From Slovakia to Canada – Men, Ladies and Dance

I just have so many thoughts and I can’t bury my sister in them all, so I’m going to do it here. I enjoyed a lot this weekend! So here comes the stream of consciousness…

Over in Bratislava, which is quite fun to say, I did’t pay much attention to the men (I couldn’t make time for everything) but I had to see Kolyada. I think it’s his year. Everything we’ve seen from him so far, here and at the test skates, has been good; he has delivered well. I definitely enjoy his programs this season – he makes a good toreador. I can totally overlook the use of Carmen for him (and for guys, in general, it’s not used quite so much). He just does everything well. So… keep up the good work! That’s maybe all I have to say about the men. Unless you are really good, if you aren’t a wearing dress, my attention wanders.

It could be Rika Kihara‘s year too. You come out with a triple axel or two and all of a sudden, you could do this. After the opening axel in the free, the triple – triple combination looked like such a breeze. And she has two Grand Prix assignments now. Good call, Japan! I really liked her spirals too but please, someone just tell her that she can’t wear a ponytail in the free. It doesn’t work. Elizabet is also skating to a warhorse but I love the program. She looks more mature overall. It’s not choreographed by Dani G, right? It really doesn’t look like it. I like her dress, her jumps look better. I’m guessing she’s no longer dealing with an injury. And even though she’s with Eteri, I’m not worried because I don’t think anything is ever going to make her grow. I think she’s as tall as she’s ever going to get. Also, she could never be in Canada full time because of visa stuff, so Russia is probably a better situation for her, in terms of consistency. I never know where I stand with Stanislava Konstantinova. She made me like her again. Maybe she needs fiery music to really get the program? Consistency is really going to be the key for her, but hey, she was the top Russian lady here! (Thank you “travel document issues.”) She just needs to stop with the arms. It interferes with her lines. Ha! That’s a good, legitimate reason. Polina! You need to practice MORE. In the short, I think she could be really elegant and charming, although I fear she is regressing in the glove department. Those gloves are really pink, and long, and bright. But there so long, maybe they could just turn the outfit into an off the shoulder dress?

And I’ve never seen either Silvia Hugec or Yujin Choi before, but I enjoyed them both. I will watch them again if given the opportunity.

Have I mentioned how much I like the Tango Romantica so far this year? I thought Sinisina/Katsalapov have quite a good tango, with some intricate-looking steps and some good twizzles – that’s an improvement. I thought maybe there’s a sense of a fresh start here?But then their free just seemed like more of the same to me. Still good tango. I loved Fear and Gibson using the Gypsy Kings in their tango (I also loved the ending and exit to the lift) and then they had maybe my favourite free dance  of the season so far )and possibly forever) with DISCO! They were so shiny and awesome. I loved it from the first beat. And I love that they got the edge over Tweedale/Buckland. Fear/Gibson are my team Britain.

I also sort of have to appreciate how much Popova and Mozgov are leaning into the ultra-dramatic, over-the-top Russian ice dance stereotype. I feel like they are bringing it back; that they are on a mission to make it their own. It’s not like their coach couldn’t give a performance if she needed to back in the day. (Maybe this is the style she has been secretly longing for?) I sort of admire them and still manage to enjoy them. I totally made sense to me that their tango would be the one with the breathy sounds (okay, sex sounds). I do like Betina’s short hair and I thought their rhythm dance lift was cool. Unfortunately, the free was just a bit much. I give them credit for really going for it in the sliding feature and again, there were some cool things, but they have maybe ruined The Master and Margarita for me. After this, I don’t think I can take another program on this theme for… quite some time. What was up with his outfit? Why all the tassles? Ropes? What were they? Also, what is going on with Russians and square bracket spread eagles, or whatever they are called? They are EVERYWHERE. I would also like to add that I am finding the little lifts and turns and hops and what not out of dance spins a little wearing. I find it very annoying as a trend and I will applaud the team that bucks it and says, “I’d rather do without!” to the points on offer. It’s so choppy. I just want things to flow!

