You guys may or may not know that I used to be a figure skating nut. This was back in the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding days. I lost touch with it during college, but recently realized I miss watching it. Like, a lot.
Writing is very two-dimensional compared to skating. I love watching skating because it’s so immersive. It creates a total performance using music, movement, expression, momentum, costumes, mood, and everything else skaters have at their disposal. I’m in need of a little creative inspiration myself, so I’m diving back in by blogging recaps of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating. And by “blogging,” I mean making stream-of-consciousness bullet point notes as I’m watching.
The first event of the series was the 2017 Rostelecom Cup in Moscow. I watched this on YouTube since I don’t have cable (and I’m not sure if it aired at all here in the U.S.). Here’s the video I watched – feel free to follow along.
Pairs Short Program
Sumire Suto & Francis Boudreau-Audet | Japan
- I’ve never seen these two before! They skated to pleasant if unremarkable Andre Rieu violin music.
- He doubled his jump during the side-by-side triples pass. The Spanish commentator went “Mmmm” like when your mom is disappointed with you.
- These two seem a little nervous. Their movements are kinda stiff, their jumps a little wobbly, their lifts a little slow.
- I found myself watching him more than her, which is the opposite of what usually happens for me. Maybe it’s because he’s tall and wearing black, and she’s short and wearing white? She kind of blends into the ice, whereas he’s commanding my attention.
MINI RANT: It is SO AWKWARD when the woman does the splits over the guy’s head. It’s hard, I get it. It requires insane balance, strength, and flexibility. But can we just agree this is not ever going to be flattering, no matter the degree of difficulty? I am so over this move. I feel bad even posting the image below, but you guys have to see what I’m talking about. It’s really hard to visualize if you haven’t seen it before.
Technical elements: 24.12
I’m no judging expert. I barely have a handle on how this system works, other than the fact that you have to catchfoot-everything to get max points. But this seems fair. Their technique is on par with their presentation; both are competent and neither stands out yet, which means they have lots of room to grow and develop a signature style.
Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran | USA
- Yay, Americans! Actually, I have zero country-based loyalty. I follow my heart, and my favorites have included Russians, French, and Americans over the years. So never mind.
- These two have pretty good speed, and a nice split triple twist.
- Oh holy Jesus, what is this music? This is a HORRIBLE mash-up of flamenco and a gospel choir and “Fallin'” by Alicia Keys. It started out all right, with just the flamenco, but then it went horribly awry. Who told them this sounded good? It’s like a Hieronymus Bosch painting for my ears. Seriously, you guys…it’s an Olympic year. You have to do something about this music, if possible. It is only going to hold you back.
- Damn, she missed the throw, which threw off their mood and timing. Things were going well up to that point, very crisp and clean. That crispness seems like their strength.
- These costumes aren’t really working for me. There are lots of oddly large rhinestones and weird cutouts for her, and a strange diagonal neckline for him. These outfits feel too fancy if they were going for an R&B vibe, but then again, that vibe was ruined by the horrific remix. I don’t know what they wanted me to feel when I heard this. The costumes are not making this clearer.
Technical elements: 27.07
Again, I know nothing about judging, but this seems fair. They’re a few points above the previous couple, and they should be. Their skating feels faster and more secure. She missed the throw, so their presentation score is higher, even though I think the technical score is their strong suit.
Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer | Austria
- Look, someone with the name Severin! You can meet my Severin in The Dante Deception. Okay, seriously, it’s not about me.
- Interesting music – a duet covering The Proclaimers’ “500 Miles,” very Irish-sounding. Very post-Riverdance. I can’t help wondering if the original wouldn’t have been a better choice, though, because it’s more energetic.
- Her dress has a little flash of yellow in the skirt. Cute!
- That was a pretty good split triple twist. Hey, they made their triples, too! Doing pretty well here, guys.
- Aw, crap, she touched down on throw triple lutz. I jinxed them, didn’t I?
- They’ve got some decent footwork. It could be a little faster, a little peppier, a bit closer to the speed of the music here.
- Say, that was a really nice lift – and they finished crisply on the end of the music. I like these two!
- I have a feeling I’m going to be harping on what I’m supposed to think or feel about a program. This program is clearly meant to make me happy, and it achieved that.
Technical elements: 30.93
This seems fair. They did well, and this places them at the top. They’ve got more spunk and spark than they displayed here. I hope they can bring more of that out later, and maybe that presentation score will go up a point or two.
Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov | Russia
- These guys are skating to Adigio in Something or Other, which isn’t surprising. Russian pairs and lugubrious adagios go together like peanut butter and chocolate.
