Saturday, January 23, 2010

2010 US Nationals: Compulsory Dance/Original Dance

Finally! I have been waiting for the Dance portion for what seems like so long, and now it's less than half an hour before the FD starts (although more than an hour before it gets interesting at all). I remember reading an article leading in the 2002 Olympics that said that ice dance was all about crazy costumes and little athletic ability. How times have changed (does saying this make me old?). There are still crazy costumes, but no one can deny how trained and skilled these skaters are.

So I didn't actually watch the CD--I love figure skating, but not always that much--but tracked the scores on IceNetwork instead. There weren't many surprises, other than the hugely inflated scores (a 45? Really?), although I didn't expect Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre (am I the only one who wants to pronounce this Beau-mont-ruh instead of Beau-men-tree?) to beat Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates. It didn't really matter, though, because they were separated by less than half a point, and the same for Meryl Davis & Charlie White and Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto. I should probably watch one or two of them before this is all over, though--the Golden Waltz sounds pretty and is supposed to be one of the more challening of the ODs, and Meryl's purple dress was gorgeous.

I did, however, watch the OD, and was a little surprised by the results. Tanith & Ben skated pretty early on, and they skated to a Moldavian folk dance. Their costumes, of course, were lovely and seemed quite traditionally Eastern European, but I wasn't totally sold on the program itself. Tonia Kwiatkowski (who as a rule is far less annoying than Tara Lipinski) mentioned that Moldavian dances involve a lot of jumping up and down, and it's great that Tanith & Ben incorporated that, but to me all of the jumping seemed a little wild and exaggerated, and interrupted the flow of their skating. Maybe if Tanith & Ben both tied their hair back things would appear more calm, but in general things appeared a little chaotic.

Meryl & Charlie skated soon after them to their now-famous Indian folk dance. Meryl is so uniquely beautiful, and she pulled off her costume and its colors really well. From what I've seen of Indian dance, it also involves a lot of jumping, but this program seemed to incorporate that better into the style of ice dance. Given my overall impression of Tanith & Ben's skate, I was pretty sure that Meryl & Charlie would beat them in the OD as well--until Meryl partially fell out of her twizzles. Based on past experiences watching ice dance, I thought that a mistake on the twizzles would be pretty costly, but it didn't seem to hurt them much at all, and all of their elements had positive GOEs (even the twizzles, which were rated Level 4!). They placed safely first with a 68, compared to Tanith & Ben's 66. I know the time had to come and that Meryl & Charlie are the new stars of US ice dance while Tanith & Ben are getting older (although to be fair, they are not old, and ice dancers seem to have a much longer career than singles skaters), but it is still so weird to me to consider that Tanith & Ben could possibly not win Nationals.

Anyway, after them came Jane Summersett & Todd Gilles--one of my personal favorites. Not a threat to win, but always entertaining and also incredible people off-ice. I mean, they can do this:

An Evening with Champions 2008. Copyright Sarah Brannen, a remarkably talented and generous photographer. A more explanatory picture of this move is on her website.

How weird is that, right? With moves and creativity like this, the OD and FD are usually their strong portions, but surprisingly they lost ground on 6th place after what I thought was one of their best OD performances ever. I really liked the simplicity of their costumes as well, so overall that was a little bit of a letdown.

And then came Kim & Brent, who skated to some Afro-Brazilian hybrid. For all of the controversy surrounding Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin's Aborigine-inspired OD, there sure has been nothing on these two. I'm not saying that there should be (much more on this later), but Kim & Brent are also wearing costumes designed to make their skin look darker, and Brent is even wearing a "wig" made out of what looks like strips of leather. That's one for the PC mill. Anyway, as usual their performance was entertaining and energetic, although their overall impression was somewhat similar to Tanith & Ben's, and I had a vague feeling going in that they would be dropped to 4th no matter what happened, barring Emily & Evan falling or something.

And, sure enough, Emily & Evan moved up to 3rd. I'm sure their skating was all quite clean and technical, but I'm not a fan of this OD. Other than the fact that Emily's dress has gratuitous back exposure, their last rotational lift seemed remarkably simple (Emily riding piggy-back on Evan). I know that a lot of moves in figure skating can look deceptively simple or difficult, but I just can't really see the point of spinning someone around on your back. Oh, wait. I just realized that the last lift is non-scoring. Never mind... Either way, though, I don't love this one. But it was impressive to me that they would decide to go with American instead of some other culture's--I think the locality/familiarity of the style would actually make it more scary to challenge the field field with.

In between I saw Madison & Keiffer Hubbell and Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein, which were both fun although I don't remember too much of it. They did well, though, and I'm excited to see what happens in the next two hours!

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