Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page
Select your final picks for the Grand Prix podiums in each discipline (select three medalists per poll)! Since these polls don’t allow you to order your votes, please share those in comments. Review all GP season-to-date results here. My predictions may be rather predictable, but I gladly welcome surprises…go underdogs! (I’m recalling Sandhu in ’03, Asada in ’05, and Abbott last year.)
1) Shen & Zhao
2) Savchenko & Szolkowy
3) Pang & Tong
1) Virtue & Moir
2) Davis & White
3) Pechalat & Bourzat
I feel Jeremy Abbott will peak closer to Nationals and Olympics (or, at least I hope so), so I’ve left him off the podium here (guessing he’ll garner the pewter medal). He himself has stated that he doesn’t want to peak too early, so I feel that being the reigning champion here will prevent him from really being on the attack. With Joubert, Plushenko and Chan absent, these men better take advantage of this opportunity to build their confidence. Can anyone tell me when the last time was that the USA had three men at the GP Final (and if we ever have)? This seems to me a big, but much overlooked achievement. It hasn’t happened in at least a decade, as per my perusal of results as far back as they appear to go online. [UPDATE: Aaron at Axels, Loops & Spins has confirmed that the USA has never sent three men to the GP Final!]
My ladies predictions are the same as last year’s Worlds. I don’t think Wagner has enough momentum yet to medal here, but she’s gaining on the competition.
I think Shen & Zhao will best Savchenko & Szolkowy this time, but it will be VERY close. This has to be the most difficult to predict match up in all four disciplines!
And, when stacked next to each other (which hasn’t yet happened this season), I think Virtue & Moir will edge out Davis & White. With Belbin & Agosto, Delobel & Schoenfelder, and Domnina & Shabalin out of the picture here, this will hardly be telling of the Vancouver smack down.
A Technicolor Discovery
Nearly six months ago, the local Thrillpeddlers Theatre production of The Cockettes’ musical “Pearls Over Shanghai” entered my theatrical radar. My friend Leanne Borghesi (faux queen Anita Cocktail) was Associate Directing it, and gearing up for a short run as Petrushka, the “White Russian femme fatal”. At the time I knew nothing of The Cockettes nor Thrillpeddlers. The “Pearls…” poster (gotta love the innuendo!), Leanne’s involvement, and the technicolor photos I found online (see teasers below) easily enticed me to want to know and see more!
My friend David Crocker, a Dresser at the SF Opera, painted some vivid pictures for me of attending the original Cockette’s productions at the Palace theatre in the late 60s. Most potent for me, of course, were his references to operatic excerpts from “Madama Butterfly”.
When I finally attended “Pearls…” with CJ and some friends, I was completely drawn into the spirit of it…bawdy, risque, irreverant, and fabulous! The intimate Hypnodrome theatre (45 seat capacity) aids in the visceral nature of the experience. Two original Cockettes are in this production: Rumi Missabu (the original Madame Gin Sling) and Scrumbly Koldewyn (composer of “Pearls…”, lyricist for Petrushka’s solos, as well as current music director and pianist). I knew this was the next sort of theatrical endeavor I HAD to be a part of. My recent involvement in “Hair”, from the same era, was a natural transition into this. And, recently meeting and working with Walter Harris, brother of Cockettes’ founder Hibiscus, at West Fest allowed it to hit even closer to home.
Fast forward a few months. My friend Val (my Frankenfurter in ROLT’s “Rocky…”) followed Michael Soldier (aka Precious Moments), and TJ Buswell (a Thrillpeddlers’ regular) as Chang. However, his run was ending just before Thanksgiving. The production would need a new Chang come December. Thanks to nods from Val and Leanne, and my passion for the show, I was cast as the new Chang, for the December 4th through 18th performances. This character is the Crime/Gangster Lord of China, and referred to as “Mister Money”, and the “Ziegfield of China”…how fun is that?! I’m looking forward to raising the bar on my makeup skills too, since the performers design and apply their own.
I’m ecstatic to be stepping into this rich tradition, and special production. It’s one part burlesque, one part cabaret, one part drag show, and one part staged musical. It conjures up the spirit of what I imagine shows in pre-war Berlin, or Vaudeville were like…well, sort of.
Come & Experience It
Buy your tickets now! Be prepared to check your “PC” at the door. The Thrillpeddlers just received an SF Bay Guardian “Goldie Award”, so thankfully they are getting some well deserved attention and kudos. Be sure to rent The Cockettes’ documentary, AND enjoy a video preview of the current production (find more in my vodpod widget). Although my run as Chang will have ended, the 40th Anniversary of the original production will be celebrated into the extended January run, with special after-shows!
My last post (focusing on skaters) offers a natural dovetail into this one. Especially for those of you who haven’t yet seen much/any of the ’09-‘10 season events to date (Grand Prix, as well as earlier Nebelhorn, Finlandia, or Liberty), or don’t feel skilled at identifying stand-outs, this serves as a short-list to acquaint you with the best programs. It’s impossible to completely separate out the skater or performance as a factor, but that isn’t the focus here. Also, these aren’t podium predictions, but they are in order of preference.
