Friday, October 26, 2018

LIFE ON THE EDGE Free on Amazon

For the first time ever, LIFE ON THE EDGE is available for free on Amazon! The sale only lasts a few days, so hurry and download the book to your Kindle now! => FREE BOOK

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Skate America 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.

After another visit to The Valley Organic Deli for lunch on Saturday, it was off to the arena for the start of a long day of competition. The pairs were up first again, and this time Ashley and Tim delivered the full package. Ashley's landing on the throw Lutz was the best I've ever seen from them, and the regal music fit their style with their long lines. I also enjoyed the young team of Nica Digerness/Danny Neudecker. Nica reminds me of Caitlin Yankowskas, and Danny complements her lyrical style well. I've been dying for someone to skate to "Let It Go" by James Bay, so I was all in for their long program.

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!

Friday Events
Saturday Events
Sunday Events

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 Stars on Ice

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.

The loudest ovations of the night came during Adam's reprise of his short program to "Let Me Think About It," and they were SO deserved. Adam amped up every move in the program and sold it like nobody's business. It truly felt like we were in a club, losing ourselves on a pulsating dance floor.

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