Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Sacramento/San Jose, CA - Jan. 10-11, 2004

written by Tina

I have come to the conclusion that heads are the bane of my existence. People must not be allowed to have heads.


But I digress. Came to a very last minute decision to go to the Sacramento Stars on Ice show Saturday - around noon or so Wendy and I called up Ticketmaster and were surprised as all heck when the guy said he had Section 121 (one row off center) row AA seats. I had to ask him twice to confirm that those seats were front row (not on-ice), because I just couldn't believe it (I was finding corner seats, row Y up to that point). Bought the seats immediately. The thing about the heads though? Turns out that Arco Arena is just rather odd. It's square-shaped. When they play basketball there, they actually orient the court in the opposite configuration from the ice surface for the show. The first five rows of seats for Stars on Ice therefore were temporary - metal risers that were maybe half the height of the normal seat tiers. Row AA ended up with an aisle between it and the on-ice seats (as opposed to a barrier). So throughout the show, I had ushers and late people walking in front of me, and we weren't high enough behind the on-ice people that we could see over their heads - the heads pretty much covered the width of the ice. When you're trying to watch the show, that's annoying enough. But when you're trying to take photos? I was about ready to lop people's heads off =). I had borrowed a friend's digital SLR camera for the weekend so I was trying to contend with an unfamiliar camera *and* heads in my way. BTW I did take a lot of photos but there's no guarantee that they came out - the camera was larger and heavier than I was used to with a different type of lens, and I'm not sure I got the focus or anything right. We'll see. Anyway, enough complaints. I'm going to do a joint Sacramento/San Jose review, because of time constraints.

Overall impressions of this year's show - I really liked it. I was really impressed by the group numbers, thought they were well-choreographed, intricate, and interestingly tied together. Plus, there were a bunch of them! You can definitely see a different touch in the choreography - it just felt more complex in the steps or at least different than before. Also, although I thought the costumes looked weird in the glimpses we saw on NBC, when I saw them in person, I thought they really worked. The opening number costumes were in these earthy tones that made me think of a sunrise or sunset over the Grand Canyon, or at least of the different colors of the layers of earth at the Grand Canyon. And the other costumes were just plain cute or really pretty, depending on the number. Also, this was something I only somewhat realized, but it may help to watch this show from further up than I saw it, because the lighting is designed in many places to display words or pictures or images on the ice, and I could barely see them.

Also, I think the prize for MVP should go to either Yuka Sato or Kyoko Ina - either one, the other, or both, were in practically every transition or group number. I don't know when they had time to sit down backstage!

Before the show opened, there were all these pre-recorded voiceovers that broke into the music playing as people sat down. The ones I can remember (paraphrased):
"At the sound of the tone, it will be 6AM"
"Do you want to be a full-time touring cast member in Stars on Ice? Stars on Ice is looking for new skaters. Our first auditions will be held at the World Championships, blah blah blah. The final/biggest? audition will be held in Turino, Italy in 2006. Practice, practice, practice! And we hope to see you at one of our auditions."
"Stars on Ice has a special offer for you today! If the section, row, and seat number printed on your ticket match where you are sitting, then you're in for a very special show!"
"Stars on Ice is proud to present master illusionist Chris Scott Billingsley, who will do a trick on center ice in just a moment. Ta da!" (empty ice)
"Due to circumstances beyond our control, Sonja Henie will not be appearing in tonight's performance."
"Due to some stupid rules someone made up somewhere else, videotaping or recording tonight's performance is not permitted. We can tell you that you will enjoy the show better if you are not viewing it from behind a viewfinder, and it will save your camcorder's batteries. Saving batteries conserves power, and we at Stars on Ice are doing our part to help the environment."

There were some more but I don't quite remember all of them. Something about the taking of flash photography potentially distracting the skaters and causing a nasty accident that could hurt the skater or a member of the audience.

