Stockholm Ice 2012

May 16, 2012
By Lena Halonen and Eva Maria Jangbro EMJO
Photos © Eva Maria Jangbro EMJO and Lena Halonen

This was the third edition of the Stockholm Ice show in the Globe Arena, a show that by now has become a tradition for Swedish skating fans. The live music added a very interesting touch to the skating. In several other shows around the world this is already common, like in the Art on Ice shows. They are affiliated with Stockholm Ice, so perhaps it is not so surprising the concept was brought here. The question was whether the audience would like the idea or not.

One of the singers was Malena Ernman, a mezzo soprano very well-known in the opera world. After her participation in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, she is also known to the general public. Amy Diamond was the second singer, but she also acted as host for the night together with Kristoffer Berntsson. Amy had her break through at the age of 12 with the song "What’s in It for Me?". She has now turned 20 and released 5 albums and done TV shows.

 

Day 1, Sunday: Practice session

This is the day you usually find out which of the skaters are actually coming, which are not and, if any, who missed their flight to Stockholm. This year Yuka Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov came and we were glad they made it. They replaced Tanya Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who didn’t come. We were sad they didn’t, but there had been more changes in the announced cast this year than before. Russian ice dancers Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov were replaced by French ice dancers Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. We wouldn’t have minded seeing both…There was some confusion a couple of months ago about the actual show date, since Stockholm Ice and Art on Ice showed different dates when we checked their websites. Could this be why some skaters could not make it?

Anyway, back to practice. While opera singer Malena Ernman did a sound check, the Swedish skaters were on the ice. It sure was nice to see Adrian Schultheiss again after his long break due to back surgery last December. He was to skate to “The Simpsons” theme. At first we thought he looked a little out of shape; he had developed a beer belly! But of course it was a fake one to make him look more like Homer Simpson. Adrian’s coach Maria Bergqvist told us they had had some problems finding the right color for his face (yellow), but it was solved by using a mask (which we did not get to see during practice). As always we had a chat with Irina Majorova, who told us Sasha had prepared a modern piece, hip hop, for the show, but then found out he was going to skate to live music from “Carmen”, sung by Malena Ernman. We kind of had doubts about that music choice, but it turned out to be one of the evening’s best surprises. Salome Brunner, who had selected the live music pieces, sure knows what suits a skater. She has an eye for it, but that is hardly news. Salome worked with Viktoria Helgesson on some transition numbers and then continued teaching the group number steps to Adrian and Sasha. Stéphane Lambiel worked with Miki Ando, since he had choreographed one of her programs.

Viktoria’s younger sister Joshi Helgesson skated an energetic number. She was a really nice addition to the cast this year. Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy ran through one of their programs and showed us their throw triple Axel. Wow!

Kristoffer Berntsson had prepared a very special program for the show, but more on that later. To our great surprise there was to be one more opera singer: Per–Håkan Precht, a tenor with a powerful voice!

We were of course wondering who else, except for Sasha, would skate to live music and to what piece. It turned out to be both ice dance teams (Natalie Péchalat/Fabian Bourzat, Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte), Kavaguti/Smirnov, Viktoria Helgesson, Miki Ando and Stéphane Lambiel.

Sadly, during the dress rehearsal, Adrian Schultheiss took a bad landing on a triple toe and was taken to the hospital since he felt severe pain in the foot. He later returned on crutches. Such bad luck for him, and for us who didn’t get to see him in the show. But from what we gather he is doing much better now and training in Philadelphia.

 

Day 2, Monday: The show

The good seats on the long sides and one short side of the arena were full, and some people were sitting in the second level. But unfortunately, there were many empty seats as well.

Just as in previous years, the show started with a pre-show. This time piano wiz Robert Wells appeared on a TV screen welcoming everybody to the show, and introducing one of his piano students; “11-year-old Alice Power. She is at the Globe arena tonight playing the piano for us!” Children of all ages made up as clowns entered the ice, and one by one did small numbers, like a few steps from Yagudin’s “Winter” footwork, which was very appreciated by the audience.

Then hosts Amy Diamond performed her song “It’s my life” while skating around the rink. Amy actually used to skate, but decided to give it up in favor of her music making. Next up was Alexandra Charles, the media personality who introduced the 1.6 million club (that many women in Sweden were above the age of 45 when the club started) and the 2.6 million club (that many women in Sweden are between the ages of 18 and 45). Both clubs support research in women’s heart diseases and spread information about it. Victoria Helgesson is a spokesperson for the 2.6 million club.

