Friday, October 26, 2018
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
It feels like forever since I've blogged about a skating competition, but I hope to get this site going again this season! I didn't attend Skate America last year for the first time in eleven years, and I missed it so much. I was so happy to get back to the event again this year in Everett, Washington. The skating was up and down as it usually is for the first Grand Prix event of the season, but it was still such a fun experience.
It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon when I arrived in Everett on Thursday, so after a quick lunch at The Habit Burger Grill (OBSESSED with their Tempura Green Bean), my sister and I stopped at the Evergreen Arboretum to get fall foliage photos before we hit the Seattle Premium Outlets for some big bargains (a North Face jacket for $35? Yes, please!) We followed that up with a dinner of yummy fried clam strips at Scuttlebutt Brewing Company on the water. You can see my pics from our sightseeing here!
Friday was a slow morning since practices didn't start until noon, so we did a leisurely lunch at The Valley Organic Deli a few blocks from the arena (highly recommend!). We made it to the arena for the start of the second group of pairs where we met a friend we don't get to see often, and I stayed for the men's and ice dance practices. Nothing much notable happened, but I just loved hanging out in the rink, chatting about all things skating. It got me pumped for the short programs that evening.
Before we headed to the arena for the evening session, we did dinner at Romio's Pizza and Pasta (portions were way too big) and then stopped at the Funko HQ store around the corner. I had no idea Funko's headquarters are in Everett before I spotted the store, and I'm so glad I saw it. It was absolutely adorable! We took a quick tour of the store to take photos and then went back on Saturday to look more closely at all the merchandise. If you're in the Seattle area and love looking at this kind of stuff, I definitely recommend a visit. You can see all my photos from the store here.
The pairs short program didn't bring much excitement with most teams making mistakes of some sort. The highlight for me was the German team of Minerva Hase/Nolan Seegert. Their program to "Say Something" was clean and had so much visible emotion. I love Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc's short program and was bummed they didn't skate it cleanly. They know how to really sell the choreography.
The men were a bit of an improvement over the pairs with a few standout performances. Nathan Chen's short program last year was brilliant and I thought it would be hard to top, but Shae-Lynn Bourne has given him another gem in "Caravan." Even with the mistake on the quad, it was still an outstanding performance. The only area where I'd like to see Nathan improve is in his shoulders. It's bugged me for years that his shoulders are up in his ears a lot. His fancy feet luckily distract from it, but I still want him to focus on strengthening that part of his posture.
I discovered Julian Zhi Jie Yee's skating while watching the Autumn Classic this year, and I was doubly impressed seeing him live. His "To Build a Home" short program was stunning. He has so much speed! Another short program hit was Matteo Rizzo's "Volare." I dubbed him the "Italian Jason Brown" because he doesn't need a quad to have a gorgeous, complete performance. He's so smooth and secure in his skating. A skater who did have quads in his program was Vincent Zhou, and it was disappointing that the score didn't reflect the performance because it was a beautiful one. He projected the emotion of the Muse song wonderfully.
Nathan was of course the star again in the men's free skate. The music "Land of All" isn't my favorite because of the maudlin sound, but his outstanding quads combined with the high-energy step sequence near the end keeps the energy up. His triple Axel is in the best shape that it's ever been, so I hope that keeps up as he adds more quads to his program this season. I've also never been a fan of the music from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but I thought Vincent did a nice job with the tension of the piece and maintaining the intensity from beginning to end.
We finally got to the ladies and dance Saturday night with the ladies up first. The ladies roster was the strongest of all the disciplines, so I expected the most from them, and they delivered in the short. Satoko Miyahara and Marin Honda were the highlights for me, but overall it was strong night. Marin and Satoko both float across the ice, but I thought Marin's personality made her performance even more memorable. She has an intangible quality that draws the audience in.
Megan Wessenberg was a pleasant surprise for me, skating with great speed and power that I wasn't expecting. I also enjoyed Polina Tsurskaya, who I think has the best flow and jump height of all the girls that have come out of Eteri's camp.
I don't have many thoughts on the rhythm dance because the tango is my least favorite rhythm. My favorite performance of the night was by Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter. I appreciated their technical precision and the tension they had in their movements.
The final day began with the Friends of Figure Skating breakfast, where we got to watch interesting Q&A sessions with Jimmy Ma, Ashley and Tim, and Nathan. Ashley and Tim did a great deep dive into their partnership and how open and honest they are with each other about their thoughts and feelings.
