Stars on Ice Victoria

(Victoria, BC, Canada)

June 7, 2016
By Anna Zeitlin
Photos © Anna Zeitlin

It almost became a routine for me in the last few years – come May, I wait in anticipation for Canadian Stars on Ice show in Vancouver. I know it's going to be good, but how exactly will it look, which numbers will the skaters choose to perform, what feelings will the cast numbers convey? I intentionally don't watch any videos of previous tour stops and don't read any reviews; I want to experience everything first hand, without knowing what to expect, except greatness.

IMG_7796 (47K) Well, I knew almost nothing about the show – I did know who will be part of the cast in Victoria. And I felt sorry that I won't get the privilege to see Kurt Browning again, and that Shawn Sawyer is not part of the cast this year. But I was very eager to add two new (and big) names to my "have seen live" list – Elvis Stojko and Javier Fernandez. So, how did they, and the rest of the cast, fare in this year's installment of CSOI?

The title of this year's Stars on Ice show is (hashtag ready) #E-motion, but if I could add another sub-title to it, it probably would've been "Light and Shadow". A lot of show's numbers apply clever use of light, or lack thereof, starting with the opening number to "Set it in Motion (Staten Island Groove)" by Down to the Bone. When the music starts, the entire rink is dark, with the exception of a single ray of light, into which cast members, clad in black, come one after the other, being introduced and striking a pose for a few seconds. They then freeze in darkness as few groups at the sides of the rink, sitting and standing on stools, with some of the cast members doing moves in the middle, followed by lights, ending with Tessa Virtue carried on a bench by Scott Moir and Patrick Chan. Then every frozen figure comes to life, dancing and finally converging in the middle to strike the final pose – very impressive and a great start of the night! After a pause and applause, the music starts over and everyone dances their way to the backstage, Tessa again sitting on the bench which Scott and Patrick slide off the ice… only to appear again a few seconds later, but with Kaetlyn Osmond sitting on the bench instead of Tessa! While the music from the cast number continued, she danced to the ice and stopped in the middle. And then the music stopped for a short pause, and the solo numbers of the show started. A great transition, which I loved!

Kaetlyn delivered a lovely number to "Lovefool" by Postmodern Jukebox, not lacking technically too, with two double Axels, a triple, and a really nice split spin in the end. She has very nice and delicate movements and I'm eager to see what we will see from her next season.

IMG_7274 (70K)Next up were Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje with "This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight" by Dinah Washington/Max Richter. I really like this free dance of theirs, and had the good fortune to see it in "competition quality" at Team Challenge Cup. But even as a show number, Kaitlyn and Andrew manage to put so much into this dance – all these emotions and feelings, and at the same time step sequences and spins… It's a breathtaking dance and I was really happy to see it live once again.

When Kaitlyn and Andrew skated off the ice, they met Tessa on their way out, and Tessa did a touching transition - a tribute to David Bowie, skating to "Life on Mars" by AURORA, while Bowie's photos were shown on screens. After a while she was joined by Jeffrey Buttle, who skated in unison with Tessa, until she left the ice and the music stopped. A very moving transition that was.

IMG_7376 (39K) After applause and a brief silence Jeffrey's solo music started - "Cry Me a River" by Michael Bublé. As always, Jeffrey delivered a great performance – I really love his arm (and leg, while we're at it) movements, so intricate, so clever. He only did one triple, managed another double and then did a single Axel followed by a double Axel closer to the end of the performance. But his footwork and step sequences are absolutely brilliant, and that spin at the end, oh my!

Bowing after his performance, Jeffrey suddenly started snapping his fingers to the sounding rhythm, and then Joannie Rochette came out on the ice, doing the same, after which Jeffrey left her to perform the solo number. Did I say already how much I love this year's transitions in the show?

The rhythm and finger snapping interleaved with the start of Joannie's own music - "Hands to Myself" by Selena Gomez. Joannie is a great performer and this song and choreography suited her very much – a sexy and athletic number, smooth and upbeat. She did a triple and stumbled a bit on a double jump, but her step sequences were really good – a great act overall.

After Joannie left the ice it became completely dark for a few seconds, and then suddenly the lights shone brightly, illuminating Patrick Chan on the ice starting skating as his music began playing – "Esqualo" by Astor Piazzolla. It's such a wonderful number, and Patrick conveys so brilliantly the tango feel with his moves. He did a couple of triples and a double Axel, and showcased some spellbinding footwork and spins. Such a privilege to watch him on the ice.

