Skate Canada 2009: Day 4
By Suzanne Herrmann
Photos ┬ę Suzanne Herrmann
The exhibition practice was perhaps the most fun part of the event. It is great to see everyone in a relaxed environment, having fun and being a little bit goofy. There was a definite camaraderie on the ice. The dancers were the only skaters missing as the Free Dance had not occurred yet. The top three in each event took to the ice followed shortly by Benoit Lavoie (Skate Canada President), the CEO of Skate Canada (Homesense Skate Canada I think), and Barbara Underhill and her Battle of the Blades partner, Ron Duguay. It was a practice of organized chaos. At one point, Patrick Chan almost took out the camera in the boards (there was a camera inserted into the boards to give a unique view of the skating on the judges side of the arena).
Some of the skaters came to the arena in street clothes (Maria Muhorktova wore jeans), others in comfortable clothing (Max Trankov wore sweatpants) and still others in actual practice clothing (Alissa Czisny had black pants on with stars!). Others obviously had been shopping at some point during the week—Aliona Savchenko was wearing her black Canada Olympic shirt. Off-ice, Kurt Browning was dancing around in the commentator’s booth as he was talking to Benoit Lavoie.
The most entertaining part of the practice was when Alissa was practicing her crazy combination spin. I lost track of which positions she hit but it definitely included every sit spin variation I could think of in a cannonball or pancake spin on each foot, a catch camel and her trademark Y spin. It sounds like a short spin but she must have hit at least 7 different positions and the spin went on and on and on. It was amazing!
Well, while she was in her spin, Jeremy Abbott decided to mimic her and make it a pair’s spin. He may have already been in a spin when he started this. Anyway, he matched her position for position until she hit the Y spin and he stopped and kind of said, yeah right! The audience and other skaters were amused by this as were Jeremy and Alissa. I am sure it is a lot of fun to have the opportunity to skate with friends you would only see at events.
After each skater or team had a chance to skate through their program, the choreographer for the finale asked everyone to line up in two or three lines on the ice. The result was essentially a blob. This was humorous because as Nexxice, the World Champion Synchronized Skating team took the ice, they were asked to do the same and immediately were in two perfect lines and remained in two perfect lines. It is quite evident where each group’s training lies. The skaters worked on simple footwork that travelled from one end to the other and then travelled back along the sides to finish at the end they started at. The singles skaters, pair (and eventually dance) teams took turns doing a highlight move. Following them was Nexxice. The team did Ina Bauers in three lines curving across the ice. They are amazing and it looked exquisite! The team then travelled to the center in a circle with the competitors making a larger circle around the team and taking a pose. It looked good for the brief time they spent on it.
Also during practice, Barbara and Ron worked on their last program from Battle of the Blades as they both skated in hockey skates. Patrick Chan was a little late to practice and ran through his program at that point in practice instead. While everyone was still on the ice, Benoit landed a double Lutz under the tutelage of Joannie Rochette and proceeded to get down on his knees and bow to her in thanks.
The exhibition itself had some house lights on, which my camera appreciated, but made it feel more like an exhibition rather than a skating show—usually the lights are down. I know people often like the lights down, but I do not think it really made much of a difference. I especially enjoyed the effect of the shadows of the skaters in the spotlights as they shown on the ice. During one of the breaks, the CEO of Skate Canada and Benoit Lavoie explained that they would stop periodically as the gala was being broadcast live.
It was interesting to see Alban Preaubert skate to a serious program. That is a good side for him though I do love his inner comedian. I was happy to see another version of Alban.
I think Patrick Chan skated to If I Ruled the World. It stuck out to me because it was the same song that was played over and over on the first day! It was a great program.
I also enjoyed Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s program, but thought it really needed more mileage. I am used to them skating seamless programs and this one felt like they were moving element to element. (Music was Jack & Diane)
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat sadly did not participate in the exhibition. I was disappointed to see that their name was not on the list as I enjoy them very much. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviev took their place, which was a wonderful opportunity for them. They skated to Russian Folk Music… when the music finally decided to play! They were in their starting pose for quite a while. The audience started to laugh, she made a gesture with her hand and then they started to laugh.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Solkowy skated a fun program that related to the audience and showed a number of tricks culminating with the head banger.
Laura Lepisto’s number was enjoyable and different—she used a ribbon as a rhythmic gymnast would—but the music was very short and I would have liked to see more of her skating.
Joannie Rochette used her program that she skated to in Stars on Ice last year. She looks fantastic in it and of course the crowd really enjoyed her.
Daisuke Takahashi’s was well-received by and he managed a triple-triple, much to the audience’s delight!
Maria Muhorktova and Maxim Trankov brought an interesting twist with their number that highlighted them individually. Max did many spread eagles which are nice to see again—they have become a lost art. At one point Maria did a layback.
Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison also skated their program they used for Stars on Ice last year, but I enjoyed their costumes much more this time. They are lovely skaters and have a great all-around quality to their skating that makes them pleasurable to watch.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje completed lifts that wowed the crowd.
Alissa Czisny’s program was well-received by the crowd and included many incredible spirals and spins. It is a fabulous way to show off her abilities and the audience went crazy for her amazing combination spin!
Jeremy Abbott also has a great skating quality and chose music that showed off that side of him.
Tessa and Scott, Joannie, Kaitlyn and Andrew, Barbara and Ron earned standing ovations. Alissa received one as well from a good portion of the crowd. The Canadian audiences are marvelous and do not hesitate to stand for skaters that skated wonderfully or have a wonderful quality to their skating.
Last but not least was the finale—the most entertaining portion of the evening. As previously mentioned from exhibition practice, the dancers were not present so you can imagine this added a challenge to the number. It was just short of hilarious to watch them try to have an idea about what they were doing but could not even pretend to know. The skaters were laughing, we were laughing. I do not know how much of the arena was laughing, but my section was laughing pretty hard! Not only did the dancers not know what to do, they were all standing together so they could not even follow one another! After Nexxice completed their amazing Ina Bauers and moved to the center and made a circle, half the skaters did not realize they had to get inside the circle as well and were trapped inside. It was definitely not how the choreographer planned the finale but in some ways it was better simply because it was so entertaining. The music was a perfect choice. It was fitting for the Olympics about trying hard. Benoit and the CEO of Skate Canada spoke about the music and about how it came to be composed. The skaters skated a lap around the ice, waving to the crowd before leaving the ice. It was a great end to a great event.