After the breakfast there was only a quick break before the final competition session, kicked off by the free dance. There were a number of performances I enjoyed. Karina Manta/Joe Johnson started the event with a thoroughly entertaining "Sweet Dreams" free dance. Loved the side-by-side dance break where they gave us the feel of dancing in the club. The British team of Lilah Fear/Lewis Gibson also brought the club atmosphere with their disco medley program. I hadn't seen this team before, and they won a new fan. Not only was the music great, but their elements were done with ease. I also enjoyed the second British team of Robin Tweedale/Joseph Buckland. They showed a completely different style with their Ghost free dance, but it was lovely and engaging.
Lorraine and Quinn again provided my favorite dance of the event with their contemporary, lyrical program. They are so secure with each other from skating together for twelve years, and I think that comfort is serving them well as they explore new genres. In the past I found their skating a bit unrefined and I didn't see a great connection between the two of them, but since they've moved up to the senior level I've seen such a huge improvement in both areas. This free dance in particular really highlights the growth they've experienced as performers and as partners who aren't afraid to show emotion to each other. With their expert technical skills and blossoming performance skills, I see only amazing things on the horizon for these two.
My thoughts on Madison Hubbell/Zach Donohue's Romeo and Juliet free dance aren't quite so rosy. I'm a big fan of "Kissing You," which makes up a large part of the music, but I don't think this program and this theme fit them at all. I think the theme is a better fit for a younger team. Madi and Zach have so much maturity in their skating that I don't really believe them in the roles of Romeo and Juliet. Last year's sultry free dance is more appropriate for their style in my opinion. I know they can't do the same type of program every year, but I don't think this choice was the best for them. I would've preferred they branch out into something like their "Believer" exhibition from two years ago. It would be different from the usual "sexy" style but still edgy and exciting.
Unfortunately, in the ladies free skate they didn't live up to the standard set in the short program. Marin Honda had a meltdown in her long program, but her fellow Japanese competitors Kaori Sakamoto and Satoko brought their A-games. They were two of the few with clean programs. As I said earlier, tangos aren't my thing, but Satoko's tango was so elegant and intricate that I bought into it. Regarding music, I could've done without the Burlesque choice by Sofia Samodurova. That movie soundtrack needs to die and be buried.
Here are the rest of my photos from the event!
Thursday, May 17, 2018
I've attended the Stars on Ice show in Anaheim the past three years, and I've never seen the Honda Center as packed as it was last Saturday night. The Olympic year boost plus the popularity of Adam Rippon and Nathan Chen brought the fans out in full force. The third level of the arena was practically full!
Before I get to the show, I must mention some fun moments from the rehearsal. The number of skaters practicing with their music was less than previous years, but the ones who did provided a lot of entertainment. Meryl Davis and Charlie White played the music for their fast program, and they were flying around the ice. Charlie in particular seemed to be in quite the hyper mood, chatting with all the skaters on the ice. Nathan Chen also did a run-through, and he put one thousand percent energy into all his footwork. He also nailed a couple of quads. The funniest part of the rehearsal by far was the group practice for the ice dance program. Karen Chen stood in for Ashley Wagner as Nathan's partner, and she wasn't well-versed in the steps as you can see in this video. 😂
The show started with a high-energy bang with the opening number to P!nk's "Raise Your Glass." Meryl and Charlie always stand out in the group numbers for me. With their touring and show experience, I think they have a way of going full out, no abandon in all the group choreography.
The highlights of Act I for me were Vincent Zhou, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, the girls' number, and Meryl and Charlie.
I was highly anticipating Vicent's "Take on Me" program choreographed by Josh Farris, and it didn't disappoint. Vincent hit all the clever moments, including a dab in the middle of the program and a full split at the end that both made the crowd go wild.
I think Karen is at her best in show programs where she can let go and show off her wonderful speed and flow. The song "Never Enough" was perfect for her style.
The girls' number to "Dream" was a quiet, beautiful program featuring Karen, Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu, and Bradie Tennell. It let each girl take a turn in the spotlight and show off their elegant lines.
Nathan doesn't have to jump to provide an entertaining performance, but he still graced us with a beautiful quad in his "Back From the Edge" program. He's so quick on his feet and can really dance on the ice. I love how he throws himself into every step.
