A Few of My Favorite Things, 2015-16: All Things Junior

This is gonna be a good one.

In this fifth installment in the Favorite Things series, I will be revisiting my favorite programs and moments on the Junior level this season. Since I am an avid follower of junior competitions and just generally love the juniors a lot, I can’t wait to take a look back at my favorite junior things this season!

Note: this was going to include costumes, but I did a costumes recap at Junior Worlds and I would just end up repeating myself.

Favorite Junior Programs 

Favorite Short Program (Junior Ladies): Marin Honda-“Spring Sonata”

I like to call Marin’s SP the Mini-Mao Program™ because it reminds me a lot of some of Mao Asada’s early programs-which is definitely a compliment! Marin has a lovely softness and a naturally lyrical style that I love, which this program showcased beautifully. A lot of juniors seem to default to the “darke, heaviiy and dramatik!” type of programs, for some odd reason (which I will never understand), so the lightness of Marin’s short program was very refreshing. (That is also why I enjoyed Alisa Fedichkina’s SP, which was of a similar style, but I felt that Marin did it better, so she got the nod here.)

Favorite Free Skate (Junior Ladies): Alisa Fedichkina-“Memory” (French cover)

In my Junior Worlds preview post, I called this free skate a “national treasure.” While we unfortunately didn’t get to see it there, that still stands true. Alisa is a ridiculously expressive skater, and this program was a perfect way to show that off. It’s dramatic and nuanced enough to show off her interpretation skills, without being so dramatic and nuanced that it drowned her. It allows her to be youthful and exploit her cuteness while also showing mature expression and musicality. Really, there was nothing I thought this program was missing. It’s made me a fan of hers (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one). I really want her to be the next Russian Wunderkind when she’s old enough for seniors because she has almost everything: expression, jumps, spins, musicality, polish and refinement…her consistency isn’t always great, but still! I really love this child. 🙂

Also, whoever came up with the “kitty spread eagle” (yes, stupid name, but it gets the point across) should be knighted.

Best Short Program (Junior Pairs)-Renata Ognesian/Mark Bardei-“The Race II”

The cheering sounds in the music. The step sequence. The huge triple twist. The literal race car costumes. It is so strange and I love it.

I have watched very little of the pairs at any junior events this season. Can you tell? #NotManyOptions

definitely did might have liked this program because it’s something I can see one of the  pairs in the fictional pairs skating universe in my mind doing. (If I ever see a junior pairs program to Requiem For a Dream, I’ll die, because that is this fictional pair’s signature program, which they did as juniors in my mind. LOL.)

Best Free Skate (Junior Pairs)-Anna Duskova/Martin Bidar (“La Leyenda Del Beso”)

This is actually where I got the idea for my current program, so of course I picked it. I might only like it because of the delightful surprise Junior Worlds win and the music, but I really don’t follow junior pairs, so don’t expect much.

Best Junior Short Dance-Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (“Peer Gynt”)

In ice dance, there is usually very little space between “bland” and “freakily avant-garde.” I think that’s why I appreciate Lorraine and Quinn so much: they have a good balance of the two. This short dance got better feedback than most of the seniors’ programs did, mainly because it was so unique-I mean, who hears “waltz SD” and thinks “mountain trolls”? I loved it! Fun, quirky, and very well-done. They’ve got a really fantastic style that I can’t wait to see more of. I hope they go seniors and do some amazing weird blues SD, because I need that in my life.

Also, Lorraine gives SUCH FACE. Has she been taking lessons from Wenjing Sui? 😉

(I just got a sudden urge to write a novel about that, actually. I’m very strange.)

Best Junior Free Dance-Anastasia Shpilevaya/Grigory Smirnov (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”)

Russian senior ice dance may be going through a bit of a crisis period, but their junior dance field is alive and well. Case in point: Shpilevaya/Smirnov, my favorite of their current crop of junior teams. They didn’t have a great JGP but went on to win the Youth Olympics and place an impressive 5th at Junior Worlds-with my favorite junior free dance of the season. They skate with such passion and abandon-if you were to clone Bobrova/Soloviev, fix their posture, make them skate very delicately, and put them through a Dramatic Facial Expression Enhancer, you would get something like this team. Their delicate skating and dramatic facial expressions are a bit of an odd combination, but I like it, and I will basically automatically adore you if you skate to Umbrellas of Cherbourg, so there is also that.

