Twizzle Talk


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Anatomy of a Titanic Program

This post has been in my drafts for a year—yikes! That’s a little embarrassing. But since 2017 is the 20th anniversary of the movie “Titanic,” and this post was initially intended to sing the praises of current U.S. World Team member Mariah Bell, it’s actually still relevant. High-five to past me.

The music from “Titanic” was a popular choice for skating programs when the movie first came out, and it still pops up in rinks from the local level to the World Championships, because it is such a movie favorite.

Last year, Russian Elena Radionova skated to selections from “Titanic” for her long program, and I just couldn’t get on the bandwagon for this program.

 

The voiceovers were a distraction, rather than an enhancement, and the music selection overall was too repetitive, too reliant on the “My Heart Will Go On” portion of the soundtrack, both with vocals and without. We all know it’s a long movie (anybody else remember the two-VHS boxed set?), and there is a wealth of music to choose from. I’m a fan of the Irish music from the steerage party scene, performed by the wonderful band Gaelic Storm. By the time Celine Dion’s voice comes into the program in the final minute or so, we’ve heard this crescendo of the music several times already, which diminishes the emotional impact and power of the moment.

In terms of the choreography, I didn’t love the constant open and uplifting arm movements…lots of people are dying here, including Radionova’s character’s boyfriend. It looked too triumphant. The jump entrances are held too long and are awkward, which is indicative of the trouble she was having with jumps last season, after a growth spurt.

I did enjoy that Radionova’s dress was a nod to the pretty dress that Kate Winslet wore as the ship was sinking:

kate-winslet-dress

Image Source: awesomeinventions.com

Mariah Bell’s 2015 “Titanic” program, on the other hand, was much more my taste:

 

The opening of this program captures the tension of the film, both in terms of music and choreography. From there, it moves into a natural story: the piece with some pop and Mariah’s beautiful split jumps alludes to the triumphant send-off for the ship, there is a sweet portion in the middle for her footwork that fits with the movie love story, and the use of “My Heart Will Go On” is very subtle.

Skating programs usually build to a grand finale of sorts, with the most exciting, uplifting pieces of music at the end. This program ends quietly, and I liked the nod to the more somber end for the Titanic itself and the movie.

Also, her dress is gorgeous and looks like the ocean.

This Nationals, 2015, was when I first noticed the joy and “it factor” in Mariah’s skating. That’s still present today, in 2017, but she has made huge technical strides. There wasn’t a triple-triple in this program (she doubled a planned triple toe-triple toe), and now she routinely hits the triple lutz-triple toe. She said in her recent interview on the “Ice Talk” podcast that she moved to new coach Rafael Arutyunyan for technical help, so it is exciting to think about the strides she can make after a full season with Raf.

Are there any other well-known “Titanic” programs that you loved or hated? Let me know!


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Grand Prix Viewing Interior Monologue

A peek inside my head as I watched this season’s Grand Prix events. And to be fair, it’s not always an interior monologue. Sometimes I talk to the TV and my buddies, Tara, Johnny, and Terry. Here’s what I’m saying:

Where happened to the right side of Ksenia Stolbova’s dresses? Did they both rip in the wash?

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2015-16 Short Program, Image Source: isu.org

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2015-16 Short Program, Image Source: isu.org

Are Satoko Miyahara’s skates too big for her feet? Feet too big for her body? Maybe those ugly Edea skates are the problem.

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Image Source: Getty Images

Fedora Frank is the man.

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Image Source: insideskating.net

Ashley, please stop talking to yourself before and after your program at center ice. It looks a little cray cray. Just keep it in your head. Interior monologue. Like this one. 😉

j6yw4k

Is Adam’s hair purple or gray? (Both, apparently, at various points. And teal.)

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Image Source: @adamripponshair

Mao Asada’s short program this year is the cutest.

On the flip side, her “Madame Butterfly” long program…not original. How many Japanese women have we seen skate to this Japanese opera, wearing a dress with a sequined butterfly? She’s more original than that, and this piece is creeping up on “Phantom of the Opera” status…

Rafael Arutunian looks like he could play a hit man in a movie. Especially when he leans over the boards and grips them with both hands, while wearing black leather gloves. (Unfortunately, my extensive Google search did not bring up any photo to do this justice. So here is his intense face sans gloves. But you know what I’m talking about, I know it.)

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Image Source: usfsa.org

Anybody else talk to the TV while watching skating? Tell me it’s not just me.


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Flashback Friday: Shib Sibs Grand Prix Victories

American ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won their first Grand Prix title since 2011 at last weekend’s NHK Trophy. Their other Grand Prix victory was also at an NHK Trophy.

