Friday, June 29, 2012

End of June Inspiration: Carolina Kostner's 2012 World Championship Freeskate

Admittedly I have never been much of a Carolina Kostner fan. But this season something changed. Carolina, who used to be frustrating to watch because of her inconsistent performances, was suddenly consistent, confident, and smooth. At the 2012 Worlds in Nice, Carolina displayed a radiant freeskate to Mozart that emanated sophistication, control, grace, and joy. Carolina finally rose to the occasion when it mattered most, winning the first gold medal in women's figure skating at the World Championships for Italy.

Congratulations, Carolina!

End of June Inspiration: Ashley Wagner's "Black Swan"

As we say goodbye to the month of June this weekend---and what a lovely month it's been, by the way--I'd like to share Ashley Wagner's "Black Swan" freeskate from the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships. As the championships took place in city of Nice, France, also called Nice la Belle, which means Nice the Beautiful, this sparkling 4th place performance by Ashley is the perfect way to say "au revoir" to June!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homage to Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig: Part 4

Despite a mistake on the opening side-by-side jumps, this performance to "Tosca" and "Nessun Dorma" exhibits the quintessential subtlety, beauty, and incredible lifts that Amanda and Mark became known for. This program resulted in a podium finish for Amanda and Mark at the 2010 Cup of Russia.


Click HERE to view video.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker's "Slumdog Millionaire"

Two-time U.S. Champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker entered the 2009/2010 Olympic season equipped with an imaginative new freeskate to the exotic, powerful "Slumdog Millionaire" soundtrack, choreographed by the ingenious Sarah Kawahara.
Here, skating at the 2009 Skate America in Lake Placid, NY, Keauna and Rockne were far from flawless, but it's the only video I can find of this program. Later in the season, the duo was again far from flawless at U.S. Nationals in Spokane and finished a bitterly-disappointing 5th at the Olympic Trials. Coming in as the reigning U.S. Champs, they had been expected to be a lock for the team.

Despite this program being a work-in-progress here, I feel strongly that this is one of the most inventive and intriguing pairs freeskating routines that I've seen in a long time. The music is driving, bold, yet sensuous in parts, and the choreography is fresh and interesting. Rockne is a brilliant skater, as he flows over the ice with reckless abandon. Though unfortunately Keauna and Rockne split after this season, I'm glad they left their fans with this novel work to remember them by. I appreciate the vision that Sarah Kawahara had for this program and the commitment to the choreography and performance by Keauna and Rockne.


Homage to Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig: Part 3

Amanda and Mark skated this beautiful program to the soundtrack of "Love Actually" at the 2010 Worlds in Torino, Italy.


Thursday Inspirations

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Paul Wylie's "Henry the V"


Kevin Van der Perren's Triple-Triple-Triple

Watch the first minute of this program from the 2003 World Championships in Washington, D.C. to see Belgium's Kevin Van der Perren land an incredible triple-triple-triple combination (triple salchow-triple toe-triple loop. Such a talented jumper!

Wednesday Inspirations

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stephane Lambiel's 2005 World Championship-Winning Programs

In 2005, Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel graduated from figure skating's prince to its king, winning his first of consecutive world titles in Moscow, Russia. The British commentators in the following You Tube videos add colorful commentary to Lambiel's coronation, including the line, "When it comes to spins, he's the governor."

I've long been a tremendous fan of Lambiel's skating and this 2005 competition was the beginning of it all for me. With his high-flying quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combinations, unique, passionate artistry and spins that capped his programs with a triumphant blur, Lambiel quickly earned his place among my favorite skaters, and became a gold-medal favorite for the 2006 Olympics in Torino. Though Lambiel finished a distant second to Russia's Evgeny Plushenko in that contest, he subsequently won his second World Championship in Vancouver with two of the best skates of his career.

Enjoy watching Lambiel's first World Championship victory. This was a terrific moment in his career and a harbinger of more good things to come.

Lambiel's short program to "Spanish Caravan": Click HERE to access video.

Lambiel's freeskate to the "King Arthur" soundtrack by Hans Zimmer:

Click HERE to access video:

Oksana Baiul's "Ave Maria"

Oksana's moving tribute to Sergei Grinkov in the winter of 1996:

