I went to the "Seattle" show in Everett, WA yesterday. I got there 15 minutes late, and was very lucky to find that not only wasn't my seat in the middle of the row, but that it started 16 minutes late
For me, the opening was notable for a few things: in the "head-banger" dismount from their lift, Inoue/Baldwin looked perilously close to an accident: his body and center of gravity seemed too far away from her, as if he had gotten stuck, but he pulled it out (whew). Weir looked bored, but Jian Tong can really boogie! His talents are wasted on the uber-emotional, like the "Adagio" routine they did; he really can dance. (Same with Hongbo Zhang, from what I saw at the Skate Canada gala.) Morgan Matthews and Jian Tong!!! () It was great to hear Arakawa get some respect in her opening introduction. Until Cohen, Viktor Petrenko got the loudest, most sustained ovation, while Belbin/Agosto had some whistlers in the audience, and that was before she was dressed like Lotte Lenya in "The Seven Deadly Sins," albeit sans bowler.
Bradley opened the show. He's very engaging, with a number of "show" jumps and flips, like half axels, a move that looked like a gymnastics round-off, all a lot of fun. However, it was an unfortunate choice for him to try to out-Travolta Travolta, when there are two first class booty-shakers -- Galindo, and Plushenko, when he's in a satirical mood -- in the show already, and Kristoffer Berntsson did a spectacular rendition of Saturday Night Fever in a competitive routine. Even if most of the audience had never seen the latter, they were able to compare Bradley to the former.
I don't remember the skating order very well, and even if someone told me what the music was, I wouldn't have recognized half of it. Going by the COI website music page isn't helping much, although I know that Arakawa skated to a modern rendition of "Un Bel Di" from Madama Butterfly, not "I Have a Love" from West Side Story, the one selection from the musical that I detest. (Anita: A boy like that, who killed your brother? A boy who kills cannot love, etc. Maria: But I can't help it, wah, wah, wah [song]. Not, "Excuse me, Miss Thing, but did not my innocent-as-the-newly-fallen-snow brother Bernardo kill Biff first?" [much better song])
Czisny followed Bradley, wearing her gorgeous Audrey Hepburn dress. She skated to some classical-based soundtrack sounding thing; could have been "Sabrina," but I don't know the music very well. Her jumps were a mess, and you could see it from a mile away from her approach. I prefer her skating in a larger rink, where her spirals are more impressive, but her spins, except for the knee down/butt up position on the donut were lovely. There was a point at the end where the music swelled: she followed the music exactly and with great speed and a deep edge and knee bend she went into a gorgeous layback spin with speed and amplitude. If only she could take this approach into her jumps.
After that, my sense of the skating order went out the window. In no particular order, Inoue/Baldwin skated to something romantic. For the first two-thirds of the program, I was content to watch her and think about what a rock star she is, but the program lost my attention towards the end. Gregory/Petukhov did a sophisticated semi-comic routine that showed what a fantastic addition they'd be to Stars on Ice. (I wish Scott Hamilton agreed, because I think Davis/White are going to extend their lead over G/P in eligible competition.) I always thought Petukhov was good-looking, but he's got an ab fab new hair cut, and his hair is a medium brown. He is now closing in on the most beautiful Mrs. Petukhov in the looks department, and he looks like he will age well. But I digress...
I seem to remember two programs by Petrenko, one in which he did a textbook 2A (although this might have been in the opening) and the second (in Act II?) as a cowboy number. I was hoping for more, as I always do. The crowd loved him to death, but I always have to wait for the finale, where he generally does 20 seconds of incredibly clean, classic skating. Surya Bonaly skated an upbeat number. I honestly remember nothing about it except for a terrific 3S and her beaming smile. Generally, she is the antidote to 14 sappy ballads (between the Ladies, Men, and Pairs), and brings me out of my lethargy. In this show, there were many more sunny and/or unusual routines than sappy ballads, thanks in part to Pang/Tong's Adagio, Shae Lynn Bourne, and both of Gregory/Petukhov's routines, one the "Sarabande" with Weir, as well as the rock and bluesy selections of Lysacek and Plushenko.
