On Sunday, I took my 5-year-old, very active twin girls to their first ice show! It was Colonial Figure Skating Club’s 2015 club show: “Ice Crystals: Spiraling Through Time.” I can’t do a real review of the show, because truthfully, I only had one eye on it most of the time. (My other eye was on the twins.) But I’ll just give a few brief notes/impressions from the show.
Colonial FSC is one of the better-known clubs in the Northeast. They will be hosting 2016 New England Regionals at their three-rink facility. This year’s annual Ice Crystals show was directed by 1980 Olympian Sheryl Franks, who coaches at the club.
The show was well produced, running smoothly from one number to the next. One of the highlights was a fun group number to “Grease,” which featured probably 50 club members performing to different cuts of the music. There was also a fun & funky disco group number.
Many club members performed solo programs. The first performer in Sunday’s show was Juvenile lady Sophia Tsintsadze. Sophia is so tiny, but she already has some impressive skills, including a great Russian split jump! Not only that, but she skated fearlessly and really sparkled in her program, not looking nervous at all in front of the crowd. Definitely one to watch. Another standout Juvenile lady was Sydney Cooke. She had nice energy and skating skills in her program.
Iris Zhao, the 2014 Juvenile ladies U.S. champion, also performed. Iris appears to have had a growth spurt since her 2014 win and is looking quite grown-up. She skated a very nice number to “You Must Love Me” from Evita. I didn’t notice her landing any jumps in the performance, but I was impressed by her graceful flow and her lovely positions in spins/transitions. She has a very nice look on the ice. Her costume was also beautiful—a simple gossamer white dress with long flowing sleeves.
Next to skate was Kassandra Carpentier, the reigning 2015 Intermediate ladies U.S. champion. Kassie put out a nice performance that included a triple Salchow and double Axel. She will move up to Novice level for this coming season.
Samantha Cesario was the special guest skater at the show. She did a fun number to Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” Samantha skated with good energy, showing her trademark interesting transitional moves and attention to detail. Included was a spread-eagle sequence and a triple flip (two-footed). Often criticized for a lack of speed, I thought Samantha’s speed on the ice looked good in this performance. Although not at the level of Courtney Hicks (whom I saw last week), Samantha certainly didn’t look slow at all and was most enjoyable to watch. My only complaint is I would have liked to see a second number from Samantha.
Overall, Ice Crystals was a fun and well-done club show. (My 5-year-olds enjoyed it, too!)
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Ice Chips 2015 in Cambridge, MA. I’ll just mention some of the highlights here on my blog.
Ice Chips is an annual show run by the Skating Club of Boston. Although it’s a club show and the cast consists primarily of club members, the show also features at least one special guest star each year. This year, it was none other than Gracie Gold, fresh off her 4th-place finish at Worlds.
But what makes Ice Chips fun is that it’s about the skaters of the future, not just the sport’s current stars. The first half of this year’s show featured group numbers from the young skaters in the club. Each routine included competitors from a certain level (e.g., juvenile or novice ladies), with one or two skaters performing short solos. It’s fun seeing the kids get a chance to wear fancy costumes and perform in front of a big crowd. You see a fair number of mistakes in these routines, but it’s all part of the process of learning how to skate and perform. The group numbers were set to upbeat music, and the kids seemed to enjoy themselves.
Among the group-number soloists, two who stood out for me were Bennett Gottlieb and Liza Hayes. Bennett is the current junior men’s New England Regional champion. He skated to a Beatles segment and had great extension and nice performance quality. He performed a backflip and several jumps that excited the crowd.
Liza Hayes is the intermediate ladies’ Eastern Sectional bronze medalist. I was impressed with Liza’s nice line and presentation in her solo segment to a Madonna song.
A highlight of the first half was novice pairs skater Alexandra Iovanna’s solo to “The Prayer” by Celine Dion. This program was a tribute to Alexandra’s father, who died last year, and she skated it beautifully, with a lot of emotion.
