November 3, 2010
By Suzanne Herrmann
Photos © Suzanne Herrmann
Following the Free Dance practice Sunday morning was the practice for the exhibition. Luckily by this time I think I was officially awake and was able to take many photos and enjoy the goofiness that was happening on the ice. The exhibition practice is one of the most entertaining portions of the weekend. The pressure of competition (for most of the competitors) was over and there was not the necessity of behaving for a show just yet so the skaters let loose and danced along to the music, did shoot the ducks, pairs lifts (men lifting men) and throws (ladies throwing men) amongst other moves. Those of us who came for the early practice turned out to be the lucky ones—the arena staff would not let additional spectators in for quite a while and turned many away at the door. Eventually they conceded and people began filing in.
There was a fun competition off the ice at Skate Canada. Everyone was encouraged to go and vote for the skater they would most like to see skate again in the exhibition (one who would not automatically be chosen). The winner of the contest was American, Grant Hochstein, who has been likened to Canadian Shawn Sawyer. He really does resemble him a lot on the ice! When I asked him if people said that to him, he said he will take it as a compliment! He was the first skater on the ice in practice and the first on the ice for the exhibition. He performed beautifully to The Impossible Dream while Alissa Czisny recorded the program from the boards. He did not expect to skate in the exhibition but you would never know it from how well he skated!
Alissa is an amazing skater and it was great to see her put two great programs out there and hone in on better technique than she had in the past. Her reward was the gold medal and to skate last of the ladies during the exhibition. Her musicality shines through her skating with the timing to the music and her ability to put the audience into a trance. Of course her spins and spirals make her program phenomenal. When asked how she became such a great spinner at some point during the weekend by the announcer, she answered that she thinks it may be because she and her twin sister, Amber, used to compete with each other during practice to see who could spin better. Now that she is working with Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, you can see that her jumps are becoming more comparable to the other side to her skating.
Later on during practice, when the skaters started to get goofy, Alissa and Grant decided to do a pairs throw—Alissa throwing Grant! They were laughing pretty hard and so were we until we saw Kirsten Moore-Towers “throw” Dylan Moscovitch—then we laughed harder. If you are not familiar with Kirsten and Dylan, she is about a foot and a half [about 30cm] shorter than he is so it made their antics extra funny. I was excited for this team not only to be added to Skate Canada, but also for performing so well there. I do love Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison’s skating but I have to admit that Kirsten and Dylan are more exciting to watch because they do not appear to have the weight of the world on their shoulders (I feel like Jessica and Bryce sometimes skate like they do). They are new on the scene, peppy and excited. That helps me get excited too! During the medal ceremony, Kirsten could not hide her excitement for their surprise finish, which made me smile.
Though Cynthia Phaneuf finished out of medal contention, she certainly was the top Canadian lady at the competition and earned herself a spot in the exhibition. She is a great skater and I always wish for her to skate well for herself. I was glad she was included in the exhibition—her program rocked the arena! Skating to Barracuda, she showed the passionate and angsty side to her skating which thrilled the audience.
Sinead and John’s exhibition program was a lot of fun to watch. First of all, they get completely into character. Secondly, they used chairs and used them effectively. Third, they play to the audience which everyone finds exciting, especially when Sinead lifts John—not once but twice!!
Patrick Chan’s program may quite possibly be my favorite of the evening, the finale not included. He was fun during practice but I do not think anyone could truly appreciate his program until he was performing it out on the ice to the music during the exhibition. He began by laying on a small table in the middle of the ice and arose as if it was the worst morning of his life but as “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” continued to play, his outlook on the day continued to improve. The poignant parts were when he had a couple of poor jump landings and the music sang on command, “Don’t worry; be happy,” and Patrick shrugged them off. Explaining this program could not do it justice, so I hope you are able to view it online, on tv or in person!