One of the great and last Balanchine ballerinas, Kyra Nichols, has been giving her final performances of various ballets this spring/summer. One of things that reviewers have been saying over the past few years about her performances is how she has been getting the essence of the movement with less. Rudy Galindo isn't the type of performer that makes a natural analogy to Nichols, but in the midst of a program in which he wore a beaded, champagne-colored unitard and discoed his way across the ice with his usual energy -- it's amazing that he can do this night after night, year after year, a consummate pro, and as Seanibu said, like Cher, in a good way -- I was struck by the paradoxical economy of his skating, perfectly centered, and no energy wasted on anything he hadn't planned it to be. He could use his energy to become the spotlight he is.
Weir performed in the first half, from all accounts to Stevie Wonder's "All in Love Is Fair." I wasn't sure what to expect; as I mentioned above, he seemed to be phoning in the opening number. What we got was a fully engaged, powerful, virile performance that blew the roof off. I don't think I've ever seen him skate better, with more speed in addition to his beautiful flow and edges, and perfectly centered spins with impeccable positions, and moving with his entire body with no break at center. I think his experiment with Anissina has paid off; there was a strength and confidence in movement that I've never seen before from him, yet I didn't hear a scratch on the ice.
Weir and Gregory/Petukhov performed "Sarabande" in the second half. Dressed in pale blue diaphanous costumes with pale blue eye "masks" painted on, they skated a lovely, emotional performance. I assume that his experience starting as a pairs skaters made Weir look perfectly comfortable skating close, intricate patterns with G/P, and there were parts that reminded me of Frederick Ashton's "Monotones." I'm very glad COI made room for this program, which is atypical for North American shows, but would fit right into a European show with Drobiazko/Vanagas, Rakkamo/Kokko, Denkova/Staviyski, and Delobel/Schoenfelder. (In FSU parlance, it was full of voids.)
The first half of the program ended with Belbin/Agosto, she vamping it up with sequined black knee-length boots, black shorts, and black bra top, he in whatever, to some Justin Timberlake songs (or at least that's what the people next to me said.). Do I really remember him wearing a tie? Yikes. They both have such great spark, but not for each other, and I found the program concept tacky and the edits amateurish. To me they look like two friends who are going to a club together and are going home with other people.
At the beginning of their program, Anissina/Peizerat did a wonderful job of creating theater on ice, but like almost all of the medleys in the show, I couldn't follow the logic of why the piece continued the way it did, except to give Peizerat the opportunity to take off his shirt -- not that I'm complaining, but, frankly, I'd rather watch Fabien Bourzat skate (or take off his shirt) -- and for them to do a couple of gender bender lifts. I'm not a fan of their skating -- I find it dull and business-like, although I'm clearly in the minority here -- but the first two parts showed a variety and theater instinct that I've rarely seen from them. The last part was standard A/P and could have been from almost anything I've seen from them over the last five years.
Pang/Tong skated to "Adagio," with a lot of passion, but I'd like to see her point her toe and finish her movements. She's becoming more emotive; I'd prefer to see this used with a bit more variety, since in this program they look like doomed lovers about to skate off a cliff. They are clearly trying to keep in shape, though; I think the only thing they didn't try were SBS spins, which I would have preferred to the pairs spin, if for no other reason than they could always use the practice (which is true for just about every eligible pair), but really because I agree with Joesitz that most pairs spins look like wrestling. They did some gorgeous throws on the small rink.
Arakawa looked gorgeous in a costume with open "wings", skating with her hallmark flow, grace, and power, and although she's learned to project more to the audience, she still has a regal presence and such formidable technique. She was simply stunning.
IIRC, Arakawa was followed by Shae Lynn Bourne. I had never seen Bourne's "La Cumparsita" program in person -- it's the one with the chair -- and this alone would have been worth the price of the ticket: every move was finished, the musical interpretation and transitions were marvelous, and in another paradox, she was precise yet calmly sensuous. I can only say, that is one lucky chair.