We were also treated to a performance by Act I of Boston, the club’s senior-level theatre-on-ice team. Act I skated a really interesting number to moody, intense music. The choreography featured Alex Shaughnessy as a vaguely menacing, queenlike figure, surrounded by a group of writhing followers. I loved this number and found it captivating. Alex was smoldering and convincing in the centerpiece role! After the show, Alex and partner Jimmy Morgan said that Act I of Boston will be going to France next week to participate in an international theatre-on-ice competition—quite exciting!
Gracie Gold closed the first half of the show with a fun performance to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Although this song is crowd-pleasing, I think it’s actually quite challenging to skate to. The beat and lyrics are all very short and staccato, and it’s a bit difficult to translate that to the ice. Gracie does a good job, though, with this number. It’s very polished, and the dance moves are effective to the music (if a bit lacking in flow). Gracie included a triple Lutz and triple toe loop in the program.
The second half of the show opened with a short Inspector Clouseau number from Imagica of Boston, an adult theatre-on-ice team at the club. As an adult skater, I enjoyed seeing a couple of adult skating programs in the show! We also saw one of the club’s synchronized skating teams, Excel Collegiate, perform in the second half. (They recently placed 5th in their division at U.S. Synchronized Nationals.)
The second half included several group numbers featuring the older teenaged skaters in the club. These group routines again had some short solos, including one from Heidi Munger, who is senior ladies’ New England Regional champion. Heidi has a delicate, precise style on the ice and hit some pretty positions in this routine.
Next came a series of solo programs from some of the better-known skaters at the club.
Rebecca Peng skated a nice number with a couple of triple jumps. She has attractive positions and good speed, but could improve her interpretation of the music. Peng was 6th in junior ladies at Nationals this year and recently won the Challenge Cup, an international junior event.
Next up were Alex Shaughnessy/Jimmy Morgan, who were 10th at Nationals this year in senior pairs. Alex & Jimmy performed a fun number to “Uptown Funk.” They are so enjoyable to watch and did a great job selling the program. They landed a throw triple Salchow (slightly two-footed) and had good footwork. I loved their gold-and-black costumes, created by Alex’s mom, Ann Shaughnessy. They were perfect for the showy routine.
DeeDee Leng/Simon Shnapir performed a new exhibition program to “Beneath Your Beautiful,” choreographed by Renee Roca. They skated with nice smoothness and landed a throw double jump. This program has clean, simple choreography, which suits DeeDee and Simon’s straightforward style. They went for very simple costumes—jeans for Simon and black workout pants for DeeDee. I might have preferred something just a little more fancy.
Next up was Ross Miner, who also skated a new exhibition program to Justin Timberlake’s “All Over Again.” Choreographed by Massimo Scali, this program is really gorgeous to watch. I loved the deep, long curved patterns that Ross created with his stroking in this routine. Ross’s basic skating is so strong. I love the crispness and stretch in all his movement, and his commitment to the choreography. His spins are also terrific–just so fast, with great, fully extended positions. Ross also landed a triple flip (slight stumble out). For me, his program was the highlight of the show.
Gracie Gold came out next to perform her second number. She had a costume malfunction before she could start—her back neckline clasp came undone—and she had to skate off for a moment to get it fixed. Luckily, this didn’t faze Gracie at all. She came back out, laughed off the snafu, and launched into her second number to Beyonce’s “I Was Here.” Gracie did a nice job with this intense song, skating with good speed and polish. She again landed triple Lutz and triple toe loop, as well as a nice double Axel. Her jumps looked easy and strong, and her spins impressed as well. She looked happy, and it was nice to see her skate without the nerves and errors that have plagued her at times this season. After the show, Gracie told IceNetwork’s Sarah Brannen that she enjoys performing in occasional shows such as Ice Chips, but that her favorite part of skating is her daily practice/training routine (rather than touring).
The entire cast closed the show with an energetic Michael Jackson number. It was cute seeing all the kids out there again on the ice!