I really liked Turkkila/Versluis. Why have I never watched them before? I thought their free was beautiful. McNamara/Carpenter, on the other hand, just leave me lukewarm. I don’t like, I don’t hate. It’s just meh. My feelings for this dance team are on par with Carreira/Ponomarenko (here), except I don’t think Lorraine and Quinn need to cut their hair. So, at least that’s in their favour. But again, ombre is not a good sign. It’s so wishy-washy. That was my very first feeling in the free. “What is all this ombre nonsense? You never saw Tessa Virtue wear ombre, did you?”

Over the pond in the Canada, some of the same dance annoyances were occurring: spins exits and ombre but not, however, square brackets. Good tangos continued as well. I was really into Smart and Diaz’s tango. For me, they have done good short dances and they kept it up with the rhythm dance. This maybe is my favourite? (Oh, but “Proud Mary”. It’s so hard!) I loved the sliding move and the twizzles and the lift and the end pose. I also liked their free dance. I thought they were pulling off the sexiness and they are looking really good. The Spanish showdown is on! I’m glad they both get to go to Europeans. I was excited to see Wang/Liu but I don’t know about their programs. I didn’t love either. I’ve never loved their programs though, so perhaps that’s neither here nor there at this point. It seems like the judges were responding to the changes going on with their skating and “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the tango was sort of fun. I just didn’t love the print skirt. I think a solid colour would be better. And then ombre in the free. Well, maybe not ombre technically but you know what I mean. Oh the other hand, I LOVED Carolane’s outfit for the tango. Soucisse/Firus are going quite funky/unconventional ice dance in both their programs this season. Is this how their team perceives them? (They were quite traditional in their free last year and it worked.) Maybe they are trying to expand their vocabulary? Work on sharp movement? They just personally like this music? I just thought it was interesting that both programs were kind of similar in style. I liked their free a lot though. I can’t wait to see it grow. Cheng/Sun were new to me. She had a great dress for the tango. The tango into swing was a bit unexpected but I guess it is allowed? She has a really nice face to watch. I thought they were quite pleasing overall.

The competition being in Canada, of course, the teams were either Canadian or Canadian- coached, five of which were out of Gadabois. So many teams are in Montreal now! I had a vision of Marie-France trying to match teams up with music and sort of going crazy. So, in the end I imagined Marie-France just picking enough music for everyone to have a piece and then holding a kind of lottery where all the pieces go into a pot and you just get what you draw and that’s how you get your music. You just make it work. (Firus/Soucisse: “More funky techno? Alright then.”  Hubbell/Donohue: “I guess Maria de Buenos it is.” Komatsubara/Koleto: “This is a bit unusual. We love it!” Wang/Liu: “How is Pirates of the Caribbean tango?” Marie-France: “Figure it out.”) I want it to be true.

Lanaghan/Razgulajevs were one of the two non-Marie-France/Patrice teams there. They had some cool movement too, especially their twizzles held to the ritardando in the music. That seemed a bit daring. Their free sort of blended in with all the other contemporary instrumental things going on but I think I like them. And of course, when I thought about the tango, I thought about one of my favourite tango programs ever, back in 2014…

and I couldn’t wait to see what Kaitlyn and Andrew would produce! They didn’t disappoint. I’m think their maturity and sophistication really set them apart; also that Kaitlyn was very shiny. And the program was great. It built the tension and sort of left you hanging there without a resolution at the end. I think this season could work for them. They came in, won, set the tone, and now they’re off for the rest of the fall. I feel like they laid something down and the memory isn’t going to be marred by bad performances or mistakes in the meantime and everyone else will have them in the back of their head while they are competing. I did enjoy their free too. I was quite disappointed that they didn’t have a new free last year after their great one the year before but I feel like they are making it up to me now. If they aren’t going to be fiery in all their programs, at least they should be gorgeous. I didn’t know about the whole tribute program angle when I watched it and I didn’t get that from the program. I just thought they looked beautiful and that the program was effective and I was happy that they did their best lifts. The split is back! It never got a proper outing. (I’m not even going to complain about the one sleeve-no sleeve situation, but really, make up your mind!)