Best Free Skate (Junior Men)-TIE-Daniel Samohin & Roman Sadovsky

I didn’t like any men’s SPs, so I just chose two FSes. I like this one because it is kind of quirky and unusual but not too much so.

And I liked this one because it is very, um, elegant, I think. To be honest, I watched it once-at JGP Bratislava, EIGHT MONTHS AGO (okay, how did that happen)-and I remember liking it, but I’m too lazy to go re-watch it to remember what I liked. Hehe.

Favorite Junior Moments/Performances 2015-16

Emily Chan’s Short Program at the U.S. Championships 

Emily Chan, simply put, is a gorgeous skater. I could watch her spin and do step sequences for an entire free skate and not even notice that she didn’t jump. Her skating is always a pleasure to watch, but when she lands stuff, it’s downright magical, so her flawless short program at Nationals was a no-brainer when I was deciding what to put on this list.

Check this out, 13-year-old jumping machines: it’s the late-bloomer advantage. You can jump, but they will out-spin, out-interpret, and out-footwork you. They are coming.

Maria Sotskova’s Free Skate at Junior Worlds 

Junior Worlds was a bit of a soap opera for the Russian ladies: favorite Polina Tsurskaya withdrew the day of the short program, leaving teammates Alisa Fedichkina and Maria Sotskova to-hopefully-duke it out for the title in her place. Alisa emerged as the frontrunner, tying Marin Honda for the lead in the short program, but she injured her ankle on the day of the free skate, leaving only one competitor, Maria Sotskova, to secure Russia’s three spots for the next Junior Worlds. To do so, she would have to win gold or silver. It was possible-she sat in third after the short-but the pressure was on, and everyone was anxious to see if she would deliver.

Deliver she did. Winning the silver medal, she clinched the three spots singlehandedly, a feat many thought impossible. Maddest respect to Masha for managing to throw down when it seriously counted.

Vivian Le’s Short Program from JGP Bratislava

My favorite junior (#UnbridledPatriotism) did not have a particularly impressive second half of the season, losing the National title she was heavily favored to win and a chance to go the the JGPF when she bombed JGP USA, but three of her events-Glacier Falls, JGP Bratislava and Sectionals-were very good. And when she is on, she is RIDICULOUSLY good. This short program was perfection. I think she might be moving up (she won senior at a club competition with an amazing 71-point SP and a bombed 101-point FS), but I kind of hope she won’t because I really want her to make the JGPF. Senior at Nationals would be fine (it seems like the only way to make Junior Worlds in the US, lol), though. And I’ve gone off on a tangent again…well, you get it. I am kind of too obsessed with Vivian and I will take any chance I get to ramble on about her.

Duskova/Bidar’s Surprise Junior World Title 

Small-federation JWCs make me so happy…*sniff*

McNamara/Carpenter’s US Championships Short Dance 

Any of Lorraine & Quinn’s short dance performances could’ve made this list, but I think this was their finest. #MountainTrollz #PleaseMoveUpWeNeedYouOnTheGP

Parsons/Parsons’ Junior Worlds Short Dance 

Literally nobody expected the Parsons to overtake McNamara/Carpenter at Junior Worlds, so this was a very nice surprise. Note: it broke the Junior SD scoring record.

And now I’m out of ideas. Will be back with the next post soon. 

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A Few of My Favorite Things, 2015-16: Costumes (pairs/dance)

Yup, it’s back!

This is the fourth of seven planned posts in the Favorite Things series, and I have been thinking about what I will include in it all day, so hopefully I won’t leave anything out. (STILL kicking myself for leaving out Tobias/Tkachenko’s Free Dance from the free skates post…)

Anyway, this is structured the same as the last post: top five costumes in each segment of each discipline. So…here goes!