The Russian Pairs team won me over during the exhibition practice. The announcer joked that they have the easiest name to pronounce out of all the competitors. Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze (I have typed Iliushechkina and Maisuradze so many times this weekend I can almost spell their names without looking!). Lubov has quite the personality. When she was not dancing around to the music, she helped translate for Nodari. He appears quiet but certainly has some moves to excite the crowd—he was the only skater to perform a back flip. We found out her skills are not too shabby either. Lubov can do a layback and end up in a position similar to Caroline Zhang’s “Pearl” spin (A Biellmann position in the layback spin) and a crazy Besti Squat position laying all the way back to the ice! I particularly enjoyed a lift in the exhibition where Lubov almost looks like she is doing an illusion [spin] in the air—I am not quite sure how to explain it! After winning the gold and after performing in the exhibition, Lubov said to the commentator and announcer that she wants to stay in Canada because she enjoyed herself so much! They were even wearing Canada gear in practice! Their program was really cute and portrayed the team comedically fighting over Lubov’s purse. She rocked out her character and really showed off her fun personality. I think the crowd found a new appreciation for this team! Not only did they skate well and have a lot of potential, they can be fun to watch as well!
By far the funniest “pair” of the day had to be Rudi Sweigert and Dylan Moscovitch. They were a riot. First the two guys and their partners, Paige Lawrence and Kirsten Moore-Towers, figured out how to do a death spiral together—and did it well I might add. Rudi and Dylan passed Paige around overhead but only tried it once. Those two guys turned out to be the biggest hams of the competition. Those of us watching were laughing quite hard at their antics as they found ways to entertain themselves. My favorites are the lifts. At one point when the guys were in their location on the ice, they each took turns purposely jumping poorly as if they were just learning how to jump and had not yet figured out how to rotate an axel or a double jump—or even a single. I am not sure where it came from but it was really funny to watch. They are so phenomenal and focused throughout competition and it is great to see them let loose with their “other” side once the pressure is off.
The girls were down at the other end of the ice as the guys while they were practicing in their respective roles. The girls had a little part to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. Every time the music came on the girls broke out into dance moves (even before anything was choreographed). It looked as though Paige and Lubov thought up some choreography together as they were waiting. The guys were at least as funny down at the other end, especially during the exhibition, with their dance move choreography that they undoubtedly choreographed themselves.
There was one section at the end of the finale where the skaters broke off into pairs and danced to the music—basically making dance moves up together as if they were on a dance floor. During practice it was fun to see who paired off with whom and the dance moves them came up with (including Rudi and Dylan!). During the show I was drawn to watching Sinead and John break out into some fun dance moves—real dancing!
As the practice continued and skater after skater had the opportunity to skate their programs, the finished skaters congregated at the cutout area of the boards. During Patrick’s exhibition program, they began to sway back and forth to the music and entertained us almost as much as Patrick.
The finale was the most fun part of the exhibition for me. The dancers did not have the opportunity to practice with the rest of the cast because they had not yet competed in the Free Dance. They filed in well and the audience would never know they had not practiced!
Watching the skaters perform moves that they skate the best and seeing yet others perform moves that they never perform—such as the team ladies spinning solo and the male dancers doing axels! I did not expect the axels. We never saw what the dancers planned on doing so I was caught by surprise when I saw John launch into an axel! If the guys were funny in practice, they were hilarious in the show. Rudi and Dylan finished off the program with a couple moves in the middle as the skaters circled around. The skaters skated a lap around the arena, waving to the crowd. Then Sinead and John led a second lap around and slapped hands with the audience. It was a great end to a great weekend for many. I luckily had a couple more fun matters to attend to but that finished off the skating for my weekend. It is bittersweet to have such a great weekend end but definitely an amazing adventure to be remembered!
A few shoutouts:
Paige and Rudy’s program was a lot of fun with quick movement, fun dance steps and handstand lift. Since they are from Saskatchewan, they skated to a country tune. The announcer said that Paige’s dad could not be there to watch his daughter skate because he had a rodeo to ride in!
Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein skated a lyrical piece with gorgeous movement with a completely different style than their Free Dance. A great team can skate well to any genre of music and this team certainly does.
Adam – a skater’s skater. I do not think any other skater of this entire competition can quite touch the artistry and soft quality he brings to the ice. His skating skills create a program that puts the audience under his spell.