Archive for the ‘alissa czisny’ Tag

Best Skating Programs of the Season: 2010

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.

Men’s SP

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)

Honorable Mentions: Javier Fernandez’s Histoire d’un amour/Nu Pogodi, and Tomas Verner’s Singin’ in the Rain!

Continue Experiencing the Best Programs of 2010! —>

Cohen & Czisny’s Opera on Ice Duet

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
Together!

jcm’s USFS Nationals’ Podium Predictions

Chime in with your own predictions! If you wish to take part in my Olympics’ Podium Predictions Contest, click here.

Ladies

(2 berths)

1. Rachael Flatt
2. Sasha Cohen
3. Ashley Wagner

IF Sasha withdraws:

1. Rachael Flatt
2. Ashley Wagner
3. Alissa Czisny

Although Sasha has confirmed her attendance as recently as last week, I’m providing a backup plan, as I’m still suspicious. If she competes, I predict her jumps will be sketchy as always, but her artistry and spirals will elevate her past Ashley. I love Alissa, and über-rooted for her at ’09 Worlds in LA. But, since she effectively lost our third spot there, I feel she had her shot (as well as her moment as Nationals’ Champion), and will karmically sit this one out.

Men’s

(3 berths)

1. Evan Lysacek
2. Johnny Weir
3. Jeremy Abbott

I think Evan has just been too consistent and confident to rule out, despite my biases (see below). Although Jeremy has more scoring potential than Johnny, I give Johnny the edge because of his season thus far. With Ryan Bradley & Brandon Mroz threatening to unleash a gauntlet of quads (ie: planning 3 quads each!) they could really shake things up, but I’m not betting on it. I don’t think Adam Rippon will get control of his 3A enough this time, but he will easily reign in the next Olympic season. And, Stephen Carriere has seemingly faded as a real threat.

Pairs

(2 berths)

1. McLaughlin & Brubaker (McBru”)
2. Denney & Barrett
3. Inoue & Baldwin

McBru will get on top of their programs enough to eek out another Nationals’ title. Denney & Barrett will play second fiddle this one LAST time. And, Inoue & Baldwin will just miss making the Olympic team. Although I salute their staying power and persistence, I don’t root for them this time, whether they land their throw 3A, or not. I just don’t think they have Olympic podium potential anymore, even on their best day.

Ice Dance

(3 berths)

1. Davis & White (Marlie”)
2. Belbin & Agosto
3. Samuelson & Bates

It’s becoming clearer and clearer, this may be Marlie’s first time to wrestle the Nationals’ crown from Belbin & Agosto in a head-to-head. Samuelson & Bates technical skating (ie: twizzles and speed) will land them bronze, a rung down from last season’s result. Fresh from Juniors, the Shibutanis and Chock & Zuerlein could shake things up for the bronze medal!

Wish List

These are my personal favs, and special requests.:

Flatt: to become a first-time Nationals’ Champion, and make the Olympic team
Weir: to become a four-time Nationals’ Champion, or at least get to Olympics
Abbott: to skate his best this season, and make the Olympic team
Jonathan Cassar: to get some tv air time, and be introduced to skating viewers
Denney & Barrett: to become first-time Nationals’ Champions
Navarro & Bommetre: to make the Olympic team (fingers crossed!)

Dishin’ Up Surprises at Rostelcom Cup

Pairs’ SP

What a relief to see the old (yet new) “McBru” back!!! They appeared so relaxed and calm. Their 3T had great height, and is close to competitive with the best in the field. On an aesthetic note, I’d vote for Rockne to wear a single color/piece costume, as it would lengthen his line. His current two-tone top and tights ensemble instead accentuate his stockiness.

I was once again reminded that the gamine Yuko Kavaguti (of Kavaguti & Smirnov) is indeed THE most flexible contemporary ladies skater. Her extension appears unstoppable. Every position and even jump seems to be finished off with a spiral position or pointed foot. It is both beautiful, and yet coltish at the same time.