I thought this year’s Ice Chips was well produced. Everything ran smoothly, with no delays or glitches. The costumes were really nice and high-quality (especially considering how many costumes there were in the show!). The group-number choreography was at a level that the younger performers could handle; some of the numbers for the older skaters could perhaps have been a bit more sophisticated. The event reportedly drew good-size crowds for all three shows, which is really great for the club. Overall, I’d say it was a fun and successful 103rd edition of Ice Chips!
Last night, I had so much fun seeing Stars on Ice in Providence, RI! It’s a terrific show this year–well worth the ticket price. I’ll just share some thoughts and impressions from last night.
The theme of this year’s Stars on Ice is “Dancing for Joy.” And indeed, the whole show really has a celebratory, joyful feel. Meryl Davis & Charlie White are very much the stars, and the show is like a continuing celebration of their Olympic gold medal. The lighting by Gary J. Wilson is so well done; each skater is perfectly spotlighted, so you never miss a single movement. And the mood lighting for each piece is gorgeously colored. The costumes by Jef Billings are, as always, stunning.
Jeff Buttle choreographed all the group numbers for the show, and they are terrific. The opening number to “Rhapsody in Blue” was especially striking and dramatic. A great start to the show. At the end of Act I, there’s a cool tango group number to “St. Louis Blues” with Meryl & Charlie, Tanith & Ben– and, unexpectedly, Katia Gordeeva & Patrick Chan as the third couple. Patrick partners Katia in several group numbers, and I thought he did a good job! I’m always fascinated to see Katia doing partnered skating again. The group numbers as a whole were most enjoyable. There’s also a funny one that portrays Tanith Belbin being torn between Charlie and Ryan Bradley. Of course there was a big laugh from the crowd when she chose Charlie!
Each skater/team performed 2 solo numbers, which I liked. In past editions of Stars, some skaters only had 1 number, and I always felt a bit cheated by that. This year, you get to see 2 different sides of each skater/team.
Meryl & Charlie’s first number is “Say Something,” which they performed earlier this season on the Shall We Dance TV special. Lovely. Their second number is a soft, lyrical piece to Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty.” This was gorgeous too, and reminiscent of some of their classical competitive programs. They performed several of their signature, exquisite lifts.
It was such fun to see Tanith & Ben in the show. I’ve missed this team! They are such great performers and were 100% on for this show. Their first number was the fun piece “Boogie Shoes,” which I believe they performed on Shall We Dance. Their second number was to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years”: very romantic and sincere, with great flow throughout. (And a beautiful white costume on Tanith.) Technically, I felt Tanith & Ben looked smoother and more polished here than in Shall We Dance. Their lifts were performed with more ease. They included their signature lift, with Tanith in split position.
Evan Lysacek skated 2 quite different numbers. The first was to Hozier’s popular song “Take Me to Church.” Evan’s black tank top costume was, I’m sure, appreciated by many audience members. 🙂 His second program was to “Black Swan.” I liked this number best; it reminded me of Evan’s dramatic competition programs, and he skated it with conviction. I think Evan performed only one triple. Most of his jumps were doubles. No doubt he’s still recovering from his hip injuries the last few years. 😦
This was my first time seeing Patrick Chan live. All I can say is, Wow! His skating skills are even more impressive in person than on TV. He simply sails around the ice, beautifully fast, and with such firm, gorgeous edges. It’s a joy just watching him transition from one edge to the next. I love the way he really holds his edges, too, and lets them ride. These days, skaters are doing so many difficult turns, and yet often they don’t stop to really show off the edges. Patrick does, and it’s a sight to see. I found his first Beatles number especially good. It’s set to two songs from the Beatles’ White Album—“Blackbird” and “Dear Prudence”–and I love that Patrick chose these songs, which are not used as often as “A Day in the Life” and some of the better-known Beatles music. Always nice to see interesting, unconventional music choices, and I loved the choreography, too. Patrick’s second number, also very good, was the exhibition piece he did at the Olympics to Tony Bennett’s “Steppin’ Out.” He seems to have a lot of fun with this number.
Patrick performed several triples in his programs. However, having seen Patrick here, I have to say I wish he’d stay in shows and not come back to competition. His skating is so purely enjoyable to watch, just on its own, that it seems almost a shame to muck it up with quads and triples and competition pressure. Like Kurt Browning, Patrick’s amazing gifts seem perhaps best suited to shows. (Although I’m sure Canadian fans probably feel differently.)
