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Flashback Friday: Skate America 2016

When I moved to Chicago this summer, one of the things I was most excited about was that it was the host city for the 2016 Skate America. Yes, I just saw unforgettable live skating at the 2016 Worlds in Boston. And yes, I also got to attend the 2014 U.S. Nationals in Boston. And yes, yes, one of my good skating buddies told me it just wasn’t fair that I keep living in cities that host awesome skating competitions.

But in seriousness, I am really grateful for the opportunity to see some of today’s most incredible skaters live and in person. Watching on TV is great (and that’s what I’ll be doing for U.S. Nationals next week, no doubt), but there is something about the emotion and electricity of being in the arena, about being close enough to see the expressions on the skaters’ faces as they control their nerves and deliver flawless performances, selling it to the last row.

So I was pretty excited to show up to the Sears Centre, site of Skate America, with my all-event ticket this past October. On this Flashback Friday, let’s count down the reasons it was awesome:

QUAD

As in…Shoma Uno’s QUAD FLIP. But it wasn’t just any quad flip—it was light and airy, with great height and landed with exquisite knee bend (wow, that last phrase is definitely from the Dick Button canon). He had such command of the jump, and of his whole program:

I really enjoyed Shoma’s performance at Worlds last year, and it’s great to watch him come into his own this season.

TRIPLE

As in three Notre Dame Figure Skating alums reuniting to watch some awesome skating:

tglf6917

DOUBLE

As in the number of times I cried: two. Once when Mariah Bell brought the house down with an incredible long program:

I loved all the spirals in the choreography, plus, she just oozed ease and grace throughout the performance.

And the second time during Jason Brown’s free skate. Not only did he land his first quad in competition, but he skated a moving, understated, and flawless performance. If you don’t watch the whole program, at least skip ahead to 5:46. One of the competition volunteers was epically weeping at the boards after his program, and Jason gave her a huge hug. He’s the sweetest (I can confirm, because we got to meet him after the medal ceremony and he was gracious and generous towards all the fans.).

SINGLE

As in one awesome ponytail pose from Maia Shibutani:

The Shib Sibs’ “That’s Life” short dance was superb: sharp, crisp, hip hop movement, and a creative cut of music, mixing Sinatra’s version of the song with Jay-Z. It’s my favorite of all the hip hop short dances this year, because it’s so clever and well done.

Were any fellow skating fanatics at the Sears Centre, too? What were your favorite moments?

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Fashion Friday: Mid-Season Costume Changes

The World Team Trophy wrapped up the 2014-15 season last weekend, so now I’m taking a look back at some of the fashion decisions of the year. A number of skaters made costume changes mid-season and I’m weighing in on whether it was the right decision.

Costume changes can occur for a variety of reasons. Maybe the first one didn’t go over well with the fans or the judges. Some skaters get rid of costumes they wore during a terrible performance, trying to shed the bad memories and maybe even the bad luck. This season, we had mostly Americans switching up their looks:

Gracie Gold – Third Time’s The Charm?

1.

Image Source: UniversalSports.com

2.

Image Source: teamgraciegold.tumblr.com

Image Source: nickverrreos.blogspot.com

3. When I blogged about my favorite costumes earlier in the skating season, Gracie Gold’s purple free skate dress was at the top of the list. It reminds me of the dress that her BFF Taylor Swift wore when she performed at a fundraiser with Prince William at Kensington Place in London. Perhaps there was a little bestie fashion inspiration there? Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough for Gold to keep the dress. She showed up at Four Continents with a slightly altered version—a higher neckline and a flower embellishment on the front. I wasn’t a big fan of this version. Actually, I was pretty shocked and dismayed to see it. It made the dress look too youthful and added unnecessary bulk to the airy lace. When Gold took the ice at Worlds, she showed off a different look entirely. Very glamorous, very sophisticated. The high-fashion look suited her well, but my one complaint was that the dress didn’t look very well-made. The shoulder clasps were too clunky and needed to be more seamless. There were only a few weeks between Four Continents and Worlds, so maybe there was a rush to get it finished.

Maia Shibutani – Dark Blue vs. Light Blue

Image Source: zimbio.com

Image Source: zimbio.com

Fellow American Maia Shibutani debuted a new light blue free dance dress at U.S. Nationals that she wore for the remainder of the season. If I hadn’t seen her first dress, I think I would have liked this one. The dark blue dress Maia wore for the beginning of the season was perfection—it completely fit the character of their waltz music, looked great on her, and the color popped on the ice. While the light blue is a pretty color, the sheer panels on the bodice didn’t seem to go with the heavy, full skirt. I think the original dress was the better choice.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates – Back in Black

Image Source: teamusa.org

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates took a modern approach to the costumes for their An American in Paris free dance. They told teamusa.com that they wanted to tell the story as if it took place in 2014, and the asymmetrical touches on their costumes definitely conveyed that. I thought it was an interesting approach and had a pretty neutral attitude towards it until their costume change at Four Continents:

Image Source: avaxnews.net

These costumes look like practice outfits that someone threw sequins on with a bedazzler. The original ones were much more sleek, and I was glad to see them return to that look at Worlds.

Jason Brown – First is the Worst, Second is the Best

Image Source: teamusa.org

Image Source: usatoday.com

I kid, I kid. Brown’s first costume of the season was not the worst thing we’ve seen out on the ice. The faux leather boots were definitely quite theatrical and not my personal cup of tea, but they fit Brown’s personality and the character he was playing in the program (Tristan, the warrior from the opera Tristan and Isolde). He changed things up after the U.S. Nationals, going with a more subtle navy blue/black color scheme with the same style and I think it was a great decision. It looked much more polished and mature. His interpretation of the music is so intense that he doesn’t need anything overtly theatrical to help tell the story; he does it with his movements.

It seems like most of the international skaters stuck with the same costumes throughout the season. Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver used different versions of the same dress concept for her Four Seasons free dance with Andrew Poje, so I’m not sure that counts as an entire costume change. I don’t think the American team as a whole is more prone to costume changes, because we’ve seen plenty from international skaters as well over the years. Japanese champion Mao Asada often switched up her dresses and Canadian ice dance Olympic Champion Tessa Virtue seemed to show up with a different free dance dress to every competition last year.

I think it just depends on the athlete, and their program that year. For me, all I can think of when I see all these costume changes throughout a season is how much each of these outfits must cost! I used to spend a couple hundred on my dresses back in my more recreational skating days, and this article says that the elite skaters can spend up to $5,000 per costume. The lengths we go to for fashion!