I was thrilled to discover that Pang & Tong’s SP music was from Bizet’s opera Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearfishers). I’ve never heard it used by a skater, and it was ripe for the pickin’. I’m, of course, a big proponent of using fresh operatic selections for skating programs (that of course excludes Carmen, Turandot, and much of Madama Butterfly). It is the tenor aria Je crois entendre encore”, sung by the character Nadir. Enjoy this most beautiful rendition of it, sung very idiomatically by the great french tenor Alain Vanzo. Amusingly, a pop recording of this aria was also made in ’05 by Alison Moyet (formerly of Yaz)

They proved to be in top form, even at this early phase. I hope they medal in Vancouver (just below Shen & Zhao, that is).

I have a new skater crush (which could land me in jail, as he was born the year I graduated from high school) on Alexei Rogonov, of up-and-comers Martiusheva & Rogonov. This team, new to the Seniors, has a beautiful aura and presentation. They have great “backs” (ie: posture), and she looks like a young Grace Kelly, and he a young Val Kilmer…well, sort of.

Men’s SP

It was so great to finally get to see Johnny’s new SP. Unfortunately, I do agree somewhat with Paul Wylie’s assessment that the sizzle was greater than the steak. BUT, in some ways I feel like this program presents Johnny in a light more true to himself than any before (ala pop star/diva-on-ice, or runway model)…that is, more flirtatious, and less restrained. I feel that Johnny was more passionate and told more of a story than he has for several seasons. The costume is certainly his most flamboyant to date, complete with man-corset. I love the daring black and hot pink color combo. However, the music itself (by di Blasio), which I believe is in part Plushenko’s old music (perhaps from his ’01-’02 LP?), resembles tinny elevator music. I didn’t see much of David Wilson’s stamp on this program, and it just doesn’t feel on the level of his programs for Yu-Na.

Speaking of “Plushy”…he layed out perhaps the most beautiful 3A I’ve ever seen (not to mention his 4/3 combo). It had a delay, before the set down. I suppose I have to learn to live with his wavy arms, as they are just part of his signature movement, and I’ve decided to surrender my previous judgement of him and welcome him back enthusiastically (not that he needs it). He offers a competitive excitement that I’ve missed, and I honor his chutzpah. Who else can sit out of this current COP field for four years, and come back like that? In the old days, when the bar was lower it was easier…now it’s close to miraculous.

My partner, CJ, was complaining that Plushy had “had his time”. I replied, “skaters aren’t like bread…they don’t have an expiration date!” Hell, my argument is always, if they can get back into fightin’ shape, it is their right, and our privilege to see things shaken up a bit!!!cow tipping

Also, amusingly, when Florent Amodio went down on his 3S, CJ called it “Salchow Tipping” (see right). BTW, it was great to see Florent on Senior ice. He has a lot of promise. And, keep an eye on that Artem Borodulin!

Ladies’ SP

Alissa is starting to put the sizzle back in Czisny again!!! She looked so composed, and yet so engaging. I was very proud of her for not rushing her jumps, and skating a nearly clean program. I hope this is a continuing trend!

Amber Wagner really has evolved into a very sophisticated and sexy skater. The details and nuance of her SP are notable. I felt she was a bit undermarked, especially as there were no visible mistakes. Perhaps her jumps were not as big or her glide as fast as Júlia Sebestyén’s (who staged a major upset, and is in first).

Many years back I often found myself rooting for Júlia. When she won her European title in Hungary, I was ecstatic. However, much of her glow wore off for me in recent years. Well, the joy and energy in her skating was visible again, and she looked positively renewed. Even her physical appearance and hairstyle are much more warm and “open” than in recent years, which offered a much less appealing (to me anyways), edgy, Euro-trash look.

Drag Me to HellMiki Ando’s SP is billed as the “Mozart Requiem”. Well, it’s really a musical mash-up, also incorporating what sounds like some generic horror movie soundtrack music. That was a disappointment. Perhaps I’m a purist, but Mozart’s Requiem doesn’t need anything added to it, and should stand on its own. On the whole though, I think the drama and severity of her program actually suit her style of movement and look. Having just watched my fifth suspense/horror film of the Halloween season, “Drag Me to Hell”, I kept expecting her program to summon up a demon (ie: the “Lamia”!). Cue evil laughter!

