Friday, January 29, 2010

2010 US Nationals: Free Dance

Well, it's been a while. Between picking classes and family visiting, I haven't had any time to really keep up with the things I usually follow. I have finally decided what I am taking this semester (Independent Research, Evolutionary Biology, Quantitative Methods in Sociology, Experimental Physical Chemistry, and French--yay), though and everything seems to be slowly settling into place. Well, everything except lab. My cells are acting weird and I'm not sure why.

So this happened like a week ago, but at last I've found the Free Dance (for the last five groups) from Nationals. It was a great competition and I was pretty excited about it, although the scoring in the OD (between Meryl Davis & Charlie White and Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto), considering the twizzles, was a little strange.

Tanith & Ben skated first out of the final group, and because I'd somehow made it through the better part of the season without seeing their program, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were skating to Caccini's Ave Maria. Yes, Ave Maria in general is a classical fallback, but it seems that the Ave Maria most people immediately think of is Gounod's, followed by Schubert's, and this will raise the visibility of Caccnini's version. Caccini's version is the most dramatic, though, so it worked well for them. Their black-and-white costumes were appropriately plain (color-wise) and dramatic (glitter- and cut-wise) at the same time, although I'm not sure if I would have designed a similar costume. I was glad to see that Tanith's hair was tied back. Anyway, in terms of their skating, I thought they did really well--their twizzles were fast and together, and their lifts were elegant and smooth. Their trademark move, where Tanith stands on Ben's skate and arches her back, was used really well and emphasized one of the climaxes of the music. They looked very happy at the end of their performance and after they saw their marks, and I think that even though they did not become the first team to win six National titles they have a lot to be proud of.

Next was Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre. They were also dressed in black and white, though more simply so, and I think I prefer this set of costumes within the black and white scheme. Their program got off to a slightly shake start with the first set of twizzles, when Kim let go over her foot too early, but they recovered well for the second set. Tonia Kwiatkowski mentioned that their FD is supposed to represent their partnership, which seems really sweet (although I'm not sure exactly how the representation works... maybe through the lyrics of the music ("One" by Mary J. Blige)). Their lifts were pretty eye-catching, and the simplicity of their costumes helped accentuate the line of their positions. Kim & Brent looked very emotional at the end, and you could see them mouth "Thank you" to each other. Sentimental favorites indeed. I thought their program component scores could have been a little higher, but good performance all around. Too bad they're not going to the Olympics.

Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein are really the future. You can always tell which juniors will be successful as seniors because they make a dramatic move right away, and this team is no exception (so far). Their costumes were the first that really seemed to be costumes as opposed to crazy outfits, and their music (a "classical waltz") was soft and elegant. Very different feel from the first two teams. Their first set of twizzles seemed just a tad bit messy, but their alternating arm movements in the second set really stood out and was timed perfectly to the music. Kwiatkowski mentioned that they seem to have gained a lot of confidence since winning Junior Worlds last year, and although I didn't really follow them last year she seems to be right--they skated with the power that comes from confidence. They actually beat Navarro & Bommentre in the technical score, but lost out significantly in the program component score, which is sure to go up as they gain more experience.

Then came Meryl & Charlie. They skated to Phantom of the Opera, which is completely overdone, but of course they managed to make it their own anyway. They jumped right into two combination spins, which had great spead, and everything just took off from there. The straight line --> rotational lift had numerous quick position changes, and highlighted the tension of the main theme before the music cut to "Music of the Night." I wasn't such a huge fan of the musical transitions and cuts they decided to use, but they were definitely able to change their style and feel according to that of the music without sacrificing speed. Charlie made me a little nervous on their second straight-line lift, although Meryl's position was really amazing. Their twizzles were fast and controlled (they made sure it was nothing like the OD), and they built up the program's excitement to the end to receive a standing ovation (although I absolutely hated how they suddenly switched the music--the change was way too obvious and abrupt). Their scores were absolutely through the roof (yay Nationals!) despite receiving a deduction (?), and easily beat Tanith & Ben.

Last were Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates, skating to "Canto Della Terra," which initially reminded me of a less breathy Enya in a different language (it's not--it's Italian opera). Evan definitely had a friend in the audience. :) Their twizzles were spot-on and their lifts dramatic in all the right ways. I was really happy to see that none of the top teems seemed to be trying the old ice-dance trick of using crazy costumes to distract from the actual skating (but can someone do something about Emily's hair?). In the end I felt much more emotion from Kim & Brent and I think their performance was stronger, but Emily & Evan are clearly the much better technicians and they deserved to place 3rd.

The other team I hunted down online was Jane Summersett & Todd Gilles, who skated to a "rock & roll medley." They are always so energetic and fun to watch, which worked with the music well, and despite everything I always find myself secretly hoping that they'll place. Unfortunately Jane fell out of her first set of twizzles, and their skating seemed a little slow in comparison to the later group. Their signature curve lift was definitely the highlight of the performance. :) According to Kwiatkowski they changed coaches early in this season, and have improved their edges and closeness. I really hope they keep skating.

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