Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skate America: The Dance

With so much focus on underrotations and edge calls, it is such a welcome relief to watch quality skating, choreography and performances. It also helps that the true divas tend to flock to dance. Case in point: Tanith Belbin's Men's Health photo spread. I don't think we have to comment on them. Those photos speak for themselves. I will say that it amusing how the USFSA is so uptight about gays but willing to tarnish its Al-American Image for a magazine on par with Maxim in terms of classiness.

We missed the compulsory dance competition. I'm not that sad about missing the Golden Waltz but it is notable that Belgosto scored the highest score on that dance in the world this season. They had a sizable lead and have now competed the dance twice this season. It is the compulsory dance that will be skated at Nationals. Marlie have not competed the Golden Waltz on the Grand Prix. If Belgosto are to be held up at Nationals, the Golden Waltz is where the judges will distance them from the rest of the field. Funny how the compulsory dance could save them for once.

We also missed much of the first group of the OD due to WestPalmBitch being the diva of the trip. I did re-watch the dance competition on Icenetwork.

Chock and Zuerlein: Madison Chock is a heartbreaker. She is a star and old for her age the way Britney and Christina were at seventeen. Madison Chock is that girl in your high school class who was dating the twenty-five-year-old music producer. She is also packaged in heavy makeup that makes her look far older than her baby-faced partner. The British Eurosport commentators are taken with her for good reason. Unfortunately, they are now seniors and it would help if Greg could look a bit older. His haircut isn't helping. I know all of the Detroit male ice dancers have their signature hair, but 'do makes him look like an emo high school sophomore. It would also hep if he lifted a bit more, broadened those shoulders and skated with a bit more posture and confidence. He is always smiling at her and presents her well, but they just don't have the romantic tension between them given that she looks a good five years older than him.

Skating on the senior circuit should help with the confidence. There are moments when this team is absolutely mesmerizing with their performance quality. There are also times when they look like little kids going to a dance for the first time. There are strong opinions all over the map about this team. It is true that they benefit from Igor Shpilband's enormous political influence. It is also true that they benefit from his technical expertise and attempt some serious difficulty. I feel that their free dance is good but it definitely has moments where they look like little kids trying to go to a ball. I questioned the decision to place them above Navarro and Bommentre, but they do have the coaches with pull. They are definitely competitors and attacked this dance. Madison has been battling tendonitis and they were unable to practice run-throughs between Cup of China and Skate America. Madison didn't even skate for a week after returning from Beijing. Their performance was impressive and their confidence level is growing. Time, competing at Four Continents, growing up and more attention from Igor and Marina is what they need right now. Marina will need to get some more inspiration from scarves and will have to muster all her creative energy to package them properly. This is a team that should stick together and work through the growing pains. It will be difficult not to win any competitions this season, but they will be much better off in the long run. Their free dance is stronger than their original dance. The OD is good but it just looks a bit sloppy and ragged in areas. His posture and their confidence needs to improve because they aren't OWNING the dance like one needs to. White kids from Middle America need to perform with a ton of conviction and confidence if they are going to pull off an Afro-Cuban Folk Dance.

Xiaoyang Yu and Chen Wang- The Dancing Cats. We need to talk about it because it happened. It can't be ignored. I can't get over their free dance. I'm not sure if they should be thanking Natalia Linichuk for giving them that program or hating her. They definitely deserve to have animosity toward their costume designer. That goes without saying. I can't decide if their program is a tacky hideous hilarious mess that should be ripped a new asshole or if it a brilliant Linichuk strategy to make this forgettable team memorable. Their OD is a snooze but you can't ignore the way they hiss, scratch and claw at one another throughout their free dance. I wonder which character each is portraying from Cats. Luckily there isn't a slow section to Memory. You have to credit them for really performing their free dance full out all the way through. They never break character and it is rather amusing for the audience...who is laughing with them or at them...not quite sure. I stood for them, but I was the only one.

Navarro and Bommentre- His costume is a bit of a mess in the OD. The concept is cool but his costume is distracting and could be hindering their performance. I am glad she is letting her hair down in their free dance and channeling the Bulgarians. I absolutely love their free dance. Granted, this team has absolutely no political pull and their loss to Chock and Zuerlein means that they have absolutely no shot at making the Olympic Team. I'd love to see them be fan favorites in shows the way Hough and Ladret were. Unfer the old system, they never would've lost to Chock and Zuerlein given their maturity and quality of skating. Mary J Blige works for ice dancing. You can feel the spirit of Mary in the room when they skate to One. Maybe they should stick around one more year to go to Worlds after Belgosto move to the pro ranks?