Finally, the number by number breakdown:

Opening number - Grand Canyon Suite

Opens with Yuka coming out alone, gradually joined by Elena, Kyoko, and the rest of the cast. It's funny. Whereas last year I thought that there were just too many pairs, this year, even though there were only 3 single skaters altogether, they did a great job of interweaving the choreography so that the two guys and Yuka skated as a group even as each of the pairs did their thing, and it worked. Also, with just two single skaters, one a clockwise skater, one a counterclockwise skater, they were able to have Todd and Alexei do mirror jumps, spins, death drops, and mirror footwork, which was very neat. Overall, the opening and closing number both had so many things going on that I just didn't know where to look. While sometimes the pairs were doing mirroring moves on the ice, other times, each pair was doing something entirely different, and I was just whipping my head around trying to catch it all. Definitely a show that seeing more than once will reveal more stuff to you. The ice coverage in this number was also great, and the skaters really look like they're enjoying themselves.

Moondance - Kurt Browning

As the last skater (Alexei, I think) leaves the ice, the spotlight comes up on Kurt, who's made his way out in the relative darkness as the other skaters are being introduced, and whose appearance prompts the loudest, most enthusiastic reception any skater got both nights upon appearance (I'm not sure how his reception post-skate compared, because some of the other programs got a great response, but he got more cheers from just being seen than anyone else by far). This program is full of footwork and a number of jumps, including a double axel/half loop/double sal? loop? combination, double axels in a row, triple sal, triple toe, etc. Kurt was having some trouble with his jumps though, and doubled a lot more of his jumps than I think he meant to in Sacramento, as well as stepping out of/stumbling out of one of the jumps (IIRC). He had more luck in San Jose with those jumps, landing a couple triples and making no major mistakes that I can remember. And the footwork just kept going throughout, which is always a wonderful part of this program. I still don't like this program as much as the first time I saw it - it's just not one of his more interesting show programs - but I love the music and it's got this nice easy feel to it that's a nice way to start the show.

Timing is Everything - David Pelletier

As Kurt finished up, David Pelletier came out, decked in his version of the in-between number program motif (black-and-white stripes/checks) and carrying a black and white striped large umbrella. He solemnly motioned Kurt over, who looked up at the ceiling and quizzically at David (like, uh - it's not going to rain), but then shrugged and stepped under the umbrella, just in time to avoid being showered by a big spray of water from above. David handed the umbrella to Kurt, who closed it and shook it out, while David shrugged like, what? A voice-over comes on, saying "timing is everything", as Kurt tosses the umbrella to David's right as David reaches out with his left hand. Just a short, goofy in-between before they both left the ice.

Look at Little Sister - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

This led into Kyoko's flirtatious beginning to Look at Little Sister, a fun, upbeat, personality-filled number that was cute the first time, and a bit less impressive the second time. The program's got a lot of Kyoko being cutesy and flirtatious, and John being flirtatious with the audience as well, the two being flirtatious with each other, and various lifts and cute moves that went with the theme. Honestly, I don't remember much of the program. I think I liked Bed of Roses better, but they definitely had fun performing this one.


Short interlude where Todd comes out looking like one of those big older-fashioned metronomes with the big wand that ticks back and forth rather quickly. Kyoko & John skate by him, and then Yuka comes out, gently reaches out and stops the movement of the wand, changes the positioning of the weight on it, thus resetting the tempo to a much slower beat. A kind of cute/clever way to transition between the faster, upbeat "Look at Little Sister" to Yuka's much slower "Misty" number.

Misty - Yuka Sato

First impression of this program - beautiful costume. Yuka's wearing this light colored blue dress with a sparkly almost pseudo-necklace stuff at the neck. Second impression - beautiful skater. Yuka's just so graceful and happy-looking, she just sparkles, honestly. Technically, I have virtually no impression whatsoever of this program, which is not to say that Yuka didn't do anything technically, it's that she's so smooth that the jumps didn't leap out of the choreography. The song itself? Eh, it was ok. But Yuka's just beautiful to watch. Loved the program.

Come Away With Me - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

Also loved the transition between Yuka's number and S&P's. Mirror gorgeous edges in counterpoint to each other, the transition was just so smooth and beautiful. Sale & Pelletier's number was really pretty. The two just have this relaxed, easy feel to them in numbers like this, where I feel like they have this familiarity with each other, this ease, that just lends a smoothness and naturalness to the choreography. I do remember, though, thinking that the number felt a little like a competitive program when it opened right off with a throw jump. Maybe I'm just too used to pro programs where they open with a bunch of posing. There's a throw that S&P do twice in the program that I think really conveys the lightness and ease that they have in their skating, where David just tosses Jamie up in the air, turns under her, and catches her lightly, and she seems to just be floating up there. Really nice.

