Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why I love This Sport: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's "Pina" freeskate

At last weekend's Skate America in Ontario, California, 3-time World Champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy climbed from fifth place after the short program to first place overall with a magnificently-inventive freeskate. The German team's "Pina" freeskate, the brainchild of their always innovative coach, Ingo Stuer, interprets the work of late German modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch. In an interview, Robin said that fans will either "love or hate it". I am one fan who loves this piece. Sheer choreographic genius!!

Enjoy Aliona and Robin's "Pina":

Highlights from Skate America: Meryl Davis and Charlie White's Latin Short Dance

At last weekend's Skate America competition in Ontario, California, Meryl Davis and Charlie White delivered this high-energy Latin shortdance. With this performance, "Marlie" took a big lead, which they held throughout the event.


Highlights from Skate America: Kevin van der Perren's "Man in the Iron Mask."

At last weekend's Skate America in Ontario, California, the highlight of the men's freeskate was Kevin van der Perren. Kevin was one of the only man to deliver a technically-sound performance in what turned out to be a mediocre splat-fest of a competition. The 29-year-old jumping genius from Belgium executed a stunning quadruple toe loop at the start of the program and then a brilliant combination of triple salchow-triple toe loop-triple toe loop.

After having some difficult seasons in past years, due to injuries, Kevin is finally skating pain-free, and it shows. In winning the silver medal last weekend, the 2-time European bronze medalist is off to a good start in what he says will be his last season.

Congrats to Kevin on his silver medal at Skate America and best wishes to him on his final amateur season!

Enjoy Kevin's "Man in the Iron Mask" freeskate:

Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" by Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond

Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov, the 1992 Olympic silver medalists, perfectly embody the beautiful, classic style of Russian pairs skating of the days of old. I never saw Elena and Denis compete as amateurs but I grew to love and appreciate their skating on the professional scene. Their careers as pro. skaters coincided with the figure skating boom following the Nancy/Tonya hoopla of 1994.

Elena and Denis blossomed on the professional circuit and won the World Professional title in 1996. They skated with Stars on Ice for seven years. I was fortunate to see them skate during their last year with SOI at a show in the spring of 1999 in Madison Square Garden, NYC.

Here they are skating at the 1994 World Professional Championships to "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" by Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand. The song was an ironic choice, as Elena and Denis, who used to be married, were divorced at the time of this performance. The couple always insisted that their skating actually improved upon dissolving their romantic relationship. The evidence of this assertion is apparent in this terrific artistic program.

Enjoy Elena and Denis' classic pairs skating!

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeny Platov's "The Feeling Begins" from the 1997 European Championships

Two-time Olympic Champions ('94, '98), Oksana Grishuk and Evgeny Platov skated this intricate and exotic number at the 1997 European Championships, earning themselves six perfect scores of 6.0.

Always strong technicians, Oksana and Evgeny pushed the artistic envelope with this story-driven routine to "The Feeling Begins." As the commentator from Eurosport explains, "He fancies her, she says no, and at the end, he throws her in the dungeon."

Oksana and Evgeny's speed, power, and unique choreography makes this program shine.


Highlights from Skate America: Alissa Czisny's "La Vie En Rose" short program

At last weekend's Skate America in Ontario, California, 2-time National Champion Alissa Czisny delivered this lovely and delicate short program to "La Vie En Rose" (Life in Pink).
On You Tube, one viewer commented: " A delightful confection. The performance reminds me of an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce, strawberries, and whipped cream."
Another viewer commented: "This program made me cry; a gift to the skating world."

Alissa won the short program, and though she finished second in the freeskate, still won the overall championship by a narrow margin over Italy's Carolina Kostner. This win at Skate America is Alissa's third Grand Prix gold medal of her career. Her gold medal is also the first medal won by an American woman at Skate America in four years. Alissa previously finished second at Skate America in 2005.

I hope you enjoy Alissa's "La Vie En Rose":

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Highlights from Skate America: Richard Dornbush's "The Fifth," a variation on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony

At last weekend's Skate America in Ontario, California, reigning U.S. silver-medalist, Richard Dornbush of Corona California skated this impressive short program to "The Fifth," a variation of Beeethoven's Fifth Symphony. Richard finished third in the short program, and fourth overall.

Richard is fast becoming one of my favorite skaters on the competitive scene. I was an instant fan after watching his awesome "Sherlock Holmes" freeskate at Nationals last year. After watching this program, I was again reminded of how much I enjoy Richard's athletic, aggressive style that is infused with good performance ability. His skating is exciting! I'm looking forward to watching him compete the rest of the season.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why I love This Sport: Meryl Davis and Charlie White's "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Struass II

Meryl Davis and Charlie White's sparkling new free dance to "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss II won them the gold medal in a landslide victory at this weekend's Skate America competition in Ontario, California.

