Archive for the ‘skaters’ Category
Shortly after the World Figure Skating Championships were a wrap in Nice, France, I messaged a friend who attended my frustrated questions and musings about the results to see if he could offer an insider point of view. They included questions about the Chan/Takahashi, Davis & White/Virtue & Moir, and Weaver & Poje/Pechalat & Bourzat rivalries. I wondered if seeing their performances live might shed light on the results in a way that my tv viewing couldn’t.
Well, Aaron over at Axels, Loops & Spins answered all of my questions in rather grand fashion. I was pleasantly surprised by his thorough responses, via his blog.
Read his responses in “Post Nice Reflections”
“What happened to the House of Sato/Dunjen?…”
“Were Kavaguti/Smirnov decked for their public commentary on the ice?”
“Did Weaver/Poje deserve the bronze?…”
I enjoyed capturing the magic of the US Nationals Long Programs and Free Dances from my 16th row seats. My Canon PowerShot SX 2010 IS, although not a professional SLR, gets me close to the action, with its 14X zoom.
There were so many unforgettable moments, more predictably including the tributes to Rudy and Michelle, and LPs/FDs by gold medalists Jeremy Abbott, Davis & White, and Denney & Coughlin. But, brilliance from dark horses Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon, as well as up-and-comers Jason Brown, Jonathan Cassar and Doug Razzano, and a rallying comeback from Carolyn Zhang were equally thrilling. My top 20 photos reflect some of these moments, and more.
I hope you enjoy the view from my seat!
The Grand Prix Landscape
It’s that time of year, when we’ve witnessed 4 of the 6 Grand Prix events, and can now step back and assess the choreographic and program landscape, to compare and contrast what the skaters have put out there. Just a few of these skaters (and a single musical selection) are repeaters from last season’s list.
I was loath to include ANY latin programs, since I already feel like a sponge, saturated and dripping from them this season (likely no thanks to Lysacek and Rochette’s success in them last season?). But, alas, a few virtuosic ones eek’d through. Ugh…let’s please hang them up for the remainder of this Olympic cycle!
What’s the real clincher in making the list? Programs that made me want to watch them again. As I noted last year, it’s impossible to separate out the performance quality of the skater, but these nods aim to be more about the program and choreo itself. The timing and execution of the elements (especially jumps) to key musical accents and phrases is critical for memorable emotional impact. And musical selection alone, as per my own subjective taste also of course plays a role.
Lori Nichol and Marina Zueva tie this year with the most nods (3 each). I also encourage you to compare my nods to Tony Wheeler’s own compelling list. We agreed on three as most notable. Sometimes it’s VERY clear what’s peerless! The list does not include Kim Yu-Na, Joanie Rochette, Virtue & Moir, or any other skaters/teams who are not decisively retired and may emerge at their Nationals.
Daisuke Takahashi: Historia de un amor, Que rico mambo, and Mambo No. 5 by Perez Prado; Batucada by DJ Dero; (Choreo: Shae-Lynn Bourne). Too predictable a choice? This brilliance can’t be denied.
Runner-Up: Shawn Sawyer, Assassin’s Tango by John Powell (Choreo: David Wilson)
On our way to Palm Springs we discovered a wondrous thing: the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame Kristi Yamaguchi relief sculpture portrait and placard. It deems her “one of the most electrifying skaters in the modern era.” That’s not a word I would associate with her…perhaps “consistent,” “committed,” “graceful,” “inspiring,” “smooth”?
I mean no disrespect to Kristi, but as you can see, this portrait bears as much a resemblance to her as to the love child of Tracy Gold and Joan Rivers. On that note, a friend noted that she looked Jewish. Maybe she is?
But, judge for yourself…
All the recent Weir/Lysacek mud-slinging, via the media is so silly and meaningless to me, I won’t even detail the ongoing bitch brawl here (and you likely already read it elsewhere). Clearly, they’re milkin’ this opportunity to increase their media presence (ie: “No press is bad press”).
BUT, when I came across this photo, I felt it said it all. They are in a sense forever linked, in their “rivalry,” and burgeoning off-ice, celebrity careers. So, what better way to to forever immortalize them as yin-yang/brothers/lovers/
soulmates (take your pick) in a fabulously flashy, fey, artistic portrait, ala Kings of 80′s Cheese: Hall & Oates?!
I’m not sure if NoMad Blogger created it or not (it appears not, as she included the zimbio.com credit), but I take no credit for this masterpiece. If you know the source (perhaps Toller Cranston?), please provide it, and I’ll gladly update the credit.