 

Act One

Team Surprise, the Swedish champions in team skating and now world champions as well, performed to “Beautiful people”. All the girls wore lovely blue dresses and as they skated, the skirts moved from the speed creating the coolest patterns to enhance all the formations and lift they performed.

Kristoffer Berntsson, making his hosting debut, and Amy Diamond entered and introduced Joshi Helgesson. Amy is more used to this kind of job and looked more relaxed, but Kristoffer did fine too, remembering all the comments he was to make at the right moment.

Joshi, full of energy as always, skated to “Feeling good”. She did a double Axel, a Russian split and a triple Salchow. According to comments we heard from the audience at Europeans, many skating fans see a future champion in this girl.

Kavaguti/Smirnov skated to “Dark eyes” sung by a man with a very deep voice, very powerful. Their program included some highly impressive lifts. This pair has fun in an entertaining but somewhat low key way. Their program was fairly traditional with all the moves you’d expect from pair skaters, but Yuka’s amazing smile in throw jump landings and Alexander kneeling on the ice ripping his shirt open while shaking his shoulders at the end of the program, were fun and memorable moment. Big applauds followed from the audience.

Viktoria Helgesson skated to a medley: Marilyn Monroe in “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, Nicole Kidman (same song) and Madonna’s “Material girl”. The number started with Viktoria dressed in white with sparkles sitting on the stage. As she started to skate dancers came on stage. It was a program with good variation in the music, with both a more flirty, slower part, and one more upbeat.

Ice clowns/acrobats Aidas Reklys and Akop Manoukian, dressed in bright colored suits and hats, did a funny number to the music “swing”. They did some crazy things like cart wheeling together and doing lots of back flips. They are appreciated by the entire crowd, both children and adults.

In another transition Amy and Kristoffer performed a simple ice dance. It looked a bit shaky as they did crossovers forward, Amy did some three turns and stooped quite soon. Then they introduced the ice dance couple from Italy.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte skated to “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca, sung by Per-Håkan Precht. It was very emotional and captivating, and we found ourselves not wanting this performance to end, something we’ve come to associate with these Italians.

Next to skate was Alexander Majorov to “Segudilla” from Carmen, sung by Malena Ernman. This was the program we were worried about, but there was a particularly good connection between the skater and singer, and no one was disappointed. Soft but masculine skating from Alexander, which suited him very well. As mentioned; he had thought of totally different music to skate to (hip hop), but this was perfect. Perhaps in another year he will be allowed to skate two programs and can pick one himself so we still get to see the hip hop. We heard comments after the show about how amazingly he skated that night. This type of program is something we would like to see more of from Alexander in the future.

Miki Ando performed to “O Mio Babbino Caro” (from Gianni Schicchi), choreographed by Stéphane Lambiel and sung by Malena Ernman. Miki was dressed in white, and not black as some pointed out has become her color. Stéphane: “Miki came to Switzerland for two days and we did this choreography. She chose the music and we both kind of knew what we wanted, so it was two intense days.”

Natalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat did some Dirty Dancing, and as soon as the music started the crowd clapped. The moves and music are known to almost everyone, so this was a perfect show number. And in the middle there was somefunky music which got the audience clapping even more. Toys were thrown on the ice afterwards.

Aljona Savschenko and Robin Szolkowy skated their short program to the soundtrack from the movie Angels and Demons. They were not yet introduced, but immediately when the spotlight found them the audience applauded them warmly. Since they skated their short program, the audience also got to see what a competition program is like, which we believe many in the audience had not watched live before.

Amy and Kristoffer introduced Stéphane Lambiel, and the applauds immediately started up again. During his “Please don’t stop the music” performance, there were a lot of whistling and clapping from the audience. A very well-choreographed number, with a lot of movements that made the program interesting, but not so many jumps. They are not necessary when he skates. In this number you could just see and feel how much he loves what he is doing; it became so obvious. He feels the music and shares his emotions and sense of interpretation of the music with the audience.

Kristoffer introduced Team Surprise. They skated their engaging long program to music from Moulin Rouge. This kind of program one should actually watch from a bit higher up since the formations are seen better that way. Amy wished them good luck in the upcoming World Championships (which they won).

During the intermission Alice Power played the piano and skaters dressed in old style clothes performed. Later Amy Diamond entered the stage together with four dancers and sung a song called “Up”.

