Thoughts on Programs from the Finlandia Trophy and the Japan Open

More pre-season skating videos have popped up and here are my two cents again! There weren’t that many A-list competitors at Finlandia, so I decided to combine this post with my thoughts on some of the Japan Open programs.

Finlandia Trophy

Tessa and Scott 2013 Finlandia FD

First of all, can I say, I am so thankful that the Yankee Polka is done. Honestly, the next skater(s) who do a cowboy program, I’m just going to walk away from my laptop before I break something. As for this SD, I like the songs but I wonder why Marina never gives Tessa and Scott an SD with music derived from one soundtrack or source like Meryl and Charlie. I find SDs that take their music from one source are a little more coherent and these two work well when they have characters. Overall, there were a few bobbles, especially with the twizzles but I’m not too worried since I know these two can do better than that. I’m not sure if I’m totally sold on the program (I don’t think I’ve been sold on a lot of Marina’s SDs to be honest) but I’m curious to see what will happen to it in the future. So far, it looks like the classic Tessa and Scott elegant dance sort of theme but I wonder if there’s a way to take this program up a notch and make it stand out a little more.

I like Tessa and Scott’s FD a lot better than the SD – it has a clean, elegant vibe that brings out what fans love best about these two: their chemistry, lines, elegance and romance. Luckily for them, Marina didn’t totally succumb to overly-cluttered lift-itis for this program as she did for a lot of her programs in the past two seasons. (I love that first lift especially, if only the camera angle could show it off better.) Overall, I’m glad that this could be their Last Program. It’s a good last hurrah for them as it has echoes of some of their greatest moments (Mahler, Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and it feels like it’s the story of Tessa and Scott in a program. A fitting goodbye if they decide to retire after this season. A few minor changes I wouldn’t mind seeing – changing the lines in that lift where Tessa flips onto Scott. The lines feel a little jarring but maybe that’s just me. Also, this is such a flowing program that it would be really nice if they could stop that momentary pause before going into their dance spins. Actually, it’s a little frustrating that at their level, they’re not transitioning into their dance spins like Meryl and Charlie, which is more difficult and adds to the flow of the program. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing this program again.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates took the silver at Finlandia but their SD was definitely not their best performance, with Evan falling on the twizzles. Also, it is just me or is the music as irritating as f$%&? I also felt that their midline step sequence was soooo slow. Come on, I expect more from a team that trains under Igor – even if it is the pre-season! As for anyone who thinks Meryl and Charlie’s FD was “pose-y,” I’ll reiterate again that I disagree and point to this program as an example of too much posing. At the beginning and in the middle. Let’s hope their FD is a lot better than this.

Chock and Bate’s FD. W.T.F. My brain is having such a hard time processing it that I’m not even typing properly. Let’s make a list to help me work through my confusion:

1. Were they trying to emulate Meryl and Charlie? I mean, I swear Meryl and Charlie have done those exact lifts or something really similar in the past.

2. Was there cheering in their music cuts? Addendum: Isn’t that kind of lame?

3. All those voices… so much going on in the music. The simple movements don’t match. Nor does their on-ice presence. Is Igor trying to shoot these two in the foot?

4. The first set of twizzles were spot on… the other two… not so much.

5. I just don’t understand the chaos that is the music. I just don’t.

One silver lining: that light but pretty transition into the dance spin. That’s something I’d like to see from Tessa and Scott.

This is a lovely program for Akiko – very warm and graceful. She’ll have to work on her jumps but overall, I think she’ll grow into this program quite well.

It makes me really sad to see Akiko messing up her jumps AND skating to the “Phantom of the Opera” after she skated to such a masterpiece like “O” as her LP last year. I really hope that Akiko can sprinkle her magic dust on this program later in the season because this is just painful to watch.

I was curious about Julia Lipnitskaia after learning that she won gold at Finlandia. I can see that she’s beaten Akiko with her jumps but to me, Lipnitskaia looks and feels like a mini and awkward version of Sasha Cohen. Without Sasha’s musicality. She’s still quite young so who knows if that will change in the future.

