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!

Men’s FS

Brandon Mroz: On the Waterfront, by Bernstein (Choreo: Sandra Bezic, Tom Dickson, Elements: Tom Zakrajsek). He needs to grow into it, but the program itself is well paced and has all the emotional raw material and potential.

Runner-Up: Brian Joubert, Symphony No. 9, by Beethoven (Choreo: Antonio Najarro). A controversial choice, but LARGELY biased by the musical selection and the risk of moving so outside of his comfort zone.

Honorable Mention: Daisuke Murakami, Lawrence of Arabia. He has really caught my attention with this program. I so wanted to include a Rippon program, but his just aren’t grabbing me like last seasons’ (ie: the Rach is so overdone).

Ladies’ SP

These two choices prove that “cute,” “perky,” “playful” aren’t necessarily cloying and can ring true, if performed by the right skater.

Kanako Murakami: Jumping Jack (Choreo: Machiko Yamada, Mihoko Higuchi)

Runner-Up: Agnes Zawadzki, Gopher Mambo/Concierto para Bongo by Conrad Gozzo/Perez Prado (Choreo: Tom Dickson)

Ladies’ FS

Alissa Csizny: Winter Into Spring by George Winston (Choreo: Pasquale Camerlengo). So refreshing and differentiating from the field.

Runner-Up: Carolina Kostner, L’Après-Midi d’un Faun by Claude Debussy (Choreo: Lori Nichol). I may finally stop accusing Kostner of being overmarked, as she is really showing growth as an artist, and this program is divine.

Pairs’ SP

Sui & Han: Country Dance by Josh Turner (Choreo: Wei Zhang). Simply astonishing! She exudes utter Naomi Nari Nam-ness.

Runner-Up: Iliushechkina & Maisuradze, The Marriage of Figaro Selections, by Mozart (Choreo: Daria Garmash). I do however wish they had used a traditional, classical recording, NOT a modern arrangement.

Pairs’ FS

Yankowskas & Coughlin: Ave Maria, by Schubert (Choreo: Marina Zueva). She really does call to mind Lyudmila Protopopova. I haven’t been this excited about a US lady pairs’ skater (or team) in a long time. This program stands out too because it’s not a mash-up or medley, just a single song (whew!).

Runner-Up: Savchenko & Szolkowy, The Pink Panther (Choreo: Ingo Steuer). Talk about a risk! I appreciate that. It’s sexy, differentiating, and NOONE ELSE could pull this off!

Update: Kavaguti & Smirnov just debuted a gorgeous Clair de Lune program (Choreo: Peter Tchernyshev, Tatiana Druchinina) at Cup of Russia. It is worthy of a nod, but I’ll keep my first two picks in place.

Ice Dance SD

Davis & White: Waltzes from La Boheme by G. Puccini, and La Traviata by G. Verdi (Choreo: Igor Shpilband, Marina Zueva)

Runner-Up: Shibutanis, Carousel Waltz, by Rodgers (Choreo: Igor Shpilband, Marina Zueva)

Ice Dance FD

Crone & Poirier: Eleanor Rigby, by Joshua Bell (Choreo: Christopher Dean, Carol Lane, Juris Razguliaevs)

Runner-Up: Pechalat & Bourzat, Charlie Chaplin Medley (Choreo: Alexander Zhulin)

So, what do you think? Have I overlooked any of your favorites, or credited any that you feel are not so worthy? Chime in!

14 comments so far

  1. Delonjo on

    Mroz…? I dunno. I’d call that performance, “An Athete is Born.” That’s Brandon at his absolute best. The program up through the first two superb jumping passes was thrilling. I said to myself, “I can’t wait to see this at Nationals.” Then he started skating and I was so wah-wah-wah. He’s an American Joubert. And I betcha a million dollars that Joubert is his idol. No finesse. The forced “sensitive” face kind of insulted me. After the very beautiful second 3A I was happy for him but still unimpressed from a skating fan point of view. Then I said, “I wish they gave this program to Rippon.”

  2. jumping clapping man on

    He’s not yet performing at the level of Abbott or Rippon, no. I agree.

    BUT, he’s taken a huge artistic step, I feel. AND, this program/choreo, the music selection, and the way it’s crafted is very smart and very impactful to me. Hopefully he can rise to that level in all aspects.

  3. Delonjo on

    I also wish that Rippon would do something other than these sensitive soft soul sister programs. Are all of his programs are to classical piano? What next: Love Story? GMAFB! He needs to get out of his comfort zone and do something exciting.

  4. Delonjo on

    But I gotta say that, regardless those two comments, both guys have done well for themselves and confirm my belief that they are great ambassadors for USA male figure skating. I’m very proud of them.

  5. Jun on

    You need to double check on the choreographer information. Mroz’s On the Waterfront was choreographed by (supposedly) Sandra Bezic, Tom Zakrajsek, and Tom Dickson. Agnes Zawadzki’s short program (Mambo mix) was also choreographed by Tom Dickson. Is there a pattern? Anything against Mr. Dickson?

  6. jumping clapping man on

    Thanks for the corrections. Nothing against Mr. Dickson AT ALL…I got my information from the website, but noone is infallible. I’ll try to verify your corrections and make them.

  7. jumping clapping man on

    “Jun”, I was able to find some confirmation of your Mroz input, and have corrected it. I was not able to find any proof of Tom Dickson as Zawadzki’s choreographer. Do you have a link?

    Her website alludes to three choreographers working on her programs, but doesn’t confirm her SP choreo specifically.

  8. jumping clapping man on

    “Jun”, this link does verify your Zawadzki correction:

    Thanks again! It’s corrected too.

  9. Jun on

    Thank you. I got my info from recent Ice Network news. There was a full story devoted to the story behind Mroz’s long program.

  10. Jun on

    I got my information about Zawadzki’s SP from Ice Network news:

  11. jumping clapping man on

    I just crossed my mind that Tom Dickson choreographed my number one favorite program, which I honored in this post:

    SO, I clearly nothing against Tom! 😉

  12. Jun on

    Sometimes it’s hard enough to find out who choreographed what without ISU’s errors. I’m still looking for the choreographer for Joey Russell’s horrible free skate (no way it can be David Wilson).

  13. ubu507 on

    I really like Jeremy Abbott’s long program – if he can do it hitting all his jumps he’ll knock it out of the park, but even without jumps, it’s a beautiful program.

  14. jumping clapping man on

    I don’t know why, Jeremy’s program is just doing nothing for me.I respect it, but don’t feel it, as I LOVED his Saint-Saëns LP from last season, and this just doesn’t come close for me. YES, on paper it’s VERY well choreographed, and the transitions are beautiful (as is the costume), but it leaves me just blank.

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