Dreams On Ice 2013

June 28-30, Yokohama, Japan

August 8, 2013
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © Keiko Kasai

The Olympic season, which officially started on July 1st, kicked off a bit early in Japan with the Japanese team exhibition: Dreams On Ice. It began on June 28th with fourteen single skaters, one couple, one synchronized team and three guest skaters appearing on the ice. The exhibition started in a rather soft mood but finished with excitement. Let me share some of my impressions of the performances.

ACT I

There were mainly junior skaters in the first act. Taichi Honda, fourteen years old, skated a very danceable program (Runaway Baby) and looked really adorable. He had great contact with the audience.

Riona Kato showed a beautiful and consistent performance to Flower Duet. She said she wanted to show her skating skills in a beautiful way and I could certainly feel her intention. In the event program she wrote that her goal is a quadruple. That is a high goal, what a spirit!

The performance by Keiji Tanaka was a real eye-opener for me. He is no longer a junior skater by any means. He has grown taller and more masculine, and showed great maturity in his program (Doctor Zhivago). I can’t wait to watch him succeed in the senior circuit.

Another skater who seemed taller was Rika Hongo, who came into sudden prominence after placing 5th at the Japan Senior Championships. She hass hown great potential and given Japanese figure skating fans a reason to believe that she just might be the next world top skater. She has amazing speed! In her performance to Don Quixote she used a fan efficiently, though somehow her jumps seemed slightly smaller than last season. I hope I was just deluded.

Shoma Uno skated to The Blessed Spirits. At age fifteen, this boy already shows a mature expressiveness. His performances are always enjoyable to watch as you know you’ll be entertained. He attempted a triple toe-triple toe combination during this event, but unfortunately it didn’t succeed.

I can’t admire Satoko Miyahara enough for her dedication to this sport. She always shows beautiful and consistent performances. This time however, I felt like herprogram (Solace) was a little too grown-up for her. I am looking forward to seeing her new competitive programs.

Ryuju Hino said he wanted to skate to music to which he could fully use his character, and chose Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev. He’s a really high jumper and landed lots of difficult jumps here, but he was not in top condition yet so I want to hold off commenting his program for right now. I hope he’ll be able to portray a perfectly romantic Romeo very soon.

Haruka Imai is one of the best skaters to delight the audience. She has such a cute appearance, a great glide, beautiful skating skills and amazing spins. The one thing she really needed was consistent jumps, and now she seemed to have gained those too. Please look forward to her success this season. She skated her old short program which she has renewed for the up-coming season, Song Without Words Op.109.

The synchronized team, Jingu Ice Messengers Grace, showed big improvements. Even though the number of skaters is only twelve, they skated fast and executed complicated intersections quickly and correctly during their performance to The Great Queen Seon Deok. They do get better and better each year.

ACT II

The second act started with Yuki Nishinos performance to Big Spender and it was unlike anything you’d expect from her. Her image is “innocent pretty girl” rather than femme fatale. Still, her beautiful spins and spiral made the audience enjoy her performance.

Another eye-catching performance was offered by Nobunari Oda. The music piece from The Last Samurai suited him perfectly. He glided so smoothly on the ice and so fast. During his performance he connected well with the audience and said afterwards that he “enjoyed along with them.” His jumps seemed not yet in top condition; still, if you saw his performance you would sense great success for him in the season to come. He, of course, got a huge standing ovation.

Cathy Reed/Chris Reed chose Japanese style music (Onmyoji) with a prevalent drum beat. At the last show of this event, while the audience still felt the excitement after the former performance, Cathy and Chris could capture the audience’s attention with their own fantastic performance. The program included various lifts which they executed beautifully. They look healthy and let’s cross our fingers for them to claim an Olympic spot as soon as possible.

Akiko Suzuki chose difficult music (Love Dance) from Cirque du soleil. She always shows high level performances, and did so in this event as well. She said she felt like in the zone at the last performance and the crowd knew to give her a standing ovation from all over the venue. Oh, I can only agree it was a stunning performance!

