This is a SPOILER for those people who don't want to know results until
the event is shown on TV.
I have never been to*** Button's World Professional Championships
before, and it would take great effort to convince me to go again. I
think I would be more willing to go if it were simply a pro event with
no pretense of legitimate judging. I've never attended a "pro-am" event
before and the whole thing seemed awkward and badly thought out. I went
primarily to watch the ice dance competition, which was disappointing
and weak. Adding professional ice dance couples like Susanna Rahkamo &
Petri Kokko, or even Diane Gerencser & Pasquale Camerlango, would have
made for a much more interesting and diverse competition. As it was,
the main interest in dance was the off-ice publicity campaigns on both
sides of the fence. As I entered the
MCI Center on Friday night, I was handed a flyer (by a woman who was
probably the infamous aunt) detailing the individual achievements of
Pasha and Sasha and building them up. Meanwhile, a campaign to hand out
noise-makers to support Maya and Yevgeni was nipped in the bud by arena
I didn't take detailed notes because I was sure many other people would,
and so I tried to take a few photos from my seats, which wasn't too
successful since I was in a corner on the opposite side of the judges.
I spent most of my time literally or figuratively scratching my head and
feeling confused. My principal desire was to go back to nice, normal
eliglible skating, where I may not understand all the results all the
time but at least I have some hope of finding somebody who can explain
it to me. In any case, here are some of my thoughts and impressions on
the competition from my seat in the corner.
A representative from corporate sponsor Equal Sweetener spoke each night
and noted that for each triple jump landed, the company would be
donating money to charity (diabetes). Yagudin and Kwan did most of the
work for this worthy cause (and of course, to earn their commemorative
turkey platters), while Woetzel & Steuer donated two triples
themselves. I don't know if throw triples counted, but this turned out
to be moot. ;^) The evening got off to a spectacular start when the
reigning Miss America, who apparently focuses on diabetes charity work,
sang the National Anthem in several different keys. I was nearly in
hysterics, but somehow managed to control myself. Philippe Candeloro
was in the audience, looking tres chic in a long duster coat, and doing
commentary for a French channel. Also spotted off ice were Elvis Stojko
and Anzhelika Krylova.
PAIRS TECHNICAL PROGRAMS
First to skate were Mandy Woetzel & Ingo Steuer of Germany, who did
their "Out of Africa" number in unappealing green costumes; Mandy's
looked bought off the rack at Banana Republic. Their speed over the ice
is fantastic and they began with spectacular side by side triple toe
loops. They mixed eligible pairs lifts with pro moves, and for some
reason did not include a split twist. Neither pairs spin was very good,
but they hit the throw double axel and had some nice variations on the
Next up were Yelena Leonova & Andrei Khvalko, using the very often used
"Live at the Acropolis" music by Yanni and wearing
tie-dye/multi-coloured blueish costumes with fringey bits. They were
noticeably slower than W&S and don't have as much e***ment in their
skating, although some individual moves are impressive, particularly the
split lift that evolves into a split Detroiter variation. They also had
better unison that W&S in this performance, with excellent SBS 2 axels
and flying spins. She did brush the ice with her free foot on the throw
Last to skate were Oksana Kazakova & Artur Dmitriev, using a Frank
Sinatra program ("Fly Me to the Moon"). What is it with Artur and
The Chairman of the Board? They wore black and white costumes, Artur's
with a plunging ruffly neckline and much illusion fabric. This was a
cute program, but a little dull. This was not an exciting night of
pairs skating. They included clean SBS 2 axels, triple twist, throw
"whatever," but popped the throw 3 toe to a double. Overall, they had
the speed of W&S, the unison of L&K, lots of innovative moves, and some
charm too. The program just needs a bit more oomph.
WOMEN'S TECHNICAL PROGRAMS
First up was Oksana Bayul, who skated the ??Ballet/Bach program in a
black lace dress. I love this program and find it very powerful and
evocative, but unfortunately she popped the triple lutz. Salchow and
toe loop were fine, long posing sections, a double toe, and then a
double axel that is supposed to be landed on the final beat of the music
or just one second after, but it was a bit later and lost some
of its impact. I still like the idea of landing the jump and holding
the landing in silence. Overall, this was a good performance for
Oksana and she may have been a little unlucky to skate first.
