I attended the 2008 Sectionals Send-Off Exhibition at the Skating Club of Boston last Friday. These shows are usually quite enjoyable; there's usually a talented group of kids performing, the skaters are generally well-prepared by this time of the season and are intent on using this as a warmup for the actual competition, but since it's just an exhibition there are no annoying judging delays for the CoP so the event moves quickly for spectators.
This year's show started out with the two pair teams. Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir, a novice team, performed their short program to rock guitar music. Their best element was the lasso lift which went up smoothly and transitioned to a 1-arm support. They had a little glitch on their pair spin but the double twist was also nicely done. Although they're competing junior, Molly and Chris Schleicher obviously seem like the weaker team of the two. They also skated their short program, to the "Truman Show" music that Ina & Zimmerman used. Their lift was pretty scary and their side-by-side spins were so close together that I thought they were fortunate to avoid injury.
The next group of skaters were the novice and junior singles competitors, starting out with regional novice champion (and last year's national intermediate champion) Gretchen Donlan. She did her free skate which I'd already seen at New Englands, but this wasn't as clean as a performance, with a fall on the second double axel and a couple smaller mistakes on other jumps. She is still not trying a triple, and doesn't look comfortable with the double axel yet; she sits on the back edge prior to the takeoff way too long, until she's already overrotated and has almost skidded to a halt. I'm not optimistic about her chances of making it to Nationals this year.
Novice man Ross Miner skated his short program to music that, if memory serves correctly, was a medley of the "Hawaii Five-O" theme music, and "Wipeout". His outfit was a loud black/purple/turquoise outfit that reminded me of the suits bicycle racers wear. Elements were 3z/2t, steps into 3f with great spring to it, back sit, straight-line steps, spread eagle into a double axel, back to front spin combination with a corkscrew sit that didn't sit down far enough. He seemed more into the performance aspect than in the past, which was nice to see.
Hanako Gutterman is the club's other novice lady competitor. She skated her short program to "Czardas". Her jumps were 2z/2r with an off-balance landing and a little hop, 2x slightly overrotated, and 2f with arms at her sides. Watching her in the warmup, I thought her axel looked more secure than Gretchen's.
Junior man Colin Norgeot skated his short program to ominious-sounding movie music (I suppose). Jumps were 2x, 2z/2t very close to boards, steps into 2r. His flying sit spin had nice fly to it.
Brittney Rizo also skated her short program, to tinkly piano music; too pretty-pretty for my taste. Pale yellow halter dress. 3r had a long wait after the steps and a foot down, 3t/3t was very well done, flying sit didn't get much fly, 2x with a strong check. When she was doing her spirals, her music cut out and she finished her program without it.
Curran Oi skated his free skate to the Michael W. Smith music that always reminds me of Braden Overett. 3r, 3x fall (but I think he landed one in warmup), 3z/2t step out, circular steps in a rather small pattern, 3f/3t step out, back/front sit spin, nice spread eagles to the music, 3f, 3s, back/front spin combination, eagle into 3z especially nice, straight-line steps, 2x right at the very end of the program. I appreciate the general good technique in his skating but it seemed a little bland and expressionless to me.
Next we had the club's dance teams, starting with Susan Enright & Michael Bramante, an intermediate team. (Yes, intermediate dance teams go to sectionals this year, instead of regionals.) They skated to a tango that may have been too ambitious for them at this point; I felt they were definitely skating their program rather than dancing it, and many of the transitions and connections were a bit clunky. I'm sure they'll improve a lot as they get more experience and move up the competitive ladder.
Novices Una Donegan & Andrew Korda skated their free dance to "Anytime, Anywhere", dressed in matching pastel swirls and flappy scraps. They did twizzles holding their foot and then another set in the opposite direction, an upside-down lift, some steps with choctaws, etc, got out of sync on another set of twizzles, circular steps, rotational lift seemed a bit wild on the set-down, combination lift with ugly blade-to-head position that all the dancers have to do for the CoP. It's especially noticible with the younger teams that all the CoP crud gets in the way of actual dancing.