In the sea of the average Russian Seniors ladies’ skaters, Alena Leonova has won me over. No, I don’t consider her to be a real contender for an Olympic medal, I despise folk song programs (Americans don’t skate to Peter, Paul & Mary, or Woody Guthrie, why do singles skaters feel the need to explore their folk roots on ice? In ice dance, I know it’s often a requirement.), and her style is not very evolved, but she has the most infectious smile, and a genuine verve…shades of Slutskaya.

Signing off, for now…

A Very Early Snow: USOC Preview

…and, when it snows, it pours. Or, something like that.

These USOC Winter Portraits” were taken at Smashbox Studios, in LA (May 12 & 15th). They serve as a very exciting preview of all the US Olympic aspirations the upcoming season holds. I felt like a little boy who got a big peak into his biggest gift under the Christmas tree. See the entire photoshoot at Universal Sports’ photo gallery. But, trust me, these snow angels give the best face in these selects.

Evan sure appears to be sending a cold breeze up Johnny’s back:
“Brrrrrrr” (translated from Russian). Looks like Jeremy is hoping to summon up “may the force be with you”, in his Obi-Wan Kenobi look-alike portrait. And, Mirai’s on-ice exuberance seems to be MIA in her shoot…thankfully, she shines when the pressure is on. Speaking of MIA, no M.K.? The door is closing fast!

Now, enjoy our US hopefuls as the Brady Bunch (if you’re too young to get that, enjoy this morsel of ’70s cheese.):

Evan & JohnnySashaJeffrey & AlissaRachael & Belgosto

Zhang & McBruDavite & WagnerMroz & Nagasu

The Hottest Fan Sign in Staples Center

The hottest fan sign in Staples Center!

On Top of the Worlds

(I’m fast trying to use up my Worlds’ puns.) And… we’re off… to the Magic Castle, in the City of Angels!!!

My LA ’09 Worlds music mix is all baked and ready to go. It includes the following gems, featuring some skatin’ tunes, and recent party favs, among others. Yes, there is plenty of fromage here.:

LA '09 Worlds Mix

Be sure to follow my LIVE tweets Worlds results updates.

I’m most rooting for favorites Yu-Na, Nobunari, Aliona & Robin, and Tessa/Scott! For the U.S., my fingers are most crossed for Alissa, Jeremy, Meryl/Charlie, and Caydee/Jeremy. Yes, I’m on first-name basis with them all ;-).

Evgeni (Plushenko) predicted the following:

“It’s going to be (France’s Brian) Joubert for sure on the podium, (American Evan) Lysacek and (Jeremy) Abbott,” Plushenko said. “How? I don’t know, but those three guys.”

Now I have to get making my fabulous “Alissa Put the Sizzle Back in Czisny!” sign (or insert other punny exclamation), to support our girl, and perhaps even get me on TV to boot.

Hopefully it’ll be as fun as the Salt Lake Games. I recently dug up this fabulous photo. It was utter serendipity… we discovered that we had by chance worn the Olympic colors, and that since there were 5 of us, we were the LIVING Olympic rings!

The LIVING Olympic Rings

The LIVING Olympic Rings

And, I smell a controversy, although it may be great for conjuring up much needed skating viewership. If the presumed tactic reflected in this video is attempted again on Yu-Na in LA, I’ll be waiting in the kiss-and-cry with my knee bat! (Could it be Mao? Please, say it isn’t so!).

I was pleased to discover some fellow athletes’ words of support on the Worlds website, and a bit amused to find a few celebrity messages in the mix, such as this one from Miz Wilhelmina Slater (aka Vanessa Williams):

“This year’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships brings exciting talent to the ice in Los Angeles and I for one will be watching and sending my best wishes and support to all of the skaters. You have each worked hard to earn a spot in this competition and I congratulate you all on a job well done!”

And, I was thrilled to find in my e-mailbox yesterday a response from Alissa Czisny herself. I had extended a greeting of support, and also shared my #2 all-time favorite skate with her (Denise Biellmann’s Beau Soir, composed by Debussy, and choreographed by Robin Cousins), as its elegance and Denise’s spinning ability reminds me of her.:

“Thank you for your support of my skating and for your encouraging email. I appreciate the suggestion for the music, also! I wish you the best!”

Check back the week following Worlds for my highlights of the experience.

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