While watching Julia Lipnitskaia skate this long program to “Schindler’s List,” I couldn’t help but notice how 1. her jumps are a little low and 2. how she comes out of a lot of her jumps with such little speed. She’s 15 now but I’m not sure if those jumps will last. She also seems like another “checklist skater” where her program is a list of things she needs to do. Maybe musicality will come to her with age but this is a good start to her season, she beat Akiko Suzuki at Finlandia to win the gold.

Yuzuru reused his “Parisienne Walkways” SP for this season. I love this program but what makes me angry is that he messed up the 3A – his best jump and the best jump in that program because of that difficult entry. Get it together, Yuzuru!

I was surprised to see Yuzuru skate to Romeo and Juliet again. I prefer the other version better but what can we do, really? Yuzuru did land two quads, which is impressive but let’s hope he doesn’t completely tucker out during the second half of the program. Maybe then we could have a veritable rival for Chan.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva had a rough SP with a popped jump and fall. This girl still has starpower in spades but I’m not sure if her newfound curves will allow her to skate in the top echelons of the sport anymore. On the bright side, she did win bronze in this competition.

Elizaveta’s LP wasn’t as disastrous and was less painful to watch. There were a few bobbles here and there but she reminded us here how she can sell a program so well. Malaguena is an overused piece of music but she made it her own. I’m happy that she’s proven that she’s better than that SP at Finlandia.

Japan Open

Japan Open 2013 Figure Skating

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Daisuke so sloppy and uninspiring. If it weren’t for that final step sequence, I would have totally forgotten why I liked this guy in the first place. It is the beginning of the season and mistakes are aplenty but I have the sad feeling that the his reign as the top Japanese man is decisively at its end with the only consolation that Prince Yuzuru is a worthy successor. Daisuke is as expressive as ever but his jumps seem to have failed him and his final spins were rather sloppy. Furthermore, I actually have more scruples with his program more than anything. I love the Beatles and all but a depressing accordion (or accordion-sounding) version of Beatles songs? And don’t get me started on the numerous pauses throughout the program. I hate pauses in ice dance programs but even that pales in comparison with the long, unnecessary, nonsensical, pose-y pauses in singles skating. I smell Morozov, even though the internet says Lori Nichol choreographed this.

This wasn’t a terrible skate other than the singled triple axel combination jump but why is it that I can’t seem to remember any distinctive aspect of this program? Takahiko Kozuka is talented but we’ve seen the same thing for so many years. In terms of his actual skating, it’s miles ahead of where Daisuke is right now. I think if we combined Daisuke’s flair for drama and emotion on ice with Takahiko’s current skating ability, we’d have a great skater who might be able to beat Yuzuru at Nationals (and a less tough decision as to who to send to the Olympics) but right now, the Japan’s figure skating union seems to have a very interesting conundrum on who to send to Sochi.

Some minor bobbles, but Javier Fernandez is off to a good start. Did I count 3 quads in that program? I think this program will grow on me as the season goes by but it’s quite a charming thing – very Kurt Browning-esque. What I am worried about it that Javier tends to peak early in the season and he tends to lose a little steam after the GP series. However, if his bronze at the last World Champions is any indication, I think he’s getting better at being prepared for some of the more important competitions at the end of the season.

I think this is the best I’ve seen Mao skate in a while. Her triple axel was two-footed and there were a few bobbles and a double rather than a triple-toe tacked on the back of a double axel but there was something in that performance that I haven’t seen in a while from Mao. Also, I can’t help but feel that Mao looks taller, longer and just lean this season. She doesn’t look like the wisp of a thing she was even back in Vancouver and I can’t help but wonder if she had her growth spurt a little later. In any case, this is actually quite a good program for Mao. It’s heavy but not too heavy like her “Bells of Moscow” LP from the last Olympic season and she’s matured to the point where she can be fierce and pretty. I like this new Mao and I hope that she grows stronger and stronger.

Ashley Wagner had the most solid skate of the Japan Open performances which will get her fans very excited. Somehow, though, I’m left feeling nothing. From the katakana text on the video, I believe she was skating to “Romeo and Juliet” but I don’t get that impression, even though she clearly stabs herself at the end and there’s a lot of angsty, angry music. Maybe it was the windmill arms during the first step sequence or that my brain is shouting at me, “She’s acting!” rather than “She’s living the character,” but that’s all a matter of opinion, I suppose. I think her fans will be happy that Ashley’s off to a great start while I will sit here for another five minutes to ponder upon how I felt about this performance. So far, I feel nothing, which confuses me a bit because, as I said, it’s a solid skate.

