I attended SOI again this year. Last year it was excellent, so my expectations were a bit higher than usual. The show was good this year but not great. Chris Dean was still the choreographer. I guess he cannot be brilliant every time.
Scott Hamilton was present on the screen, and it was hilarious. He was commentating, sort of. This was a novel way of presenting the show. At one point everyone wore ‘Scott’ masks. That was very funny.
The opening group number was with the ladies dressed as flowers or were they fish? I was not sure at first. The men were carrying what looked like a fishing net which confused me. It was supposed to be about ‘Lovely spring’, so they must be flowers and the men were gardeners perhaps. After that each skater or pair skated on to the ice and did a move or two. There were no announcements until the end. IMO an intro for each skater at the very outset would have been nice.
Yagudin skated to Winter- his 2002 Olympic SP music. I had seen his skate live in Salt Lake City, so it was a bit disappointing when he did 3 triple toes. I remembered his quad-triple combo, huge triple axel, and the triple lutz. I know that his injuries do not allow him to do more difficult jumps and it was a bit sad. He still moves on the ice very well and has nice footwork and spins. His program in the second half (‘Sway’) received a bigger response from the audience. He did 4 triples in it.
Next, Yuka Sato came on the ice and skated one of the cutest numbers to ‘Beanfields’. Yuka is an incredibly talented skater. Her footwork is amazing. She only did double jumps (salchow and loop). In the second half she skated a pairs routine with hubby Jason Dungjen. It was very good, although I don’t see them being competitive with the top pairs. Yuka started skating pairs very late- after turning pro- so the quality of their pairs skating is amazing. They have a great connection with each other and the joy of skating together really comes through. I was happy to see Jason on the ice. Last couple of seasons Yuka was only skating solos because SOI already had 4 pairs. Good for Jason to finally get a chance to skate with SOI.
In the second half Yuka skated a lovely routine to “The suite” (Basil Poledouris). She does everything so well. During this number Scott, who was on the screen spoke of the SOI family- the members they lost and the new ones they gained. They showed Rob McCall, Brian Pockar, and when Sergei Grinkov appeared on the screen, the crowd responded loudly. We will never forget G&G. Later they showed pictures of the kids of Scott, Kristi, Paul, Kurt, Meno & Sand, etc. They were cute, and Yuka’s skating was sort of ignored (actually she did not do much during that time). That did not work out too well. I would have liked to see more of Yuka, and a separate time slot for this family story.
As a B&S fan I was thrilled to see Elena-Anton skate a beautiful routine to ‘You are so beautiful’. I had read that they choreographed it themselves. I had seen it on the WTC tape. They skipped one lift that was very difficult, but rest of the program was gorgeous. They started with 3 death spirals in a row- reminiscent of the Protopopovs- the third one ended in a double throw. M&D used to do a move like that (DS into a throw) long ago. The throw triple loop was very high and Elena landed it beautifully. The entrance was simple (they used to do it from a spiral). That was followed by the leap of faith. They did a pairs sit spin, something that they did not usually do as amateurs. They transitioned easily from one pairs move to the next- with hardly any cross overs in between. It was very fluid. I was happy that they had a footwork sequence that showed that their unison is still very good and they are so light on their blades. Their speed across the ice is amazing. They don’t look like they are doing a lot of work when they stroke.
In the second half they skated to a Chaplin medley. Anton is always great as Chaplin, and the program received the usual response by the audience, as a fun program does. During their throw triple loop though, something very strange happened. They both went splat. I had never seen anything like this, in all my years of watching pairs skating (for a top pair). It spoiled the program a bit for me. They skated well rest of the way. The break dancing at the end was OK with me. On the tape it felt somewhat out of place, but it worked in the show. The crowd seemed to like it. Although they are versatile, I always prefer their lyrical numbers.
Jennifer Robinson skated to ‘And the beat goes on’. It was well skated. In the second half she had a solo (“If it wasn’t for your love”) and a couple of group numbers that were quite entertaining. I liked the suitcase number with 4 guys (Cousins, Eldredge, Pelletier, Zimmerman). She did very well, particularly the frustration of carrying 4 bags off the ice- it was very funny. She tried the hardest jumps in the whole show. She two-footed the triple lutz badly but at least she tried it. She also landed triple salchows. She looked very pretty.
Steven Cousins skated two solos ‘Belfast child’and ‘Superstition’. I liked the first one better. Last year I had enjoyed his numbers better. This year the energy level seemed a bit low, and a lot of repeated moves (splits, triple toes) were there. Actually most men were doing just triple toes and double axels. I understand this is a show and not a competition but I miss the days when Kristi Yamaguchi would do 3 or 4 different triples in her programs. The level of difficulty this time was a bit too low, particularly for men. The pairs were great though.
