Monday, August 29, 2011

Coming Very Soon: JGP in Latvia, and "Battle of the Blades" (with a twist)

The end of August I looked forward to in my younger days for two reasons: 1) School was starting/about to start, and 2) The 30th is my birthday. Nowadays, the school significance is passed down to my kids… and while my birthday still happens at the same time, it’s not quite the thrill it used to be… if you know what I mean :-)

But by way of my deeper immersion into this sport (if writing the blog and writing Skating on Air count), I now pay more attention to the span between late August and mid October—elite figure skating’s pre-season, if you will. Which provides something new to look forward to! (Plus, the homework’s a lot better.)

By this time a month from now, five international skating events—four junior, one senior—will have taken place:

JGP Volvo Cup (Riga, Latvia)… August 31-September 4

JGP Brisbane (Brisbane, Australia)… September 7- 11

JGP Baltic Cup (Gdansk, Poland)… September 14-18

Nebelhorn Trophy (Germany)… September 21-24

JGP Brasov Cup (Brasov, Roumania?)… September 21-25

And as you see, JGP Volvo Cup gets started later this week… so the time to get focused is almost upon us already! I’ll post at least one follow-up on this one by this time next week.

You know what else it’s almost time for? That’s correct… season three of the CBC hit series Battle of the Blades. September 18, to be precise! So glad that Canada continues to succeed where the U.S. seems destined to fail.

Speaking of which, did you hear that Tanith Belbin will be in this year’s lineup of pros? Maybe her boot camp at Skating with the Stars wasn’t all for naught. (She’ll probably prefer skating to co-hosting, anyway.) Other new pros include Kim Navarro (ice dancer formerly paired w/Brent Bommentre), Elena Berezhnaya (2002 OGM w/pairs partner Anton Sikharulidze), Marcy Hinzmann-Harris (2006 Olympian pairs skater, formerly paired w/Aaron Parchem), and… David Pelletier? Yup, he’s paired with another Olympic Gold Medalist… in women’s hockey. Tessa Bonhomme is her name. Much more about the cast can be found
at the CBC’s official website for it.

Canadian readers, are you ready for another season of BATTLES?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Are Samuelson/Gilles the Final Do-Si-Do in the Pairs & Dance Off-Season Shuffle?

Just when I was starting to wonder if Emily Samuelson would be the odd woman out of all the North American pairs and dance mumbo jumbo of the past few months… out comes the news that she’ll be pairing with Todd Gilles. Although they do not yet have a coach or even a training base, much less a program or two, they are hoping to qualify for U.S. Nationals by way of a Sectionals championship this fall.

SO! Here’s the scorecard I’ve racked up from the past 6 months as it appears at this moment (subject to further change, of course):

1) Pairs team Denney/Barrett (of U.S.) split
2) Pairs team Dube/Davison (of Canada) split
3) Dube teams up with Sebastien Wolfe (still of Canada)
4) Pairs team Yankowskas/Coughlin (of U.S.) split
5) Dance team Piper Gilles/Zach Donahue (of U.S.) split
6) Dance team Madison Hubbell/Keiffer Hubbell (of U.S.) split
7) Coughlin teams up with Caydee Denney (still of U.S.)
8) Dance team Crone/Poirier (of Canada) split
9) Dance team Chock/Zuerlein (of U.S.).split
10) Dance team Samuelson/Bates (of U.S) split
11) Chock/Bates team up (still of U.S.)
12) Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier team up (Gilles now representing Canada)
13) Madison Hubbell/Zach Donahue team up (still of U.S.)
14) Emily Samuelson/Todd Gilles team up (still of U.S.)

Who’s left stranded at this point?

Jeremy Barrett—no, seems to be retired
Bryce Davison—no, seems to be focused on coaching for now.
Caitlin Yankowskas
Keiffer Hubbell
Vanessa Crone
Greg Zuerlein—no, seems to be retired/focusing on school
Jane Summersett (former partner of Todd Gilles)—no, seems to be retired

Do we see Crone and Hubbell twizzling in the near future?

What will happen with Yankowskas? Should we make a list of partners she hasn’t considered yet?

Which of these new pairings—especially the dance teams—will rise to the top?

Aren’t you ready to see the Grand Prix start?

