Report & Photos by Melanie Hoyt & Katie Weigel
“Too Cool to Warm” – Cast
Katie: By this point in the show, I had traded seats with Mel and was up a few rows higher and on the other side of the arena. This provided both of us an opportunity to get different shots, which made for a nice variety of pictures for each program. On to the actual show now: I liked the concept of a “warm-up” number. There was a point where Marie-France and Patrice came out and the other skaters (whose voices were recorded earlier and then played as commentary) started saying things like, “Here come the ice dancers” or “Get out of the way, ice dancers are here!” It is so true. An ice dance warm-up is a scary thing to watch sometimes. Everyone is going around so fast and with that many teams out on the ice at once, things can go wrong.
Mel: I loved that Marie-France and Patrice were doing the rhumba when they came out! It was perfect – it’s a dance that they can do in their sleep, and it’s quick and looked impressive in the setting. Plus, I always love a good compulsory. There were a lot of funny bits in this number – one of the voiceovers gave Jen a hard time for “always preparing, but never skating,” as she skated around with a gigantic exercise ball. When Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao came out, looking very refined, everyone stopped and stared at them in awe. The voiceovers commented that they’re so disciplined. Xue & Hongbo never broke character, despite laughter in the audience. Overall, I thought this number was cute and a great way to get into the second act.
“Hit Me with a Hot Note” – Jennifer Robinson
Katie: In her only solo number of the night, Jennifer showed her natural entertaining skills and succeeded in engaging the audience. I have seen her attempt more difficult jumps in the past than she did at this show, but what she did was well done and always with energy. Jennifer looked completely at ease with the crowd in her role as the show’s MC. It seems she has a knack for this kind of thing and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw her in a similar role next year.
Mel: To be honest, I didn’t even notice that Jen only had one solo until I read Katie’s comment! I guess it was because she was on the ice a lot, introducing skaters. I’m not sure if she’s losing her triple jumps, or if they just weren’t on at this show, but she definitely didn’t have the triples in Chicago. She’s great at performing for an audience, though, and she always looks like she’s having a blast.
“Adagio” – Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao
Katie: Another couple that seems very happy with their role in SOI is Shen & Zhao. For me, this second number was more fulfilling than their first. The music of “Adagio” really showcased their style and highlights their elements. They landed a huge throw and did an amazingly high split-double twist. I also really loved their costumes! The white gives off a glow that radiates from them. Maybe it was purely their smiles doing that, as I don’t think either of them ever stopped.
Mel: I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the costumes! However, Shen & Zhao could be exquisite if they were wearing potato sacks. It’s hard to believe that this is the same awkward team that emerged on the world pairs scene in the late ‘90s! Their twist was off the charts, and the program suited them really well.
“Love Stoned” – Jamie Sale & David Pelletier
Katie: I have a bit of crush on Justin Timberlake as well as a crush on Jamie and David’s skating, so this number worked for me! This was obviously more upbeat than their first number and a lot more playful to the crowd. Jamie landed the throw triple Salchow with ease. The lifts in this number were very fast with lots of changes. This was much more of an acrobatic number compared to their first number of the night. They did the handstand lift that always makes me go “wow.” I just can’t imagine how two people can be so strong!
Mel: Seriously…Jamie just had a baby? Are we sure about that? She looks fantastic, and they look like they haven’t missed a day of skating. This program was a ton of fun, and I thought their last lift was never going to end. I’ve been kind of obsessed with this song ever since they used the last minute for their encore at Canadians, so seeing the whole program was fantastic. Even in a fun number like this one, their awesome skill stands out.
“Nessun Dorma” – Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon, Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman, and Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao
Katie: I haven’t seen a number with just pairs or ice dancers in quite a while. Usually, I see this kind of thing in a finale or group number. But to get a whole program! I was on cloud nine! I wasn’t crazy about the dress design, but the skating was great. They did lifts and spirals in unison. My favorite simultaneous move had to be the side-by-side chair lifts. The two pairs did chair lifts and then Marie-France & Patrice did their modified dance version of a chair lift. It was timed perfectly to the music and captured the essence of the music beautifully.