Hands of Time - Kyoko Ina, Jenni Meno, Yuka Sato

Very very cute group number. When these three first came out, I was first vaguely appalled at the dresses, but then when I got a clear view of them, I thought they were perfectly cute. Black and white dresses with these huge poofs of skirts, black "Converse" skates, black-framed glasses and ponytails. All three girls have got this cute attitude I can't quite describe down, and they handle those clubs (glowing pink under the lights) with aplomb. Lots of attitude, fun choreography... I really enjoyed this one.

Flamenco - Todd Eldredge

An excellent program for Todd. When I heard he was going to be doing a Flamenco program, I was a bit wary - after Nyah, I just found it hard to believe anyone else could carry it off nearly as well. And to be honest, I particularly didn't think Todd could carry off the attitude. Now, I'm not saying Todd's program was anything like Kurt's, or that it approached the same type of attitude that Kurt's did. But Todd put his own stamp on the program, and it fit his dramatic style. He didn't play up the more sexy flamenco attitude, didn't do anything that just wouldn't have fit Todd well, but he did get the flourishes that made it recognizably flamenco. There were some things I didn't quite like - Todd's triple axel (which wasn't a triple in San Jose the first couple times - singled one, doubled another, but got a triple later) *is* dramatic and is probably great punctuation for a dramatic build of music, but Todd prefaces it with a long sequence of crossovers. The drop from footwork into just long sweeping crossovers coincides with a huge build in tempo in the music, and was quite jarring. But otherwise, Todd's jumps are undoubtedly the best on tour right now, his spins are excellent, and he just does an excellent job throughout. Definitely my favorite of his two programs of the night.

Ain't It Funny - Oksana Baiul

Watching this program, I just get the feeling that Oksana is a natural show skater. Not so much because her choreography is so interesting or her dancing to J. Lo is so good, but because she's got this intensity and connection to the audience that takes her a long way. She seems to really be enjoying herself out there, and it's like she's inviting the audience in on her fun. I was surprised to find that I actually rather enjoyed this number, considering the fact that I'm not that fond of Jennifer Lopez's music. Oksana suffers a bit from the same problem as Todd, where she almost drops out of the choreography in preparation for a jump, and she had a couple jump issues that I recall, but for the most part she kept landing those double axels and occasional triples quite solidly. The dropping out of the choreography wasn't nearly as marked in her second program, but I seem to remember remarking on it in this one. Or maybe I've just been spoiled by Kurt's tendency to do jumps out of nowhere/choreography, so stopping to do big crossovers to build up to jumps just sticks out at me now. Overall, a fun number.

Time for an Olympic Champion - Jenni Meno & Todd Sand

A cute little in-between where Todd comes out with his little belly and (I think) town crier costume, while Jenni comes along as his assistant or something. Todd unfurls his scroll upside down, tries to read from it (with a funny-sounding voiceover in the speaker), until Jenni taps him on the shoulder and points out that it's upside down. He then flips it over, stares at it, stares at the audience, and then proclaims "Time for an Olympic Champion" before indicating center ice with a flourish, where B&S are waiting in their opening pose.

Let Me Fall - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze

First off, I like the costumes for this program a lot better here in SOI than the shiny things they were wearing for Ice Wars. This is just a beautiful, lyrical program with a gorgeous progression of moves, and beautiful edgy skating. Elena and Anton can do spread eagle/spirals like no one else (and for incredibly long periods of time - I have a whole sequence of photos where some of the photos look like duplicates because they came all the way around a few times). While I think they over-rely on them in their choreography sometimes, in programs like these, it can be just lovely to watch. And Elena gets the most beautiful arch in her back on some of these spread eagle/spiral combinations. There's a quiet melancholy to this program that these two just capture. I kind of feel like B&S reuse the same elements in a lot of their programs - throw, type of spin, the lift with Elena in a kind of split position where she flips out of it, spread eagle/spirals - but the choreography and flow to the music makes it less obvious than it could be. They've also got a beautiful leap of faith. Overall a beautiful program.