For the much-anticipated "Ariane," Michelle Kwan wore a Yamaguchi-esque
lilac dress and hit lots of triples - 3 lutz, 3 toe-2 toe, 3 loop, 3
flip, 3 sal, 3 lutz, 3 toe, and a 2 axel. Combination spin was very
slow, spins in both directions nice, no extended spiral sequence, but a
nice split back spiral into a spin. The music was engaging at some
points, boring at others, and there was very little connection to the
music, which is common for Kwan. Not much footwork. Overall nothing
new; people who love Kwan will probably like it and those who only "get
into" her infrequently, like me, will be bored.
Yuka Sato was next, skating to the "Waltz of the Flowers" from "The
Nutcracker" in an ugly bright yellow dress. She just barely got
in the triple toe, and the triple loop (into 2 toe), but the sal
was fine. 2 axel was on a lean but okay. Fast, gorgeous spins,
wonderful use of the music and connecting steps. But the program
felt a bit long to me and wasn't perhaps as interesting as some
of the other programs she has done.
I was thrilled to see Chen Lu wearing her dress for "Butterfly Lovers"
and although she can't seem to get the jumps anymore, this program
was beautiful to watch, an exquisite meeting of music and skater.
Nobody uses their arms and upper boy like Chen Lu, and the passion
that she had for "Claire de Lune" and the Rachmaninov Concerto #2
came in with total body movement and sumptuous gestures. She could
jump only a 3 toe, 2 axel and then botched a 3 loop and I just did
not care, the quality of her movement is so unique and so moving to
me. I'm still glad I got to see this program in person.
Nicole Bobek skated next, doing her "Zorro" eligible competitive
short program in the over-glittering toreador outfit. Big triple
lutz to begin with (no comment on any change of edge since it was
impossible for me to tell from my seat, but unfortunately with
Nicole we can assume it was from an inside edge), 3 toe, turned
out of a 3 loop that was thrown in, and then a double salchow.
Fast spins, especially for the last combination spin. Steps,
spirals and Latin attitude were all great. It's so exciting to
see Nicole when she is on.
Last up was veteran Katarina Witt in a grey mesh dress that
reminded me of chain mail. Unfortunately, this program was quite
a struggle for her, with an overrated double axel that she stepped
out of, sort of a layback, and then fell out of a double flip (I
think it was a flip). Moreover, she was slow and did not cover most
of the ice in the program. The footwork in particular did not move.
The music was also some kind of "chick music," a genre I'd hear much
more of in the artistic numbers.
ICE DANCE TECHNICAL PROGRAMS
Only having three dance teams was already disappointing, but even
the warm-up for the dance event looked forboding. Usova & Platov
and Grishchuk & Zhulin both have about half the speed of Grishchuk
& Platov. There weren't even any exciting near-collisions. Blah.
First to skate were Maya Usova & Yevgeni Platov, who wore black
(him) and red (her) and skated to some dreadful heavy metal ballad.
Yevgeni's costume reminded me of Mike Weiss' "Mulan" outfit (the
"ripped flesh" motif), whereas Maya's looked like Pasha's orangey
red outfit for "Frozen." I never imagined that I would see Maya
in anything that made her look heavy. Of course, she is tiny,
but the dress (actually a pantsuit sort of thing) was awful on her.
The program was fairly slow, contained lots of interesting lifts
and pro dance moves, almost no footwork, and I felt that it had
no connection to the music or anything that could remotely be
considered "dance" beside the fact that music was playing at the
Liz Punsalan & Jerod Swallow of the U.S. performed their tango free
dance from last year, the most refined and technically competent
thing they've ever done and a good choice for this competition.
However, I did notice that she does a lot more of the difficult
footwork than he does. They skated fairly close together (the
arms-length thing was what I always picked on them for in the past)
and overall this was well-performed, smooth, but lacking in the
Last up were Pasha Grishchuk & Aleksandr Zhulin, who wore white
mismatched sort of costumes (her in tight pants and crop top,
him in suit with black shirt underneath) and skated to "Smooth
Operator." They had many of the same problems as U&P; they skated
a bit tentatively, started out fast but lost speed, skated too
far apart, and gave the impression of needing a lot more time
together to gel as a team and get the unison, to say nothing of
being able to increase the level of complexity in their
choreography. Both teams had a lot of two-foot skating. I would
give U&P the edge on smoother transitions. However, I would have
placed G&Z ahead of U&P in this program because I felt that they
did a nice job of interpreting the dance rhythm of the music
and had a bit more in the way of connecting steps.
read more »