- They have navy blue costumes, just like Castelli & Tran, but these are way more elegant. Simpler. His is still a little fru-fru, but this is skating, and you have to play the game. This is one instance where you can indeed hate the game, not the player.
- Wow, they nailed the side-by-side triple salchows. Look at the way she held her hands as she went into that triple jump – they’re placed and stretched just perfectly. Now that’s attention to detail.
- That was a fucking fantastic split triple twist. Look how high above his head she is! I used to think this was just a throwaway move. Everyone had to do it, and it was super hard, but I never enjoyed it. I don’t know why, but now, I love this move.
MINI RANT: Why do so many of the Russian women wear those teensy briefs? I could be wrong, but it feels like most of the Americans wear, shall we say, fuller coverage shorts. Then you have the Russians, and more often than not, I feel like they’re one step away from a thong. Start watching. You’ll see it, too. Why? I’m just curious.
- Oh, man, here we go with the splits-over-the-head thing again. Can we please stop? Ugh. This is just not a pleasing image, no matter how flexible or thin or beautiful you are (this woman is all three). I don’t care how hard it is to do. At least she changed positions within the lift pretty quickly. She really does have great extension. I promise I’ll stop with the splits pictures now.
- Wow, that was a beautiful throw. He looked a little jerky, but we’re all watching her, so no harm, no foul. But let’s start trying to watch the guy during the throw, just for comparison’s sake.
- Ugh, this music is very…Russian. Not the actual song or composer or performer. No, I mean that it’s a very Russian choice to skate to. The adagio has now given way to a Sarah Brightman version of Carmina Burana with some screechy violin. I love Sarah Brightman and I love Carmina Burana, but I’m not sure it all meshes together well. Overdramatized and lugubrious? Yep, definitely Russian.
- Their final spin is way slow. Come on, you guys, it’s Carmina Burana. You have to pick up the pace. And…they finished after the music. This started really well, but the intensity kind of fell off toward the end. It’s early in the season, so this may be a training issue. Or they’re just not super comfortable with the program yet, which will come with time.
- Let’s go back to the question of how this was supposed to make me feel. I know they wanted it to be dark and dramatic, but overall, they lacked the passion it needed. They didn’t sell it. This is ironic considering they’re coached by Artur Dmitriev (known for passion on the ice). These two are very technically proficient, fast, crisp, and sleek, but if they’re not feeling anything, I’m not feeling anything. It’s like admiring obsidian in a museum.
Hey, do you guys remember Artur Dmitriev? He and Natalia Mishkutenok were of one of my super favorite ’90s pairs.
Technical elements: 36.54
Looks like the judges maybe felt the way I do about the presentation. Not quite up to par with their technical ability. They can get there, I think. But look at the jump in point total from the previous couples. We’re in the big leagues now.
Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek | Italy
- Let’s start with the clothes. These outfits are okay – a blousy red top and polka dot skirt for her, with a white top and black pants for him. They fit with the music, which is definitely familiar. YouTube says it’s “Tu vuo’ fa’ l’americano.” Light, bouncy, Italian – it definitely sets a mood.
- Dang, those were pretty good side-by-side triple jumps.
- Hmm. They’re playing characters here, and it’s very stylized. Lots of hand waving and pantomiming. I get that this is an accepted style and it kind of goes with the music, but it’s also kind of…ugh, exhausting.
- Nice-she nailed that throw! But now I’m not wild about their lift position. At least she’s not doing the splits. But the bent-leg stag pose is a little weird to me. “Just ‘aight for me dog,” as Randy Jackson would have said.
- That was an interesting entry to the death spiral. She was perched on his lap, doing the splits, and then she popped down and bam, it’s a death spiral. I dig it.
- Slow start to the pair spin, just like the previous couple. Ha – now she’s doing the spin that Artur and Natalia made famous, right after Artur’s couple skates.
- Okay, yeah, the pantomiming is exhausting me. She looks way too excited – too much open-mouthed gasping.
- Now the music has morphed into a remix – same song, but with a techno beat. It’s funny how the judges shit on Elvis Stojko for using techno for his footwork sequences in the late 1990s, and now it’s like, whatever brings more viewers to the sport, cool, okay.
Technical elements: 36.13
So these two are in first place over the cold but elegant Russians. Interesting style contrast here. Their technical scores are very close, but the judges gave the presentation nod to the Italians. I’m not sure I agree, but what do I know? These two looked more alive than the Russians, so maybe the energy and character acting paid off. Good for them, in that case.
Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau | Canada
- Whoa, they’re skating to Lorde’s whack-ass cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Not sure how I feel about this.
- That was a nice split triple twist. And nice side-by-side triple salchows. And a nice lift, with no awkward splits. It’s all nice, eh.
