Saturday, January 29, 2011

US Nationals: Thoughts on Pairs and Dance

The US Nationals broadcast just completed and it was a stunner.  While there wasn't the same drama and emotion as there is during an Olympic season, the performance quality may have been even greater.

Yankowskas and Coughlin really 'brought it.'  After their success on the Grand Prix, it certainly appeared possible that they'd crack into the top two.  Their free skate is a work of art, with her wonderful posture being sent from above.  John is a big Midwestern boy, but he is an absolute hulk out on that ice.  They are so wonderful together that you almost hope they just start doing it and getting it on already.  The performance was brilliant and absolutely magical.

I'm a fan of Evora and Ladwig, but I must admit that they continually have the weakest unison among the top three pairs.  Their coach has given them good technique, but their unison should be better given their similar body lines, size and overall ability.  Amanda and Mark's lifts are a dream and their side-by-side jumps are improving, but their spins are not.  They lack unison at times during their basic skating needs a Russian bitch to come and fix.  I have a few in mind.  It is going to take one to really elevate them to 'champion status' as opposed to a bubble team.  Frankly, I was not sure how the points were going to work out after they finished their performance.  There were a number of bobbles and I really felt they left the door open.  Granted, it was beyond difficult to follow Caitlin and John.

Denney and Barrett are not my favorite pair by any means, but they really 'brought it' during their free skate.  David Wilson has worked wonders, especially with Caydee.  The spelling of her team may automatically have you thinking ''tacky,'' but the ribbons are gone from her hair and so is a great deal of the unpleasantness.  She also seems to be in better shape than she was a year ago.  The program worked and it is really a shame that the US doesn't have three spots at Worlds.  It was extremely close and this is a situation where it would behoove the USFSA to take the Four Continents into consideration when determining a World Team.

Marley and Brubaker have made so much progress.  Mary Beth is a little Tara Lipinski and that will take them a long way.  John Nicks needs to sort out her leg extension while he is still 'with it' but Mr. Nicks may very well outlive each and every one of us.  The USFSA clearly held them up a tad in the short program, but they delivered overall at this competition.  Rockne is getting bonus points for sticking it out with a crumbling emotional wreck during a turbulent Olympic season.  He may just be hotter than ever.  I miss his chemistry with Keauna and doubt he will have the same performance level with Mary Beth, but they may be able to reach new heights together technically and competitively.

In terms of the Wonder World of Ice Dance, it went almost as predicted.  The only stumble came from Lynn and Logan, which was a real shame.  I absolutely love them.  As Tracy Wilson pointed out, their speed and fluidity is keeping them back.  They're one of those teams who are really getting better late in their careers.  If one remembers the Pre-IJS days, Russian ladies never got good at anything until they were in their thirties.  There may be hope yet.

Chock and Zuerlein really took their skating up a level.  While their international scores were comparable with the Shibutanis and both made errors during the Grand Prix, the domestic judges didn't see it that way.  There was the perception going in that they were a lock for the bronze, but they really brought their best performances to the table.  Greg has come alive in a big way on the ice.  He is no longer a baby-faced boy showing off his partner.  I'm so glad the judges 'effing hated' their original free dance for this year, because Cabaret is a vehicle that has absolutely revived their skating career.  Madison was injured last year and missed tons of training time, but they just weren't clicking at the senior level.  They are on the right path and it would behoove Igor to pick another character driven program for them next season.

The Shibutanis were a delight.  Short Dance.  Free Dance.  They have the quality of Tessa and Scott in a brother-sister duo.  While sibling duos find it difficult to read the upper echelon of ice dance, these two are making themselves impossible to ignore due to their pristine elements.  Alex may use an incorrect edge of a counter once in a while, but it simply doesn't matter.  Their overall skating has such class this season.  Bolstered by a genius free dance, they will place well in their first trip to Worlds.  It is so interesting to remember that just nine months ago, so many skating aficionados were screaming for them to find other partners due to their size difference.  All has been forgotten and forgiven.

The Hubbells...they are still just a tad creepy and don't do it for me.  Enough said.

Marlie's revamped tango is a real improvement.  Their chemistry and emotion is coming along, but there is still room for improvement.  I noticed the nuances and subtle changes they've made to really amp up the sexual vibe between them.  Changing the second piece of music does help the program.  At times, it felt like they held back this weekend.  There wasn't as much speed and attack as they displayed last season.  It looks like they're running on fumes since going all out since 2009 Worlds.  The stress of being number one is taking its toll on them: Meryl, in particular, is bearing a frightening resemblance to Karen Carpenter.  It is something that has become readily apparent with each competition.  They also don't seem to be having fun this season.  In the past, they really seemed excited after their programs.  Following today's free dance, I couldn't tell if they were exhausted or apathetic about their performance.  It appears that they are pacing themselves for Worlds.

In other news, Aunt Joyce has become a complete sap and felt choked up during the Alissa Czisny fluff. It must've been onions or something.  I swear they were hidden underneath my couch.


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  2. Excited about American pairs FINALLY.

    Is it just me or does Caitlin give off a very Russian impression on the ice? (and I mean that as a huge compliment). I think John's posture has improved immensely-- he's hardly a hulk anymore except in height, and that won't matter because their lines are beautiful and Caitlin is absolutely exquisite.

    Zoueva choreographed this, right? I never looked it up but it seemed written all over the program, and I mean that in the best possible way. I saw shades of Virtue & Moir's Mahler, and no surprise given the costumes and choreography.

    Completely blown away by them. Dance, meh.

  3. I think dance really needed some Samuelson & Bates. I would have loved to see their An American in Paris.

    As much as I enjoyed the Shibutanis, part of me wonders how they'll do in tangos and other less platonic dances.