I have a firm conviction that Takahito Mura has stepped up to the next level after competing in his second World Championships. And although his performance has improved a lot overall, what I’d really wish to highlight is his jumps. They were all quite high and long, and so consistent that you would never think he would miss any. I guess he might be one of the best jumpers Japan has ever had. Besides the exhibition program Love Never Dies, he showed his new short program which combines two pieces of music: Cotton Club and Jumping Jack.

I looked at Kanako Murakami’s performance a month ago in the other show and was definitely impressed by how much she has improved. Her program I want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You was her free program already when she was a junior skater. Anyone who watched her here would recognize that she now looks like a totally different skater. Her jumps were not too good yet, but you would still enjoy the power and enthusiasm in her skating.

Before this event started, some worried if Yuzuru Hanyu could fulfill his role as the last performer of this big show. No kidding he could! He did it not only very well, but perfectly. He skated last season’s famous short program, Parisienne Walkways, passionately and energetically. He regretted that he couldn’t attempt a quadruple during his performance, but nobody cared about such a minor thing. He overwhelmed the venue and got standing ovations from every spectator stand. He said at the press conference that he suffers from a chronic injury. It’s not so serious but he has to keep treating it for quite a while. I know he is a super kid and I know he can handle his injury well and have the best season ever.

Guest Skaters

There were three guest skaters appearing in this show.

Miki Ando, who announced that she gave birth to a baby girl three months ago, skated two beautiful pieces. We were quite surprised when we heard the baby news because she skated so well that no one could believe it was so soon after the delivery. She didn’t try a lot of jumps but landed a beautiful triple Salchow. I think it might be a long and difficult road for her to come back as an Olympic contender, and I just hope the Japanese Skating Federation will give her a chance to clear the minimum score for the Winter Games as soon as possible.

Kevin Reynolds is very popular in Japan. We could see many Canadian flags in the stands when he appeared on the ice. He skated two programs. One to ACDC, which is danceable music and the other was something related to high school students (sorry I don’t know the music). Kevin showed wonderful musicality and with his attractive characters, he involved the audience in both programs and received generous applause.

The last guest skater was Javier Fernandez of Spain. What an outstanding performer he is! He skated an aerobics number pretending to attend an aerobics class. Sometimes he worked very seriously but at other times he clowned his way through the aerobic movements. Finally he turned into a superman like person. During his performance the audience was surprised, laughed and gave him a big hand for his funny movements. In the last two shows he skated his Chaplin medley. It is a lovely and heart-warming program and the audience loved it a lot.

Curtain Calls

After the finale, all the skaters appeared on the ice for curtain calls. The skaters usually give encores but this time only the male skaters were challenged to quadruple jumps. Yuzuru seemed to have a lot of drive and attempted the quad first and the most times. He landed a quad toe several times and then even did a quad toe-triple Axel-triple Axel sequence successfully. Unfortunately he couldn’t land the quad Salchow although he tried several times. Takahito landed a quad toe, while Nobunari tried a quadtoe-triple toe-triple toecombination but fell on the second triple toe; however, he landed a quad toe-triple toe-double toe combination. Kevin also landed a quad toe and even attempted a quad loop on which he fell. Meanwhile, Javier landed a quad toe and a quad Salchow. I feel dizzy watching the many rotations they made in total. Nethertheless, it was a moment for us to realize that without a quad no male skater can compete at the top during the up-coming Olympic season.

The show was over but in high glee, and there was a happy and fulfilled atmosphere in the venue. We have such wonderful talents in this sport now in Japan and also Daisuke Takahashi, Takahiko Kozuka and, of course, Mao Asada! We know this is a golden era of Japanese skating and hope it will keep flourishing throughout this season since many of these top skaters are planning to retire after the Olympic Games in 2014.

 


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