I’m covering only competitive programs, not exhibitions, and am skipping Compulsory Ice Dances. The focus here is on music selection and choreography (transitions, pacing, movement, ice coverage). I’m most drawn to programs that have a dramatic arc, musical contrast, or a strong emotional impact or levity. Here is one interesting look at the choreographic process, or evolution of a program.
Although fresh music selections were preferred, some tried-and-true selections still made the cut, because I love them so, or because their approach is new. For example, no Phantom of the Opera or Scheherazade programs were selected, and most latin/flamenco numbers (Suzuki, Rochette, Cohen and Chan SPs, Lambiel LP, etc.) need to be tabled for a good decade, as that style is so overused. Also, I’m allergic to Russian folk tunes and country music, of which there are many in the Ice Dance OD. Good costumes supported the selections, but weren’t pivotal. David Wilson wins here, with eight programs included, and Lori Nichol a close second, with five. Do they ever sleep?
1) Adam Rippon: Dear Father, from Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Neil Diamond (Choreo: David Wilson)
2) Evan Lysacek: Firebird, by Stravinsky (Choreo: Lori Nichol)
3) Stéphane Lambiel: William Tell Overture, by Rossini (Choreo: Salomé Brunner)
1) Jeremy Abbott: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (Organ Symphony), by Saint-Saëns (Choreo: Pasquale Camerlengo) – my overall season favorite
2) Jeffrey Buttle: Eclogue, by Finzi (Choreo: David Wilson) – why’d he retire!@#$
3) Nobunari Oda: Charlie Chaplin (Choreo: Nikolai Morozov)
1) Kim Yu-Na: Concerto in F, by Gershwin (Choreo: David Wilson)
2) Akiko Suzuki: West Side Story, by Bernstein (Choreo: Shae-Lynn Bourne)
3) Joanie Rochette: Samson and Delilah, by Saint-Saëns (Lori Nichol)
1) Pang & Tong: Le Pêcheurs de Perles, by Bizet (Choreo: Nicolai Morozov)
2) Shen & Zhao: Who Wants to Live Forever, by Queen (Choreo: Lori Nichol)
3) Langlois & Hay: Fascination (Choreo: David Wilson)
1) Shen & Zhao: Adagio, by Albinoni (Choreo: Lori Nichol)
2) Dube & Davison: The Way We Were, by Hamlisch (Choreo: Wilson)
3) Pang & Tong: Impossible Dream, by Hisaishi (Choreo: Bourne, Wilson)
+) Savchenko & Szolkowy: Out of Africa, by John Barry (Choreo: Ingo Steuer) updated 11.2.09!
Ice Dance OD:
Ice Dance FD:
1) Virtue & Moir: Symphony No. 5, by Mahler (Choreo: Zueva, Shpilband)
2) Faiella & Scali: Gli Emigranti, by Rota (C: Paola Mezzadri, Ludmila Vlasova)
3) Belbin & Agosto: Ave Maria / Amen, by Caccini / Rossini (C: Natalia Linichuk)
Neither Domnina & Shabalin’s, nor Delobel & Schoenfelder’s programs were considered for this, since both have yet to perform their new programs in intl. competition (if you find videos, please share them). It was difficult to leave out Ashley Wagner’s (Polovtsian Dances) and Sasha Cohen’s (Moonlight Sonata) LPs, and Jeremy Abbott’s (Beatles) SP! On the flip side, there is a bit of a drought of memorable programs among the ladies’ SPs.
Are there any glaring omissions, or your favorites that I overlooked?
As the skating season drives madly onward, I find myself measuring my pulse, as I watch each Olympic hopeful, to see who makes my heart beat the faster. But, instead of falling easily head over heels for one favorite per discipline, I discover that it’s just not that simple. It dawned on me that the familiar facebook.com “Relationship Status” categories best define my feelings.
Inevitably, this does begin to hint at a wish list for Gold in Vancouver. I know, it’s supposed to be more about the journey than the destination, more about the battle than the glory, yadda yadda yadda. But, I’m an immediate gratification kinda guy, so I want the results! And, if you were honest with yourself, isn’t that where your head goes as you watch the Grand Prix events unfold?
However, this is in NO way a prediction of the champions, or a comprehensive look at the possible podiums (that will come much later), just an attempt to figure out who I may need to dump…or, if I can comfortably swim in this two-timing and non-monogamy! More simply, who am I really going to root for as this season progresses?
Pairs’ Status: “It’s Complicated”
My long-time, all-time favorites Shen and Zhao (CHN) have already proven themselves in their comeback bid. At Cup of China they accrued the highest total pairs’ score this season. More than any other pair, they have an ability to send me reaching for the tissues. Their on-ice connection is so deep, so passionate, so real…like a true expression of who they are individually, and as a couple. I felt that only his injury robbed them of the gold that would have been theirs in Torino. They have also grown immensely since they first hit the international scene. At first they seemed to be purely technical skaters, but then their artistry emerged. I love it when skaters evolve in this way, especially when their artistry doesn’t appear to be so innate (I also think of Sarah Hughes, who was positively coltish when she debuted at Nationals).