I have been re-watching this program all day. What a joy!!! It is everything that ice dancing should be. A terrific way to commence the skating season. Thank you, Meryl and Charlie for giving us this delightful program

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Eric Millot's 1996 Western movie Medley

At the 1996 World Figure Skating Championships in Edmonton, Canada, 4-time French National Champion Eric Millot skated this Western movie medley and finished 7th.

The 1996 World Championship was only the 3rd Worlds that I ever watched, and at that time, I had never seen a program like Millot's Western movie medley. Since, I've seen several Western programs, but I still remember Eric's and how much I enjoyed it at the time. The most impressive moment in this program comes at 4:08-4:09 in this video when Eric performs a blurring triple-loop, triple-loop combination. That was the first time I saw that combination performed (the following year Tara Lipinski started performing it and made history to be the first female to do so).

Eric was never a consistent skater in the times that I saw him compete, but his performance ability always caught my attention. He's a very likable skater. Two seasons later, Eric turned professional and skated in a professional competition that included Rudy Galindo and Victor Petrenko. I cannot recall the name of that event, but I do remember Eric's outstanding program to music from "The Hunchback of Notredame." His skating was clean, free, and joyous. I've tried finding that program on You Tube and have been unsuccessful.

I'm not sure what Eric is up to these days, but I still remember his skating and enjoy it when I re-watch!

Happy Birthday, Brian Boitano!

In honor of 1988 Olympic Champion Brian Boitano's 48th birthday, here is a magical program to "Water Fountain" by David Foster, skated on a glacier in Alaska. Brian's masterful skating is even more majestic against the brilliant backdrop the Alaskan mountains. Happy Birthday, Brian!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gearing up for Skate America: Takahiko Kozuka's "Piano Concerto No. 1" by Franz Liszt

This weekend, reigning World silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka of Japan will skate at the first Grand Prix competition of the season in Ontario, California. The competition will be televised on NBC from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. Takahiko will debut his new programs at the event.

In the next few posts, I will highlight the main players in this weekend's event.

At the World Championships in April, Takahiko had a terrific come-from-behind freeskate to move up from 6th place after the short program to 2nd place overall. Takahiko's deep knees and smooth, cool style makes his skating appear effortless.

Enjoy his 2011 Worlds freekskate to "Piano Concerto No.1" by Franz Liszt:

Gearing up for Skate America: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's "1492"

This weekend, 3-time World Champions, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy will skate at the first Grand Prix competition of the season in Ontario, California. The competition will be televised on NBC from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. The German pair will debut their new programs at the event.

In the next few posts, I will highlight the main players in this weekend's event.

Savchenko and Szolkowy turned heads at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy with this freeskate to "1492". Enjoy!

Click HERE to view program.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gearing up for Skate America: Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat's "Organ Donor" freedance

At this weekend's Skate America event in Ontario, California, one of the biggest challengers to reigning World Champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, for the ice dance title, are the innovative French team of Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat. NBC will telecast Skate America from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. The French pair will debut their new programs this weekend. In my next few posts, I will highlight the main players in this weekend's event.

Péchalat and Bourzat are 2-time French National Champions, the 2011 European Champions, and 4th place finishers at the 2011 World Championships.

Check out this innovative freedance called "Organ Donor" by D.J. Shadow, also featuring the songs "Marla" and "Space Monkeys" by Michael Simpson and John King from the 2007-2008 competitive season.

Gearing up for Skate America: Alissa Czisny's George Winston medley

This weekend, 2-time U.S. Champion Alissa Czisny will skate at the first Grand Prix competition of the season in Ontario, California. The competition will be televised on NBC from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. Alissa will debut her new programs at the event.

In the next few posts, I will highlight the main players in this weekend's event. Here's a look-back of Alissa at her brilliant best last season at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

Wishing Alissa all the best this weekend!

Here is Alissa's 2010-2011 freeskate to a medley of George Winston music:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

One-Year Blog Anniversary Celebration: Michelle Kwan's "Fields of Gold" Reprise

One year ago today I started this blog. Click HERE to read my first post.

In honor of this milestone, I'd like to re-post the first program that I ever highlighted on this blog, Michelle Kwan's "Fields of Gold" by Eva Cassidy. Not only is this program one of my all-time favorites, it is the inspiration for the name of my blog.

Michelle's "Fields of Gold" is a very special program that was skated during the exhibitions following the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Michelle experienced a major disappointment in coming up short of the gold in a second consecutive Olympics. Her emotions were raw the next evening in the exhibitions. What ensued was a bittersweet skate to the haunting "Fields of Gold"--a song that ended up being ironic under the circumstances. Halfway through the program, Michelle says that she started realizing how much she loves skating. She skates for herself and for her fans, not for gold medals. That important realization manifested itself in tears streaming down Michelle's face as she finished her program. Her honesty and sharing of emotions is what endears Michelle to all of our hearts forever. As commentator Tom Hammond said of the way Michelle handled a second Olympic disappointment, she handled it with "dignity and grace." I hope to handle all my disappointments in the same manner.

