I covered the Friday night events already, so I'll start with the Saturday schedule. The first event on the Saturday docket was the pairs short program. I'd never seen Purdy/Marinaro before and I thought they had an elegant quality to their skating. Their elements are pretty small, but they are very pretty together. Of the American teams, Castelli/Shnapir fared the best, and I thought they gave great energy to their program. I'm still not sold on the music cuts of Denney/Couglin's Tosca program. I think the music is too big for a short. It's better in a long program where it has time to build. I watched the second group of pairs on the concourse while I grabbed lunch, and I thought Volosozhar/Trankov were grossly overscored. There's no way they were twelve points better than Moore-Towers/Moscovitch.
The highlights of the ladies' short program for me were Samantha Cesario, Ashley Wagner, and Mao Asada. It's a shame Sammi constantly has jump under-rotation issues because her performance skills are way above many of her competitors and her skating has a way of making you take notice. Ashley commanded the same attention in her short, also giving us a spunky, sassy look (and doing that triple-triple!). In contrast, Mao floated over the ice with her lyrical Chopin program. The lightness in her skating has always amazed me, and it was wonderful to see her land the triple axel again. I remember the first time I saw her skate live at Skate America in Hartford way back in 2006, she was reeling off those triple axels all over the place.
After a dinner break, it was back to the arena for the men's free skate. My favorite programs of the night were Daisuke Takahashi's, Jason Brown's, and Adam Rippon's. I didn't enjoy Tatsuki Machida's long program as much as I enjoyed his short, but I'm not a fan of Firebird in general. There's not much more to say about Dai's skating that hasn't already been said. It's sad to see how some of his jumps have deteriorated over the years, but his in-between skating is more gorgeous than ever. Jason was a bit tight in this performance, but he still delivered an engaging one and had the crowd into every move (and there are some eye-popping transitions in this program!). Adam's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun program is one of my favorites of any discipline this season. The way he feels the music and the beautiful positions he attains... it's stunning. His entrance into the circular footwork will have to be featured in Monday Moves soon!
The final Saturday event was the free dance. It was a great night of skating with a variety of themes. I didn't know how I'd like Carron/Jones' Black Swan program, but it was enjoyable with a couple of really cool lifts. We'd all been anticipating the Shibutanis' Michael Jackson free dance, and I thought the first and third sections (the fast parts) were very entertaining (minus the crotch grab in the beginning. I do not need to see Alex grabbing his crotch, thank you). I felt they lost energy in the slow middle section. Hubbell/Donohue's free dance was skated very well. They are really so smooth across the ice. The music was a little screechy for me, though.
Cappellini/Lanotte had another great performance in the free dance. Their improved speed is what's really standing out to me this year. They've always had the great performance skills, and now they're backing it up with crisper technical elements. I'd love to see them on the Olympic podium! Davis/White showed marked improvement over the SLC performance with much more punch at the end of the program this time. There were a few little miscues (on the spin and the diagonal steps that I could spot), but I think it was a definite step in the right direction. With each performance I see them adding more emotion and working on bringing out the story more. There's been a lot of discussion about their costumes, and I like the combination they showed here the best. Charlie's is definitely an improvement from the SLC version, and though I loved Meryl's dress in SLC, I think the teal SA dress has a sexier neckline and looks a bit more sophisticated. I don't mind that the teal and eggplant colors don't match. I think the two jewel tones go well together.
I had an early start on Sunday because of the Friends of Figure Skating breakfast. A big shout-out to the Joe Louis arena employee who gave me perfect directions around the marathon traffic and directly into the arena parking lot. I got to talk to Max Aaron, Jason Brown, Adam Rippon, and the Shibs at the breakfast and they were all so nice. Max talked to our table for a long time and told us about the Batman exhibition he'd love to do. I hadn't met him before and was really impressed with how well he mingled and worked the crowd. Jason and Adam were super sweet, and both were very excited about their next Grand Prix events. I'd talked to the Shibs many times at events over the years, but it's always nice to see them! I asked Adam to send a special greeting to a friend and one of his biggest fans, and he was so happy to oblige :)
My friends and I walked around downtown Detroit a bit after the breakfast and got to see some of the marathon runners and football fans also milling about. We headed back to the arena for the pairs free skate, where I was disappointed Castelli/Shnapir had some missteps. Marissa almost landed the quad cleanly, but there were some problems on the side-by-side triple toes and the throw triple Salchow. Zhang/Bartholomay had a great rebound from the short program. I wish their elements had more size and power to them because their skating seems kind of small, but you can't deny the grit in their performance.
Once again the point differential between Volosozhar/Trankov and Moore-Towers/Moscovitch was ridiculous. I vastly preferred M-T/M's program to V/T's. V/T have such impressive elements, but I'm left cold by their skating. I've seen comparisons to Totmianina/Marinin, and I agree. Both great champions, but I feel nothing when I watch them. I actually think M-T/M's lifts and jumps are actually more impressive than V/T's, but I guess the judges don't agree with me.
On to the ladies. Once again, Sammi was the highlight of the early group for me, and Ashley and Mao in the second group. I like that Ashley isn't using the overused parts of Romeo and Juliet. And good on her for doing the triple-triple again (I haven't checked the protocols to see if it was downgraded). Mao's step sequence in her Rach 2 program is a masterpiece.
The Exhibition was fun as always, and I was so thrilled to see Daisuke's "The Crisis" exhibition again. It's my favorite of his, and I was tearing up thinking that it was probably the last time I'll see him skate live. He will be missed so much!
Overall I thought we saw some great skating for the opening Grand Prix of the season. The people in Detroit were so nice and helpful, and other than the long drive from the hotel to the arena, it was a good host city. As we continue on with the rest of the Grand Prix series, I'll do my best to blog about some of the events (depending on how much I get to watch on IceNetwork). Let's hope we see even more spectacular performances along the way!