However, Savchenko and Szolkowy (GER) have worked so hard over the past four seasons, and consistently delivered (well, except at Trophée Eric Bompard) stunningly difficult choreography and technical content: transitions, triple jumps, and expression. They, with their coach Ingo Steuer have a very unique vision of who they are and what they want to put out on the ice. Their moves look like no other pairs team, including their refreshing mirror footwork. And, although noone’s talking about it, I believe Robin would be the first black figure skating Olympic gold medalist (or, perhaps of any color medal). That would be a wonderful history-making precedent! (I invite you to proove me wrong.)
Sadly, because of Sav/Szol’s meltdown at TEB, we don’t have a solid apples-to-apples comparison of how they’ll match up. And, the same may be true at the GP Final, since Sav/Szol may not make it there. Perhaps in Vancouver we’ll have another pairs’ tie, so I won’t have to settle on one team!
Men’s Status: “In an Open Relationship”
I feel as if my status with Johnny Weir (USA) has been downgraded to “Widowed” after Rostelcom Cup, and being largely let down by his new programs. So, I’m shifting my focus for now. There is such a buffet of exceptional men to choose from, I’m opting for the freedom of this “Open Relationship”.
Stéphane Lambiel (SUI) was my first love out of the current competitive field. By now, we’re practically “old and married”. But, I’m so pleased he is returning this season, and his new William Tell SP suits his sophisticated yet youthful approach very well. The footwork is perfectly choreographed to the famous up-tempo portion of the overture. I would love to see him claim the gold that he missed in Torino.
After years of playing hard-to-get with Evan Lysacek (USA), I have finally caved and accepted it as my fate. He has proven his character and the depth of his competitive fire and fight, and reached a new level of elegance this season. With his 6′ 2″ stature, he glides across the ice like a statuesque ballet dancer. It’s quite a vision! He has finally opened up to his inner girl, appearing much more vulnerable and expressive (complete with Vera Wang). That’s oh-so-much more appealing than the more one-note masculine caricature he was in the past.
Who hasn’t been wooed by Charlie “Nobunari” Chaplin (JPN) this season? He certainly picked the right season to peek in, with his inner comedian emerging in full bloom. And, his oft discussed soft knees on jump landings are as beautiful as ever. The spring he gets in his jumps is not of mere mortals. His short stature is icing-on-the-cake, as it makes him all the more endearing and loveable.
Early last season Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) seemed on top of the world, and was laying down his cutting-edge hip-hop Swan Lake SP. No other competitive male dances like him on the ice, or uses their body as fully as he does in his footwork. He displays power, with a cool, contemporary edge. However, he has lost that momentum, and I’m not a fan of his new programs. I hope he can return to at least some of his former glory.
I am developing a crush on Adam Rippon, but I’ll wait til 2014 for the real thing. Jeremy Abbott’s new LP to Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony No. 3 is a revelation, but he still needs to “let it go” to draw me in more fully.
Ice Dance Status: “It’s Complicated”
Virtue & Moir (CAN) have the most palpable connection of any of the ice dance teams. Their passion and expressivity feel the most real to me…not a “performance”. Their Mahler FD is perfection, and touches me because of the music selection alone, not to mention the execution. There is a stillness, and yet a controlled abandon to the program. Sure, their lifts and twizzles are at mach speed, but that’s not what makes you fall in love.
But, Delobel & Schoenfelder (FRA) are my sentimental favorites, and are at/near the end of their competitive careers. She is fighting an uphill battle to get back in shape after her pregnancy, and I haven’t yet seen their new programs, but, they have so much heart and warmth, and innovativeness. Their maturity and experience have surely nurtured these qualities.
I would love for the U.S. to snag its first ever ice dance Olympic gold medal, and I always enjoy Belbin & Agosto and Davis & White, but neither yet captivate me entirely. Tanith’s expression can ring a bit false for me, and I feel Davis & White need a few more years develop an even deeper and truer sense of storytelling and who they are. Navarro & Bommentre are personal favs, but not medal contenders.
Ladies’ Status: “In a Relationship with…”
This is the one discipline in which I’m relishing a honeymoon phase. And, she certainly ain’t no underdog. It is Kim Yu-Na (KOR). I can’t think of a skater who provides me with such complete satisfaction. She has owned this season, and the last, dominating as the clear favorite. I think the field is a lot less interesting with this sort of dominance, and I certainly root for the underdogs (and U.S. ladies), because that’s part of what makes the Olympics really come alive (ie: Arakawa, Hughes, Lipinski, etc.), but it will take a lot for another skater to stage an upset.
Yes, I love aspects of other skaters…Sasha’s spirals and extensions are unbeatable, Alissa’s spins and glide are perfection, and Alena has more spunk than Richard Simmons, but Yu-Na has enough of all that, in one package. If Mao could return to her former glory, well, then, my ladies’ status might need to change. But, hopefully, it’ll soon be upgraded to “Married”!
Please note that none of the relationships alluded to above are real. I am purely delusional, and having too much fun. And, it appears I’m somehow immune to the wooing of the current Russian crop of skaters.