Jailbird - Todd Eldredge, Kyoko Ina, John Zimmerman

Cute little interlude where Todd and John come out and do a cute series of steps up and down the ice, connecting with the audience a bit and just skating around a bit. This segment amused me because Todd looked so goofily into what he was doing (he looks like he's having a lot of fun in all the group numbers this year). Kyoko then comes out with a cute little hat, tail feathers, and holding a piece of metal shaped to look like bars. A goofy voiceover comes on that John and Todd mime to, to the effect of "hey what's she doing?" "she's a jailbird! Get it? Ha Ha Ha".

Memorial - Alexei Yagudin

Not quite sure what the interlude has to do with the program, but while Todd, Kyoko and John and goofing off at one end of the ice, Alexei has come out on the other end for his opening pose to Memorial. This program reminds me way too much of Overcome. I loved Overcome, but seeing essentially a rehash to music that I don't like as much doesn't impress me that much. Alexei's still got the sense of drama, still has decent footwork, and still connects to the audience, but overall this program left me a bit cold. I have an issue with repetitive choreography (it bothers me in Ding Dong Daddy as well actually) and Alexei has several sections where he goes and does the same series of moves in like 3 different spots on the ice in a row. While it makes it easier to predict photos, it's just not that interesting to watch. His jumps are also looking a bit wild or forced, I thought. It's not a bad program, especially taken in isolation from Overcome. Just not great, IMO.

TGIF - Cast

Quite amusingly, this Act I closer felt a lot like previous years' closing number in that it was a medley of songs by different artists, with each song having a bit of a theme and story to tell. It was a very very fun way to close the first act though, more enjoyable than anything they've done since Tunnel Vision. The number opens with five of the guys - Todd E, Todd S, John, Anton, and David - coming out in their ACME work overalls, skating around, and then climbing out of them, revealing brightly colored suits, as they prepare to leave work and go "Steppin' Out." The five guys cut loose, goofing off down the ice, going all gorilla at one point, and acting like guys out ready to look for a good time. The girls then come out and the music segues into "Is She Really Going Out With Him," as the girls flirt and skate by, at times separately, and at times with their partners. At one point, four of the guys (everyone but Alexei, who isn't out yet), pick Todd up so that he's suspended above them parallel to the ice, and skate around with him. Then, the music switches to "Fools in Love", with Kyoko/John and Elena/Anton pairing off and skating while, the two Todds and David skate around together, kind of doing the single guys mocking/envying the couples thing. The three of them go off doing Besti's in a chain, followed by spirals while holding on to each other's waists. I thought that was an interesting configuration to choose because of the four pairs, aren't the two that paired up in that number the ones that *aren't* romantically involved? Anyway... Alexei comes out with a flourish to "I'm the Man", which leads to a little spotlight skating from him and even more skating from the guys, and culminating in them picking Alexei up and essentially tossing him back and forth like a pendulum or metronome wand. As they wind down from that, Todd S. is left standing in the middle of the ice, with Jamie Sale off to the side and Jenni standing in front of him. They capture the essence of the song "Be My Number Two" with Todd entreating Jenni to be his number two while his number one, Jamie, is not paying attention to him. This leads to a cute bit down the ice where Todd's got both of them by the hand, and is being twirled around by them with this goofy ecstatic "I've got them both!" look on his face, not noticing that both of them are looking at him with a bit of disgust, only to get left alone with neither of them at the end. Let this be a lesson, kiddies, don't try to keep two girls around ;). The number finally culminates in the whole cast dancing and skating to "Jumpin' Jive" for a rousing end to the first act.

The first act closes with Todd Eldredge telling us about Smucker's efforts with Boys 'n Girls Club and how one dollar from every ticket sold goes towards it.

