An Evening With Champions 2004

Once again, it's time for the annual Jimmy Fund benefit show at Harvard University. I always used to proclaim that this show was the best bargain in skating with tickets only $20, but alas, that is true no longer. The "cheap seats" are now $30, but finding myself stuck behind the glass and hockey netting at the end of the rink, I upgraded to the $50 (ouch!) tickets on the sides -- which turned out to be unnecessary anyway, since there were many empty seats. There's a certain population of regulars and die-hard skating fans who will attend no matter how much it costs, but I wonder if they've priced themselves out of the market otherwise now.

Paul Wylie hosted the show again -- I've lost track now of how many years he has done this. This year the show was also being taped for television again after a lapse of a few years; it'll be broadcast on Comcast cable channel CN8 instead of PBS.

At the beginning of the show it was announced that Johnny Weir, Jenny Kirk, and Katie Orscher & Garrett Lucash had all pulled out due to injury, which I thought left the cast a little thin. It didn't help matters that the Skating Club of Boston was having their regionals send-off show earlier the same evening and that Louann Donovan and Scott Smith are at Finlandia Trophy, so we got fewer local skaters than in the past, too.

The days of the elaborate opening and closing numbers seem to be gone, now. In both cases, we just had the skaters coming out and doing a trick at center ice as their names were announced.

I have to apologize if my notes on the skaters are a little sketchy, and/or if I got jump identifications wrong. I was mostly concentrating on photos this time.

Diandra Burke opened the show as first of the local skaters. She's a juvenile-level competitor, and while she had a few falls in her program, she skates with a lot of speed and seems to be a natural performer.

Then there was a group number by members of the Harvard Figure Skating Club, who bopped around the ice in pink tops and black leggings, concluding with a few synchro-type maneuvers. They looked like they were having fun.

Morgan Matthews & Max Zavozin were the first of the featured skaters, doing what I assume is their free dance for the year in black and dark green outfits that didn't photograph well. My primary reaction was, this is supposed to be dance music? And what they're doing is supposed to be dancing? Finally the last section of their program was recognizable as "Riverdance" or "Lord of the Dance" or something like that, and their choreography got vaguely more dance-like.

Kelly Smith was a last-minute addition to the cast, apparently so last-minute that he was not even included on the loose cast list sheet inserted into the program booklet. He has been skating with one of the cruise ship shows since he disappeared from the competitive scene. He performed here to some obnoxious rock music, showed good speed and field moves and some good spins, but wasn't able to do much in the way of jumps.

Next Jennifer Don & Jonathon Hunt skated their competitive short program to Rachmaninoff. The double twist was nice, but at least one of them and maybe both doubled the side-by-side toe loops, and the throw triple loop had very little ice coverage and not a particularly secure landing. A bigger problem is that they still really don't have much unison or pair-ness.

Amber Corwin skated to Patsy Cline's "Crazy". I think her jumps were 2t/2t, 2x, and a 3s that she barely held onto. It was a nice program, though.

Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov continued their long-standing run of appearances at this show. In past years I have thought that the audience sometimes did not know who they were or appreciate their accomplishments, but this time they were greeted very warmly by the audience. They celebrated their 50th year of skating together with a performance to "When I Fall in Love" sung by Nat King Cole, very sweet. They no longer skate with much speed (which is doubtless why I was able to get so many good photos of them!) but they still do most of the same tricks they've had for the past several years, including a few small lifts and a couple death spirals. They followed this up with an encore to a short Russian piano piece. Finally, Paul Wylie presented them with bouquets of roses. Ludmila looks as glamorous as ever and Oleg is a hoot, always the last one to leave the ice and obviously enjoying every minute of the experience. BTW, this is my favorite photo of the whole evening.

After intermission, we were treated to speeches by the original founders of the show, John Powers and John Misha Petkevich, as well as Tenley Albright. They all said good things about cancer research and thanked the skaters and the community for supporting the show and the Jimmy Fund over the years.

Jason Wong opened the second act with the same show program he did at Ice Chips last spring. I heard that he had skated at the SCoB show earlier in the evening, too! I was impressed that he tried his triple axel under spotlights -- he fell on it, but it was a good attempt. I can sure see a lot of Mark Mitchell's influence in his skating.

Jessica Houston also recycled her show program from Ice Chips -- it's to Madonna's "Frozen", I think. I have her jumps down as 2x, 2f, 3t.

Katherine Healy skated to a medley of "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "In The Mood" in a flapper outfit, using a long cigarette holder as a prop. She did a variety of double jumps (all with a horrendous leg wrap) and a lot of dancy footwork, and the crowd really loved it.

Next Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell skated what has to be their new free dance, to music that I described in my notes as "Russian Elevator Music". This sure didn't strike me as dance music, nor did their choreography seem very dance-like to me. I really haven't been very happy with recent trends in ice dance, as I think the CoP is forcing skaters to put so much emphasis on the required elements that there's precious little room left for actual *dancing*.

Ryan Bradley skated an abbreviated version of his "Dueling Banjos" free skate from last year. He was originally supposed to be competing at Finlandia this weekend but pulled out due to injury, and indeed he does not look very well-trained at the moment. I have his jumps down as 2z, 3z with a really wild landing, 3t with a step out. I was actually kind of relieved not to see any of those wild popped axel attempts from him.

Paul introduced Evan Lysacek by telling us that it's his goal to get a Harvard MBA, which is always a sure way to get the audience at Harvard on his side. But Evan's skating alone would have done that; it was one of the highlights of the show. He skated to a Latin pop song (sounded vaguely Barry Manilow-ish to me), and really *danced* to the music. The choreography had a lot of footwork and really seemed to capture the character of the dance, Evan did a great job of interpreting it, and technically his skating was really sharp as well. Lots of speed, "attack", and clean jumps including a 3z and 3f. I never cared much for the angsty/introspective exhibition programs he used to do, and I'm glad to see him coming out of his shell and developing into such a fine performer.

Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto skated their new gypsy free dance. Not only was this actually recognizable as dancing, they were obviously a lot faster than the two other teams who'd skated earlier in the show. Were those really *quadruple* twizzles they were doing? I think it's going to take more than one viewing (especially when I am not fiddling with a camera at the same time) to take in the details of this dance, but my initial impression is that I like it a lot better than the "West Side Story" mess they did last year. It's similar in some ways to their "Sarajevo" dance which is my favorite of their previous work.

Tiffany Scott & Phil Dulebohn skated a show program to rock music filled with a lot of tricks. It didn't really do much for me, and it's hard to tell from a performance like this how competition-ready they really are.

Steven Cousins skated to "Belfast Child", an old program for him but one I was relieved to see instead of his more typical bump-and-grind to loud rock music, since it features more actual skating. His jumps were 2f and a sequence of a split jump into a 3t and then another 3t. He is going to be touring with SOI again this winter and seems to be in pretty good shape.

Paul Wylie closed the show by skating the same "Hero" program he did last year. Jumps were 1x, 2z, and a couple split jumps, but the real highlights were the field moves and spins, and to be honest I could just watch Paul's *stroking* all day long; very smooth, efficient, and powerful.

After this, there was just the closing number, which as I said was mostly just the skaters doing a trick at center ice as their names were called. Paul did get a little solo bit at the very end, which he concluded with his trademark knee slide.

Photos

Photos are Copyright (c) 2004, Sandra J. Loosemore, and are provided for personal viewing only except as noted in Skateweb's photo use policy.

I apologize for some of these photos being a bit underexposed.... lighting at the event was generally OK as long as the spotlight operators were able to keep up with the skaters, but sometimes they didn't! :-P

Diandra Burke: 1
Matthews & Zavozin: 1
Kelly Smith: 1
Don & Hunt: 1 | 2
Amber Corwin: 1 | 2
Protopopovs: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9
John Powers: 1
John Misha Petkevich: 1
Tenley Albright: 1
Jason Wong: 1
Jessica Houston: 1
Katherine Healy: 1 | 2 | 3
Galler-Rabinowitz & Mitchell: 1 | 2
Ryan Bradley: 1
Evan Lysacek: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Belbin & Agosto: 1 | 2 | 3
Scott & Dulebohn: 1 | 2 | 3
Steven Cousins: 1 | 2
Paul Wylie: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
Closing number: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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