Top Three Pairs Short Program Costumes 

  1. Wenjing Sui/Cong Han (“Spanish Romance”)

Despite the fact that Sui’s dress is the stuff my eight-year-old dreams were made of (it’s PINK and PURPLE and SPARKLY!), I appreciated this lovely slap-in-the-face to anyone who thinks you can’t wear pink without looking juniorish. His is fine, too.

Non-costume-related note: Sui had a ligament surgery in her ankle (I believe that is what it was-sorry if incorrect) earlier today. I wish her/them a full and fast recovery and hopefully they will not have to sit out the whole season, which would make the pairs event 88% less interesting.

2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (“Creature de Siam”)

Bruno looks like a waiter, but I will forgive that because Aliona’s dress, while not shown in its full spectacularity in this picture, reaches a level of sparkliness beyond what I thought was possible.

(No, seriously. I watched them compete at worlds from the top of the Loge seating and it was blindingly sparkly even up there. No wonder Bruno looks like a waiter…they probably used up their whole costume budget on Aliona’s bling!)

3. Tarah Kayne/Daniel O’Shea (“Take Me To Church”)

Not the best picture, but these were lovely. The burgundy color (is that the right name for it?) was very striking, and I loved the draped bodice and one-shoulder sleeve thing (*applause for word choice*) on Tarah’s dress. Basically, as long as the man does not look like a waiter, a vegetable (#BlueLettuce), or a 18th-century agrarian, I don’t care what he’s wearing…so this shirt was fine. I liked that they matched, actually. Not many pairs color-coordinate, LOL.

Top Three Pairs Free Skate Costumes 

  1. Wenjing Sui/Cong Han (“Samson and Delilah”)

This is one of the only costumes on this list where I felt the man’s costume was on par with the lady’s: I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s eye-catching and goes with the program…and doesn’t look like a waiter, vegetable or agrarian. Woohoo. But even so, Sui’s dress was still the standout: that shade of blue is my favorite color, and I love the asymmetrical tiered skirt and the wavy rows of crystals. Okay, I admit I’m a sparkle fiend, but it really does make an impact when the crystals on a dress are somewhat directional (like I said in the ladies’ costume post).

2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (“Man and Shadow”)

Again, I am willing to overlook a subpar costume from the man (Fedor, please refrain from wearing loungewear in the future-this is an international athletic event, not a Netflix marathon!) because the woman’s costume is so great. I usually hate neutral-colored costumes because they tend to look bland, but the draping and the ribbon-looking things on Ksenia’s dress make it very interesting and extremely chic. It really matched the somber, somewhat “heavy” feel of Stolbova/Klimov’s free skate.

However, Fedor needs to stop wearing pajamas on international television.

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

There have been so many POTO programs that, both in terms of the program itself and the costumes, it’s hard to make yours stand out. I think these costumes worked because of their simplicity: neither costume was very sparkly or colorful, and in this case, that was apparently what this program needed. I especially liked the use of lace trim on Tarah’s dress-normally that makes the dress look like a nightgown, but in this case it didn’t. Points for that, and also for managing to make a black, non-sparkly dress that wasn’t boring.

(I don’t understand Danny’s affinity for man-blouses, but he does not look like a farmer, vegetable or waiter, so I will let it slide.)

Top Three Short Dance Costumes 

  1. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (“The Stunt Man” Soundtrack)

Orange costumes are strangely rare in any discipline, let alone ice dance.

Attractive orange costumes are practically an extinct species.

So despite the atrocity that is Ivan’s vest, these costumes win the short dance category on the sheer perfection of Alexandra’s Bedazzled Background Dancer In A Florida Orange Juice Commercial Dress™. Because anyone who can make an eye-searing shade of orange look beautiful has my utmost respect.

(JK, I actually love pretty much all orange dresses. This one was probably my favorite costume of the entire season in any discipline.)

2. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (“The Merry Widow”)

There are many things I love about these costumes:

  1. Anna’s dress looks like a vintage 1950’s wedding dress. (Along with anything 20’s-inspired, I dig 50’s-inspired costumes. Yes, I just said “dig”, get over it. #ProudDork)
  2. Luca is wearing a vest and a tie but doesn’t look like a waiter at the Cheesecake Factory.
  3. These were a much-needed change from the cringeworthy pink fur boa nightmare things they wore earlier in the season. (I always like costumes more if they’re a change from a costume I didn’t like.)

As I said in the singles post, I like white dresses a lot-I think white is probably my favorite color of skating costumes, actually (along with purple)-so it was rather inevitable that this A. white, B. Sparkly and C. 50’s-looking dress was going to end up on this list. And Luca’s costume isn’t A. all one neutral color or B. a waiter/vegetable/farmer, so I approve.

3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (“More”/”Unchained Melody”)

I try not to be insanely pro-American in my posts because, although I admittedly sometimes am in my head, it makes me look rather unprofessional. So I tried to limit this list to one American per category, even if it was hard and I was tempted to throw in extra spots and make it top 5 so I could put in the 85 teams whose costumes I loved at Nationals or whatever. However, I decided to be unpatriotic, stop giving Cannuscio/McManus every possible award (I LOVE THEM, OKAY?!?), and stick to one. Chock/Bates were the obvious choice, even though Madison’s costume screams “prom dress” (which, actually, I didn’t mind, because looking at prom dresses is one of my guilty pleasures-LOL?). Evan’s costume is fine, if borderline waiterish, but as usual, Madison is the “costume star”. I loved the sparkly draped bodice and the teal underskirt; also, the skirt was delightfully twirly and I would always stare at it when they twizzled. I have heard that Madison designs their costumes, so if she designed this one, she did very well with it. 🙂

Plus, the illusion mesh actually matched her skin, which is unfortunately rare considering that that is kind of the point of illusion mesh.

Top Three Free Dance Costumes 

  1. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (“La Dolce Vita”)

This was as close as any team came to a perfect set of costumes this season: while Luca’s costume could’ve been more interesting, Anna’s dress is near the top of my all-time-favorite-dresses list. I’ve talked about it a lot-this was the most thorough recap of why I liked it-so I won’t bother to write it up again. Suffice to say that it was magictastical. (Yes, I made that up. #ProudDorkReturns)

2. Isabella Tobias/Ilia Tkachenko (“Polovtsian Dances”)

Tobias/Tkachenko were one of my favorite “discoveries” of this season. I kind of ignored them for most of the season but, when I saw them in person at Worlds, realized that that was a regrettable decision. Their Free Dance was fantastic, and I was going to put it on the favorite FDs list in the free skates post, but I forgot. However, I also loved their costumes, so I managed to get in a mention somewhere else. Isabella’s dress was one of the most interesting ice dance dresses this season (just to be clear, I mean that in a good way). The faux necklace things on the neckline and bodice, and the black sparkly bits, were gorgeous, impactful, and went well with the somewhat Middle Eastern theme of the program (okay, I know that Polovtsian Dances isn’t Middle Eastern, but it got the point across better than “Central Asian”!). Ilia looks fine, but Isabella’s dress is kind of the “focal point” and it works out fine because when you have a dress like that, you need to show it off. :p

3. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (“Fix You”)

I admit I am more than slightly biased towards this program, but I thought these costumes were a perfect fit for it. I once read a costume recap from last year in which the author commented that Denis Ten’s SP costume was rather simple so it wouldn’t distract from the emotion of the program, and I feel like that was the point of these costumes. This free dance might not have been quite as effective with gaudy or overdone costumes-it might have been a bit distracting because this is not a gaudy program. So these costumes fit the bill: they were simple but not bland, and I don’t think there was a single crystal anywhere on them. In a word, they were understated (as they should’ve been). Simply sublime.

Four down, three to go! Next up is what will probably be the longest post in this series, the Favorite Junior Things recap. I am planning to include a variety of things-programs, costumes, specific performances-so it might be a long one. I’m not sure when I’ll get it finished, but stay tuned. 

 

 

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.