this year’s show.

Last year’s post-Olympics Stars on Ice tour was so good that I didn’t expect this year’s show to equal it. But, I actually enjoyed this year’s show every bit as much. I felt like the show had a really relaxed, mellow feel to it. All the skaters seemed to be having fun, and the group numbers from Jeff Buttle were brilliant–just great to watch.

I’ll sound like a cheerleader, I guess, but I really enjoyed pretty much every number in this show!

Nathan Chen of course was a highlight.  It was my first time seeing his “Caravan” short program live, and he performed it with lots of energy and a sense of joyfulness. I’m pretty sure he landed some quads in his first number. One thing I noticed this time, seeing Nathan live, is that he has quite his own style of skating. Rather than depending on the long, deep flowing edges of traditional skating, everything he does is fast, short, sharp bursts of movement. He has great speed and edge skills, although not necessarily the power of some of the other skaters, perhaps because of that distinctive style of movement. I love that he brings something different, something inventive.

Bradie Tennell was quite impressive live. Her speed is much more apparent and her skating skills seemed improved. Her Romeo & Juliet was quite nice to watch–a good piece in this setting, despite some criticisms of the program this year during the competitive season.

Both Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu looked great; better than I expected after almost a year and a half away from competition. Mirai landed several triple toe loops and double Axels, and Ashley did at least one triple flip, some double Axels, and more. Ashley is just such a natural at shows like this–she gives every move an extra little wiggle or head shake or flourish or something to make it more interesting. She’s just a natural entertainer. Her “Dog Days Are Over” number was terrific (and I don’t even like that song!).

 

Mirai Nagasu almost brought a few tears to my eyes because she was just so beautiful and strong out there. The basic quality of her skating, I feel, has never really been appreciated enough–just her edges and line–something ineffable that she brings to the ice, it’s hard to describe. I really adored her “Halo” program in the second half. It’s just a beautiful, lyrical program made special by her skating, and it ended too soon. Her program in the first half made me smile a little because it’s by the same choreographer (Adam Blake) who did Emmy Ma’s “Love on the Brain” exhibition program, and those who have seen that program would recognize some similarities in costume and theme. It was a very good program, though–something different and interesting for Mirai.

It was great to see Jeremy Abbott again–both his programs were very much in his wheelhouse, and quite gorgeous to watch. I overheard the pre-show talk that he did with Bradie Tennell for a visiting nearby skating club, and I almost laughed when he said that he was never the most talented skater growing up. Really?? Maybe not the most talented in terms of jumps. Otherwise, I can think of few skaters more gifted than Jeremy ….

Davis/White‘s Queen medley was really good and brought out a fun, slightly flirtatious side to the Olympic champions. Their “Lilac Wine” was the best program of the show for me, with great emotional quality and really interesting choreography. One of their best professional programs, in my opinion.

Hubbell/Donohue‘s Queen medley was also great–and totally different than Meryl/Charlie’s. While Davis/White chose some more playful songs from the Queen backlog, Madi/Zach characteristically went with some of the most powerful songs–very suitable to them. Loved their number, also loved their softer but intense “Oats in the Water” piece in the first half. I have to say that Madi Hubbell comes across as one of the most natural dancers I’ve ever seen on the ice. When she’s apart from Zach in their programs or in group numbers, you see the music and rhythm just kind of oozing out of her, with every spontaneous movement. And when she and Zach come together, it’s like two powers joining forces. Luurrve them. 🙂

Seeing the Shibutanis again was so great; I enjoyed every second of it. Their Coldplay number was terrific and moving–I actually didn’t recognize any of the songs in it, so it felt quite fresh. And their Daft Punk number was intriguing. There’s not many highlight moves in this program–the focus is all on the rhythm and footwork–and I quite enjoyed it. As with Mirai, it’s hard to articulate what makes the Shibs so special to me–just an energy, a connection, a truth to their skating, that I find exciting. Alex had so much energy in the group numbers, he seemed to be loving it. And Maia was a queen as usual.