Meryl and Charlie closed the first act with a program that had me smiling from beginning to end. Skating to "Hold My Hand," they filled the arena with their infectious energy. The way they move across the ice with so much ease, as if they are on a dance floor, is truly incredible. I loved Randi Strong's choreography for them - it suited them perfectly.
My highlights from Act II were the dance group number, Jason Brown, Bradie, Adam Rippon, Ashley, and Meryl and Charlie.
The second half started with another fantastic group number. This one set to "Shape of You" featured Meryl and Charlie, Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, and Ashley and Nathan. It was ice dance-themed, so I watched Ashley and Nathan for most of it to see how they would fare. They more than held their own! I love seeing skaters out of their element, so it was a treat to watch Ashley and Nathan dance in hold together.
Jason had a sprained ankle, so he couldn't jump or do his gorgeous Russian splits (I missed these most of all!), but he still provided a thoroughly entertaining performance that was one hundred percent Jason. The song "Can't Stop the Feeling" was the optimal vehicle for him to have a party on the ice and bring us all into it with him.
Bradie's program to "This Is Me" was also a great choice for her. She has an elegant power to her skating that I find very enjoyable to watch. The security of her jumps also makes it enjoyable because there's no fear of blemishes marring the performance.
Ashley created an entirely different mood with her "La La Land" program. She drew me in with her attention to the details of the choreography and her visible affection for the music. I wish we'd been able to see her compete with this program for an entire season.
My favorite program of the entire night came near the end of the show - Meryl and Charlie's "Elastic Heart." They used a long, red scarf throughout the program, weaving it between each other and using it with great musical effectiveness. It was obvious how emotionally involved they were in the performance, and the audience was right there with them, hushed and captivated. Meryl and Charlie have grown into such amazing artists. Their artistry goes beyond what their feet are doing on the ice.
Overall the show was a fantastic two hours of entertainment, and I hope the tour continues for many years to come! Here are all my photos from the show => PHOTOS
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Happy Olympic Season! The fun began this past weekend in Salt Lake City, site of the annual U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. I always love attending this competition every year because it means getting the first look at the skaters' new programs (thankfully there are some who haven't taken the recycled route this year that many have chosen). Salt Lake City is nestled in such a beautiful setting, and it's such an easy city to navigate that the experience is always enjoyable. My only request for next year is for USFS to give us more time between the afternoon and night sessions to eat dinner. We had to do a 20-minute mad dash to Noodles & Company on Thursday evening to grab food and bring it back to the arena.
I'll take a look at each discipline and give some thoughts I have on each:
I'm so glad Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro brought back their long program (one good case of recycling) because I think it is gorgeous and builds beautifully. They've come such a long way since the awkwardness when they first teamed up.
Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier's "All of Me" short program stood out to me. When they skate it clean, it has the potential to create one of those beautiful moments. Their connection on the ice shines through.
I would love Deanna Stellato and Nate Bartholomay's long program so much more if they were using the original version of "One" for the first part (cover songs are another bad trend this season). I'd even take the Bono/Mary J. Blige version that Kim and Brent used. I love the second half of the program when it comes alive with "Where the Streets Have No Name." I think the original "One" would give them an edgier vibe in the beginning that would match the end better.
Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson impressed me so much. Their skating has matured quite a bit, and they look like they could be contenders in the top echelon of U.S. pairs. I just hope the side by side jumps won't continue to be their downfall as it has been with almost every other U.S. pair.
Ghost is definitely the best program Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim have ever had, so good decision by USFS to ask them to bring it back. I think they could spruce up the choreography (the waving arms get a little repetitive), but the slow music does a good job of calming their movements so they look more graceful.
I hadn't seen the team of Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus before, but I absolutely loved them! They were adorable and looked like they'd been dancing together forever even though they're a relatively new team.
My favorite program in the dance discipline was the free dance of Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed. The music was special, and their movements were thoughtful and beautiful. They really set a mood, and Kana in particular expressed the emotion of the music so authentically.
The scores seemed rather low for most of the teams, and I thought Julia Biechler and Damian Dodge were grossly underscored. They have a nice, smooth quality to their skating that puts you at ease, and I especially love their powerful twizzles.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen's free dance was another standout program. I am so sad that they won't be able to attend the Olympics because their skating deserves to be on the sport's biggest stage.
I didn't care for the music in Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue's free dance, and I thought last year's FD did a better job showing their connection. I didn't think this program left as big of an emotional impact. The music really killed it for me.
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker's short dance was one of my favorites. I like my Latin programs on the mainstream and upbeat side, and this one fit the bill.