Let’s flash back to their 2011 win:

I love the exuberance and enthusiasm of this program. And don’t they look so young?! The Shib Sibs were clearly great then, and would go on to win bronze at Worlds that year. But bringing it back to the present day, I loved watching that 2011 program in contrast to this year’s free dance. Check it out from their NHK victory:

They’ve increased their speed and connection with each other, and their interpretation really captures the nuances of the music (Coldplay’s “Fix You.”). That twizzle sequence is exquisite—not only in the execution but also in the use of the music. The commentators (love those British Eurosport guys!) say at the end of the performance that they didn’t want it to end, and I’ve got to agree. And isn’t that the mark of a great skating performance? Making it all look smooth and effortless so your audience feels at ease and gets lost in the performance. There is nothing worse than those programs where the skaters are just gritting their teeth and making it through, both for the skaters themselves and the audience.

I feel like this free dance, as well as the 2011 program, is a great vehicle for them in that the brother-sister dynamic isn’t detrimental to the performance, as it can be for the more romantic rhythms, like the tango, for example. Well done, Shib Sibs. Can’t wait to watch them take on everyone at the Grand Prix Final, Nationals, and Worlds with this fantastic piece.


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Links I’m Loving Lately

The blog has been a little quiet for the past few weeks, but I’m still keeping up with all the latest and greatest skating news. Here are some links I’ve been loving lately:

Grace Gold’s short program from Trophee Eric Bombard. She OWNED this. She finally skated with confidence in the jumps and some serious pizzazz on the presentation side. I want to see this Gracie every time. You can’t take your eyes off her during the opening moments of the program, because she is using the music so effectively.

The IceNetwork article about Ashley Wagner and her boyfriend, speed skater and baseball player Eddy Alvarez. It’s always fun to get a glimpse into the off-ice lives of skaters, and this is a sweet Olympic love story. They met in Sochi at the Olympic Village and are now making it work despite long distance and their crazy schedules, with Ashley competing on the Grand Prix and Eddy playing minor league baseball. Talk about skills—I can’t believe Eddy was an Olympian in one sport and might play professionally in another!

The Skating Lesson’s video on Gracie’s twin sister Carly Gold was fabulous. Though she hasn’t had the national and international success of her sister, she keeps skating because of her pure love for the sport. Not only do I really respect that, but I can relate to it, too, as an adult skater who is still at it and working on moves in the field tests.

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And the great news is that she qualified for Nationals with her victory at the Pacific Coast Sectionals! I bet NBC is already prepping a behind the scenes piece on the Gold twins. How cute is this Instagram of her and her coach Frank Carroll in the kiss and cry?

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Image Source: @carlycgold on Instagram

What other fun skating links from around the interwebz should I check out in the lull before the Grand Prix Final? Share in the comments!


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Cup of China 2015: Impressions

When I initially looked at the list of entrants for Cup of China, I wasn’t sure it would be a very exciting event. The winners in each discipline seemed like they would almost be a given, but some unexpected performances made this event fun to watch.

  • How cute was Rika Hongo‘s “Riverdance” long program? She looked like she was having a blast, which made it fun to watch. The upbeat and recognizable music obviously helps grab the audience, but her enthusiasm also went a long way. I also thought her dress was absolutely gorgeous. The green color was a nod to the Irish-themed music, but nothing overly corny or costume-y:
  • Mao Asada won the event, as expected, as her comeback trail continues. Her short was fabulous and the triple axel in her long program was a thing of beauty. But the rest of her long program was shaky—I’m not sure we can say “She’s back!” quite yet. She still needs to shake off some rust.

    Image Source: olympics.nbcsports.com

  • Elena Radionova seems to have regressed since last year. I didn’t love her presentation then, but now she seems to be confusing musical interpretation with overdoing it on the arm and upper body movements. There has been lots of online chatter hating on her long program musical selection of “Titanic,” but the music bothered me far less than the arm flailing did. Though the awkwardness of the “I’ll never let go, Jack” voiceover at the very end of the program cannot be denied.
  • Javier Fernandez was expected to win the men’s event and win he did, with some great quads. I just really love his personality on the ice and the spunk of his “Guys and Dolls” long program works for him. I also love his attitude—he doesn’t rest on his laurels even when he wins and takes every event as a learning experience. Javier told IceNetwork: “I will keep practicing; every day I improve and I will learn from this competition. It was a good day, with mistakes, and hopefully at my next Grand Prix I can perform a clean program.”

