Best Skating Programs of the Season

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.

By Artist Larisa Gendernalik

Program Diagram (Artist Larisa Gendernalik)

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?


David Wilson with Kim Yu-Na, and Lori Nichol with Salé & Pelletier

Men’s SP:

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)

Men’s LP:

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)

Ladies’ SP:

1) Kim Yu-Na: 007 Medley (Choreo: David Wilson)
2) Alissa Czisny: Mask of Zorro (Choreo: David Wilson)
3) Caroline Zhang: Zigeunerweisen, by Sarasate (Choreo: Lori Nichol)

Ladies’ LP:

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)

Pairs’ SP:

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)

Pairs LP:

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:

1) Davis & White: Indian Folk Dance (Choreo: Marina Zueva, Igor Shpilband)
2) Navarro & Bommetre: Brazilian Folk (Choreo: Renée Roca)
3) Chock & Zuerlein: Afro Cuban Folk (Choreo: Igor Shpilband)

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.

Click on these links to view complete programs by discipline (some details are not up-to-date): Ladies’, Men’s, Pairs’, Ice Dance.

Are there any glaring omissions, or your favorites that I overlooked?

10 comments so far

  1. Aaron on

    What about Daisuke’s SP 😦

  2. jumping clapping man on

    For pure choreo and drama, it’s great, and I look forward to seeing more from this choreographer (Kenji Miyamoto). But, it doesn’t captivate me as much as my top three selections, and isn’t as memorable or clearly innovative as his hip-hop Swan Lake program from last season.

    It also fell prey to my cut of most of the programs in the tired latin/flamenco category.

    However, it would likely be in my Top 5.

  3. MRR on

    I agree with most of your favorite programs, but I would put Ashley Wagner’s short as third best over Nagasu’s. Particularly after seeing her do it at NHK, I really think her expression, transitions, and musicality in that program are competitive with several of the other top SPs we have seen.

  4. jumping clapping man on

    (I think you mean Caroline, not Mirai, right?) She (Ashley) certainly did step it up, didn’t she? Who knows how this LP at NHK will play out, but she’s appearing the American front-runner at this point. She is also the most facially expressive of the American ladies, and perhaps all of the ladies…which is very enjoyable to watch. I prefer her LP to her SP. I’m not as keen on her SP soundtrack music.

  5. hi on

    Isn’t it that Dube&Davison’s The Way We Were and Pang&Tong’s Ipossible Dream are both choreographed by David Wilson? I remember a article that Pang&Tong got a free from Wilson and saw Dube&Davison told their free by Wilson on CBC coverage.
    By the way I like your selection, I also like Daisuke’s SP and Weaver&Poje’s FD(Phantom of the Opera but still love it).

  6. Kate on

    For OD, I think the Kerrs should definitely be in there! But other than that, great list, I agree with a lot of them.

  7. nobody on

    It’s interesting to read different opinions, and I agree with several of your selections. I really like Suzuki’s LP, Shen & Zhao’s SP, etc. I’m not sure if I really like the SP of Rippon or if I simply like the music. I think Jeremy Abbott has stronger choreography and better relates to his music. And while I appreciate the way Lysacek sells his SP, the lack of refinement in his choreography tends to turn me off. For these reasons, Abbott’s SP would be on my list over Lysacek and Rippon.

    I haven’t seen the SP of Langlois & Hay, I will have to check that one out. Right now, I really enjoy the SP of McLaughlin & Brubaker. The choreography is lovely, fits the music, and it has potential to be a very good SP. I don’t find anything particularly memorable about Dube & Davison’s LP (some nice emotion, but their programs tend to be a bit hollow choreographically), Zhang’s SP, Czisny’s SP, etc. You are right, though, that there have been slim pickings as far as memorable Ladies SPs are concerned. I love Wagner’s LP (mostly just the music) and would rather watch her over Rochette, but I suppose she could still use more polish and refinement.

    Ice dance is so much just a matter of taste, but I don’t care for the OD of Chock/Zuerlein, and I would probably rather watch the FD of Davis/White over Virtue/Moir (despite the Phantom music which I don’t love at all). I love both D/W and V/M’s free dances though! The skaters are doing so many different styles in ice dance that it’s hard to pick who’s “best”.

  8. jumping clapping man on

    Thanks “nobody”. An interesting weigh in!

    I am definitely swayed by music selection, more than choreography. SO, if there’s a piece of music I love, good to great choreo will trump amazing choreo with music I don’t care about. I suppose that’s a natural emotional response.

    I am so relieved that most of the American ice dance teams went with other culture’s folk music…whew!

    I find it very interesting that Lori Nichol was brought in to “fix” Fumie Suguri’s programs after her first GP event. It appears that Vakhtang Murvanidze originally choreographed them. That must be bad press for Vakhtang!?

    I’m disappointed not to see more from Tom Dickson this season. I’ve always liked his work. It looks like he may have only done Vaugn Chipeur’s SP and Mroz’s EX. Perhaps he’s laying low?

    Finally, I’m also surprised to see that Lee Ann Miller (or Lipinski and Harding choreo fame) has only done Tamar Katz’s programs. I wonder if that’s her choice, or if she hasn’t been pursued by the higher up elites for some reason.

  9. jumping clapping man on

    Two men’s LPs really sold me at Skate America, and both offered a fascinating study in contrasts…Ryan Bradley’s comedic Baroque chamber music, and Shawn Sawyer’s elegant Mozart programs! One hilarious and charming, the other sublime.

  10. emma on


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