Another Canadian skater in this show with incredible skating skills: Joannie Rochette. I was really so, so impressed here with Joannie! She is beautiful to watch and such a complete skater, too. She really has everything. Her effortless speed almost rivals Patrick’s. She makes difficult footwork look exceptionally easy and sure. And she has such fluidity through her lovely arms and back. I found her simply stunning to watch. Her first number to Avicii’s “Addicted to You” was quite sexy! It included a triple toe and triple Salchow. I preferred, though, her second program to “La Vie en Rose”–it was fluid and expressive and everything you want skating to be. There was at least one triple toe in this program, too.
Also beautiful, of course, was Katia Gordeeva. Her first number to “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables was lovely and so poignant. Although it’s been 20 years, the plaintive lyrics about a past love (“I dreamed a dream in time gone by/When the hope was high and life worth living”) can’t help but make you think of Katia & Sergei. This number definitely pulled at the heartstrings. Her second program to “Sentimientos” was intense and had a tango-type feel. It’s interesting how Katia can be so captivating with just footwork and spirals! There is such musicality to everything she does. I was impressed, too, to see her do two strong double Axels in her programs! Very nice.
Kimmie Meissner is also in the show and skated her first number to Sia’s “Chandelier.” I liked this program; it had some interesting choreography. This is a hard song to skate to, but Kimmie did pretty well with it. She wore a fluffy pink ballerina-type dress–an interesting counterpoint to the strong vocals. She did a double Axel and triple toe in both of her programs. Kimmie’s second number to “Experience” was not as successful. This program closes with a sequence of spirals and glides, but Kimmie’s edges were not steady, and she looked shaky on this element. Overall, Kimmie was much stronger here than last fall at Evening with Champions. However, she still could use more speed in her skating.
Sinead & John Kerr opened their show with a moving piece to Jay Brannan’s “Zombie.” This non-romantic song works well for them as a sibling team, and they skated it with a lot of emotion. They also performed their “I Will Wait” number, which was well-received by the crowd (as at the New Hampshire show I attended a couple weeks ago.) I do love the energy Sinead & John have on the ice. They just throw themselves into the programs and don’t hold back.
Ryan Bradley skated two nice numbers also. His first was a rousing rendition of “I Lived” by One Republic. In both programs, he performed a couple of triples and his backflip. I really loved his second number to “Mister Cellophane” from Chicago. It was amusing and clever and fun. Ryan does so well with these comedic numbers. His footwork and skating skills are not as strong as, say, Patrick’s. But he has a musicality and expressive ability that is quite enjoyable to watch.
All in all, it was a great show. I highly recommend it to anyone who gets the opportunity to go!!
Last Saturday, I had a lot of fun attending a small-scale community ice show: “Champions on Ice” at Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Duck Pond in Portsmouth, NH.
Puddle Duck Pond is a small outdoor rink in the historic Strawberry Banke section of Portsmouth. The rink is new this season and is intended as a gathering place for the community to come together, skate, and generally celebrate New England’s wintry weather. (As opposed to complaining about it!) The little rink is only about a 5-minute walk from Portsmouth’s downtown area.
“Champions on Ice” celebrated the rink’s first year. The short 30-minute show drew a crowd of perhaps 200 people, who stood at the fence around the rink and sat on high snowbanks to watch the event. Doug Webster, of Ice Dance International, directed and produced the show.
Some pretty big stars appeared: Christina Gao, Ross Miner, Ryan Bradley, Sinead & John Kerr, and Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre. Two young local skaters, Philip Baker and Stella Evindar, performed solo numbers. Also included in the cast were Eric Flaim, speed skating Olympic silver medalist; Grant Marshall, former New Jersey Devils hockey player; and a couple of local skaters who participated in group numbers.
The show opened with a nice group number called “A Hymn to New England,” composed by John Williams and performed by the Boston Pops. Very well-suited to the setting.
