Look back on "World's Best on Ice" in Basel
By Silvia Ulenberg
Translated by Freefall
Photos © Silvia Ulenberg
"World's Best on Ice" – the title of the show spoke for itself. I had high expectations from it when I left Düsseldorf for Basel with my camera and a heavy lens in my bag to see the show and first of all to take photos. The road to Basel was bumpy – not everyone is prepared for snow in winter. Nevertheless, I managed to get to Basel unharmed – and I was even lucky enough to catch the ending of the last rehearsal. Most of the skaters had already left the ice, but some – including Jeffrey Buttle, Sarah Meier and Denis Ten – were still practicing. After a while, Stephane Lambiel also joined them, which surprised me a lot because I thought that the practice was over already. I used this chance to take a look around with my camera and find the best position for the evening.
The other skaters left the ice very soon, and Stephane stayed alone. The hall also became deserted, so I was almost alone with him there – it was a very special emotional experience that I will probably remember for a long time. It was a bit like a performance for me personally.
The show itself – as far as I can judge – lived to the expectations of its title. It consisted of Olympic, World and European champions and also included the promising talents of today. The opening number of the show was Jamal Othman's performance – he skated his program from Davos 2009 accompanied by the female Art on Ice dancers. He was followed by Anais Morand and Antoine Dorsaz. Every time I see them I'm impressed by the progress they've made since February 2007, when I saw them skating live for the first time.
Because I watched almost the whole show through my camera, it's not easy now to remember the impressions from every single skater. That's why I will start with my personal highlights.
My first one is Jeffrey Buttle, who I saw skating live for the first time. He performed his program "Eclogue for piano and strings", a very calm number with very refined choreography. His second performance to "Sunglasses at Night" was a great contrast to the first one and put the audience in really high spirits.
Sarah Meier looked tired but showed 2 wonderful programs and she received a warm welcome from the audience. She opened the second half of the show with the program she had skated in Davos, along with Rory Burghart.
The Russian ice dancers Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov performed to music by Michael Jackson. Their program really got the crowd going. The second number of the German couple Tanja Szewczenko and Norman Jeschke was a very funny role reversal program that the crowd really enjoyed as well. They surprised me as – frankly spoken – I didn't expect very much when I first saw their names on the cast announcement.
Fleur Maxwell, with her extraordinary spin positions and Emmanuelle Balmori's acrobatic number (she was flying above the ice surface without a safety net) were just breathtaking.
My next highlight was Alexei Yagudin. He is really one of the greatest skaters of all times and to see him live was a very special moment. It's very impressive when you think that he has an artificial hip joint and still executes triple jumps. One of the programs he skated, "Luna", was just extraordinary.
Denis Ten, who is probably a star of tomorrow, is also part of my memories. At the start of his program, he seemed a bit unsure, but then he focused, and at the end of his program, he impressed the audience with a real firework of steps.
But the best highlight of the show was for me definitely Stephane Lambiel. You could feel the excitement in the air before he actually took the ice, and even before his name was announced, the audience gave him a storm of applause. He was the last to skate before the break and he performed his current season's SP to "William Tell" by Rossini. I was very glad to see this program live for the second time, after Oberstdorf. Stephane was at his best, and the audience rewarded him with loud applause for his straight-line step sequence and with a standing ovation and a real storm of applause at the end of his program.
When Stephane skated his second number to "Ne me quitte pas", the audience remained silent. This program is very moving, and very intense. Even while taking pictures, I could feel this intensity. While he was skating, the spectators became quieter, to a complete silence, which was broken at the end by the applause. It really sent shivers down the spine.
In the finale, Stephane heated the fascinated audience once again with a heartfelt and enthusiastic dance on the ice. I am almost sure that all the eyes in the hall were fixed on him.
I hardly noticed these 2 hours flying by. It was a one-time emotional experience, and I am very glad that I could be there. It's always hard to take pictures and still manage to watch the programs as a whole and feel the mood of the skaters, but this time it was a very intense show.