After this, we had another novice team, Kate McDermott & Colin McManus, who also skated their free dance, to a fast/slow/fast music mishmash I couldn't identify any part of. They also started out with the twizzles holding their foot and then in the opposite direction and an upside-down lift. They did a straight-line cantilever lift where she couldn't quite get stretched out all the way. Obligatory ugly blade-to-head lift, then some circular steps that seemed to have no relation to the music. I'm sure these kids are good enough to actually dance if they didn't have to be doing all that CoP crud instead. Twizzling while holding your foot is no doubt really hard, but what does it have to do with dancing?
Finally, we had Brin Adams & Dan Donigan, the junior team, who skated their OD. She was wearing a pink polka dot dress with petticoats, while he had on a western shirt, and they skated to banjo music with a vocal and some fiddling, too. This seemed like a poor choice because the tempo was very quick and they were not; especially in the opening section it seemed like they were skating in slow motion. They also had troubles with the twizzles on the straight-line steps. Program ended with the inevitable ugly blade-to-head positions in the dance spin and lift.
The final group of skaters was the senior singles competitors. Just a note, Kylie Gleason was also listed as participating, but did not skate; I do not know why.
Michelle Boulos was the first up in this group. She skated her short program to Phillip Glass music that she'd also done at Evening With Champions. This was definitely a better performance. 3z/2t, 3t, flying sit with broken-leg position, spin combination with a hand down in the camel, straight-line steps with a lot of arm-thrashing, spirals seemed a little slow, 2x, layback to biellmann. This is difficult music to perform to.
By contrast, Juliana Cannarozzo gave her jazzy program an obvious hard sell to the audience, or at least the audience on the side of the rink where the judges would be sitting. 3f/2t, bufferfly sit, 3r, spin combination, spirals, 2x, straight-line steps with a circular detour and a couple stops to mug for judges for good measure, layback.
Yahoo! Jason Wong is back after missing the past two seasons due to injury. His jumps are still looking a little bit rusty, although in the warmup I did see him land his triple axel and other jumps he missed in the program. But, never mind about the jumps; I was a lot more excited by the quality of his program. He skated his long program, to "The Mission". I suspect that the judges will hate it, since it didn't seem like the usual thrashing about to rack up maximum CoP points while random music plays in the background. Instead, I thought the choreography was interesting and that his movements had purpose and suited the music, and that he was bringing his own point of view to the performance. A program that's actually a program! How rare that is in skating nowadays!
Katrina Hacker, in her first season of representing the club, skated her free skate to "Concierto de Aranjuez". Elements were 3t/2t/2r, 3s/2r, 3r, death drop, ina into 3t, straight-line steps, back sit, 3s, spirals, pop x, spin combination, 2x/2t, layback. This was quite a nice program; it can be a challenge to hold the audience's attention with slow, understated music like this. It was nice to see her skate almost clean, too.
Jessica Houston finished up the evening by performing her free skate, too. She's using the Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concerto, with disturbingly similar music cuts to those used by Chen Lu in 1996 -- disturbing because it only points out that Jessica is no Chen Lu. I found myself really bugged by her posture, in particular. (Curiously, Juliana, whose posture I used to complain about when she was younger, now stands up straight -- surely Jessica could do so as well....) In spite of this, Jessica skated one of the better performances I've seen from her in the past couple of years. Her elements were 3f slightly two-footed, 3r/2t, 3s/2t, back/front spin combination, spirals, 3r, 3t, another spin, 2x, another 3t, camel/sit/twisty A, straight-line steps, death drop. I noted that she's no longer attempting some of the ugly contortionist CoP positions that she couldn't really do last season.
The fields at Easterns in both senior ladies and men are quite deep this year, so I wouldn't hazard a guess as to which of these skaters might advance to Nationals! As often happens, it's going to come down to who skates well on the day.
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