Ross Miner then skated a fun program to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” This number is vintage Ross—simple, classic, all-American. He skated it with his usual great stretch and speed. There was a crowd-pleasing cantilever move, some great spins, and at least one triple.
Next up were Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre, skating to “How You Like Me Now” by Tony Lucca. Kim was wearing a sleeveless, skimpy costume in the 35-degree weather—but did she let this hold her back? No way. She and Brent skated the program full out, with great expression. This was my second time this season seeing Kim & Brent, and I’m so impressed with them as performers. They skate with great energy and engagement. It’s really a pleasure to watch them.
Christina Gao appeared next, skating her lyrical “River” SP to music by Emeli Sande. This program was so lovely to watch in person. Just pure, beautiful skating. Christina performed double jumps only, instead of triples, but it was still gorgeous. I took a video of the program with my phone; unfortunately, it’s not very good quality. (I didn’t realize you should shoot horizontally, not vertically!!) But here it is, for those interested. Christina wore her hair down in a long, flowing style for the show. She is beautiful in person, even more so than on TV.
Local skater Philip Baker performed to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Michael Buble. It was a charming, entertaining, retro number from the 12-year-old.
Sinead & John Kerr then put out an exciting, fun performance to “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons. They included several of their trademark lifts, in which Sinead holds up John, plus many other cool moves. Sinead wore a striking maroon lace dress, while John was in black. Sinead is quite glamorous in person! She & John got the biggest applause of the show from the audience. “That was awesome” and “Super-cool” were some of the comments I heard in the audience.
The next number was from 7-year-old Stella Evindar. She skated to “Walk Like an Egyptian” and was very cute. The crowd loved her, of course!
Ryan Bradley ended the solo performances with his moving program to Sting’s “Fragile.” He did his backflip and at least one triple, but kept the focus mostly on the lyrical, mournful music. I love Ryan’s costume for this number—a simple, but elegant, white shirt and black pants. It suits the restrained music perfectly.
The show ended with a fun group finale to Gloria Estefan’s Congo. The ladies all changed into gorgeous Latin costumes for this number—lots of fringe and sequins!
I really enjoyed the show, especially the experience of seeing it in such an interesting venue. It’s rare to see skaters perform on outdoor ice these days, so that alone was special. And I loved the intimate, community atmosphere. The show had an informal, accessible feel that was really cool. It was great to be able to just stand rinkside and watch the skaters so close and in natural light. A public skating session started on the rink right after the show!
Afterward, there was a meet & greet. I was able to get some pictures with the skaters! 🙂
I also had the pleasure of meeting Doug Webster, director of the show. Doug talked a bit about his new venture, Ice Dance International, which recently launched with a party at Dick Button’s home in New York. Doug said that eventually, Ice Dance International hopes to produce full-length skating shows—for example, West Side Story on Ice. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Altogether, it was a great afternoon seeing this community ice show at Puddle Duck Pond. I hope they do more of these shows next year! To see some professional-quality pictures of the show, click here.
Following up on my Ice Theatre review last week, I thought I’d post a few more tidbits/random thoughts from seeing the show.
Ice Dance Ladies
I didn’t get a chance to mention them in my review, but Kim Navarro and Lynne Kriengkrairut both looked great in their appearances in the show.
Lynne impressed with deep edges and beautiful, soft knee action in her skating. And of course, she is as lovely as ever.
Kim was really a standout in all her numbers. She skates with so much exuberance and energy; she really pulls you into the performance. I really enjoyed watching her and am glad she has a chance to showcase her skills in Ice Theatre.
Is Show Lighting A Good Thing?
As I mentioned in my review, the show took place at the SC of Boston training rink. So, there was no show lighting. This felt odd for the first couple minutes. Then I forgot about it, and just enjoyed the skating.
I wonder if more ice shows should actually try performing under full lights. As an audience member, you just see so much more. If the Ice Theatre show had been performed in dark stage lighting, I don’t think I’d have been able to appreciate the edges and finer details of the skating as much. This is particularly important with an ice dancing show.
