by IDC rookie blogger D. Szabo

Ok, my sister is the ice skating fanatic. I am not.  Don’t get me wrong. I really like skating. It’s just that I’m just not obsessed with it like she is.  I’ve watched most of the major televised events. I know all about Dorothy Hamill and Peggy Fleming. My mother and I would have great debates over Peggy’s style and grace verses Dorothy’s charm and athleticism. Then there was the “Carmen” duel at the Olympics between Katarina Witt and Debbi Thomas. I even know about Rosalyn Sumners and Elaine Zayak. It’s not just the women. I remember the battle of the Brians, Scott Hamilton, Elvis Stoiko, Babilonia & Gardner, the Carruthers, Gordeeva & Grinkov, and of course Torvill & Dean. So when my sister invited me to Skate Canada I happily agreed. I mean, I know all about skating, right?

Here it is Friday, November 2nd and we arrived at the Colisee Pepsi Quebec. I am excited but playing it cool for my sister. (Remember, she’s the fanatic.) As we approach the main entrance a school bus pulls up in front of us. I very knowingly begin to get my camera out and ready to take pictures of the skating stars that have, luckily for us, arrived at the same time. I have the school bus door in focus and perfectly zoomed in for the great candid shots of the ….. school children who have come to enjoy the competition. Ok, not my coolest moment but my sister could, at least, still walk next to me. I regain my cool exterior and hurry to catch up to my sister who has already entered the arena.  We get to our seats and find they are ice level and next to the judges’ table. Very “cool.” The excitement in the air is palpable. This is my first LIVE competition! The ice dance teams take the ice for their practice session, and I very quickly realize that I am not in Kansas anymore.  This is Vegas baby. Pure Vegas. Canadian style, of course.

 

YANKEE POLKA 
Here it is: the compulsory dance. I know all about this event. All the teams wear basically the same costume and skate to the same music, doing the same moves. Right?

The teams take the ice, and I am immediately confused. My sister said the theme was the Yankee Polka, but the first team I see is dressed in a lime green ball gown and a tuxedo. The next team is also in a ball gown (this time blue with rhinestones) but at least her partner has a white shirt and a vest on. I don’t get it. My family is Polish and I grew up with Polka Sundays, and I can tell you that not one of my father’s Polka album covers had people dressed in gowns and tuxedos. Does ‘Polka’ mean ‘Waltz’ in Russian? I guess I might not know as much about skating as I thought. I look to my wiser older sister for an explanation, but she is just as confused as I am. The only explanations that she can give me are 1) maybe they didn’t get the memo, 2) maybe they don’t have a Polka costume, or 3) maybe they were betting on the waltz being selected. See, we are in Vegas. Taking chances, risking big, and losing. 

If Polka means Waltz in Russian it must mean Happy New Year in Italian. Clearly they are going out after the competition to a big party where champagne will be served.  

The Americans took the literal translation and went with polka dots. 

My sister points out some of the Canadian teams. The first couple is just gorgeous, and I think they went with the Yankee Polka wedding attire. The next couple, however, really makes me wonder if I know anything at all about anything. The girl has got it going on. A real polka dress, even if it is yellow and pink. So then explain to me why her partner is wearing pervy, cowboy pants and a see-through Victoria Secret lingerie shirt? It makes about as much sense to me as putting gravy and cheese curds on top of French fries.  

The next teams that I see are wearing what look like Lederhosen. Does Germany have polkas? Wait a minute. Even if Germany has polkas, isn’t this suppose to be the Yankee Polka? What is going on here? I will say this: they looked adorable. The women represented the polka well and at least the men look ethnic.  

The next team looks good. The girl is wearing a sexy version of an ethnic peasant dress. Off the shoulder, sparkles, and a little white ruffled skirt. Ok, I can wrap my head around this one. Hold on, why is she skating with the bandleader? Forget it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. Just concentrate on the skating I tell myself.

 

ORIGINAL DANCE
It’s time for the Original Dance portion of the program. The teams come out for their warm ups. As much as I want to concentrate on the skating, there’s the Russian team (Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, who wore the ball gown and tails for the Yankee Polka) who are in ethnic-looking costumes that unfortunately come across looking like dollar store souvenir dolls. The girl sitting in front of me wonders if they got some discounted elf costumes left over from last year. Clearly even they don’t like their costumes! They are skating like they are mad at the world and almost collide with some other teams.

The Italian team, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, brought me back to Vegas with the black velvet suit with the brightly colored bird feather pattern on the back. All I could think was Elvis has entered the building–on black velvet of course. Maybe when the competition is over they are planning on framing the costume and hanging it on the wall. As bad as the costume is, they are both so incredibly beautiful it doesn’t matter. Their skating also more than makes up for the costume. They are passionate, romantic, and very talented.

The American team, Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov. I just have to say it. I want to focus on the skating. Really I do. But I truly expected them to start doing an 80’s aerobics routine to Olivia Newton-John’s Let’s Get Physical. I haven’t seen a man in a long silk headband since John Travolta in “Staying Alive.” That being said, once they did begin their performance I easily forgot their costumes and was impressed by their talent and skills. They had unique lifts and holds and skated with great speed and assuredness. They become my favorites and the team to beat in my opinion.

The German team, Carolina Hermann and Daniel Hermann just wouldn’t let me focus on the skating because the gold lamé kept getting in the way. Come on! I am really trying here! How do you look at that peach and gold lamé vest and say, “YES! That is the costume I want to compete in. That is the perfect compliment to my incredible talent“? Pushing the costume out of my mind (ok, more like shoving) they were perfectly sweet. They had perfect strength moves and perfect flexibility. Unfortunately, all of this perfection just couldn’t take the place of passion. The team was almost boring in their perfection. There was no passion, thankfully, as they are brother and sister. I think I am going to petition that from now on ice dance couples have to be just that–couples. Better yet, couples that broke up and have just gotten back together before the competition.