- These two have good speed. Like the split triple-twist, this is something I undervalued before. Maybe it’s because of my experience writing and plotting, but I totally get the value of speed in enhancing the overall appeal of a program. Even if you don’t like the style, speed just makes things look more rehearsed and crisper. Maybe it also means you need more choreography to fill up your program? I don’t know. I’m spitballing here.
- Wow, she did a single illusion spin when she came up out of that death spiral. There are not enough illusion spins in skating today.
- Damn, they saved the throw for the end! She nailed it, too, right on the music. These two really project a strong, powerful, athletic vibe.
- However, I’m not sure they’re capturing the darkness and the drama of this music. Power, yes. Mood, meh. They seem like happy people with positive energy, and it’s clashing a little with this music. He might be pulling off the vibe, but she’s not.
- They ended right on the last beat of the music – nice, you guys. I have to be honest, though. The music was distracting. I had to watch this program twice, the first time because I was paying more attention to the song than to anything they were doing.
Technical elements: 35.99
This puts them behind the Italians and the Russians. Technically, all three couples did what they sent out to do. No one fell, and they all had some slow parts to the program where their speed fell off. So it’s a relatively even playing field, and the judges are clearly valuing lighthearted character over something dark and brooding. Interesting.
Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov | Russia
- Our first man-bun, you guys! Seriously, though, these two have a striking look. He reminds me a bit of ice dancer Ivan Bukin (whose kid is ice dancing in this competition). She is freaking gorgeous. They’re visually well suited for each other. Both have those long, lean lines.
- They’re skating to a tango, “Besame Mucho” – suitable, given their look.
- Hmm. Looks like a big of a collision on the split triple twist. The commentator lady said “bien,” though, so I guess it was all right.
- Damn, she nailed that throw. And she has great extension. I love the name Ksenia, too. Just saying.
- They have good speed in this middle section. They look nervous, though. Not a lot of emotional fire, considering this is a dance of passion.
- Shit, she fell on the side-by-side triple toe. The short program is do or die, so I wonder how much this will hurt them.
- Was that a grimace or a tango-appropriate emotion on her face?
- Whoa, there are some really not good positions in this lift. I don’t like it when the women lay down over the guy’s arm while he’s holding her up. They look like dead fish or something.
- Footwork sequence is a little slow here. They’re probably tired, it’s early in the season. Need more training and speed for the Olympics, you guys.
- Okay, finally, we get some of that foot-wrapping tango footwork. Took them long enough.
- Aaaand they finished on the music! But their expressions say it all. His face is blank and she looks super disappointed.
Technical elements: 36.36
This puts them in first place. Their presentation is pretty damn good, although they could use a little more speed and a little more emotion. That’s nitpicking, though, to be honest. This presentation score is leaps and bounds above the rest of the field.
Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov | Russia
- I love this guy’s hair – he’s a ginger! These two are like the pale inverses of Stolbova/Klimov. Both have that long, lean line. These two are the White King and Queen, though, while Stolbova and Klimov are the Black King and Queen.
- Holy mother of God, that was the best split triple-twist of the night so far. Homegirl was halfway to the moon.
- Eek, a little wobbly on those side-by-side triples. A step-out shouldn’t hurt them too much, considering Stolbova & Klimov had a fall.
- Yep, she landed her throw. It looked like she might have had to fight a bit, but she held it.
- That’s a nice position in that death spiral – very long and low. It seems like couples either “get” the death spiral, or they don’t. Sometimes the woman keeps one leg too high, or arches her back too much. It might just be a stylistic thing, but I prefer the way these guys do it – very long and low to the ice.
- Finally, some speed in a pair spin! Thanks for bringing it, you guys.
- Well, that’s an interesting lift entry. He picked her up by the hips and whipped her over his head. I like it. Not crazy about the bent-leg stag position, but whatevs. She’s not doing the splits, so I’m cool with it.
- They’re skating to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which is good and bad. It’s a great piece of music, tailor-made for kick-ass footwork sequences. But it was already done SO WELL by the aforementioned Artur and Natalia at the 1994 Olympics. I still have this on VHS tape somewhere, but you guys can watch it here.
- They finished with the music, but in kind of a weird place on the ice – shoved way into a corner, by a cameraman. Seems like a mid-rink final pose would be way more effective.
Technical elements: 39.94
That’s first place, and well deserved. This was really slick and practiced-looking. Fear is clearly not a factor for these two. I like their line, I like their look. I have no complaints. And holy shit, that’s Robin Szolkowy next to them in the kiss and cry! I’d forgotten that he’s with them. His former partner, Aliona Savchenko, is still skating. I wonder when we’ll see her in this series? I love her. Best to just get my personal bias out there from the get-go.