    I think the Hubbells could be good if they changed coaches and got some decent choreography. Not really sure why they haven't gotten that through their heads yet...Not only do they always have uncomfortably sexy programs, they always have THE MOST sexy programs out of all the couples.

  4. I think Yankowskas/Coughlin were a little slow, but they were far and away the best pair. So happy to see them win! They've really been through a lot. This is their first year where they've really been able to hold it together at Nationals. Now, they need to work on getting that last lift and pair spin to level 4. I actually thought Caitlin looked more in her little world during the program instead of really relating to her partner, but I'm being nitpicky since the other pairs don't have any chemistry at all. Meh.

    And I do appreciate Yankowskas's extension. The other girls just didn't have the same look.

    I don't know what to think of the brother-sister ice dance couples yet, but the Shibutantis have a smoothness to their skating that I just eat up like candy.

  5. I cried during Yankowskas & Coughlin... Not just because of how much the program meant to them, but because I have never seen them look so composed. They didn't just fold the tent after last year, they really got after it and tried to improve and I'm just so happy for them! Great story!

  6. I dont care the shibitanis need to go, they are gross. Why cant he just open his eyes for a change?

  7. Marley had this phony huge smile on her face that whole program despite the beginning being haunting and eerie. She has a lot to learn about presenting herself.

    Yankowskas/Coughlin have a really long entrance into their throws that scares me, but I'm impressed by them. She has gotten quite lovely. I think those years of training with Mclaughlin/Brubaker helped her strive to be a very pretty skater, and now look where Yankowskas is and where... oh nevermind.

    Evora/Ladwig two-footed a jump, he basically turned out of the 2A, put hands down on a throw, their last lift was shaky, and their SBS spins were out of unison and they beat Denney & Barrett by 10 pts. I know D/B had errors themselves, but if I'm them, I'm pissed a little that the difference was that big. Maybe they lost levels somewhere.

  8. I'm not jumping on the Y&C bandwagon yet. I thought they were really "good" ... for an American pair. I did think that, in terms of artistry, their long program was MUCH better than their short program. Piazzola's "Oblivion" is one of my favorite songs, and I didn't care at all for their interpretation or choreography. And I don't think their technical content is up to par internationally. But they clearly were the class of the field and deserved their win.

    I wasn't keen on the Shibutanis earlier in the season, but they've won me over now.

  9. I really enjoyed Y/C - but it was hard not to let their moment be undermined by the mawkish, cheesy harping about his mom's death by Scott, Sandra and ESPECIALLY that vast waste of airtime Tom Hammond.

    After halfway decent commentary during the Grand Prix, it's too bad we are once again reduced to this lousy crew of commentators - wonder if it bodes ill for how Cablevision will handle figure skating in the future.

  10. How vanilla can the Shibutanis GET?!

  11. Anon @ 5:40: "I dont care the shibitanis need to go, they are gross. Why cant he just open his eyes for a change?"

    Wow, just wow. Please, try to be MORE offensive.

  12. Yankowskas/Coughlin outdid themselves. I didn't know they could skate a long in competition without a major mistake. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon, but I was touched by their performance.

    Marley reminds me of Denney... A younger, shorter version. :| Brubaker had great chemistry with his last partner, and this falls flat for me. But at least Marley seems driven, because it sounds like McLaughlin started getting very distracted. I wonder since McLaughlin and Brubaker are now content in their situations if they will actually get along.

    I'm happy for Evora/Ladwig to be continuing to skate pretty well. How awkward must the Evora/Barrett relationship be this week?!? They are good people for not letting their close battle in skating come between them.

  13. Bearing in mind that this is a post-Olympic season, that they've tinkered with their programs numerous times and had a shortened training time, that's not so bad. Yes, they were holding back, but if that means they will bring it during Worlds, I'm all for it.

    Either way, am excited for ice dance.

  14. I also don't think they were apathetic after their program. Definitely tired, but they looked relieved more than anything.

  15. Meryl never shows emotion after the performances or in the kiss and cry. Very subdued.

  16. I thought they (Marlie) were more subdued than usual but also seemed exhausted. In any case, the program gets better and better. The middle section with the twizzles is stunning.

  17. Meryl actually looks skinnier on tv than she does in real life. It's weird, it's usually the opposite. She's still super skinny in real life.

    I think Meryl and Charlie were nervous, poor dears. What a nerve-wracking season for them.

  18. I was impressed with Marley/Brubacher after only five months, but I do hope she grows soon. She really looks like a little girl skating with a grown man. Obviously there are size differences between all pairs, but she's not just small -- she looks extremely young.

    NBC's milking of the Yankowskas/Coughlin story was shameless. They definitely had a great skate and I'm happy for them, but NBC cutting to his dad and sister 2334958340 times was so off-putting.

  19. Davis and White need their own post. That dance was beyond win. Just stunning unison, speed, passion, perfection. I agree that they both look utterly exhausted after their dances (even the SD) and don't seem to be loving it anymore. Surprising since this is certainly their year. I would not be AT ALL surprised if they switched coaches in the off season since Canton is getting very crowded for this soon to be World Champion team. On another note Charlie has never looked hotter. Tanith is one very lucky woman.

  20. Davis and White most assuredly have a lot on their minds right now, some that we can guess at and some that we, on the outer circle, can't even guess about. But I think it's sort of presumptious, and not just regarding Marlie, but all skaters, that we think that they're "unhappy", or "not loving it anymore", by looking at their demeanor after they finish their programs. It's my impression that they LOVE skating and they are very happy and proud to be able to go out and compete the way that they do. Training at an elite level is very hard! The ONLY reason anyone would do it, is BECAUSE they LOVE it!