In pairs skating my pet peeve is poor positions and lack of lines. So it is hard for me to really like S&P (and for other reasons too). They did the split triple twist and the BODS well. Both their throws were triple salchows and she landed both, although the first one was low. Their first number was a comedy. Except for one difficult lift which went on and on with different positiona, I was not particularly thrilled with this number. Their second number was very good. It was well choreographed and well skated, with different pairs moves sprinkled throughout. In the past, they used to do lift after lift after lift, which I used to find boring. This was a very good program, skated to Scott Joplin. The end pose was similar to G&G’s Meditation program. The only thing I would have preferred is different color costumes in one of their programs. They wore red (David wore black pants) in both.
Todd Eldredge skated the last program of the first half. Alexander’s Ragtime band was fast and good. He too wore red and black. He did triples toes and double axels. His spins were great, as always. In the second half he skated to ‘Bolero’. I somehow don’t like this music anymore. I try to not think of T&D. Todd skated well, but it was not spectacular. Somehow when someone skates to Bolero my expectations automatically go up. There was a lot of two-foot skating. Todd was never well known for a lot of transitions between the jumps. He has developed a lot as a pro and I really like his long lines and his centered spins, plus the feeling he has for the program. Those things were there, but I did not particularly enjoy this number. I think the only Bolero (other than T&D’s ) I liked was Plushenko’s SP many years ago (1999 or 2000?).
Ina and Zimmerman came on to the ice twice, dressed in white (he in black pants) and started with ‘Swan Lake’. I could not imagine them skating to this music (in my mind this is precious B&S music- their 1998 SP which was gorgeous). Scott interrupted with a phone call and something else. It was all in jest. I&Z did not skate to Swan Lake. They skated to Vertigo instead (in the second half) and it was wonderful. They looked better than ever. They had great energy, innovative moves, speed, and great confidence. Kyoko landed a great throw triple loop. The crowd loved the ‘wow’ moves. I am not into those types of moves, but they did them well. However, when they did my most hated move- the headbanger- I was not so pleased. That move gives me the creeps. I don’t care for the Detroiter either or the candle lift, but overall this was a great skate.
A few things that bothered me: I already mentioned Yuka’s skating and the family story being combined which did not work very well. The other thing was the order in which the skaters were introduced and skated. Typically in shows skaters are given priority based on their accomplishments. SOI has often given the highest spot to S&P which bothers me. Elena and Anton who are Olympic champions and 2-time world champions skated the second number in Act II (after the group number). Some people in the audience don’t make it back in time for the second half (long lines in the rest rooms), so shows usually keep these spots for lesser known skaters. Elena-Anton were followed by Cousins and Robinson. How could anyone put these three back to back? SOI has not treated B&S with respect. I That has been my impression throughout. I am happy that they are skating in Russia and are loved and appreciated there. I disagree that a skater should be appreciated only in his/her own country. I am a fan of skating and not of a skater’s nationality (another pet peeve).
The other thing that bothered me was that skaters were doing very easy things, many times doubling the jumps instead of doing triples. I tried to tell myself to go for the entertainment value but I was still not satisfied. This is a show and they don’t have to do their hardest tricks but as someone that paid for the show I had higher expectations. I would rather see a skater fall on a triple than do a double. The pairs did well, though. They did difficult tricks at least in their routines. The group numbers were so so. There was a hat number, a cowboy number (the men wore cowboy hats, the ladies wore black/pink/orange/yellow). I did not feel that I saw something very creative this time. Last year it was so much better.
In spite of all this, I am still glad that I went to the show. Watching B&S skate has become rare and this is their last year with SOI. That was one reason for me to go this year. Although the group numbers were not great, they were not cheesy like those choreographed by Bezic. There still was some great skating- Yuka Sato in particular is just a joy to watch. If SOI wants to improve, my suggestion would be to have a bigger group, and some variety in the choice of music and programs. Those group numbers are often boring and too long (last year was an exception). I am not a big fan of vocal numbers and it is always disappointing to me that there is no classical music. The last ones to skate to classical music were Bechke and Petrov, I think. Todd did skate to Ravel (Bolero) this year. I would also like to see an ice dance team or two added to the group. Now that Belbin & Agosto have created interest in ice dance here, it will be good to add that. In the past they had some good ice dance teams. There will be new champions coming off the Olympic year. They should revamp both SOI and COI if they want to attract bigger audience (reducing the ticket price would help too- LOL). A good mix of classical and pop music, different types of programs, and a good mix of skaters in different disciplines will make it better.