I now give you…
I am thrilled to be one of the Top 6 nominees for “Blog of the Year,” in Axels, Loops and Spins’ “3rd Annual Loop Axel Awards”! Although AL&S has apparently pre-determined his winners, if you like what you see/read/hear here, please vote for me there (under “Comments,” or click on his “View my complete profile” and email him directly), to help sway the deal for jumping clapping man! And, while you’re there, enjoy seeing Aaron’s other Awards. Last year Lifeskate.com deservedly won for best blog.
I’m takin’ a shameless page from Kathy Griffin’s “book,” and launching a guerilla marketing campaign for votes (Avenue Q also won the Tony this way in 2004!). Of course, I think I should be up for “Best New Face,” and “Best Outfit” too. Thank you kindly for returning to jcm, (and even more for your votes)!
The Best of jcm Rink Side
Here’s a look back at some highlights of my skating posts, balancing legit commentary with high camp. Click here to see all/only my skating-related posts:
“GAY Stars On Ice & Friends!” PRESENTS: (My response to the “Stars on Ice” “family friendly” assertion, and supposed Johnny shut-out.)
Skaters Who Blew Through the Technical Ceiling (A robust technical overview.)
Ghoulish Figure Skating Clinics (Some Halloween season fun…yes, at the mercy of skaters.)
Olympic Reigns Ending: Likelihoods or Naysaying? (I nailed it! Bet your money on my soothsaying next time.)
Yu-Na Gets A Makeover! (Yes, I even made-over Yu-Na.)
When I originally read the “Stars On Ice” program lineup, the highlight, hands-down, was the prospect of a Cohen/Czisny performance of Delibes’ “Flower Duet,” from Lakmé. It was the only number that came close to the inventiveness of my “GAY Stars on Ice…“ lineup! (Yuka Sato’s “Clair de Lune” was also enticing.) Well, since I don’t plan to attend the show live, thankfully a youtube video of it has surfaced, however janky and incomplete it may be.
Unfortunately, it feels quite underrehearsed, which is odd for the two perfection queens of the ice. But, it’s still quite pleasing, considering their peerless, but comparable spiral positions. Hello Charlottes…I’ve missed you so! It’s quite the “Anything you can do, I can do better” routine. Good thing they don’t attempt any of those pesky jumps.
Also, my hopes for some hint at the implied (or projected?) lesbian subtext of the duet were dashed. No surprise there. Although, I’m still tempted to bill this the “Spiral Bump” routine (ala “Donut Bump“).
The full name of the scene is: “Viens, Mallika, les liens en fleurs…Sous le dôme épais.“ In the context of the opera, “Lakmé and her servant Mallika are left behind and go down to the river to gather flowers…As they approach the water at the river bank, Lakmé removes her jewelry and places it on a bench (while they bathe)” (Wikipedia). It is one of the examples of grand opera’s and mainstream culture’s obsessions at the time with eastern exoticism and orientalism (also evident in Madama Butterfly).
The duet was also famously used to set the tone in the beautiful, overtly lesbian scene with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, in “The Hunger.” It uses it to full effect.
Below is the libretti excerpt. What do you think? Is the lesbian subtext intended, or projected by the viewer or culture of the time?
Under a dome of white jasmine
With the roses entwined together
On a river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning
Gently floating on it’s charming risings
On the river’s current
On the shining waves
One hand reaches
Reaches for the bank
Where the spring sleeps and
The birds, the birds sing.
Under a dome of white jasmine
Ah! calling us
Expect the Unexpected
Miki Ando: When the commentators talk about Miki’s “blank” eyes, what they’re not getting at is that she just doesn’t have the same “acting” ability as someone like Yu-Na or Phaneuf (ie: compare their Cleopatras). It’s not just about “spunk,” or “personality”…these girls know how to tell a story with each glance and gesture. I think that’s a gift, but surely it can be nurtured, if there is a willingness. However, Miki doesn’t seem to tap into that deeper well, and may just not be capable of that degree of nuance. That being said, she skates a clean program, albeit sans her 3/3 (instead a 3Lz/2T), and rather emotionally dull. A respectable end of season for her, whether she medals or not!