Act II

Work 'n Time - Todd Eldredge, David Pelletier, Alexei Yagudin, John Zimmerman

The second act opens, in a way, the next day from the ending of the first act, as Todd, David, Alexei, and John file into work and clock in for their job as janitors. Very playful janitors, as it turns out, who are very skilled with their brooms, and like to goof off with each other. These guys do all sorts of tricks with their brooms. They flip the brooms side to side, switching off who gets what broom, with a cute bit where David and Todd successfully send their brooms through the middle to each other, but Alexei and John's broom collide in the middle and just collapse. They flip Alexei over some combined brooms. They pair off with one of the guys holding two brooms out and spinning with the other guy hanging on, feet flying over the ice. They get in a square that keeps collapsing so the two guys opposite each other "collide" (if that makes any sense). John and David hold their brooms between them with Alexei "seated" in between waving to the crowd. John lies on the ground, sweeping the broom around him like the hand on a clock as the other three skate around him, leaping over the broom as it passes under their feet. He then tosses his skate off and gets "swept" down the ice by the other three. Etc, etc. It's a very fun, high energy number and the guys obviously are having a great time throughout it.

Shall We Dance? - Jenni Meno & Todd Sand

Jenni and Todd are well-known for their "we're so in love" programs, but have mixed it up from time to time with programs like "Baby did a bad, bad thing" and "I'm Your Man." Todd Sand's got a lot of personality, and Jenni Meno can play some cute roles when the program calls for it. But this year wasn't one of the years where they branched out. I've liked some of Jenni and Todd's love programs before, but this one...for one thing, I really couldn't stand the woman's voice who sang the song, and that tends to be a hard thing for me to get past if the choreography isn't particularly interesting. This year's program didn't feel like any sort of stretch or anything particularly interesting from Jenni and Todd. Definitely one of my least favorite programs from them in a while.

4 x 2 = 8 - Elena Berezhnaya, Kyoko Ina, Yuka Sato

As Meno & Sand finish their program, they are joined on the ice by the three girls, wearing the same general dresses as in the "Hands of Time" program, but without the Converse skate covers and wearing pink earmuffs. For some reason I got the feeling of the three as almost alien creatures that Meno & Sand peer at curiously as they skate by. The music is kind of this plinky odd sounding music with a childish voice singing about figure eights and figure fours being half of figure eights, and when you skate if you do a figure eight, that's great, etc, etc. It's got an interesting kind of alien feeling to it, as the three girls skate around Meno & Sand, switch with them onto the ice, and then welcome Todd Eldredge out for his program.

When You Come Back To Me Again - Todd Eldredge

This program was kind of what I felt to be a "typical" Todd Eldredge program - dramatic, fast, nice spins, good jumps, etc. But dramatic, in particular. When we were watching the program, my friend joked to me "didn't he do this program last year?" Even though it was a joke, it was a bit apt. When I was taking photos, I remember thinking that I kept getting similar poses to the ones I photographed last year - Todd reaches for the sky, Todd squats down and looks pensively at the ice, Todd reaches both of his arms behind him... Similarities to previous programs aside, though, Todd does a wonderful job performing it. His jumps are without a doubt better than anyone else's on tour, he's still trying the triple axel, his footwork is not bad, and his spins are gorgeous. And he impresses the audience, without a doubt. You could hear the cheers building up, particularly in Sacramento, as the program progresses. It makes it so that they can fairly well guarantee that the voiceover for the next in-between segment is true.

Out of Time - Kurt Browning

After Todd leaves the ice, Kurt makes his way out and strikes a dramatic pose mid-ice, hat tipped down over his face (which is *not* the way Ding Dong Daddy starts, =)), only to be told by the voiceover "uh, Kurt? Sorry Kurt...Todd's applause went on way too long so we don't have time for you now. Could you go backstage and wait?" Kurt makes a whole series of discontent faces, and then goofily hurries backstage, waving sheepishly to the audience and rushing into the curtains.