Anyhow, that’s my take on this year’s Stars on Ice show. I enjoyed it very much, and definitely recommend it if the tour comes near you. I felt really uplifted by the show–and I think I wasn’t the only one. I noticed quite a few people with happy faces on my way out!

Continue reading “Stars on Ice 2019: Notes & Impressions”

Worlds 2019: Pairs Review

The post-Olympic World Championships is often an intriguing mix of the old and the new in pairs skating. This year was no exception. Veteran pair Wenjing Sui/Cong Han won their second World title in stunning fashion, followed by Russians Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov, who claimed their third World medal in as many years. However, newer pairs such as Peng/Jin, Boikova/Kozlovskii, and Cain/LeDuc also made their mark, all with placements in the top 10.   

Overall, the pairs event in Saitama didn’t reach the same level as the last two World championships in Helsinki and Milan. Fewer pairs competed at this year’s Worlds (only 19, versus 28 the last 2 years). And not many teams delivered season’s-best performances in Japan. Nonetheless, the quality level at the top was still high. Before we look at the individual pairs’ results, though, I want to take a look at the state of pairs overall in 2018-19.  Continue reading “Worlds 2019: Pairs Review”

A Shadow on the Sport

Why the war on figure skating YouTube is a no-win battle

Another figure skating season is winding toward a close, with the World Championships starting next week in Saitama, Japan. Like most, I’m looking forward to Worlds with anticipation.

It’s been a year of great skating and great memories. Yet all along, there’s been a shadow over this season. I’ve loved all the special performances and moments, including those yet to come in Saitama. But I’m also sad because we lost a lot of memories and moments this season. How so? When thousands of figure skating videos were deleted from YouTube. Continue reading “A Shadow on the Sport”

Denney/Frazier: “We’re motivated to get to work” in off-season

It was a challenging season for U.S. pair Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, but it ended well with a silver medal at 2018 U.S. Nationals and a 5th-place result at Four Continents. After Four Continents, Denney/Frazier took a few minutes to speak with me about how their season went and their plans for next year.  Check out my article at Figure Skaters Online:

http://figureskatersonline.com/news/2019/03/11/haven-denney-and-brandon-frazier-were-motivated-to-get-to-work-in-off-season/

Denney-Frazier-2019

 

Walsh/Michaud: “Our partnership has grown a lot this year” (2019)

Following a successful junior career, Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud of Canada made the jump to the senior ranks this year. After some ups and downs at their fall events, the young Canadian team earned the silver medal at Canadian Nationals and berths to Four Continents and Worlds. The duo is focused on learning and growing as they gain experience in during their first senior season together. Get to know this young team in my interview with them for Figure Skaters Online:

http://figureskatersonline.com/news/2019/02/25/evelyn-walsh-and-trennt-michaud-our-partnership-has-grown-a-lot-this-year/

Walsh-Michaud

 

Interview with Richard Gauthier (2019)

Recently I traveled to Anaheim, CA, to cover the ISU 2019 Four Continents Championship for Figure Skaters Online. While I was there, I had the great pleasure of chatting with pairs coach Richard Gauthier of Canada. As most pairs fans know, Gauthier has been among the world’s top pairs coaches for 15 years or longer, having coached such famous teams as Jamie Sale/David Pelletier and Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford to World championships. Currently he works with coaching partner Bruno Marcotte in Montreal, where they have a pairs school including teams such as Moore-Towers/Marinaro, Alexandrovskaya/Windsor, Ruest/Wolfe, and more. During our chat in Anaheim, Gauthier shared some updates on his current teams, broke down the field of top pairs heading into 2019 Worlds, and gave his opinion on how recent rules changes have affected pairs. Take a few minutes to check out our interview!

http://figureskatersonline.com/news/2019/02/20/coach-richard-gauthier-handicaps-pairs-field-for-worlds-analyzes-rules-changes/