The Zaretskis- Hava Nagilia AND Schindler's List?! They are seriously the most Jewish team ever. Della Bella has forever clouded my vision of them. She is known to be sweet but as they skated their warm up she pointed them out and said, "Everyone says that they have the same face but it looks better on him." I can't stop looking at them and agreeing. That being said, I love my Jewishness but I cannot support their Original Dance. Hava Nagilia has such potential and would make an amazing Morozov-short program for Sasha Cohen, but their rendition is all wrong. It is too slow when it should pick up and then it is too fast. Their costumes are hokey and they look frantic and unpolished; It was just a bit of a mess. But, their Schindler's List program was performed so well. I love the details on their costumes. The back of her dress is made to look like barbed wire. I hate brother-sister teams, but I enjoyed their performance and was very happy for them when they found out they won the bronze. Their unison was off in the OD but it was together in the FD the way one would expect from two people who have skated together their entire lives.

Cappellini and Lanotte- I want to be analytical and talk about their performance, but I can't get over how attractive these two are. Luckily, their skating matches their looks. The ice dance crazies we were with say that there is just too much pretty in one pair. Their free dance to Lux Aeterna is captivating and their costumes, looks and personalities only enhance the number. Everything they do, they do with quality, flow, good edging and speed. This is a team that is just going to continue climbing the podium. They aren't going anywhere. I live for some of their transitional lifts. They don't make the code of points look like work.

Khokhlova and Novitski are even more hideous in person than they are on television. Their costumes look like they were designed by someone fired from Cirque du Soleil for excessive drug use. Their choreography and execution is pretty much the same for this generally held up Russian team. You know their Russian Soul free dance is bad when the judges actually had the nerve to drop them to fourth place. The program alternates between split jumps be her and then flexibility tricks that never actually hit a beautiful position. I'm sure she's great in bed but she isn't a Sasha Cohen type....or photogenic at all. Jana tore Sergei's costume in practice that morning but they appeared to fix it by the competition. I actually heard a mixture of gasps followed by cheers when it was announced that they finished in fourth place. No one seemed to like either of their programs...but the Russian Soul program was definitely received even worse than their batshit crazy original dance. A Russian team is really bad when they can't even be held up. And that's bad considering how hard the judges have to work to hold up Domnina and Shabalin.

Belgosto- They were clearly the class of the field. Their speed and presence is beyond the other competitors. Tanith is definitely eating and keeping food down for once and it appears to be helping her skating. Their programs are probably the best they've ever had but I do think that Marlie's Original Dance is just better. The Bollywood program is more innovative, imaginative and intricate. Then there is the issue of twizzles. I used to automatically blame all twizzle issues on Tanith because she only passed her senior dance test a few weeks ago, but Ben is actually the one whose timing goes facacta when they switxh from forward to backward twizzles. He continues to almost crash into her. Tanith's edges and time remain solid throughout. I live for their Ave Maria/Amen free dance and think it has the potential to be a gold medal program, but there are lots of little dirty spots. They lost a bit of the speed and impact during their last footwork sequence. I wasn't as drawn in as I should've been during the climax of the program. They just need to really tweak the levels, polish the program and make sure they're ready to defeat Marlie and Virtue and Moir at the GP Final...otherwise their national title is really in jeopardy. Linichuk isn't using her influence to pull out big scores yet and it is time to get a bit concerned. Their free dance score went down from Cup of China to Skate it probably should have. It is time for them to twizzle in unison. They've skated with each other for long enough. With the other top teams in jeopardy, it is time to own it. I've noticed that Tanith has become Russian over the summer. She now has that possessed look in her eyes that you only see from a scorned woman from Moscow. Tanith was definitely not pleased with their scores or the program. We should all be glad that they fought Linichuk over her idea of giving them a Michael Jackson program. Given the dancing cats program, we can only imagine that she was going to embarrass them in a way reminiscent of Bourne and Kraatz.

Side note: I love Ben Agosto's skating but I just don't find him that attractive. People are very split on him. Some find him dreamy as hell. Others don't see it at all. I'd take Luca Lanotte. Just saying.

Dancing is going to get INTERESTING when these top teams face off and when/if Domnina and Shabalin and Delobel and Schoenfelder return.

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