Timely Advice (Sunscreen) - Yuka Sato, David Pelletier, Todd Sand, John Zimmerman

I have the feeling that the reception of this program will be a very person-specific thing, like the "Something Stupid" program last year. Personally, I really loved it. There's a certain feel to the in-betweens and group numbers that feels very Christopher Dean-ish, IMO. A certain manner, a kind of studied cuteness, a deliberate..I dunno, it's hard to describe. But this group number has it in spades. The voiceover is an infamous pseudo-graduation speech that is both humorous and arch, giving advice, the heart of which is to wear sunscreen ;). This program is a nice showpiece for Yuka's pairs and singles skills, yet it doesn't feel as if it's presented as purely showing her off. For much of the program, the four skaters skate individually, doing the same moves in their isolated portions of the ice, so that the program feels like one showcasing equals. They even have Yuka and Todd doing side by side double axels right after David and John do theirs. At other times the program does showcase Yuka with the other three lifting her together or separately. At one point, the three of them pick her up and toss her in the air over their heads, turning, and catching her on the other side. They also do a death spiral at one point with Todd holding Yuka's hand and the other two guys holding on to each others' waists as they pivot. The program ends with Yuka on a sunbathing chair in the middle, holding one of those reflective screens people use to direct the sun onto their faces. It's very cute.

Ding Dong Daddy - Kurt Browning

I doubt it was planned this way, but the kind of non-posed opening to Ding Dong Daddy fits very well into the structure of the show, in that he comes out with this studied pose for the "Out of Time" structure, but for the beginning of Ding Dong Daddy, he sticks his head out from the tunnel, looking uncertainly around until his music starts, which puts this big grin on his face and sends him stepping out, right into the opening of the program. This is a program I watched purely through my viewfinder both nights, but was fun as always. Kurt's got this high energy level and he totally feeds off of the audience as he goes. Big feedback loop - energy from audience to Kurt who ramps up his energy, which ramps up the audience ;). Kurt looks like he's having the time of his life when he's skating this program, and he basically never stops looking into the audience as he goes. I do have some issues with this program - I don't like the parts where he puts one hand down on the ice and then slides on the ice, and I think the choreography is occasionally repetitive and occasionally stands still too much. But his footwork in between those parts, his dancing ability to the music, and his energy just makes this program pure fun to watch. And the way he pops his jumps out of nowhere, right to the music, is great too.

Show You To Your Seat - Kyoko Ina

For some reason, the transition to the next program is treated as if Elena and Anton are getting onto a train, with Kyoko showing them to their seat. It's kind of random, given that the next program is pretty much a Russian folk dance.

Kalinka - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze

Wendy thinks that this program might be to the same music as Katia's program last year - I don't know if this is true or not, but there are a lot of similarities. This program was a nice change of pace and style from "Let Me Fall", showing a lot of personality from both Anton and Elena. It's a joyful bit of choreography, but very short, IMO, over before I expect it to be. I don't know much about traditional Russian dances, but I get the feeling that this is supposed to resemble one, with Elena and Anton skating side by side, holding hands, and going through a sequence of high steps, or holding each other around the waist and dancing along. They've also got some cute moves, like Elena flipping over Anton's back, or the move where Anton holds one of Elena's hands and swings her around him while she holds onto one skate, skimming over the ice rather than doing a death spiral. It's a fun program. Just too short.

Swan Lake - Oksana Baiul

This program does a nice job of showing Oksana Baiul's elegance and musicality. While at times, for some reason I feel like she's trying for flexible moves she can't pull off as well anymore (Wendy doesn't agree), in general she's got some lovely moves and poses. Though I said that I thought her jumps occasionally dropped out of the choreography in the first program, in this one they seemed to punctuate the music beautifully. I remember there being one double axel? that was perfectly timed with this roll in the music - it wasn't a typical loud climatic note on which the jump went, but a roll so that her rotations seemed to be in time to the trill in the music, if that makes any sense. And what amused and impressed me in Sacramento was that she took this fall on a double axel landing, but it was so perfectly timed to this dramatic crash in the music that it almost seemed perfectly suitable to the choreography and musical interpretation at that point. A beautiful, somewhat nostalgic program that I quite enjoyed seeing live.

