Monday, November 15, 2010

Skate America 2010: The Snakes and Damaged Beauty Edition

The Free Dance here was probably my most anticipated segment, but again, only for the second half: Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andew Poje, Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier, and of course Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Of the four I'd only seen the Shibutanis' free dance (!), so this was going to potentially be quite an eye-opener.

Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko were skating to a selection of music hilariously titled "Mexico," and were dressed nearly identically. I'm not sure how I feel about partners being so matchy-matchy, but it works, I suppose, because both they and their costumes are quite pretty.

Unfortunately for them, the sound quality on IceNetwork was such that I couldn't really hear the music and appreciate how the choreography was structured. They had some cool lifts such as this, even though the position was held for only the briefest of moments:

Ekaterina & Ilya's twizzles were together and had fairly good speed, but didn't have the pop that one simply cannot forget after seeing the Shibutanis. Their following combination spin seemed a bit slow in rotation, and the slow, sweeping music in their circular step sequence didn't help much in carrying the performance up and forward. They did bring the energy up in the next section, but the sensuality between them was sorely lacking, and for me that prevented the program from rising to the next level.

The first exciting moment of my night occurred next: Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani!

This may be petty, but until this moment I had never seen even a hair out of place from Maia.

As usual they were adorable, elegant, and polished. I still want Maia's dress--actually, I want her whole wardrobe, both on and off the ice. Their opening dance spin was very fast with good positions, setting the tone for the next four minutes. Their curved lift into a rotational lift was also hit and fast, and the twizzles? Amazing, as usual. Must be the Japanese work ethic kicking in somewhere.

All teams are under the 6-second lift rule, but no one said anything about this lift feeling rushed à la the Russians because Maia's extension allows her to hit positions instantly and exaggerate them, so the audience is actually left with a mental image.

The music for their performance was soft as well, but unlike the previous team the Shibutanis almost didn't need it. I'm not trying to be hyperbolic, and they are far from perfect, of course, but they have a great presence on the ice. They received the highest TES of the night, which really bodes well for their career and shows that they simply need time to mature and not be each other's siblings anymore. Unfortunately for them the latter is impossible, so now they need to take care that they don't go the way of Sinead Kerr & John Kerr.

Snake sighting. And some classic Alex, pre-SB scores.

Kaitlyn Weaver looked uncannily like Nicole Kidman, although I never would have guessed it during their Short Dance. Kaitlyn & Andrew's Moulin Rouge music selections weren't my favorite (I do love Come What May but Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend and the tango weren't quite necessary), but they had good energy and speed throughout, and had some very interesting lifts. The judges apparently weren't fooled, though, and cut them down technically.

I'm not sure why Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier chose the costumes they did, or why Vanessa styles herself so she looks nearly 30 instead of 20, but their program got the job done. Eleanor Rigby as a piece is pretty boring so it was easy to stop paying attention, but they had good speed in both their spins and footwork, and some cool lifts such as these:

Summersett-Gilles, 2.0?

Paul went down on a freak fall while they were essentially just skating around the rink, though fortunately for them it had no affect on their planned elements. I wasn't totally sold on their program, but it was enough to put them ahead of my favorite siblings.

The final couple, of course, was Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Although I disapproved when Charlie switched to a black costume with gold trim for their Bollywood original dance last year very late in the season, I would be quite okay with him wearing this all-black outfit forever.

The thing about Meryl and Charlie is that although I often talk about them needing to get together, I never actually believe it at much as I do about Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. There is clearly chemistry between them, but it doesn't seem as desperately romantic and latent as the Canadians'. I can actually buy it when they say that they are only friends, which is a problem.

Their twizzles this time around were fine, although they weren't quite perfectly together. I did love, though, that they used a portion from Por una Cabeza, as it brought me back to some of Mao Asada's more glorious days. And then, in the middle of this musical glory, both Meryl and Charlie fell while trying to hit some dramatic tango position. Ridiculous.

In the replay it looked like it was Charlie who lost his balance again and brought Meryl down with him, and she didn't seem too pleased in the Kiss & Cry while Charlie looked seriously cartoonlike.

Snake sighting behind Meryl.

The judges took a year and a half to announce their scores, which meant that they were trying to find every possible way to let them win by a landslide, and indeed the judges essentially pretended that the fall had never happened aside from the mandatory -2.00 deduction (plus another for an extended lift). This more than generous score was more than enough to put them on top and bring the smile back to Meryl's face.

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