Perhaps skating should follow the lead of ballet. When I saw the Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker a few years ago, much of that show was performed under quite bright lights. And it was definitely helpful in terms of appreciating the nuances of movement, which mean everything in ballet (and ice dance). I know dark stage lighting is used in some ballets, but I really appreciated the bright lighting for the Nutcracker.
Skating shows seem to be stuck more in the rock concert model, in which the whole arena is mostly dark, except for spotlights. That approach is fine for music acts, but I question how well it works for skating. I’ve also seen many comments from skaters that it’s more difficult to skate under show lights. Brighter lighting for skating shows might improve not only the audience’s vision, but also the level of performance as well, which would be a win/win for everybody. Playing around with lighting conventions might also change up and help modernize the whole “look” of skating shows, which has become rather predictable at this point. There is not much element of surprise there right now.
Music: Familiarity vs. Repetition
There’s been much discussion about the overuse of “warhorse” music in competitive skating—i.e., the greatest classical hits that we’ve heard over and over. Oftentimes, music choices for show skating aren’t much better. For shows, skaters often skate to the latest pop hits from Top 40 radio. Although this might seem like a good idea, the trouble is that the songs are often so overplayed by the time they get to the ice that they’re no longer fun or fresh.
Skaters like to use the same old classical pieces or pop songs because prior experience indicates judges and audiences like those pieces. Therefore, it seems a surefire way to increase the likelihood of a good response to a program. Logically, therefore, it makes sense that skaters want to skate to “Liebestraum” or “Let It Go.”
But Ice Theatre went in a different direction with their music choices, which I liked, and it got me thinking that perhaps skaters could try a similar approach. Ice Theatre performed a lovely classical program called “Reveries,” which was set to Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suite #3 in G Major. The music and program were lyrical and beautiful. The music felt familiar–because it was Tchaikovsky–and yet still fresh, because it was a different Tchaikovsky composition (not the standard Swan Lake or Romeo & Juliet).
Similarly, the “Roots” finale number included a song by Mumford & Sons. You could feel the audience immediately respond to the familiar, fun, and rousing Mumford sound. But–because it wasn’t one of the Mumford hits that we’ve all heard a thousand times—it again felt fresh and enjoyable and interesting. One’s reaction was like, “Hmm, that was a good song!” not, “Oh, ‘I Will Wait’ again.”
It made me feel like skaters should think about using music that sounds familiar, but is not repetitive. Go ahead and use Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov—but try out a piece of theirs that’s different and hasn’t been used a million times. Same for exhibitions. Go ahead and skate to Taylor Swift if you want—but why not choose a song that hasn’t been on the radio yet? Judges and audiences will still recognize and enjoy the familiar sound/feel of Tchaikovsky (or Taylor!), but there will be a level of interest and intrigue with the music, because it will sound new.
My preference is for skaters to really branch out and use unusual, seldom-heard music as much as possible. However, if a skater isn’t comfortable with that, why not at least go for familiarity in your music choice, but avoid repetition?
Somehow, I have a feeling the judges are probably as bored with Carmen, POTO, and Swan Lake as the rest of us. After all, they have to hear this stuff even more often than we do!
Last Saturday night, the figure skating world was gripped with Skate America fever. Meanwhile, I took a night off from watching competitive figure skating to attend the Ice Theatre of New York show in Boston.
The event took place at the Skating Club of Boston (SCOB). Going to the SCOB rink is always special. So much history! You just think of all the famous skaters who have trained there: Vinson, Albright, Button, Owen, Kerrigan, Wylie, Kirk, Castelli & Shnapir, and now Miner, Gao, and Carriere. Amazing.
The building is an experience itself. Constructed in a “quonset hut” design, it has a classic, retro look. However, the building is 76 years old and in rather desperate need of renovation. Not exactly the most glamorous location for an ice skating show! Seating consisted of old bleachers. And, because it’s a training rink, there was no show lighting. Yet, once the show started, I didn’t even notice the surroundings.
