Saturday, November 12, 2011

NHK Trophy Free Dance & Pairs Free Skate Review

I love when the crazy Asia-North America time difference works out and I can actually watch a few Grand Prix events live without staying up until the wee hours of the morning. The Free Dance was up first on Friday night (Saturday afternoon in Japan), and it started with the news that Alexandra Paul and Mitch Islam had withdrawn due to injury. Wishing Alexandra a speedy recovery from the cut she suffered in a collision at practice!

The first group's six-minute warm-up got off to a scary start with another collision, this time between the Reeds and Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt. Cathy Reed's blade barely missed Lynn's head but appeared to nick her arm. Disaster was thankfully averted with some quick reflexes and all parties went on to skate. My thoughts on the free dances as they were performed:

Cathy Reed/Chris Reed - After Meryl Davis and Charlie White's iconic Bollywood original dance in 2009-2010, I'm not sure anyone else should try an Indian-themed dance. The blue screen of death afflicted my sister's laptop during the Reeds' performance, so I missed most of it, but I wasn't excited by the part I saw.

Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt - Lynn's dress is gorgeous. They have great lifts and always make pretty pictures on the ice. Some of my best photos have been of the lovely positions they hit. Loved their first lift especially - Lynn in a split and Logan in a shoot-the-duck. The step sequences looked like they could move out a little faster. Program has a sassy feel to it, and I thought they had good connection with each other and really bought into the music.

Lorenza Alessandrini/Simone Vaturi - Tosca! How is this going to be uplifting? Cool move at the end of their dance spin where Simone picks up Lorenza and continues to whirl her around, but I'm wondering how that's legal. I guess it's not considered part of the spin but there wasn't a clearly defined transition between the two moves. Toward the end of the program, there's a whole sequence of steps that are very empty. The program overall looks messy.

Nelli Zhiganshina/Alexander Gazsi - Romeo and Juliet - another uplifting story ;-) They've changed part of their music since Skate America. Now using "Kissing You" with vocals in the beginning of the program. Perhaps this makes the program seem less angsty?

Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani - Their first lift is my favorite, when Maia pops up into a standing position. Best twizzles of the night. They're putting more oomph into this program every time they skate it. I think one section of the choreography near the end (before the final lift) could use a little something more, but overall the program has good highs and lows. Can see them hitting it out of the park as we get deeper into the season.

Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje - The music isn't my cup of tea, but they performed the heck out of the program. They have some pretty lifts. I like the simplicity of Andrew's costume. The droopy strap on Kaitlyn's dress kinda bugs me.

Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov - This version of Ave Maria is not pleasing to the ears. Their lifts are all from the Morozov bucket o' lifts. Nothing we haven't seen before. Program gets sloppy as it goes along. Judges redeem themselves from last week's questionable scoring and rightfully put this free dance in third place.

On to the Pairs Free Skate!

Natasha Purich/Raymond Schultz - Doesn't start well for the young Canadians as they have to abort the twist. The problems continue as Natasha loses the side-by-spin and stands still while Raymond continues to spin. Natasha looks very young, so I look up their bios and see she's only sixteen. Rough skate but it's only their first senior Grand Prix event.

Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir - Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2! Could listen to this music every day. Their twist looks a little smaller than I'm used to seeing from them in the past. Marissa almost has the landing of the throw triple axel. They show their reliable strength in the lifts and the huge throw triple salchow. Love Marissa's spirals and her elegance.

Lubov Iliuschechkina/Nodari Maisuradze - Lubov is so tiny. She does not look twenty. One of their lifts resembles Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig's signature lift where Mark holds up Amanda on her thigh. Whenever Eastern Europeans skate to show tunes, I think of Oksana Bauil's 1994 Olympic free skate and Vern Lundquist rambling about the irony of it.

Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov - I love me some "Clair de Lune" . . . just not with Tamara Moskvina's crazy contorted lifts and Yuko's bad posture. Yuko's skirts are always so long that they fly up and cover her entire back. I find it distracting. They skate well, but everything they do looks messy to me.

Caydee Denney/John Coughlin - Caydee falls on the throw triple loop - haven't seen that happen very often. Their lifts need some work. The final lift is placed too close to the end of the program and they miss the ending beat of the music. I wasn't sure about the guitar version of "Nessun Dorma" at first, but it's growing on me.

Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek - Impressive three-jump combination to open the program. Ondrej doesn't look much taller than Stefania, but he appears to have good upper body strength. Those of us who were at Skate America 2007 in Reading saw the gun show he put on at practice.

Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran - I'm familiar with "Concierto de Aranjuez" but not "Concerto de Quebec." It's rather lovely! They do Meryl and Charlie's lift where Meryl stands on Charlie's leg and looks regal. Beautiful posture from Narumi. Their jumps and throws are messy, though. The score looks a tad high for all the mistakes on key elements.

Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy - The teal green color of their costumes is divine. Unfortunately, the performance is not. Unlike at Skate America, the program is riddled with errors. Doubled jumps, side-by-side singled axels, an aborted lift. Still love the intricate choreography but they didn't put the same amount of pizzazz into this performance as they did at Skate America.

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