Evan Lysacek did some pseudo black leather thing to rock music -- site says "I Need You Tonight -- INXS." He was lightweight, gangly, and unconvincing, and as far as I'm concerned, running one's fingers through one's hair does not hotness make. I was not expecting this, because he did have some wattage in the competitive programs of his that I've seen for the last three years.
Plushenko did not look happy, particularly when landing jumps. I'm not sure if he was really trying for 3A's that became 2A's, or if he was hurting. I read somewhere that his music was a blues version of Albinoni's "Adagio;" if so, that went over my head. In the past, as a second-to-last skater before Kwan, I've seen him blow out the house with boy ballad or rocking number, but this was an unusual choice for him. It was emotionally tough, and his response was more subtle and musical than I've seen from him. I once read a review of Edward Hermann in the play Plenty; the critic praised him as one of the few actors who understood the difference between "forte" and "mezza forte." Toward the end of this program, Plushenko understood the difference between slow and deep, and one drop softer than that.
Cohen skated to "Hurt" in a sparkly, champagne colored dress that was simple and a stunner. I've always been impressed with her COI performances in the smaller arenas. Sitting close, it's easy to see how complete and polished each movement and each position is. With 2A and a lovely 3S -- totally different than Bonaly's, another shade of the same movement -- she could make each element worth waiting for. She was exquisite.
I always see the roster, and I always wish for less hoola hoops, Dan Hollander to do straight skating instead of comedy -- I really liked him as a competitive skater -- less of the older skaters -- although ask me who I'd drop, and I couldn't choose -- and more of the European skaters who do great show pieces, like Delobel/Schoenfelder **coughEuropeanCHAMPIONSScough**, Tomas Verner **coughEuropeanSilverMedallistcough**, Stefan Lindemann **coughWorldBronzeMedallistcough**, SavchenkoSzolkowy **coughEuropeanCHAMPIONS-WorldBronzeMedallistscough** and Denkova/Staviyski **coughWORLDCHAMPIONScough**. But then, Irina Grigorian blows me away again, this time with a giant Slinky You could hear part of the arena wake up, i.e., the heterosexual males who were dutifully attending with their wives and girlfriends; when she grabbed that first hoop, there was hockey game energy in the blink of an eye (Actually all Grigorian needed to do was show up in her finale costume. I kept looking between her and Arakawa to see who was more physically perfect, but then realized there was no reason to decide.) As Balanchine said when he choreographed the "Wrens" section of Union Jack, "Is for tired businessmen in the audience."
Dan Hollander was hysterical as multiple super heroes, and once again managed a textbook 2A in this year's equivalent of a fat suit. Besedin and Polishchuk, the acrobats were amazing as usual (and much appreciated by the now-awake men). The year they are dropped (and not voluntarily retired) is the year I stop going. What they do is astounding.
The James Bond ending was for me a bit plodding, but I found it fascinating to watch the men lower the women off of huge boxes. It must take a lot of guts to be up fairly high, and to look comfortable being carried by a man on skates. (It was a bit dark, and I couldn't see who lifted Cohen, but I think it was Agosto who lowered Arakawa.)
The two highlights for me were watching the tall, shaved bald Besedin as villain, flanked by vixens Anissina and Bonaly. He was, by far, the single most attractive man on that ice. He had "It" and you can't buy that kind of presence. The second was a few, precious moments when Pang/Tong and Gregory/Petukhov changed partners. Pang and Petukhov were on my end of the rink, and what blew me away was to see Pang stretched out over Petukhov's knee, looking up into Petukhov's eyes in a slow dance lift, and how comfortable she looked in the elaborate lift that followed. (It would be great to see Pang/Tong use these kind of moves in their competitive routines, as transitions.)
I had always thought that they were either upbeat filler between current champions or novelty acts for the non-skating fans, but by the end of the show I realized that Grigorian, Hollander, Besedin/Polishchuk, Petrenko, Galindo, and Bonaly are its spine. The other skaters come and go, often doing pretty ballads, and they draw us in and compel us to buy tickets or they don't, depending on the year, but my informal internal applause-o-meter measured the most sustained responses for these performers. Who knew?