It is my honor to present a reprise post of Michelle's heart-felt "Fields of Gold" by Eva Cassidy:

Mid-Terms Study Break: Meryl Davis and Charlie White's "Indian Dance"

With this innovative program to traditional Indian music, Meryl Davis and Charlie White became overnight You Tube sensations! The 3-time U.S. champions used this Original Dance during the 2009-2010 Olympic season. Here they skate at the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships in Torino, Italy. They finished second in the championship behind reigning Olympic Champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Enjoy Meryl and Charlie's "Indian Dance" :

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov's "The Man I love", by Ella Fitzgerald, Reprise

It is 8:20 p.m.. I am currently in Starbuck's on Garner Street in State College during Penn State's Homecoming weekend waiting for my friend's to arrive in town. To avoid the craziness and chaos that is PSU Homecoming, I have decided to hole myself up in Starbuck's for awhile to use their free Wi-fi. The song "The Man I love" by Ella Fitzgerald just came on the loudspeaker, which instantly reminded me of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov's enchanting exhibition program to that song, skated in the Stars on Ice Tour in 1995, only months before Sergei's sudden death.

I previously posted this program earlier in the year, but a classic program can never be revisted too many times. Ekaterina and Sergei skate with technical brilliance and an unmatched tenderness and grace. As my friend Melissa Mabus said so eloquently upon watching this pair skate, they exhibit "effervescent moments of passion."

Though it is bittersweet to watch Ekaterina and Sergei skate here, knowing that Sergei only lived for several months beyond this performance, this program is also a celebration of their love, their sterling abilities as one of the greatest pairs teams of all time, and a celebration of Sergei's wonderful life.

It is my honor to present Ekaterina and Sergei's "The Man I love" by the great Ella Fitzgerald.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mid-Term Inspiration: Kurt Browning's "Casablanca"

Kurt Browning skated this marvelous routine to the "Casablanca" soundtrack at the 1993 World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), winning his fourth and final World Championship title.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov's "Pearl Harbor" by Hans Zimmer

Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, a pairs team who represented Ukraine from 2004-2010, were never my favorite team, but I do appreciate their soaring lifts and explosive throws.

Tatiana, always the jewel of the pair, is a phenomenal pairs skater. While Stanislav was a strong (physically), supportive partner, he did not excel in skating skill, style, or jumps. I have heard Stanislav called an "ox" by skating commentators, and I'd have to agree with that assessment. He isn't very limber, but you can't discount the fact that he and Tatiana were 4-time Ukrainian champions, 6-time medalists in the Grand Prix series, 4th place finishers at the World Championships in 2007 and 2-time Olympians ('06, '10).

When Stanislav decided to retire in 2010, Tatiana paired with Maxim Trankov, a talented Russian skater. Together, the two are a sparkling team, reminiscent of the storied Russian skaters of decades past. Tatiana and Maxim finished second at their first World Championships in April. It was their first international event. Stanislav serves as one of their coaches. (Click HERE to view Tatiana and Maxim's stunning World's debut).

The other night I was flipping through the television channels and found the movie Pearl Harbor. I haven't seen that movie since it came out in 2001. I remember it fondly because the night I saw it my parent's took me out to a seafood dinner to celebrate my making high-honor roll and National Honor Society at the end of my junior year of high school. After dinner they took me to the movies to see Pearl Harbor, the current summer blockbuster, at the area's biggest movie theater. It was always a special treat to go to the movies and was extra special because it was just the three of us.

I remember being riveted during the movie and loving it thoroughly. The story haunted me and stayed with me for several days after. The music, full of both tension and emotion, is the perfect complement to the film. As watching the movie the other evening, I experienced the power of the Pearl Harbor story and the beautiful film score (by the amazing Hans Zimmer) all over again. I thought to myself that it would be perfect skating music. Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin used the music for their freeskate in the 2009/2010 skating season, but I was unable to find it on You Tube. I did, however, find Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov's version of "Pearl Harbor", which they skated at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles.

Though Stanislav makes some jumping errors in their 2009 Worlds freeskate, I was impressed by the amount of technical content that the team attempted: 2-side-by-side- triple toe loops, and a triple salchow. Their throw jumps are fantastic and their split triple twist is superb. Tatiana and Stanislav utilized the "Pearl Harbor" music well. It suits them. This performance is one of the better ones that I've seen this pair deliver. The music gave them not only strength but a softness.

I hope you enjoy watching Tatiana and Stanislav's 2009 Worlds Freeskate to "Pearl Harbor" by Hans Zimmer: