Fire on Ice

I drove to Utica NY to see the "Fire on Ice" show on Friday evening. This event seems to be taking the place of the regular spring show at the ISCC in Simsbury, and featured most of the elite skaters from Simsbury and the other rinks owned by its parent company, SkateNation, along with various other skaters that they could scrounge up for the occasion. Bob Young, the head coach at ISCC, acted as the announcer for the show.

The show started with an opening number to introduce the cast, each coming out to do a trick while the "Jumping Jack" music that Ilia Kulik used on SOI this year played in the background. This seemed to be hastily put together and/or underrehearsed, with some awkward moments when one skater was still taking a bow at center ice when the next would come barrelling out to do their trick.

The first skater was Kelly O'Grady, who I think is now 8 years old, but still doing the Mary Poppins program she's been doing for about four years now. She was listed in the program as being the youngest skater ever to pass the senior moves test, but believe me, she is not anywhere close to being a senior-level skater. She has no power in her skating, and the connecting moves in this program were very weak. And, most glaringly, she has very bad jump technique, with an alarming leg wrap and a tendency to "spin" her jumps. In this program, she opened with three single axels in a row, did a flying camel that didn't "fly" at all, a double salchow, and a couple more spins.

Emilie Nussear & Brandon Forsyth did a program to some slow ballad with a male singer. There wasn't a whole lot of dance choreography in this program, and in fact the whole thing was more pairs-like, with a death spiral and an adagio lift. She dropped the rose she was carrying midway through the program and afterwards no one thought to go out and retrieve it -- ooops. The audience response to this program was relatively tepid.

Shepherd Clark skated his 1812 short program in a new black outfit with red and purple sequinned swirls across the chest and down the legs, and gobs of silver fringe in swirly patterns around the shoulders and arms. It takes a lot of guts to wear a costume like that. Jumps were a double axel, double lutz, and triple loop. It seemed like he aborted a circular step sequence and just did plain stroking around the circle, but he got the audience going at the end with the aggressive straight-line footwork sequence and a series of butterflies into his usual spin combination. Lots of applause. After Shep had to dodge the rose on the ice for his whole program, someone came around to pick it up while he was taking his bows.

Angela Nikodinov skated her Titanic GFB program in the pink dress. Her jumps were double flip, double axel, and double toe, and she did a layback and a flying camel in there too. It seemed to me that this program had a lot of posing and not much "meat" to it in terms of connecting elements.

Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman skated to another GFB in their brown long program outfits from Nationals. They did a nice double twist and throw triple salchow, but it was more interesting to me to see that Tamara Moskvina has been working to give them some really unusual and original pairs tricks. One of the things they did started out with John in a spread eagle and Kyoko skating in a low position around his ankles, with John sort of picking her up off the ice and going into a spin while swinging her around behind his back. They also did a lift where John was in a spread eagle position and Kyoko was kneeling on his shoulder with one knee and supported kind of sideways over his head.

Takeshi Honda skated to some familiar Japanese-sounding music wearing his long program outfit. The program opened with a lot of nice edgy footwork incorporating a big half loop jump, then he did a double axel, spin combination, triple toe, butterfly into a spin, straight footwork, more footwork into a double flip that was an obvious pop, nice triple salchow, and a flying camel with a brief layover position.

Caryn Kadavy skated to a GFB wearing a gray dress with a black lacy 1-shouldered top. Typical Caryn program, which means I wasn't terribly excited by it, but I *was* impressed that she landed a triple loop. Good for her.

Viacheslav Zagorodniuk did his Greased Lightning program that he's used at a couple of pro events this year. The audience loved it. Element-wise, he did a double axel, spin combination, triple lutz, a triple flip that looked two-footed, straight footwork, a popped axel, double toe, and a death drop.

Evgenia Shishkova & Vadim Naumov wore skated their Secret Garden program -- this is the same music that Meno & Sand have also used. I happened to have been present while John Thomas was choreographing this program for them last fall but this was the first time I'd seen the final result. John's approach seemed to be to do a lot of skating around and working out the steps and movements himself, and then teaching them to Evgenia & Vadim. I think John's background as an ice dancer influenced the choreography in that direction -- there were a lot of dance lifts and adagio-type moves in the program and not so much straight pair skating.

Ekaterina Gordeeva finished up the first half with her "Fragile" program from SOI. Her jumps were a nice double axel, double toe, and double lutz, but the real highlight of this program is all the complex footwork. I'm not sure the audience really appreciated how technically difficult it was.

The skating order for the second half of the show was exactly the same as for the first half.