 

Act Two

Kristoffer’s cold spot kicked off the second act. The spotlights were turned off and a soft blue light covered the arena. Kristoffer skated to “Fix you” and picked up a light that flowed through the air with his hand movements. This was a need to see to get the feeling of the program. It was a very interesting number we would like all Kristoffer’s fans around the world to be able to see. After his performance Kristoffer sat down on the stage and joined Luca for a drink. Luca had had too much already, but tried to skate to “That´s amore” by Dean Martin. Anna entered in a pretty white dress and took the bottle away from Luca. They performed a fun and at the same time upbeat number when the music changed to “Americano”.

Amy introduced Miki, who sat on the ice when the music started. This was an emotional and soft performance to “A thousand winds”. Miki showed a side of her skating that differs from the competition programs she has done. She is an expressive and emotional skater, and toys were thrown on the ice after this number, a proof that the audience approved.

Kavaguti and Smirnov returned skating to “Nessun Dorma”, sung live by Per-Håkan Precht. This pair can really create magic when they put their minds to it. Yes, they have improved. Their beautiful lifts feel so secure and are beautiful to watch.

Amy introduced Victoria Helgesson who performed to “Casta diva” from the opera Norma, sung by Malena Ernman. Malena commented during practice: “It is so beautiful one gets teary eyed”. We already knew Viktoria could skate beautifully with lots of feeling, and this was no exception. Big applauds from the appreciative audience.

Emanuelle Balmoris a skilled air acrobat doing a lot of her acrobatics in a hula hoop hanging over the ice. Malena sang “Tragedy”, an upbeat pop song that went well with the performance of Emanuelle. These kinds of programs were very appreciated by the audience last year as well.

Malena and the dancers were on stage when Natalie and Fabian returned and skated to “Perdus”. This was very different from the program they showed in the first act. The French ice dancers showed a more dramatic dance to this French song about lost and broken dreams. Beautiful.

The comedians and the dancers had a competition doing backflips and other movements in a short transition number.

Per-Håkan Precht sang “La donna è mobile” and Stéphane skated. The music is from the opera Rigoletto, and just like the storyline this program was a mix of serious and fun. Flowers were thrown on the ice and there was a lot of clapping, stamping and whistling. Stéphane was clearly the star of the show.

Amy and Kristoffer welcomed Aljona and Robin back, and they skated to “Moon over lake”. They are always so unison on the ice, skating like one, and it’s such a pleasure to watch them. Everything flows, and the tempo shifts in the program made it interesting and very captivating to watch.

Then it was time for Kristoffer to introduce Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist from the USA. He skated to “Roxane” from Moulin Rouge.The triple Lutz was perfect; this was a dramatic program that suited Evan very well. It would have been nice to watch two numbers from him since he is the reigning Olympic champion, and we think the audience kind of expected that too.

Malena Ernman took the stage and sang her Eurovison song “La Voix” while all the skaters came out for the grand finale. As the number progressed the skaters skated around the rink and at the end some did some extra solo moves. Aljona and Robin did a death spiral, Stéphane tried a quad toe and Alexander Majorov a triple Axel. And that ended this year’s show…sad but true.

Some people in the audience commented after the show that it was the best of the three editions since it had live music. We agree that it adds that extra magic and were happy the audience appreciated it too.

We talked briefly to Malena Ernman after the show, and she had this to say about her new experience: “I tried to follow the skaters with my voice, and tried to sing what they were expressing. It was really fun! Some of them truly have musical talents. I like being part of something new and different. I don’t skate myself, but I always follow figure skating on TV. Figure skating is the most beautiful of sports!”

It sure is; we are the first to agree! This years’ show left us with both a great and a somewhat sad feeling. The great feeling was the nice connection between the singers and skaters. We asked Stéphane Lambiel about that process and he said: ”It simply depends on the personality if that connection goes well. The singers we have here are all great, with stunning voices.”

The sad part was, aside that we now have to wait a whole year for the next show, that there were too many empty seats. There were only approximately 6000 people in the audience, and the Globe arena can hold so many more than that. Malena Ernman gave a concert the next day in Stockholm and perhaps some of her fans had chosen that one instead of attending Stockholm Ice for this “once in a lifetime” event with her. We will never know, but we do know for sure that we’ll be back next year. Stockholm Ice is a great show; it has it all!

 

 






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