Watching Adelina Sotnikova skate made me want to pull out my hair. Actually, it would’ve been better if you watch this program on silent because Rondo Capricioso (at least, that’s what the Japanese text said what the music was called) is quite a pretty tune but the costume and the program just screamed tacky. I also didn’t even know what happened to that double axel in the middle of the program. What *kills* me is that Adelina could be so much better if she had better programs. Sigh. I’m not sure if I can digest that program again this season.

You could tell that Kanako wasn’t happy with that performance and I will tell you now, neither was I. Ok, she missed quite a few jumps – I’ll let that slip for now since it’s the beginning of the season and from what I’ve seen so far, there were a lot of uninspiring performances at the Japan Open. What bugged me even more than the missed jumps was the lack of expression. Last season, Kanako impressed me so much with this newfound maturity and musicality. Her “Prayer for Taylor” SP was gorgeous – great choreography, well-skated and with a calmness and quiet passion that went perfectly with the music. Her tango LP became a tough contender for my favourite LP of the season – and this is quite a statement seeing that her competition was Akiko Suzuki’s magnificent “O” program. I’m disappointed because I know that Kanako can do better than checking off a to-do list – which seems to be what she did here. This is “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl. The song lyrics and melody and the plot of the film is simple enough – a daughter yearns for her dead father. I’m not too fond of the music cuts but the plaintive, sad melody shouldn’t be out of Kanako’s acting range.

So, in short, I expect Kanako to do better next time and I know she will too. I’m looking forward to seeing this program grow and develop though. I think this program has the potential to be heart-wrenching.

What are your thoughts on the figure skating pre-season?

~The Rinkside Cafe

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. suppiechan369
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 22:26:48

    That you for your thoughts on V/M’s programs this year — I really enjoyed this post! I wondered what your opinion was on the similarities between their FD this year and their previous Mahler program? There has been a lot of debate about the FD being a “Mahler 2.0”, and how V/M are not being as innovative this season as they were with their Pink Floyd or their Carmen programs. What do you think?

    Reply

    • rinksidecafe
      Oct 11, 2013 @ 23:01:41

      Well, we can all complain about not being innovative but I think that many skaters tend to go back to their specialties during the Olympic season. It’s usually the season before (and sometimes after) the Olympics where they take risks to show that they’re versatile. There are a few notable exceptions like Mao in the last Olympic season who chose to do two dramatic and heavy pieces when her specialty is pretty classical (mostly piano) pieces that are what I would describe rather poorly as twinkly or floaty.

      V/M seem to have gone back to their classic romantic style just as their archrivals have gone back to their rushing dramatic style with a rushing crescendo. Personally, I’m okay with them going back to their specialty because I can see the reasoning behind it – they want to take a vehicle that shows off their best and most competitors will likely take something that is tried and true rather than new and risky.

      The program can be described as Mahler 2.0 to one extent – I think the couple may have said that this program could be the continuation of Mahler – and plotwise, I think it makes sense. Two people getting together and then journeying together to a triumphant finish (and in my opinion, a good performance, not necessarily a gold Olympic medal, would be proof of that). Choreography-wise, this program looks a little more intricate than Mahler (I seriously wish they’d nix the pause before the spin though) and most of the lifts are new, as are the twizzle positions. On a more subjective note, this program feels somewhat similar to Mahler in that there’s a dreamy quality about it but it’s different in that Mahler felt more like they were expressing a feeling while this one had a little more of a story to it. (In my head, it’s the story of them and their career.)

      What’s your take on the new FD?

      Reply

  2. suppiechan369
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 23:53:11

    I really like their FD actually. I’ve always been very partial to V/M’s romantic style, and the elegance of this FD really appeals to me. I agree that it seems to be expressing more of a story than the Mahler, and I especially love the new lifts! However, some of the music cuts seemed a little bit choppy to me…but I suppose it’s nice to have a bit of variation in tone throughout the program.

    Their SD on the other hand, felt a little bit too light and simple to me. I enjoyed it for the music and their chemistry, but like you, I wish they would add a little extra something to it to make it more unique, especially since their FD is already embodying their signature classic/elegant style.

    Reply

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