    Image Source: cope.es

  • Many previews that I read thought Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates would easily walk away with the gold medal, but Italian 2014 World Champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte seem to be returning to form and stole the top spot. Chock and Bates have beautiful flow and creative lifts. However, the move where he spins her around while she drags her feet (not blades) across the ice is really overused in both of their programs. They started using it last season and now, after seeing it in two more programs (in multiple places in the program), it seems almost lazy to keep reusing it. Especially when they are always so inventive in the lifts. Is anyone else over the foot dragging?
    The Italians really seem to be back in action, despite the fact that people wrote them off last year. I really liked these two in Sochi and when they won their world title that year, but last year was really rough for them. They were 4th at Worlds rather than defending their title. The light and joyful programs that they are using this year suit them so well, much more than their moody “Danse Macabre” free dance from last year. Anna and Luca won by almost four points here, and I felt that their twizzles were better than Chock and Bates’ twizzles. Things definitely just got a little more interesting in ice dance this year.

    Cup of China 2015 Ice Dance Medalists Image Source: theicedancekingdom.tumblr.com

  • At the halfway point of the Grand Prix (already?!), all I can say about the pairs is that it is going to be crowded at the top when the World Championships roll around. The Russian team of Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov took the top spot at Cup of China, ahead of Skate America champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han. And there are THREE other Russian teams in the mix internationally this year, including the 2014 Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Not to mention the defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and the fact that the American team of Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim are looking really strong this season.

And the Grand Prix rolls on with Trophee Eric Bombard this weekend! I hope we’ll have Johnny and Tara back in the broadcast booth for NBC. Terry Gannon and Tracy Wilson called Cup of China, and I was glad to hear them finally acknowledge that Tracy coaches many of the top men on the circuit (Javier, at this event, but also Yuzuru Hanyu). It killed me when Terry would ask her hypothetical questions about a skater’s approach and training and she would answer without acknowledging that she was part of the coaching team. Anybody else? Am I too much of a stickler? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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Skate Canada Hairstyles

There was some great skating at Skate Canada over the weekend—and some fabulous hair. I tend to notice hairstyles no matter which sport I am watching. I’m not the only one who loved the braids and ponytails that the soccer players rocked at the women’s world cup last summer. And every time I see another football player with flowing locks like this:

Image Source: nflrush.com

I can’t help but think how uncomfortable and sweaty it must be under that helmet. In figure skating, hairstyles are more important than most sports, since it can be part of the “look” of a costume or character. But at the same time, it needs to be practical and keep the hair out of the way during a performance. (Yes, I’m looking at you, female ice dancers who don’t pull your hair back. It’s distracting. And gives fuel to people who think skating is less of a sport.) My hair all-stars of Skate Canada are:

Most Improved: Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Russia

Last year, Elizaveta was always sporting a messy ponytail with lots of visible clips. It was a look that was more “Sunday afternoon at the gym” than “World Figure Skating Champion.” This picture doesn’t even really capture how bad it was:

Image Source: olympics.nbcsports.com

This year, she has come out much more polished, with a braided look. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good pictures of it, but you can get the gist here:

Image Source: icenetwork.com

Image Source: icenetwork.com

MVP: Ashley Wagner, USA

Ashley has been a pretty consistent bun-wearer for the past few years, except for the polished ponytail in her Pink Floyd short program. I loved seeing her switch it up here, with the side part and twists into the bun. The red color also suits her much more than the really light blonde she had going on last year, in terms of both appearance and her sassy personality. Here’s a side view of the ‘do:

Image Source: wtop.com

Best Short Hairstyle: Meagan Duhamel, Canada

It is pretty rare to see a female figure skater with short hair. Short hair is difficult to pull back and limits your style options if you are going for a specific character. Canadian pairs skater Meagan Duhamel probably has the most well-known short hair in skating these days, and sometimes even she has bad hair days (like this overly curly situation at the Sochi Olympics). But I loved her look at Skate Canada; enough volume that it didn’t look flat or boring, but not so much that her hair overshadowed the rest of her.

Image Source: icenetwork.com

Image Source: icenetwork.com

Most Eye-Catching: Adam Rippon, USA

I can’t do a post about figure skating hairstyles this season without mentioning Adam Rippon’s gray locks:

Image Source: thefinersports.sportsblog.com

There was lots of chatter over the summer about this look; whether he’d dye it back before the competition season started, and whether it would be off-putting to the (sometimes old-fashioned) judges. While I’m not the biggest fan of the look of the gray, I will give him props for staying true to his own style. I just don’t love hair colors that were clearly created in a bottle and not in nature.

Who sported your favorite looks at Skate Canada? Am I wrong about ladies who leave their hair down? (It would take a lot to convince me of that…) Share your favorites in the comments!