Nathan Chen - wow! His programs are so mature and well-choreographed, highlighting all his strengths. I hope he wins a medal in South Korea and then sticks around to bless us with his extraordinary talent for another four years.
Max Aaron also wowed me at this competition. He was rocking the warhorse programs, but they worked so well for him. He really seems to love the music and is connected to it in a way I haven't seen before. His jumps also looked in midseason form.
Liam Firus was another bright spot. His skating is like butter, and his La La Land program was perfect for his relaxed style. He also wins the cutest costume award.
Kazuki Tomono was a skater I hadn't seen before, and he was so entertaining, reminding me a of young Shoma Uno. He has a lot of flair, and he went all out in his West Side Story long program.
Marin Honda - another WOW. This was my first time seeing her skate live, and her blades were dead silent as they moved over the ice. She seemed to be floating from one element to another. This girl is special, and I hope she will be competing for many more years because I can only imagine how extraordinary she'll be as she grows even more as an artist.
I'm not a fan of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and I think it's waaaayyyyy overused, but Karen sold her "Tango de Roxanne" short program very well. I enjoyed the bones of her Carmen program, too, even with the mistakes. What's most impressive about her is her speed and attack.
Speaking of speed and attack, if Mirai Nagasu could attain those two elements she could finally set herself apart. I love the cuts of her Miss Saigon program and just want her to moooove faster across the ice to really make the program sing.
You can find all my photos from the event here => PHOTOS. Also included are the junior men's short program and the junior short dance.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
What do you do when your newest release is a snow-filled winter book but it's 80+ degrees outside with humidity so high your hair has taken on a new dimension? You host a giveaway of YA winter sports books! I've teamed up with Katie Van Ark and Melanie Hooyenga for a giveaway that's sure to cool you off on even the hottest summer nights.
Beginning TODAY, you can enter to win a paperback copy of each of our books — THE BOY NEXT DOOR, THE SLOPE RULES, and GOLD RUSH — by sharing a picture online of how you enjoy winter in summer. Not sure what that means? Here are a few examples:
- Ice in a glass
- Ice cream scoop/cone
- Snow cone
- Ice skating at your favorite rink
—> Post a picture on Instagram, Twitter, AND/OR Facebook with the hashtag "CoolReadsHotNights" by.
—> You must live in the US.
It's that easy!
A few more details:
—> You can enter more than once
—> Get creative! Ice and ice cream are easy, but drag your snowshoes from the basement and take a hike in the dunes!
—> We'd love it if you'd tag us:
Instagram: @jcomeaux4, @katievanark, @melaniehoo
Twitter: @LadyWave4, @kvanark, @melaniehoo
Now what are you waiting for? Share your winter in summer pics!
Monday, May 15, 2017
It's time for my annual Stars on Ice show review! I saw the show at its Anaheim stop again so I could visit with friends, and the crowd was great compared to the attendance reports I'd seen from other cities.
We arrived early at the Honda Center for the pre-show rehearsal, but because of miscommunication between the show management and the arena, we missed the ice dancers' rehearsal group :( I was glad we did get to see Madison Chock and Evan Bates do a Q&A with the local skaters at the end of the pre-show. This was something new that hadn't been done at the previous rehearsals I'd attended. The singles skaters practiced bits and pieces of their programs and also toyed around with other elements (saw Vincent land a nice quad in front of us). Ashley spent a few minutes working on her "ice slide" move with assistance from Adam lol. Here are some video clips I took during rehearsal => PRE-SHOW VIDS.
The show started with a great high-energy group number to "24K Magic." I find my eyes going to Charlie White a lot in these group numbers. His dancing has really reached another level since his participation in Love on the Floor last summer.
Here are the rest of the programs in order:
Vincent Zhou - "Sun" - This was the exhibition he did at nationals, and I like this program for him because it shows off the smoothness of his skating and how much he's worked on the artistic side. Couple of solid triples including a Rippon Lutz.
Gracie Gold - "Bang Bang" and "Best Mistake" - I really like the sassy choreography done by Misha Ge for this program. Would like to see Gracie bring it to life a little more. I think she did one double jump.
Adam Rippon and Gracie Gold - "City of Stars" - Loved this interlude and how much Gracie smiled once Adam came onto the ice. Wish it had been longer.
Adam Rippon - "Diamonds" - Very modern choreography done with complete commitment by Adam. His jumps look solid after the long layoff due to injury.
Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue - "Believer" - Love this song and the crisp, powerful movement by H/D in this program. I think a strong piece of music like this could be a good free dance vehicle for them.
Jeremy Abbott - "Land of All" - Inventive and angular choreography with a nicely-executed backflip included!
Karen Chen - "Rise" - Karen's command of the ice was AWESOME and the most powerful I've ever seen her look. She did a triple Lutz-half loop-triple Salchow in the program and was practicing her triple Lutz-triple toe during rehearsal.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates - "Santa Maria" - WOW WOW WOW. It's a shame that with all the tangos he's given his teams, Igor never blessed Madi and Evan with one because they owned this tango. Sultry, passionate, and creative with clever use of a folding chair as a prop. I didn't want it to end.
Ashley, Gracie, Adam, Jeremy - "Bright Lights" - This group number featured costumes that glowed in the dark. It was a cool concept, but the choreography seemed rather generic and didn't really grab me. As the only upbeat number other than the opening and closing, I would've preferred something more fun like "The Walker" from the 2014 show.
Nathan Chen - "Stole the Show" - Nathan really shines with the fast and furious footwork in this program, and he treated us to one of his beautiful quads. His performance ability shines through so much more when he doesn't have to do five of them.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White - "Adagio" - Stunning, moving, effortless skating. I can't think of enough adjectives for this program. They poured their hearts into the performance, and even though many of the movements were ones we've seen before, it didn't matter because they were done with such conviction.
Ashley Wagner - "Exogenesis: Symphony Part III" - Ashley maintained the mood set by Meryl and Charlie with her reprise of her Muse long program. She did a few very nice triples and performed the program to the max, completely engaged with the music.
Cast - "Send in the Clowns" - A lovely tribute to the late Jef Billings. A montage of clips from past SOI shows played on the video screens while the cast skated. I could feel the skaters' appreciation for his work in the air.
Cast - "Fratres" - This was a pretty group number to start the second half, but I think it would've been better to start with something a little more upbeat since the first half ended with the Jef Billings tribute.
Madison and Zach - "Stand By Me" - The program reminded me a lot of their free dance from this past season - very lyrical and emphasizing the emotional connection between the two of them.
Adam - "Getaway" - Cool, dancey program with a different vibe from his first number, so great variety! Once again his jumps were on point, too.
Madi Chock, Jeremy, Evan - "Tilted" - Another entertaining group number with interesting shapes and choreography.
Gracie - "Golden" - This was more of Gracie's usual style, but the jumps still weren't there (she did one double). I hope if her heart is still in skating that she can find her way to make a comeback on her terms.
Ice Dancers - "Black Hole Sun" - Awesome, dark group number with the three ice dance teams. I just wish the lights had been brighter because it was hard to see the facial expressions and the nuances of the program.
Karen - "Butterfly Lovers" - More gorgeous, heartfelt skating from Karen. She popped one jump but looked strong in every other aspect.
Jeremy - "In This Shirt" - The style of the program seemed similar to Jeremy's first number, so I had trouble remembering which one was which. He had a couple of jump issues in this one, but his basic skating is still so lovely to watch.
Madi and Evan - "Under Pressure" - I've loved this program all season long, so I was happy to see it one more time. It was great to see them include the twizzle sequence, which ice dancers don't normally do in exhibition programs.
Ashley - "Handclap" - This was Ashley at her fun, sassy best. She made me enjoy the program even though I'm not a fan of the song.
Meryl and Charlie - "Sax" - Totally different from their earlier number and such a blast of energy! This program showed off Meryl and Charlie's pure dance skills and how much they've grown from their experiences with Dancing With the Stars and Love on the Floor.
Cast - "Can't Stop the Feeling" - A great way to close the night with a fun, rocking number that included a chance for each skater to take their turn in the spotlight and be goofy (examples: Adam ripping off his jacket and Charlie running and sliding across the ice). The skaters took multiple laps around and didn't seem to want to leave. It was great to see how much fun they were having.
Here are the rest of my photos from the show plus the Meet and Greet! => SOI PHOTOS
Monday, May 1, 2017
GOLD RUSH is nominated for InD'tale Magazine's RONE Award in the YA:General category! I've been nominated for my other books but have never made the finals, so it would be amazing to finally get there. You can vote here until May 8! => RONE Awards
Voting requires a quick registration, but it's all free and you can unsubscribe at any time :) Thank you so much for your support!!