Kelly O'Grady's second program used the same piece of music Oksana Baiul used for her program from last year with the hat -- of course, Kelly had a hat, too. She was wearing a black dress with a lot of sparklies on it. The program had an axel, a besti squat, a double salchow/half loop/double salchow combination, lots of jiggling (yuck!), something that I think was supposed to be a flying sit spin, a flying camel, a double toe or flip, a charlotte spiral, an attempted double lutz that was a half rotation short, and another spin. I was about ready to barf by the end of this program -- this skater is far too young to be trying to do an Oksana Baiul sexpot imitation. On top of that, I always get an uncomfortable feeling watching Kelly skate because she looks so robotic about it; her expression looks closer to frozen terror than enjoyment. She doesn't seem to have any natural affinity or aptitude for performing, in the way that, say, Nicole Bobek obviously did as a child.

Nussear & Forsyth skated a latin program that was a lot more dancey and energetic than their first one; they got a better response from the audience for this one.

Shepherd Clark skated a program to some classical-sounding choral music, that emphasized all the things he does best -- swooping spirals and spread eagles, spins, and finishing up with a hydroblading-type move that evolved into his "Shep spiral" with one hand on the ice. The difficult jumps weren't there -- only double loop, double lutz with a step-out, and a single axel -- and he had a weird fall on nothing in particular, but the audience loved the program, and it *was* very well presented. It occurred to me that Shep has the makings of a great show skater. He's impressive because his speed and height and extension really fill up the ice, and he certainly does not lack in charisma or ability to project himself to the audience.

Angela Nikodinov's second number was "Dust in the Wind" skated in her blue short program dress. This was a much better-constructed program than her first one, with a lot more in the way of connecting elements and an extended footwork section. And she at least started out being a lot more aggressive with the jumps, landing a triple flip and triple toe before backing off and finishing up with a double loop and single axel.

Ina & Zimmerman skated to "Music of the Night" in their black and white outfits. Kind of generic skating, IMHO, without the unusual tricks of their first program. They badly messed up a side-by-side jump sequence, and she put a hand down on a throw triple salchow.

Takeshi Honda: wore a blue/black outfit and skated to "I Believe I Can Fly". I thought this music was dreadful and not at all suited to him and the choreography was not very interesting, either. Elements were double axel, flying camel, triple toe with two-footed landing, triple salchow, spread eagles, and a triple flip with a big step out on the landing.

Caryn Kadavy's second program was Oye Como Va, which she was using as a short program at some of the pro-am competitions this year. I thought this was a nicely put-together program in terms of the choreography and she presented it well, but she seemed to wimp out on the jumps. Elements were double toe, circular footwork, layback, spiral sequence, single axel, spin combination, double flip out of footwork, flying camel into her catch-foot spin.

Zaggy did his other show program for the season, "Men in Black" in a suit with sunglasses that he kept putting on and taking off -- that was a little distracting. Very fast entrance into a double axel, flying camel, triple lutz, triple toe, footwork, double toe, spin combination. Another big hit with the audience.

Shishkova & Naumov did their "Loco" program in the ruffly green outfits after a false start with their music. Throw triple toe loop, he does a backflip while she poses, a pair spin where he carries her on his free leg, their flip-up lift, a swing, and a detroiter.

Katia's second program was "Can't Help Falling in Love", skated in a sparkly red dress. Not a great performance, as she seemed pretty tentative to me, fell out of her double flip on two feet, and only did a single axel. The highlight of the program was the outside-edge camel spin at the beginning.

The closing number was more or less a repeat of what they did at the beginning of the show, but with different music. Several of the skaters did the exact same tricks. Kelly did a spin, Emilie & Brandon did this thing where she hooks one knee around his neck and he spins her around, Shep did a double axel and some butterflies, Angela did her layback, Kyoko & John did the knee-on-the-shoulder lift, Takeshi did another two-footed triple toe, Caryn did a spread eagle and a scratch spin, Zag did a triple axel and strutted around proudly afterwards, Evgenia & Vadim did their flip-up lift, and Katia did a skid spiral and a spin combination. Again, this all looked hastily slapped together.

I suppose they might have gotten about twice as many people in the arena in Utica as they could have fit in Simsbury. There were a lot of empty seats and I wonder how well they publicized this event. Tickets were very cheap and there were a lot of kids in the audience. It seemed like this wasn't a really knowledgable crowd as they were cheering madly for everything, including popped and doubled jumps. Someone sitting near me was emitting ear-splitting whistles through many of the performances, which was driving me nuts by the end of the show. I'm not sure if the skaters appreciate that so much, either.

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