Dreams on Ice 2009
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © M. Hashimoto
Akiko Suzuki (4th in 2008 National Championships, 2nd in 2008 NHK Trophy)
Last year she skated to a tango, bringing her magnetic charm to get many fans. This year she challenged another danceable program, requiring quick physical movement and musical synchronicity which she is usually good at. Unfortunately it didn't seem to work very well this time. Of course she had a good performance and was attractive. She also had very good contact with the audience as usual. Maybe she needs more time to get used to the music.
Takahito Mura (3rd in 2008 National Championships, 13th in 2009 World Championships )
Attending the World Championships develops a skater. The previous year, Takahiko Kozuka went to the World Championships and he had a very successful season last year including two medals in GP series and a silver medalist at GPF. A similar thing may happen to Mura. His performance was so enthusiastic that the audience couldn't take their eyes off him. He tried quad and 3A at every performance (as Machida did) and followed him to fail to land most of them. He said he got a good feel for his quad, though.
Cathy Reed/Chris Reed (reigning ice dance National Champions)
What an amazing program! At the beginning, only Cathy appeared on the ice and did a really cool hip-hop dance. After a while the music changed to La Primavera by Vivaldi suddenly and Chris came onto the ice in a ballet costume. His dance reminded me of "Blades of Glory". I think Chris is really a comedian. He was so funny. While he pretended to do ballet dance, gradually the music and dance changed into hip-hop style to end up with cool hip-hop dance. I hope to see this program many times so I wish them a successful season.
Fumie Suguri (2nd in 2008 National Championships, 8th in 2009 World Championships)
Music: Padam Padam
Some call her an artist on ice. That is true. From the very beginning of the program to the end when she disappeared behind the curtain, she built her own world on the ice. Dressed in black she looked sexy and mature, as a saloon woman in the 50s to Padam Padam. A little bit slower than she used to be but still you could see great flow and smooth consecutiveness of each skill.
Tomas Verner (Czech Republic; six-time Czech National Champion and 2008 European Champion)
Music: Michael Jackson
Who said Japanese fans were shy? If he had come to Japan believing this, it must have been a big surprise for him to see Japanese fans were so enthusiastic. He performed a very attractive program to cheers from the audience. As everyone knows, he is a great entertainer and really good at making the crowd excited. Watching his performance several times during this event must be a great lesson for young Japanese skaters. Before he finished his Michael Jackson program, the audience showed their excitement with yelling, shouting, clapping, standing and waving several Czech flags. Japanese people might like Tomas Verner more than any Japanese skaters who attended this show for sure.
Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat (France; 2009 French National Champions and 5th in 2009 World Championships)
Their program was the well known "Circus" also used as a free program this year. Since they did it many times so far, there's no surprise. It was very nice program - a lot of fun to watch at any time. On the first day, there was an incident though. When they crushed together in the middle of the program just when music changed, Fabian had a problem with his blade and they had no choice but to quit their performance. Fortunately he and Nathalie weren't injured at all. They could do the rest of the show without any problems.
Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (Germany; six-time German National Champions, two-time and reigning World Champions)
Music: Send in the Clowns
They did their short program for next season. Dressed in clown-like black and white costume they had an impressive performance. Because it's off-season, some elements were not as great as they usually are, the emotion in this routine was notable, though. The audience was affected by its romantic and melancholic emotion and gave generous applause.
Stéphane Lambiel (Switzerland; eight-time Swiss National Champion, two-time World Champion and the 2006 Olympic silver medalist)
Music: Ne Me Quitte Pas
One of the most beloved skaters in Japan, or in the world, gave the first public performance of his new program here in Dreams on Ice. This was accepted with a little surprise because he looked different from his usual style. He is known as a passionate performer, however this time he seemed to be intense on the inside. Dressed in simple black sportswear he looked rather reflective than passionate. Some said it's not a Lambiel-like program so they did not like it, but I think it was great for him to challenge a new image. I like this program very much. Anyway he earned enthusiastic ovation. Many fans might think Lambiel was Lambiel whatever it was.
Nobunari Oda (reigning National Champion, winner of 2008 NHK Trophy, 7th in 2009 World Championships)
Music: Austin Powers
It was an amazing program, although some audience applauded a bit less enthusiastically. I don't understand why. He performed very well with consistent jumps, comical movement, wonderful funny expressions on his face and had difficult technical elements. I think there were two reasons why he couldn't involve the crowd into the program despite of the wonderful execution. One is that Japanese fans are not fond of this type of slapstick comedy and the other is a little lack of real contact with the audience. If you were in front seat, you can enjoy his comical expression on his face or mischievous scheme of his small action, but if you were far away, you might not be able to see what was really going on there. But I swear this will become a great program because it completely matches his bubbly outgoing character.
Miki Ando (Bronze medalist in 2009 World Championships, 3rd in 2008 National Championships)
Music: Bring the Noise, Bring the Fun, Requiem
To our surprise, she did two different programs in this short event. In the two earlier shows, her program was an active and sexy dance number. Her costume was also dazzling which the Japanese media gang up to print the photos in the newspaper or broadcast in the news. I was really impressed with that program but I won't say too much about it. The reason is that I would like to tell you about the second program, "Requiem".
At first glance, I was fully enchanted. Had she been so artistic before? She was so beautiful, so expressive, and so profound. This performance was not only figure skating but an art. I'm sure lots of people think of the same word for it, "masterpiece".
You should go watch her performance (if she does this program) whenever you have a chance. Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of this routine because we couldn't take any when she performed it.
The skaters came back on the ice while the excitement among the audience was still running high. They were welcomed with huge cheers when they showed some of their skills, such as jumps, spins, spirals, or lifts in groups of two or three.
Japanese shows are usually very-well organized so that there was no festival-like chaos in this show. Nevertheless there were bonuses for the fans. Many skaters had a quad jump battle among male skaters, or spins and jumps and spirals from the female skaters, or lifts from pair or dance teams, just for fans to enjoy. These performances were usually done by only Japanese skaters but this year the guest skaters joined in. Fun to watch was when Tran threw Chris behind the skaters and Tomas back-flipped using Fabian's back.
The biggest events of the year for Japanese skating fans were over. From now on, the skaters will push forward with their training both on ice and off ice.
I want to thank Japan Skating Federation and CIC for all their help.
We wish every skater good luck!