Well, we’re almost there… kind of. Junior GP gets underway in about a week. Will you be following anyone in particular? Let me know how closely you want me to stay on top of the JGP results as they unfold over the next couple of months.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Noteworthies: Music Choices from the World Championship's Top 10

Wouldn’t it be interesting if all the athletes who finished 6th through 10th at Worlds had music selections the following season that reflected either a desire to make a first-time move into next year’s Top 5 (as the likes of Florent Amodio and Ksenia Makarova surely possess), or a desire to rebound from a disappointing finish (Nobunari Oda, Brian Joubert, Mao Asada… I’m looking at you three)?

Wouldn’t it, indeed! But with only half of these skaters’ music announced to the world at this time, it’s tough getting a good cross-representation of it all. Here are a few of the more eye-catching/ear-catching offerings of which I’ve taken note thus far:

For the MEN-- Richard Dornbush’s SP to “16 Tons” (a late-1950s hit for “Tennessee” Ernie Ford) and an FS that includes the William Tell Overture.

Because… well, hearing “16 Tons” at a major skating event is kind of like when the band R.E.M. did a cover version of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”…it’s a surprising choice at a most unexpected time. I haven’t seen enough of Dornbush to get a real sense of his personality, but without even seeing the program I feel like I know him better now, and that I like what I “know.” As for his use of Rossini’s WTO—also known in my mom’s day as the Lone Ranger Theme Song—how can anyone NOT love that choice?

For the LADIES—Ksenia Makarova’s FS to the OST of Some Like it Hot.

Because… much as last year’s program encouraged Makarova to channel her inner Broadway diva by way of Evita, this one is destined to bring out the Hollywood diva in her by way of Some Like it Hot’s co-star, Marilyn Monroe. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the film, and don’t remember much about its music. But this sounds like it could be a lot of fun for Makarova.

For the PAIRS—Denney/Coughlin’s FS to Nessum Dorma.

Because while yes, it IS a warhorse…they are apparently changing it up by using some of guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck’s recent version (as evidenced in the second half of this
Clip of the Day ). I’ll take whatever variations I can get… and I happen to think these two are powerful enough skaters to pull it off.

For DANCE-- Ilinykh/ Katsalapov’s FD to Ave Maria.

Because, as you probably know, there’s more than one way to compose a piece called Ave Maria… and this one (
heard here) is by Russian composer Vladimir Vavilov. Does anyone know if it’s been used recently by anyone else?

One other music choice of note: get ready for a couple of doses of a “hip-hop” Carmina Burana this season. One is the SP of Finland’s Kiira Korpi; the other is the SP of Czech Republic’s Tomas Verner. Will either of them come close to the excitement level that was generated by Daisuke Takahashi’s hip-hop Swan Lake SP a few years ago? And which one do you look most forward to seeing? Both are scheduled to debut their SPs at NHK Trophy this fall.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Noteworthy Music Choices for the Top Figure Skaters in 2011-12

If, in springtime, a young person’s fancies turn to love (as the saying goes)… I think it’s safe to say that come late summer, a skating fan’s fancies turn to wondering what music their favorite athletes will be competing with come 2011-2012.

Thanks to the Internet, the ability to find this out in advance is easier than ever… IF the skater in question is willing to reveal their choice, that is. (One thought back to last summer’s alleged misstep in the aftermath of the Kim/Orser dissolution reminds us that some prefer to keep their choices to themselves as long as possible.)

You could scan the pages of posts covering this subject at
FS Universe…

Or the similar scenario over at
Golden Skate…

But if you’ve only got a minute or two to absorb the highlights here and there, read on… I can get you started!

What I did was round up the top 5 Worlds finishers from each discipline, and see what I could find out about their respective short/long picks. Admittedly I found less than 50% in the way of “official” announcements; of 40 possible programs, I only tracked down 18. And there could be plenty of unofficial announcements via the message boards that I haven’t included, so feel free to leave a comment about any notable omissions…

For these are HIGHLIGHTS that I’ve chosen to mention for various reasons listed below!

For the MEN—Takahiko Kozuka’s SP to Joe Henderson’s tenor sax-fueled "Inner Urge"…

… because anything would be an improvement over last season’s Soul Medley misstep. I know it served him just fine in that his stock just keeps rising… but (I’ll say it one more time, then shut up) it sounded like it came off a compilation CD of Funky Music for You to Skate to that couldn’t be bothered to pay for the rights to the originals. Anyway, "Inner Urge" is a jazz piece first released in 1964—and, at least to me, an exciting and original choice for a short program Considering that a previous Taka SP choice was Jimi Hendrix… I’m eager to see what gets cooked up here.