This was my first time seeing Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY). It’s very different from other skating shows, such as Stars on Ice, Champions on Ice, or An Evening with Champions. It’s a small cast (only 12 skaters), and the show features mostly group numbers, performed by different combinations of skaters. It is modeled on a dance company.
The Ice Theatre company includes some well-known skaters: Ryan Bradley, Lynne Kriengkrairut & Logan Giuletti-Schmitt, Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre, Jonathon Hunt, and Eve Chalom. Several of these skaters perform solo programs, or solos within group numbers. But they also skate as part of the ensemble, into which they blend seamlessly. The emphasis is definitely on the company as a whole, not the stars; quite different from other skating shows.
The company performed 14 numbers, most of them created by choreographers from the dance/musical (not skating) world. Edward Villella, a famous ballet star of the 1960s/70s, contributed two interesting programs. Villella’s “Reveries,” set to Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suite #3 in G Major, is a lyrical ice ballet about an artist’s quest to find his muse. This lovely piece featured 10 skaters in flowing, simple costumes, weaving in intricate patterns over the ice and showing off great edges and flow. The second Villella composition, entitled “Back Bay Shuffle” and set to jazz music by Artie Shaw, is a comic piece about 3 guys out on the town for the night. The program featured Ryan Bradley, Brent Bommentre, and Joel Dear in black tails, and was fun and amusing to watch. It included the guys partnering each other in shoot-the-duck and leap moves.
Two solo numbers were highlights. Erin Reed, a former Nationals competitor, skated a program to “O Mio Babbino Caro.” I don’t think she included any jumps, but it was a lovely performance to this beautiful aria. Interestingly, I had just watched Annabelle Prolss/Roman Blommaert of Germany perform to this music in the Skate America pairs SP. Although Prolss/Blommaert obviously had more technical content, I found myself enjoying Reed’s lovely skate every bit as much, or more.
Ryan Bradley followed up Reed’s solo with a polished performance to Sting’s “Fragile.” This was a restrained but emotional number. Ryan is an interesting skater because he doesn’t have the edges or glide of a Patrick Chan, but what he does have is musicality. He definitely listens to and interprets the music, as opposed to using it as background. I can see why he was invited to join the ITNY company. Ryan performed several triple toe loops, a double axel, and his popular back flip during the show.
In the second half, Alberto Del Saz’s “Inclusions” was a standout program. This piece, set to “Steppe & Passages” by Rene Aubry, explores “the deepest molecular structures of a rock foundation.” How’s that for a different program idea?? The number was performed by Eve Chalom, Logan Giuletti-Schmitt, Joel Dear, and Tyrrell Gene, dressed in matching black pants and tops. There was a lot of sharp, angular movement, which was unusual and interesting.
My favorite program was the finale number, “Roots.” This Appalachian Style Revival piece was set to folk and country music from Mumford and Sons, Audrae Mae, and Jason Castro. It was skated by the entire company, wearing Appalachian-themed costumes (lots of plaid and denim), and was high-spirited and a lot of fun to watch.
The whole show offered a huge contrast to Skate America earlier in the day. A lot of the Skate America programs were very satisfying artistically, such as Kavaguti/Smirnov’s already acclaimed Manfred Symphony LP. But in the end, the focus undeniably remains on elements and points.
In the Ice Theatre show, the entire focus of the programs is beautiful edges and flow and musical interpretation. I loved it, because it was just beautiful skating, plain and simple. My only complaint: I wished the show were longer!
I am glad there’s a place in the skating world for conceptual, innovative choreography and beautiful skating for its own sake–separate from the thrills and stresses of competitive skating. With Ice Theatre, skating takes a step away from competition and moves closer to other performance arts like ballet and Broadway.
I would highly recommend taking the time to see an Ice Theatre show in the future, if you’re in New York or one of the few cities they visit. Their remaining schedule for this year includes three shows in the New York area: http://www.icetheatre.org/events.html.
And imagine if there were other Ice Theatre companies–not just in New York, but cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston–each offering their own seasons. What creative and financial opportunities this might give skaters and choreographers. Not to mention the enjoyment it would provide for skating fans! It’s something to dream about.