A Few of My Favorite Things, 2015-16: Free Skates

So, you know how in yesterday’s post, I said I was going to try to spread this series out over several weeks?

I didn’t.

At least, not the first two posts.

If you read my last post, you will probably know how this works. I list my three favorite SPs and FSes in each discipline and say why I like them. It’s pretty simple. However, it is hard for me to remember all the programs I loved in each discipline. I frequently accidentally leave out one of my favorite programs and forget about it for about a day until I remember, slap myself, and promise to give it a shout-out in the next post. That being said, I left Alaine Chartrand’s short program out of yesterday’s SP post, despite it being one of the ones I knew I wanted to include when I came up with the concept for this series. Deepest apologies; I would have put it in if I remembered.

Okay, that was really long, and I didn’t mean for it to be that long, so here we go.

Top Three Free Dances

  1. Shibutani/Shibutani (“Fix You”)

When IceNetwork’s Twitter did its annual fan vote for best program in each segment of each discipline, the overwhelming majority of voters chose this as the best free dance. Not surprising at all. This is, in my very biased opinion, the single best program in any discipline this season. Just…ugh, it’s too perfect to be real. I got to see this program in person at Worlds and I nearly made myself sick and blew out my vocal chords because I was hyperventilating and shrieking until I could barely breathe. (If you were there and heard someone screaming “‘MURICA!” repeatedly after this performance in Loge 8, that was me.) The placement of the twizzle sequence, the lifts, the step sequences, everything about this program was amazing. I am in such awe of this program that I  have taught myself the twizzle variation (with the leg extended) that they do. LOL. 🙂

2. Cappellini/Lanotte (“La Dolce Vita”)

I like this free dance for most of the same reasons I like their short dance: it’s frothy, frivolous and fun, achieves #costumegoals status, and really stood out from the rest of the top teams’ FDs. Is it me, or were there a LOT of “look at us, we’re arteestick!” free dances this season? I feel like there were, so this was a very nice contrast. Also, I’m very predictable, because I put these in the same order as I did for the SDs.

3. Sinitsina/Katsalapov (“Lo Ci Saro”)

A lot of people criticized this program for being “bland,” but when I saw it at Worlds, I thought it was fantastic. I can’t really put my finger on what it was I liked about it, but I did, so on the list it goes.

Top Three Pairs Free Skates

  1. Seguin/Bilodeau (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”)

I warned you. 😉

Getting to see this program in person at Skate America was one of the highlights of the entire season for me. This program is truly wonderful: lyrical but passionate, delicate but powerful, emotional but subtle. They had SUCH a moment with it at the Grand Prix Final; I was very eager to see it at Worlds, and although they weren’t there, they had many memorable performances with it. It’s taken me from barely knowing they exist to a huge fan of theirs. As I said in the previous post, one of the things that I like most about Seguin/Bilodeau is their connection. This program showcases their connection beautifully.  Highlighting your strengths is one of my criteria for deciding whether or not a program is good, so this program passes with flying colors.

(It made me ship them. You don’t get any better than that.)

2. Sui/Han (“Samson and Delilah”)

When Sui/Han skated this program well, it was completely breathtaking. It’s intense and passionate and never stops building until the end, and when they landed things, the effect was extremely impressive. Everything about this program is BIG: the elements, the choreography, the emotion, Sui’s performance quality…I feel like this program, but especially this particular performance, could be described as “we’re here, we’re perf, and we’re going to leave y’alls in our dust.” A very accurate statement indeed. :p

3. Kayne/O’Shea (“Music of the Night”)

Admit it: this performance made you cry.

Kayne/O’Shea seem to have developed this lovely habit of completely slaying their FS at every competition, demonstrated by their showings at Cup of Russia, 4CC, and (mostly) Worlds, but most prominently at Nationals. There was just something about that particular performance that made it really special. So even though I liked this program a lot before that, it became something special after Nationals.

Top Three Men’s Free Skates

  1. Shoma Uno (“Turandot”)

Everyone’s favorite leprechaun made history at TCC by landing the first ratified 4F in competition, ending his season on a much-needed triumphant note. In addition, his free skate takes top honors in the Men’s FS category of this recap. It was maybe more of an “introverted” interpretation of Turandot (I feel like I’m saying that a lot), but a convincing one, with a lot of cool choreographic bits. (*eh ehm* CANTILEVER!) Gorgeously choreographed and interpreted, with a delightfully punnable costume.

The Leprechaun has his ups and downs, but, being a leprechaun, always ends up with a pot of gold. 😉

2. Grant Hochstein (“Les Miserables”)

This is another program that I basically chose because of one performance. His Worlds free skate was, IMO, the moment of the night (well, one of them). It blew the roof off the place; his interpretation is some of the best I’ve ever seen, actually. A lofty statement, but a deserved one.

3. Yuzuru Hanyu (“Seimei”)

How can I leave out the program that broke the world record twice? I don’t understand how this dude is even real. (However, I will stop saying that because I think it jinxed him at worlds.)

Top Three Ladies Free Skates

  1. Rika Hongo (“Riverdance”)

Rika Hongo’s transformation from a possible contender with poor posture and few standout qualities to a reliable, electrifying performer has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. I love the way she keeps up the high-energy, appropriately Riverdancy feel of this program throughout, and the ChStSq is one of the best I have ever seen-and that includes everything ever done by Mao Asada! I especially appreciate the Irish dance steps in both StSqs; they were very well-integrated into the program. This free skate has really made me take notice of Rika, and I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed watching her this season. I hope she works with Akiko Suzuki (who choreographed her programs) next season, and can’t wait to see her next programs!

2. Adelina Sotnikova (“Je Suis Malade”)

I might have questionable taste, but I am kind of obsessed with Je Suis Malade. Naturally, any Je Suis Malade program that comes to my attention will be lauded as a masterpiece with excessive hyperboles.

Okay, maybe that was a slight  large exaggeration, but I do typically like Je Suis Malade programs, and Adelina’s was a very good one. She gave it the over-the-top angsty drama it deserves, and I found the program to be very well-choreographed. I can understand why one might not like this program (I mean, if angsty drama isn’t your thing, there is a LOT of angsty drama going on here), but I happen to love overdramatic interpretations, so I enjoyed Adelina’s free skate a lot.

3. Gracie Gold (“Firebird”)

As you may know, I am kind of a noob as far as skating fans go. I have not been watching for very long (I obviously watched the 2014 Olympics, but other than that, my first experiences watching skating were on the 2014-15 GP because I did not have IceNetwork prior to that), so I have not seen very many of the “great” programs. Thus, the only Firebird program I had ever seen before this season was Anna Pogorilaya’s 2014-15 FS, and (no offense to Anna, who has improved a lot since then) virtually any rendition of Firebird would be an improvement over that.

Enter Gracie, the other prominent artistically-challenged blonde, who is actually quite like Anna: a headcase, and not a natural artist, but improving.

This is definitely one of the best programs Gracie has ever had, certainly the best free skate. First of all, The Squat. It is my favorite thing. I can often be found listening to Firebird and randomly squatting (with the correct arms, too :p). Also, I feel like this powerful music is easier for her to interpret than most of what she’s had before. It wasn’t perfect: when the jumps weren’t there, neither was the performance. But when they were, she showed quite a bit more fire and emotion than she ever has before. The style was a good fit for her, so I hope to see her continue to do things similar to this. (She also said many times that she loves this program, so that is always a bonus.)

Well, that’s a wrap…next up, one of the two “best costumes” ones. 

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