I’ve really had a lot to say on dance but I’m not stopping there! Of course, we need to touch on the ladies. I actually felt like it was a good outing for Medvedeva. I like her programs more than anything she has skated before. There is no unfathomable concept or mimed story or limb-flailing. I love the short and I’m really quite favourable to the free. Clearly, she’s really concentrating on technique and jumps. She has lots of details to work on but she seems to have a tremendous desire and work ethic and I think it will all come together. I have never been a huge fan but I like her so much better when she is isn’t muscling everything and pulling her face about. She’s using her eyes more to create mood and convey meaning. I really felt that in the tango. But really the biggest thing for me was the neckline on her dresses (I liked both by the way – another change for me). It was such a change – open and simple, for both! Nothing wrapping around her neck, no neck ornamentation – it said everything about her to me. I like this transformation. I will maybe even like her more if she doesn’t dominate – it’s my whole underdog syndrome. She may even become my favourite Russian lady…

Bradie, of course, skated very well and deserved the win. She has some fire. I think she has decided that she is going to seize the day and is clearly PREPARED. (This is what I love about post-Olympic seasons!) I like her new programs, although the free more so. Actually, I like the Romeo and Juliet as much as or more than any Romeo and Juliet I have seen in a long time. I like that the music selections aren’t light and airy but darker and more turbulent. DRAMA! VIOLENCE! TRAGEDY! This is a dark maroon story, not pink. I also like the sleeves. It’s a relief for me. (I would, however, like to see the sleeves for the free dress a bit higher and actually attached – like I want Polina to do.) I’m so glad she isn’t doing the strapless look anymore. I just want her to cut her hair a bit shorter or get bangs or do something. I want her hair to not say “work-do” so much when I see it. Wakaba, on the other hand, seems to be falling into the category of “freaking out” after earning a World medal. I don’t know whether it’s head or body or both but I was really sad that she didn’t deliver more. I don’t want her to be a one hit wonder. Her short program looks so exciting. I’m sort of in love with it. I have to see it performed to its full. Does Alexia Paganini remind anyone else of Samantha Cesario? I feel like she has a similar look. Good blue dress. So beautiful. In other costume news, what was going on with Kailani and the snake? I did not get that at all. But I did enjoy watching her. She had something extra too. I felt more confident in here when I was watching her. I definitely think upbeat suits her. She’s a happy skater. Starr‘s free was interesting. I almost tuned out but I found there was a lot of movement that I liked. I think it could really grow on me and she looked great. I thought her catsuit and hair were terrific. I also liked her layback spin. (I liked Wakaba’s too.) And I can’t forget to mention Yura Matsuda. I thought her short was charming and I thought her free was beautiful. She used Scott and Tessa’s music! Not that I applaud someone for using someone else’s music but this is a good five years after the fact and it’s not like we have heard Glazinov anywhere else. It’s pretty outside the box for skating. Her music was beautiful, her dress was beautiful, the program was beautiful. I’m so glad I got to see it.

Lastly –  a word or two for the men. Yuzu looks like he’s going to do his thing and somehow manage to up the ante. Junhwan Cha looks ready to Bradie Tennell it. (I’m going to make it a verb. Or maybe to Meagan Duhamel something is more appropriate? I think she did it first.) Jason … I’m not sure but I like both his programs and am glad more people haven’t thought of Simon and Garfunkle before. I really enjoyed Roman‘s skating and I feel like Canadian men are maybe stepping it up. If they all (or three) manage to compete, things could get interesting.

So far I have this feeling that the year is going to go to those who were prepared from the off. They’re trained, they’re hungry, they’ve made a choice, they want to compete. I’m seeing it in Rika, Jun, Bradie, Kolyada, Tuk, James/Cipres, Boikova/Kozlovskii, Guignard/Fabbri, Weaver/Poje… Who knows? It could be all ephemeral and the impression could collapse at the next competition but I just have this gut feeling…

I just realized that Weaver and Poje do not do a lift exit out of their spin. They win the prize!


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