Oh, I love the pairs. If you haven’t realize yet, they are my favourite, the acrobatics and the elegance! (I have recently discovered acrobatic gymnastics by the way. Why is it not an Olympic sport? It’s so competitive and so entertaining! I say get rid of rhythmic gymnastics and put in a gymnastics sport that is equally represented by men and women. But moving on… ) This year, I particularly liked what Team China came out with but there were other favourites as well. And as with the ladies, I didn’t include repeats (sorry Kirtsen and Michael, sorry Peng and Jin, sorry Marissa and Mervin, Aljona and Bruno, etc., etc.).
Yu/Zhang – “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky. This program really appealed to me. I love how it used the dramatic highlights. The throw! The lift! It in particular uses the music so well. I also think it really showed off Yu like she never has been shown before – so elegant and refined. Choreographed by Lori Nichol.
Sui/Han – “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, performed by K. D. Lang. This program is just in the right vein for these two. It’s flowing and emotional and modern (as opposed to classical – see above) and they are the king and queen of the pair short program, so why shouldn’t they continue to be? They always seem to have a terrific step sequence. I don’t really get why the phoenix but the costumes don’t matter; it’s all about the skating. Also choreographed by Lori Nichol.
James/Cipres – “Make It Rain” by Vance Foy, performed by Ed Sheeran. I do not endorse Morgan’s costume but this is a great short program. I think it is my favourite program of any of theirs. It’s sassy and languid. It achieves everything it needs to without breaking the mood. The step sequence just seems very cool. Choreographed by John Kerr and Silvia Fontana.
Ziegler/Kiefer – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by Charlie & Craig Reed, from soundtrack of “Sunshine on Leith”. Half of this choice is the music. I really appreciate that they tend to try to think outside the very small skating music box when it comes to their programs. And I find this program infectious, partly because of the music, partly the performance, but partly the choreography. I love when the stop and change direction in the step sequence. I also like their lift. (It always bugs me with Zabaijako/Enbert do their lift where she lays down but I like this one. It looks nicer in and out and in the air). Choreographed by Mark Pillay.
Iliushechkina/Moscovitch – “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. I think this is such a great program and I wish, wish, wish we got to see more of it this past season. I know Dylan’s injury changed things for them but I wish one of them hadn’t been this program. (Aside: At least I’m assuming that it’s behind the change back to their tango program because I don’t understand otherwise. This seemed to be going well and if a program needed changing because it wasn’t coming along or clicking it was their free, although I liked it too. I’m not arguing for change here. I’m against it. And I like their tango program but I already seen it a bunch.) I love Luba’s kick coming out the throw. It’s a great moment. And I also like that they end with the lift on a high point. I hate when teams end with the spin and it just seems to go flat. Program by David Wilson and Marie-France Dubreuil. Maybe Sandra Bezic too?
Honourable Mention: These choices mostly reflect that these are teams I like, that I feel have a lot of potential and I want to see more of them. They’ve both got some challenges to deal with but I believe in them!
Efimova/Korovin – “Joue Jusqu’au Matin” by Yoska Nemeth. Okay, folks. Folk music is always going to appeal me and music with varying tempos that builds to the end is always going to win me over, as is ending with a great step sequence. And I like that this team came out with some interesting lift and spin positions and some performance. (I don’t like chilly aloofness all the time). I am really hoping for a good season for these two. Julia Goriounova choreographed.
Ruest/Wolfe – “Obilvion” by Astor Piazzolla, performed by Marisa Lemcke. This is a program that sets a tone and really follows it all the way through. I love how the program opens and ends and is just so smooth. I’m really hoping for a triple twist for these guys. Fingers crossed. By Julie Marcotte.
Castelli/Tran – “Woman” by Shawn Philips. . I think this is a very sophisticated program with some interesting and beautiful transitions: the Mervin’s spread eagle, the entrance into the pair spin, the entrance into the death spiral. I think it’s just so well done. Julie Marcotte choreographed this program.
Kayne/O’Shea – “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky. So much Swan Lake! Warhorses never die. This is another program and I think is just so well done, some really interesting choreography and unique lifts. It just uses the music so well. I think this is a program we are going to see more of this coming season, so I hope it continues to build and improve. Choreography by Shae-Lyn Bourne and Shae Zukiwsky.
Peng/Jin – “The Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto” by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love her dress, but I also love this is a program. The transitions are lovely. I love the final lift that comes down to him holding her on his hip, so unique and elegant. I think this program really showed Peng to advantage. I find her very expressive. I know it wasn’t the best sophomore year for them but this program really made me want to see more from them. I’m glad that they were not split up, which I worried might happen. Maybe the injuries of the other ladies gave them a reprieve. But whatever the reason, I ‘m glad. Lori Nichol choreographed.
Yu/Zhang – “Jyn Erso” and “Hope Suite” from the soundtrack of “Rogue One” by Michael Giaccino; “Princess Leia” from “Star Wars: A New Hope” by John Williams. I thought this was an interesting and smart choice for these guys, with the right balance of power and softness. I also found the program itself interesting, like it was choreographed around the idea of an orbit or spinning planets. Lori Nichol again for this program, of course, with those transitions. I like her lifts so much better with Zhang as her partner. I don’t care what anyone says, I’m glad the switch happened.
Savchenko/Massot – Le terre vue de le ciel by Armand Amar. Again unique and interesting movement, and with a unique and interesting music choice. The driving music really creates tension which works well for the program, creating an electric atmosphere. It’s able to create a feeling that it’s over in the blink of an eye which not many free programs manage. Choreography by Christopher Dean.
Della Monica/Guarise – “Tree” of Life by Robert Cacciapaglia. I know this looks like Savchenko/Massot but it’s not! Or if it doesn’t open at the right spot go to 17:20 and watch Della Monica/Guarise. I didn’t get into this program last season until the very end. I think the performance at Worlds really showed the potential that was there, with the combination of the music and choreography. This is another program with great transitions. Can we just appreciate their lift exits and the daring of ending with perfectly timed side by side spins as a highlight? (And Matteo’s nice short hair with the man bun?) Choreographed by Raffaella Cazzaniga and/or Giuseppe Arena.