And suddenly, the road to
looks a whole lot shorter.
No, not THAT Road to
I mean the little thoroughfare taking the top two dozen Grand Prix competitors
(not to mention an equal portion of JGP entrants) to the Finals, A.K.A. the Sochi
test event. But before we get there—in about 10 days—let’s do one more round of
then-and-now free skate comparisons, inspired by the NHK performances from a
few days ago:
Javier Fernandez (finished 4th): Verdi Medley (last year) vs. Charlie Chaplin Medley (this year)... We’ve seen Fernandez go from Pirates of the Caribbean (highlighted by a “drunken” in-character footwork sequence), to the slightly more straightforward Verdi, to the highly character-driven Chaplin. I like the ambitious nature of the new program, and the choreo’s terrific as always, but can Fernandez keep it going for 4 minutes without losing his jumps? Yes (at Skate Canada), but it was a NO here at NHK. True, he’s proven to run out of steam in a variety of free skate programs... but if “being Chaplin” exacerbates the problem, maybe he’s just not ready for it yet. Let’s see how he does at the GP Final...
Richard Dornbush (finished 5th): Western Medley by Morricone/Rossini (last year) vs. Wild Ones/Harlem Nocturne/Rooftops (this year). I want to say I like This Year’s Model better—Dornbush looks like he’s in better shape, and I’m hopeful that means he’ll take two steps forward this year rather than backward (as he seemed to last season). But... my problem is that Wild Ones feels like last year’s FS with a hipster vest where the cowboy shirt used to be. He’s got some campiness in his style to be sure, and maybe he simply doesn’t have many shades of camp to work with just yet. Perhaps a different choreographer would help?
Akiko Suzuki (
was robbed won silver): Die Fledermaus (last year) vs. O (Cirque du Soleil) (this year). A dilemma of a different kind here... Fledermaus was superb, and propelled
Suzuki to her first-ever world medal. And yet I adore her new FS sooooo much—the
costume, the mannerisms/choreo, and of course her skating itself on a new level
of exquisite—that I’m already a little bummed that it’s being used this season
instead of next. I find myself wondering How
will she top herself in an all-important Olympic year? But then again I’ve
been known to worry too much...
Bazarova/Larionov (won gold in pairs): Dr. Zhiavago (last year) vs. Spartacus (this year)... ah, finally an easy one! The thing I can’t get over about this team are Bazarova’s itty bitty singles elements—when she DOES land her SBS’s, you can hear Dick Button in your head saying “There’s no JUMP in that jump!” And to me, if you’re going to trot out music as powerful as Spartacus, you’ll need to back it up with some fierce skating. “Fierce” isn’t what comes to mind when I think of Baz/Lar.
Davis/White (won gold in dance): Die Fledermaus (last year) vs. Notre Dame de Paris (this year)... Some time back, I compared Davis/White and their Great White North rivals by saying that D/W tend to skate with boldness and power while Virtue/Moir are more about subtle nuances—like comparing the color royal blue (the former) with periwinkle (the latter). This year in particular, I think the tables have turned. I’m not finding much that is subtle about V/M’s take on Carmen, whereas D/W’s Notre Dame is the kind of slow-building program that leaves you finding something new to love about it every time you see it repeated. I know many consider Fledermaus to be their masterpiece, and with good reason. But Notre Dame should find its own place on the Davis/White Wall of Fame in no time.