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Breaking the solo numbers roughly at the mid-point, the three pairs of the cast joined together in a group number to "Rise Up" by Andra Day. They appeared on the ice one pair at a time, wearing white and getting some spotlight time each, and then started skating together, doing simultaneous lifts, each pair bathing in their own pool of light and then all coming together in a circle, breaking again and their individual lights shutting off in turn above each and every one. Such a beautiful number and again a very clever use of light and darkness.

Before Elvis Stojko started his performance, his tweet about being excited to be back with CSOI after 10 years was shown on the screens. The audience roared and clapped for him like for no one else, it seemed to me, and Elvis delivered a very entertaining number to "Love Runs Out" by OneRepublic, jumping a double Axel and a triple, doing some step sequences and nice spin at the end. He interacted well with the audience, even approached and kissed some lady in the first row and overall he was a lot of fun to watch.

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Meagan and Eric performed their number to "Piano Man" by Billy Joel – I really like it. You get into it from the moment Eric starts clapping while sitting on the chair as Meagan skates to him and, to the claps of the entire audience now, they start skating together. I love its rhythm, the clever choreography with the chair, Meagan and Eric's stunning lifts, spins (the one with an upside-down Meagan –wow!) and throw jumps, and their costumes (especially Eric's suspenders). Such a joy to see these two on the ice.

IMG_7630 (37K)"Honorary Canadian" (as Jeffrey Buttle called him at the end of the first act) Javier Fernandez was positively on fire skating to "Luck Be a Lady" by Frank Sinatra – I think I counted five triples in his program, one of them an Axel (I might have lost count at some point, befuzzled by the unexpected number of jumps in a show program, even if it's a part of the same one he skated as this season's FS). I like this program's choreography, especially "rolling the dice" moves, and seeing Javier performing it live left me impressed.

Tessa and Scott were exquisite in "What's Love Got to Do with it" by Miku Graham and Michael Shand, skating with such grace and emotion. I loved their costumes, which reminded me again of light and shadow. Their lifts and steps are always breathtaking, and every move, every turn of the head is pure perfection.

I was talking a lot about light and shadow up till now, and the best utilization of it, in my opinion, came in the closing number of the first act, to "The Sound of Silence" by Disturbed. The number started with a short video on the screens showing Scott Hamilton skating, and the words "Founder and 4 times World champion Scott Hamilton" and then "The Sound of Silence 2000" shown on top of the video clip. After that Elvis Jeffrey and Patrick emerged on the ice, with some intervals between them. They each stood in their own pool of light in the beginning and then started skating in unison, spinning, freezing in certain positions and at the end gliding through the ice and pausing as the darkness fell. I had shivers from this number, equally from the song, the choreography and the execution of it. Couldn't have had a better finish to the first act.

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The second act was opened by the entire cast skating to "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin. Patrick started out alone, sitting on a chair near the rink corner. He had a hat on which he used while doing a few moves, then other cast members started to appear, doing certain moves too and then everyone ended up standing in a circle as Tessa and Scott glided to the center and danced a little, after which more dancing in unison from the entire cast followed. It was a nice number but a little chaotic, in my opinion.

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Next a nice video was shown on screens, of each cast member in turn drawing some white vertical lines on the screen, which was a bit puzzling at first, until finally Elvis appeared, drew more lines than anyone else, and the words "30 World Medals" emerged on the screen. Very cute transition to Elvis' solo number, "Pieces" by Red. Unlike his first upbeat and energetic number, this one was very lyrical and solemn, and I actually liked it better, especially the way spins were incorporated into the music (and the way his vertical half-black half-white shirt worked with the spins).

After taking a bow to the applause from the audience, Elvis glided to the exit towards Kaetlyn who just appeared on the ice and continued to the center, moving to the music that started right after clapping for Elvis stopped. Then Kaetlyn's own music, "Wild Horses" by Natasha Bedingfield, started. It's a lovely number, and Kaetlyn is so graceful and delicate on the ice. I especially love her hand movements and her spins. She also did a very nice job on the jumps – double Axel and two different triples.