Mel: This was one of my favorite numbers in the show, because pairs and dance are my favorite disciplines, and they’re not often highlighted in the U.S. When they began, I asked my friend if that was “Nessun Dorma: Marching Band style” because of the costumes, but I ended up really enjoying the program. Sometimes, when dancers skate with a couple of pairs teams, they look out of place, but I thought that Dubreuil & Lauzon blended into the fabric of this ensemble so well. I’d love to see this one again, so I can be sure that I catch everything.
“Save a Horse” – Michael Weiss
Katie: When I hear this song I just think of some old friends who used to sing this song at a certain establishment we used to go to in college. But that is neither her nor there. From the very beginning this number was an instant hit with the crowd. Mike’s jumps weren’t as spot on as in the first number, but that didn’t matter much. The backflip was once again a showstopper. A few people even gave Mike a standing ovation at the end.
Mel: Well, this was certainly a classic Mike Weiss number, complete with a display of his Freedom Blades! The whole thing was a little over the top, but how can you not go over the top with that song? So it worked well, and the audience loved it. Mike definitely knows how to win over a crowd! I’m not sure if everyone knew him at the beginning of the show, but if they didn’t, then he definitely gained some new fans by the end of this program.
“She’s Always a Woman” – Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon
Katie: What do you get when you put a Billy Joel masterpiece with a magical dance team? The answer: heaven. I really wanted to put my camera down and enjoy the magic that Marie-France & Patrice created with this music. I might go to another show just to do enjoy their skating from outside of the viewfinder. This really was a perfect number for them. Encompassing their technical brilliance with beautiful expression.
Mel: This was, hands down, my favorite number in the show. I’d heard it was beautiful, but I tried not to spoil myself with too many reviews, and it ended up exceeding my expectations. The song is wonderful on its own, but their interpretation made it magical. When they stopped skating, I couldn’t believe it was over, because I felt like it had only been about 30 seconds. It was so dance-y, and their lifts highlighted the choreography perfectly. They really do keep getting better every year.
“Swing With Me” – Yuka Sato
Katie: This was a more energetic number for Yuka, and she seemed very happy to hit all of her jumps in this program. She had some nice double axels and a few triples (Salchow and toe loop, I think). At the end of the number she seemed so pleased with herself. And she should be! It was a cute number that was very well done!
Mel: When I think of Yuka, I usually think of her graceful, elegant programs, but she proves again and again that she can skate to just about anything. She had a lot of fun with this program, and the jumps were on, too. I don’t generally think of interacting with an audience as one of her strengths, but she did really well with this program, and I enjoyed it.
“Nights in White Satin” – Todd Eldredge
Katie: A classic song from a classy skater. This program’s style was suited to the more “traditional” aspect of Todd’s skating. Sweeping moves accompanied by majestic music. His jumps were on and he skated with much more speed and lift in this number than in the first. I commend Todd for choosing two very different pieces of music and skating each with equal style and dedication.
Mel: This was the type of Todd’s skating that I remember from the days of watching him spin really fast on my TV when I was younger. He spun really fast at the end of this program. I tried to slow down my shutter speed to get a cool blurry spin picture, but I overcompensated, and I got a white glowy mess instead – there’s a fine line between cool blurry and messy glowy. I do miss the days when he could do back-to-back triple Axels at opposite ends of the ice, but he still has a gorgeous double, and the rest of his skating will always be top-notch.
Katie: Some lucky lady in the front row got the shirt off of Michael Weiss’s back. She seemed to really like Mike and was very happy to be the recipient.