O, Canada. Thank God for the Canadians. The team of Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno brought fun and whimsy with great skill and accuracy. Weaver and Poje had a very cool one-leg lift but messed up a little. No, wait, they messed up a twizzle (Thanks, sis). The team of Virtue and Moir was just plain hot. They had the hottest costumes of the competition and then the music started and Moir channeled the spirit of Patrick Swayze and did some dance moves that I still can’t stop thinking about. Put Virtue in a corner and just let Moir do his thing. Hot, hot, hot. Honestly, I can’t remember anything else about the performance.

Wow, this is just isn’t what I expected. I am loving this. I want pictures. I need names. When is the next competition? Seeing this live certainly changes my impression of the event. My sister is just looking at me and laughing that laugh that only a family member can laugh. I am going to have to swallow some very humble pie.

 

FREE DANCE
By the time the free dance starts I’m totally into it. The teams take the ice to warm up, and I am so excited. These costumes are definitely better. We are so close to the ice and the teams are making eye contact with us. We can feel the wind as they skate by. I can tell this is going to be good. The Russian practice aggressively. They are bold and fast and almost collide with other teams. I expertly tell my sister that they are trying to psych out the other teams.

Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov are up first and I can say that they finally hit “OK” with the costumes. Costumes aside, I love them. I can’t take my eyes off of them. I just know something spectacular will happen if I stop watching them. They skate to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Apparently all of the bullying and posturing in the warm up has tired them out and they are slow and disappointing. They make mistakes and I think that karma is getting back at them for all of the near collisions in practice and warm up.

”Ken and Barbie” (a.k.a. the Hermanns) do a great James Bond program. She is fun and flirty. The choreography is perfect. The straight-line step sequence is slow and sultry. I get completely drawn in to the story. I particularly like the lift they do with the skate blade to the head. My sister yawns. Way overused she says. Well, excuse me. I’ve never seen one and I like it.

The first Canadian team, Weaver and Poje, perform to Blues for Klook.

Yes, my sister told me that. She loves this music and is very excited. We both love Weaver. She is fantastic. A diva in the making. The crowd agrees and the castanet “clackers” are clicking along to the beat. The opening lift is great. Looks like a cartwheel. Poje leans on a twizzle (see, I know things now, too) but recovers and finishes strong. They look very happy in the “kiss-and-cry” booth.

Oooh, it’s the hot Germans, Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi. Fabulous costumes. Tighty whitey pants and slick black sequin top for him and sexy black number for her with a yellow flower on her hip. She wins for best hair. Great upbeat and fun performance to La Boheme. He is very pervy in those tight white pants. Somebody bring me a drink with an umbrella in it.

The second Canadian team (Hann-McCurdy & Coreno) takes the ice. He is very charismatic. She is very charming. She is a great “straight man” to his antics. The people around me either loved or hated them. They were very fun but the performance seemed to be better suited to an exhibition. They score well though and are very cute in the kiss and cry booth.

I am making friends with the people sitting around me and having a fabulous time.

And then the world stops.

The American team has had an accident. Melissa Gregory is lying on the ice and not moving. This is horrible. All of the fluff, fun, and frivolity is squashed and immediately you realize that these beautiful people are athletes performing incredibly dangerous feats of strength all without pads and helmets. I’d like to see any football player put under similar conditions. Melissa is taken to the hospital and somehow the rest of the teams have to regain their focus and compete.

The Russian team of Ekaterini Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev take the ice. They look great.

How can I say anything about a costume again after what I just saw? They skate understandably cautiously. They are very artistic and have great flexibility and awesome poses. I get some great photos of them.

Pernelle Carron & Mathieu Jost from France skate smoothly and have pretty positions.

The ending pose is a stand out and fantastic. Still in shock over Melissa Gregory, I can’t even comment on the costumes. My sister pronounces that her dress is “tiffin” and apparently this is a good thing.

Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, looking undeniably gorgeous, begin their program. I am fixated on her skin. It is like porcelain. They look like Romeo andJuliet. The opening poses are so delicate and dreamy. They just can’t do any wrong. In my next life I want to be Italian.

Finally, it is time for Virtue and Moir. Yum, Yum, Yum. The costumes are understated. She is in a beautiful light blue chiffon dress and he is very casual. Well, someone let baby out of the corner. Virtue is fantastic. Whereas before it was all about Moir and he really stole the show, now he is understated and presenting Virtue so perfectly that you can’t take your eyes off of her. They skate in long, sweeping strokes and glide effortlessly across the ice. What a testament to their overall talent that they have presented such diverse numbers. They are clearly the best and it is no surprise that they are awarded the gold medal.

WRAP-UP
What an incredible weekend! I am hooked. I can’t believe that it is over. I have had the best time. I have gotten closer to my sister, made new friends, and learned new things. For a short time Las Vegas came to Quebec City and I will never be the same. The successes, the failures and the long shots. The drama, the passion, the excitement, and the risk taking. And, of course, the costumes! I’m sorry, I still like the costumes the best! You’ve got Liberace meets Miss America, Velvet Elvis paintings, Marcel Marceau (Circus, Circus), Siegfried & Roy, Russian dolls, I could go on.

Fortunately for me, what happens in Quebec City will be happening in Ottawa next year. I make my sister promise that we can meet at next year’s Skate Canada. I am never going to live this down. C’est la vie! A la prochaine Quebec.

 

Merci beaucoup!