Meagan and Eric were up next, skating to "Believe" by Mumford & Sons. A really entertaining number, packed with technical content. They did a couple of double throw jumps and I was left breathless watching their amazing lifts and spins – the spin when Eric holds Meagan by the foot is just fantastic. A great number indeed.

Mid-act (or rather "one-third-in") group number showcased the girl power with Kaetlyn, Joannie, Tessa and Kaitlyn skating to "Sour Cherry" by The Kills. They didn't do much on the ice, mostly skated in unison and moved rhythmically, occasionally playing with their scarlet jackets. But it looked very sexy and fresh, and I enjoyed it.

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When the girls' number finished, Jeffrey appeared on the ice and his music, "Black & Gold" by Sam Sparro started, as each of the ladies left the ice, first coming over to Jeffery and doing a sort of spin around with him one by one. And then Jeffrey actually started his routine. And what a performance that was! I always love the way Jeffrey moves, and the choreography here emphasizes his abilities so well. Such smoothness of every move, and everything matched to the music, including the jumps (2A and 3T). I also liked Jeffrey's costume, black with gold embellishments, channeling the song's title.

IMG_8064 (40K) Kaitlyn and Andrew followed next, performing their "Arabic rap" (or is it hip-hop?) dance to "Get Low" by Dillon Francis & DJ Snake. It's such a fun dance, and it seems to me they also just relax, have fun and flow with it. It's very different from their usual routines, and that's also why it feels so fresh – few minutes of pure entertainment. At the part where they come to the audience, inviting a few people from the first row to dance with them a bit, it seemed to me that the guy dancing with Kaitlyn was Shawn Sawyer! I was too far away to make out his face clearly, but he looked like Sawyer and moved like him.

Javier's performance in the second act was to "Danny Boy" by John McDermott – a very lyrical and emotional number, beautifully presented by Javier. Smooth movements, solid jumps (two triples) and very nice spins added up to a very elegant skate. After bowing to the audience, Javier skated towards Scott who appeared on the ice. When they came close and started to spin around each other, it turned out that Scott had a mouth full of water which he sprayed all over Javier! I assume this was the "last show prank" which the cast members do to the rookie team members. I recall Patrick a few years back getting a full bucket of water poured over his head! So I guess Javier had it fairly easy.

Scott skated around the ice a bit while some music was playing and then Joannie arrived for her routine and Scott left the ice. Her music was "Gravity" by Sara Bareilles – beautiful song and a powerful skate. Joannie showed both her athletic (doing a double Axel and two triples, and some great footwork) and artistic side, completing the technical content with delicate movements and emotions shared with the audience.

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After Joannie left, there was a short clip again presented on the screens. It showed a typing of a text message, reading "Thinking about you and everything we've been through. Wish things didn't have to be so complicated…", and then the answer text – "Is it too late?" This was a nice introduction for Tessa and Scott's performance to "Sorry" by Justin Bieber. Such a gorgeous number – all their movements are truly exquisite, to the precise beat of music, and sooo entertaining! I love their lifts, and am always left in awe every time Tessa stands on Scott's thigh on one skate while he glides through the ice. I enjoyed this performance immensely, as always with these two.

IMG_8277 (34K) The last solo number of the second act and the entire night came from Patrick, skating to "Mack the Knife" by Michael Bublé. He didn't get the jumps quite right – just had doubles (one 2A, two 2T, in one of which he stumbled on the landing), but everything else looked great and I really liked Patrick's performance. He showcases the choreography so well, all his steps and spins and movements are following the music precisely, and he is simply a joy to watch on the ice.

For the finale, to "Wild Motion (Set it Free)" by Miami Horror, the entire cast skated out to the ice, Patrick joining them, and… immediately everyone returned backstage, leaving only Tessa and Scott in the spotlight. They danced for a minute or so (doing some beautiful lifts), then gradually the rest of the cast joined, dancing together and apart, when finally the last missing member – Patrick – came back wearing the same white outfit as the others and after a short while the number slowly came to an end, with the cast taking final poses facing in different directions.

I was so sad it was all over. This year's show was gorgeous; it always is, frankly, but always in a different way, which means it never gets boring. There is something special about each year – this year I felt the transitions were particularly good, but there is something that never changes and that's the quality of each and every one of the numbers, be it the solos, the special group numbers or the entire cast openers and finales. And that's why I like Stars on Ice so much and can't wait to see what the next year will bring.

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