For the LADIES-- Alissa Czisny’s FS to Sibelius’ Valse Triste

… because, to me, it’s a fine follow-up to last season’s George Winston masterpiece. When I heard she would in fact continue to compete in 2011-12, I was a little nervous wondering what she’d use that could suit her any better—the Winston pieces used created such a lovely feeling of calm that she must have needed in the wake of her 2009-10 season. But she stays wisely grounded in relatively gentle classics that haven’t (yet) come close to warhorse territory for figure skating. (Valse Triste translates to “Sad Waltz,” and if you’d like to hear some or all of it, you can do so
here. )

For PAIRS—Volosohzar/Trankov’s FS to Black Swan

… because—and I know you didn’t hear it here first, but I’m just sayin’—Black Swan is going to be a popular choice this year, and Volo/Trank’s interpretation might turn out to be one of my favorites. Ashley Wagner chose it early on; meanwhile, Alena Leonova went on record early on to say she would NOT use it. By the way, it’s worth noting that using Black Swan is quite different from using Swan Lake, as the Black Swan soundtrack credits Tchaikovsky, composer Clint Mansell (the guy responsible for the now-infamous-in-skating score to Requiem for a Dream), and electronica duo The Chemical Brothers.

For DANCE—Davis/White’s SD (which includes recent Jennifer Lopez hit “On the Floor”)…

… just because I like that song, OK?? ;-)
I know they don’t get to choose the SD style year in-year out, but it seems like it’s been a while since D/W got to cut loose a little in competition, say, the way Virtue/Moir did with their free dance last year (which, incidentally, has now been shortened to become their SD music for 2011-12). So I look forward to seeing what the reigning world champs deliver… besides, I don’t think we’ve heard any J-Lo in competition since Belbin/Agosto brought out “Let’s Get Loud” in 2005-6 (as this Olympic
Clip of the Day will remind you).

And as an honorable (or dishonorable?) mention, I should also give you…

A) the RERUN ALERT of Top 5-ers programs used last season that will get an extension into this one… including Patrick Chan’s "Take Five" SP, Michal Brezina’s Japanese Kodo Drums SP, and the aforementioned SD of Virtue/Moir…

B) and the WARHORSE ALERT, which is (whew) pretty sparse right now, at least as for as Top 5-ers go… only one to note is that Russia’s Bazarova/Larionov are doing their FS to Tosca. But don’t worry; it’s early yet!

Got a particular group of skaters on which you’d like some specific program info? American ladies? European men? Ice dancers with the 5 lowest GP scores last year? I’m game… just leave a comment.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Soft Ice, Tough Competition, New Teams, and An Evening on Ice—Skating’s Week in Review

If you read Lynn Rutherford’s Indy Challenge article at this past week, you may have wondered how any pair was able to land anything with 96-degree (100 + heat index) weather pushing up against the outer wall of the arena, creating “very soft” ice conditions. Well… I couldn’t say, as I was down in the lower level of the complex for all six hours of my time there. But big props to the top pairs of the senior free skate event for succeeding in adverse conditions: Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (1st), Paige Lawrence and Rudy Swiegers (2nd), and Tiffany Vise/Don Baldwin (3rd). And Paige Lawrence… I think you’re the one who kept coming up to my table to get chocolates. Obviously we have more in common than our last name :-)

Meanwhile, Lake Placid was the place to be last weekend for ice dancing… and if you read THAT article, you already know the early-season fate of teams such as Isabella Cannuscio/Ian Lorello, Charlotte Lichtman/Dean Copely, and the new pair-up of Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donahue.

But there were at least two new North American dance teams that weren’t quite ready for competition… Madison Chock/Evan Bates, who joined forces earlier this summer (and talk about their new alliance via this
Skype interview with Universal Sports

And the even newer pairing of Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier, who will represent Canada internationally in 2012,
according to articles such as this one. Poirier, of course, used to skate with Vanessa Crone, while Gilles was formerly paired with Zach Donahue (now of Hubbell/Donahue).

On a completely different note… and this time discussing a still-to-come event rather than a happened-last-week one… please check out this lovely post from a few weeks ago over at
Life on the Edge (written by Allison Scott, Jeremy Abbott’s mother). It will tell you a bit about An Evening on Ice, a fundraiser happening Friday, August 12 in Burbank, CA for the U.S. Athletic Foundation… as well as its co-organizer, Nicholas La Roche. If you’re in the L.A. area next weekend, I hope you’ll try to attend!