Kim Yu-Na (2nd): It seems all the world is hanging on this performance. The moment she starts it becomes evident that Miki was largely just skating around doing elements. Even though it’s clear Yu-Na is skating “safe,” she still gives each move a purpose. She starts strong, but falls on her 3S, and gives up on her final 2A, popping it. Honestly, I like that she has a chink in her armor (pardon the pun). This does enliven the rivalry with Mao, and frankly, doesn’t allow fans and viewers to just assume she’ll skate clean (ala Kristi, or M.K. when not at the Olympics). It makes her vulnerable, and almost more interesting to me. My friend Richard jokes that “Queen” isn’t enough…she should have a planet named after her: “Yu-Na.” Her name even sounds a bit cosmic.
Cynthia Phaneuf: Again, Phaneuf’s Cleopatra makes Miki’s look emotionally junior. She skates a clean program, and lands 6 triples! How unexpected. I hope this gives her renewed confidence for next season. She competes so hot and cold, but is SO talented. She does telegraph her jumps a bit too much, but who cares, if she can skate like this!
A Fond Farewell
Navarro & Bommentre: I will miss this program, and this team. Although part of me wishes Belgosto had competed so we could finally capture our North American sweep, I’m happier that NavBomm could compete, and enjoy their presumable competitive farewell at such a high level.
The skate didn’t have as strong an emotion for me as it did at Nationals, but part of that may be that the camera work feels less personal and nuanced here, and Nationals is just a more “homey” and warm setting for skaters and fans. That being said, they gave a strong skate, with only a small lack of twizzle unison, and a blade catch for him during a transition. They get -1 deduction, presumably for a lift that was too long. If this is the end, you have given fans so much pleasure, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll do in Pros! Next up…as per their backstage interview: Italian wine, cheese, culture, art. Well deserved pleasures!
Other Early Highlights
Crone & Poirier: He has one of the best backs of the men in this competition! I love this program…gentle, lyrical, and intimate, starting with “Nocturne.” He especially is a very engaging performer, and really communicates with her throughout. I was amazed to discover that he’s a singles’ skater too (as is she), as the requirements of ice dance are so different. I love the transition into their mid-section, a lyric version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I’m developing a skating crush on him…seems to be such a vulnerable guy in the kiss-n-cry. Great speed on their spins! I get a kick out of their Coraline-looking coach!
The Zaretskys: A dramatic, somber couple, and program. I feel their costumes are actually TOO stark, and the accent colors too subtle, and too much of a dark wall to draw me in. The tempo of the music is also largely the same throughout the program, not providing the emotional ups-and-downs that a program like Marlie’s provides. Their spins feel slower than the prior Canadians, and I was surprised they were placed ahead of the them…but, by only 1 pt.
Torino, Land of…Cars?
Ah, Torino…unromantically billed as “the Automobile Capital of Italy.” But, I love the images of Torino’s skyline, offset by the surrounding Alpine mountains, and with the Mole Antonelliana towering beautifully above. The Mole is even more striking when seen against a pastel pink and blue sky. It is considered the tallest museum in the world. Stylistically, it doesn’t have what I would consider typical Italian architecture, and almost looks more eastern in character to me. Perhaps this is the Jewish influence, as it was originally constructed as a synagogue.
Now, onto the competition. In keeping with prior scheduling gaffs, coverage begins smack dab in the middle of Kostner’s program. Perhaps I should be more forgiving, as it appears to be truly “live.” Sadly, I miss out on seeing Makarova’s moment. Thankfully, it can be found here, complete with her Johnny arms and telegraphed jumps, as well as some great spins and energy throughout.
Mao Asada (2nd): Andrea Joyce states that “She’s gotta keep this rivalry (with Yu-Na) going.” Great 3A! Her jumps are SO solid. If Yu-Na opens the door, Mao’s apparently going to run screaming through it. Next season: Giselle, or anything from classical ballet rep, please! If Yun-Na is Queen, Mao is Princess…or, better yet, Dark Queen! Very well centered and fast spins. In the slow-mo on the 3A, it looked like it was short 1/8, NOT 1/4 of rotation, so it shouldn’t be downgraded. Wow, a low score, 5 points below her personal best. Why? It looks like the 3A was downgraded after all. (I have some scoring gripes about these 3A downgrades I’ll address in a future post.)
Miki Ando: I will not miss this “Requiem” program. OMG, down on her 3Lz! This is NOT good…well, it is for Nagasu and Flatt. I can SMELL that 3rd US berth (lucky Ashley)! There’s just nothing special about her skating. She’s just going through the motions. The catch foot spin (ie: half-Biellmann, where the skate is placed and held near the head) has to be the ugliest move in skating. It should be banned! Wow, a smile from Morozov at the boards? That effectively took her out of medal contention, barring meltdowns from others.