Change of Heart: Sasha Cohen and Tara Lipinski

Growing up, I did not embrace the talents of Tara Lipinski and Sasha Cohen. I won't lie, one of the main reasons I was not a fan is because these two phenoms were chief rivals to my hero, Michelle Kwan. I didn't possibly see how I could root for either Tara or Sasha if they were in direct competition with my favorite skater. I'm sure there were other factors for my rationale, but this is the most prominent one. It's not that I disliked either of the skaters--I could even admit that they had great talent, and Tara was an unbelievable competitor-- it was more that I didn't feel compelled to like them. Looking back, it was probably that I wouldn't allow myself to like them or it would somehow be like taking support and adoration away from Michelle, which of course is not true. Old habits die hard: even since starting this blog in 2010, I conveniently have left Tara and Sasha out of my posts dedicated to our country--and world's--most illustrious skaters. Fast forward to today and I am ready to admit that Tara and Sasha were two of America's greatest skaters in the '90s and 2000s and their talents should be honored. Tara, though known for her incredible jumping ability during her career, developed into a lovely artist in the years after the '98 Olympics and today, when I've seen clips of her skating, exudes a beautiful quality. Sasha, never known for her jumps, has always been seen as a gifted artist. In the years following her '06 Olympic silver medal, she has developed her artistry further, making her one of the very best in the professional skating business. Some of Sasha's SOI programs have reached legendary status, in my eyes (Halleluliah, Moonlight Sonata, etc.) Though my blog is not some grand international showcase where this profession of my new-found respect and admiration of these two skaters will make any kind of splash, in my own way, it's an important forum for my personal expression and I'm happy to have the opportunity to share my thoughts about Tara and Sasha with anybody who might happen to be reading. I'm sharing two programs from Tara and Sasha that I feel are excellent examples of their talents and evolution as athletes and artists: Tara's "DreamCatcher" program from the Secret Garden Soundtrack skated at 1999 Ice Wars and Sasha's "Hurt" by Christina Aguilera, which I had the good fortune of seeing skated live at the 2007 Marshall's Showcase. Tara's "Dreamcatcher": Sasha's "Hurt":

Homage to Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig--Part 2

Here is the delightful short program from last season to Gershwin's "The Man I Love." This performance was skated at Cup of China during the 2011 Grand Prix Season. Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Homage to Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig--part 1

When 4-time U.S. pairs medalists Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig announced the end of their 10-year partnership a couple of months ago, I was in the throes of student teaching and grad school and was unable to comment on my blog. Now that I have free time, I would like to make a series of posts dedicated to honoring Amanda and Mark's beautiful partnership. Though this team never finished first at Nationals and never made the World splash they might have been looking for, they nevertheless had a very successful career, highlighted by impressive top-1o finishes at the 2010 Olympic Games and World Championships. Above all, Amanda and Mark were a joyful team. I saw them skate live at the 2009 U.S. Championships in Cleveland and was struck with their genuine performance quality. Amanda, especially, wore her emotions on her sleeves. I was moved by their performance and took notice. The following season, they surprised everyone, including themselves by finishing second at Nationals and making the Olympic team. It's a moment Amanda and Mark and their fans will not soon forget. The first program of Amanda and Mark's that I'd like to highlight is this season's freeskate to Ravel's "Daphne and Chloe. This freeskate is exquisitely choreographed, peppered with beautiful shapes (note the photo of the opening pose above), interesting movements, and stunning lifts. It's a soft, subtle, mature, elegant piece. This particular performance, skated at Trophee Eric Bompard last fall in Paris isn't without flaw, Amanda goes down on a double axel, but otherwise, it's very well done. One mistake does not detract from the quality of this program. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Daisuke Takahashi's "Cyber Swan"

Very cool! Takahashi has recently announced his return to coach/choreographer Nikolai Morozov, who created this program. Can we expect more ice-breaking performances like this in the fall?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy 27th Birthday to Evan Lysacek!

In wishing the reigning Olympic Champion a Happy Birthday, I'd like to post one of his best freeskates: his 2006 Olympic Games freeskate to Carmen. With this courageous freeskate, he moved up from 10th after a disastrous short program to coming up just short of a medal in 4th behind bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle of Canada. This is one of my favorites! Evan was always a phenomenal competitor, who truly knew how to rise to the occasion. This performance makes me want to clap! As Sandra Bezic says, "...he sustained the emotional commitment from beginning to end...brilliant!" Happy 27th Birthday, Evan!

Evgeny Plushenko's Comeback!

Evgeny Plushenko is still king! Check out the 2006 Olympic Champion's exciting freeskate at the 2012 European Championships in Sheffield England in January. At 29-year-old, Plushenko doesn't seem to have lost much of his technical ability. Quads were absent from this freeskate as Plushenko was set to have knee surgery following the competition,but he plans to bring back the four-revolution jumps in his continued comeback this season the road to the Sochi Games in his home country two years away. Having watched Plushenko skate for more than a decade now, I have to say, it never gets old. I still love his skating! Enjoy!

3rd Annual Young Artist's Showcase

Young Artist's Showcase is a competition for budding choreographers. I found out about the showcases and viewed some of the stellar performances on another skating blog that I follow. Here I'm posting two--as the British would say--"cracking" performances. One is choreographed and performed by British skater Mark Hanretty. The second is choreographed by Garrett Kling, performed by junior skater Madison Vinci. Do yourselves a favor and watch both of these stellar performances!