Mel: What Katie didn’t notice while she was watching the lady in the front row was the woman behind me, who stood the second that Mike and Yuka took the ice, before they even started talking about giving away his shirt. By the time they made it clear that they were, in fact, going to give someone the shirt off his back, Standing Woman behind me turned into Jumping, Screaming Woman. Part of me wanted to rally the troops around me to help her out, because I don’t think anyone in the building wanted the shirt as much as she did.
“Pretty Vegas” – Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman
Katie: Kyoko & John had a horrible fall in this number. Mel might be able to describe it better since she had the better angle. From what I saw John threw Kyoko up in the air, then turned around to catch her and when she started to go through his legs he lost his balance and fell on her. It took them a long time to get back into the program. When they did, Kyoko looked as if she was in terrible pain.
Mel: The fall happened right in front of Katie, and since she was watching through her camera, it was too close for her to see. I had the opposite view, but I think I was watching Kyoko flying over John’s head and his arms, not his feet, so I can’t say what happened for sure. He could have tripped, but for whatever the reason, he and Kyoko were not in the right places for him to catch her. Kyoko fell backwards on her shoulder, and John tumbled on top of her. As they skated around to find their place in the music, I could see that John was asking her repeatedly if she was okay, and she said that she was, but she was rubbing her shoulder and she definitely looked like something was wrong.
Katie: They did all the rest of their elements fine, but it seemed like they just wanted to get through the program. This was definitely one of those moments where the athlete goes into “auto-pilot.” The audience gave them a standing ovation at the end, well-deserved for being able to continue after that fall.
Mel: I was surprised that they continued at all, to be honest! I was a bit uneasy watching them, since they looked a bit uneasy themselves, but they made it through. I’m looking forward to seeing this program again, because I don’t remember a thing about it, but I’m glad that Kyoko is okay!
“Imagine” – Sasha Cohen
Katie: Avril Lavigne’s remake of this John Lennon classic really seemed to suit Sasha. Her blue dress was gorgeous, by far the best dress she wore all night. She landed her jumps, maybe two footing the triple toe loop. But what I’ve come to appreciate in Sasha is her interpretation skills and graceful spins and spirals. She had those in abundance and put the audience at ease after the scary fall of Kyoko & John.
Mel: Sasha’s calm program really did seem to put everyone at ease after the big fall. I wasn’t surprised that they chose her to close the show, since the audience really loves her. It was a good move by Stars on Ice to sign her for the tour, and she looks so comfortable performing. She’s easy to photograph, too, so I really appreciate her performances. Always aware of her arms and hands, she rarely hits an ugly position. If the shot is in focus, it’s usually a keeper, and you don’t get that with just anyone.
“Make a Memory” – Cast
Katie: I was very happy to see Kyoko & John come out for the final number. She is probably going to be sore for a few days, but at least we all knew she was okay. The final number went by so fast. I remember a sequence where the entire cast skated around the ice in a pattern of diagonals. When each skater reached the same point on the ice, they would turn to skate backwards or forwards, mirroring what the skating in front of them had done. It made for a really cool visual and it had me thinking how if even one person tripped the whole thing would be ruined!
Mel: Compared to past years, I thought the finale was a little generic. During the show, when Jen took a question from an audience member, she said that they only rehearse in Lake Placid for two weeks. About five years ago, I think it was more like six weeks – in both Simsbury and Lake Placid. So while I miss the show-stopping finales, I’d rather see a well-skated simple program than an intricate train wreck! And to be fair, the “Hard Steele” number really is fantastic, so it’s not like they’re whittling away their rehearsal time with nothing to show for it!
Katie’s final thoughts on the show: Would definitely see it again. I loved the addition of Marie-France & Patrice as well as Shen & Zhao. Great decision by SOI to hire these teams!
Mel’s last words: I missed the show in both 2006 and 2007, and in 2005, I only saw the Canadian tour. I’m so glad I made it to the show in Chicago this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing one of the Michigan stops in a couple of weeks! And I think having Marie-France & Patrice is making me greedy…one dance team is great, after a few years of no dance teams, but I want more!