Rock Lesson - Cast

I was rather surprised that they got practically the entire cast into costume to do an in-between transition, but this was quite cute. The voiceover was a kind of tongue-in-cheek introduction to rock 'n roll and dancing. "Step 1" or "Dance 1" or "Lesson 1"...I don't quite remember. There was move I don't remember the name of (leg stretch?) - put one arm behind your head, grasp your opposite leg and stretch, which turned out to be that silly dance move where you grab one leg and kind of flap your head in and out (I am not describing this well at all). It's fun watching the whole cast doing that move - Elena, Todd, Jenni Meno...people you wouldn't normally think of moving like that =). This transitions into Alexei standing in a spotlight to start his program.

Ain't That a Shame - Alexei Yagudin

This program was actually quite fun, I thought. It's not exactly super skillful skating or anything, but Alexei seems to get quite a kick out of playing the rock star. Lots of air guitaring, rock star posing, rock dancing, etc. He also had a nice segment of footwork while doing a bit of air guitaring. The only jarring note was in San Jose, when he went to do some sort of move and somehow fell on his face rather hard...the "breakdancing" spinning on his head/shoulders he did after that was a bit unenthusiastic, I think. Oh, and people at center ice to the right of the tunnel (if you're facing the tunnel) should be rather happy, since Alexei steps off the ice there and interacts with the audience...thhen he steps off on the opposite side and shakes hands, so center ice on-ice both sides are great for Alexei fans. Overall, quite the fun program.

Ballroom - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

For sheer comedic value, though, Ballroom was undoubtedly the funniest program of the night. While S&P do the pretty programs well, they, like so many other Canadian skaters, do a wonderful job of playing characters. This program has a hilarious setup - two well known ballroom dancers who've been together way too long and hate each other. Opens with David standing alone as the announcer announces...actually I forgot the names but it was quite funny. As he announces Jamie's character's name, David indicates the ice with a flourish, only to discover that she's not there. Repeat another three or so times, with the announcer getting more flustered and David getting more frustrated until you hear the sound of a toilet flushing and Jamie comes rushing out into her spot. David is glaring at her, and she glares back for a second, going "what??", as she gets into position, straightening out her dress. As the program starts, the voiceover sounds like each of their thoughts, saying stuff like "ugh..what did he eat for lunch?" when David gets in Jamie's face, and then "ugh...what did *she* eat for lunch?" when David lifts Jamie. "After tonight, I'm done!" As the program progresses, somehow they lose more and more clothing, with Jamie's outer skirt getting ripped off by David (who laughs at her) and David's shirt getting ripped open. There are also cute body language bits on top of the disgusted facial expressions, like David only gripping Jamie by the wrist, rather than holding her hand, or Jamie looking haughtily over David's shoulder instead of into his face when they're facing each other. There's also a whole sequence where Jamie keeps elbowing David in the gut or the crotch which culminates in a cute final pose where Jamie stands arrogantly over David, as he lies on the ground and protects his crotch. It's an immensely cute program and very funny. I absolutely loved it.

Time - Cast

And with that, it's time for the finale. As with the opening number, it opens with Yuka skating alone, before she is joined by the other skaters. I didn't notice this myself, but Wendy noticed and I think I've verified through photos - the costumes in the closing number are identical to the opening number costumes, only they're white. It has an interesting effect of bringing the show around full-circle, since the closing number in many ways resembles the opening number from a stylistic standpoint. A lot of fast, flowing skating, a lot of groups skating in counterpoint or doing the same choreography progressively after each other, a lot of pairs doing different things at the same time all over the ice... BTW Oksana is in almost the entire finale, Kurt comes in later and finishes off the last 1/3 or so with them. Since Kurt doesn't come until later, they once again set Todd and Alexei to mirror each other, doing death drops, jumps, and spins in opposite directions. They also have Yuka and Oksana go out and do laybacks simultaneously. And the pairs, all four, do lifts and moves simultaneously as well. Kurt comes out and does some fast footwork before joining the whole cast to finish out the finale.

Had a funny moment when Anton came over to shake hands - I dropped my lens cap at his feet just as he got there, and looked all confused about whether to pick it up or not, so he picked it up for me. Nice guy, even if he thinks I'm a big clumsy freak =).

Overall, I really enjoyed this year's show, particularly the in-betweens and group numbers. Very glad I got to see it twice, and would highly recommend it to anyone. Good stuff!