Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - San Jose, CA - Jan. 9, 2005

written by Tina

This year, instead of going the advance order route, I decided to go the buy-tickets-at-the-last-minute route and hope it got me something good. Luckily for me, although Ticketmaster hadn't shown anything better than 17th row that morning (with a $13 order processing + convenience charge), I ended up getting 9th row seats, one section off center ice, for the face value of $58 and no charges of any kind. Very nice. I also ended up sitting about 4 rows behind Gorsha Sur (who was 2 rows behind Renee Roca who I think came up and sat by him for a little while to talk to him). What was neat was at the end, Gorsha gave the whole cast a nice standing ovation =).

IMO in the years since Christopher Dean has started contributing to the choreography of this show, we've seen an increasing emphasis towards using an overriding theme that ties the entire show together, from opening straight through to closing, with varying degrees of success and effectiveness. This year's show is no exception. The "Imagination" theme is woven completely through the show, from the ensembles to the in-betweens. And IMO, it's done quite well.

The show opens with "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka, and IIRC, begins the trend of showcasing Todd Eldredge as a bit of a centerpiece of the show, more so than the other "stars" on the tour, which is interesting. It works for me, though. The show throughout utilizes this child's voice over the speakers, who makes observations on Imagination or elucidates the theme or whatever, and I believe this starts during this number. Skating-wise, I have to say that there's something about Christopher Dean's group choreography that leaves me cold. I'm not sure why. He showcases all the skaters well, he sets them to doing all sorts of things all over the ice, which brings an interesting sense of heightened energy since you get the sense that there's always something you're missing in the part of the ice you're not looking at, but at other times, I feel like he employs a bit too much repetition, not interesting enough moves when the skaters move together as a group, and gets a bit too "cutesy". But it's not something I can really put my finger on to say why his choreography seems to lack a certain spark or feeling that the old Bezic/Seibert choreography did. For some reason, though, it really jumped out at me on Sunday afternoon - the feeling that this was a really smooth, well-put together show, but it lacked a certain something.

At any rate, the opening number features all the skaters besides Ilia, and as the opening number builds to a close, Todd skates off the ice, apparently so he can change into his costume for the first number. I should mention that before the show opens, a couple stagehands push out this raised platform with a corded rope around it, I guess as part of the theme that later comes out in the Who/roller coaster number. As the "Pure Imagination" opening closes, each skater is announced, and does their bow at center ice, and when they finally get to Todd Eldredge (who is last, interestingly enough), he comes out from the tunnel in his "Let Me Entertain You " costume and stands on that little stage.

"Let Me Entertain You" (Robbie Williams) - Todd Eldredge

I quite liked this program by Todd. It's a high-energy upbeat number of the type that I don't always think he does well (not that I'm conversant enough with his full repertoire of programs to say that with any real authority), but IMO he carries it off really well in this number. Todd's really coming into his own as a show skater, skating confidently and comfortably in front of the audience, making eye contact and involving the audience in his skating. And he has quite obviously not left his technical prowess behind. I don't recall any triple axels last night, but his jumps were beautifully and solidly landed, his spinning was wonderful as always, and he skates with great speed. Incidentally, a note to TPTB (who will never read this review) who have been placing such great emphasis on the Olympic Gold Medalists in their marketing effort - I have a poster for SOI up on my office door, and someone stopped to talk to me about it last week. The guy clearly wasn't a skating fan, was just looking at the poster and thinking of maybe bringing his kids to the show, and stopped to examine the list of skaters. The name he picked out most quickly? Todd Eldredge's. "Oh yeah, I know him, he's good." The names he didn't seem to recognize? Sarah Hughes, Alexei Yagudin.... Sale & Pelletier were vaguely familiar to him though I had to explain who they were, and well, I didn't really expect him to recognize Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze, just b/c of the Russian names. What surprised me is I believe he also picked Steven Cousins out of the list as well as a name he recognized and had positive associations for. Go figure.

"Naughty Girl" (Beyonce) - Yuka Sato

IIRC, this was the first occasion of using the "magic screen" behind which Kyoko Ina (extremely quickly) changes the color of her dress, a trick I haven't quite figured out but haven't exactly given much thought to. What's kind of funny is that this transition confused me b/c I thought we were transitioning into I/Z's number, but instead, Kyoko gets changed, Yuka skates out, they skate around each other, and then Kyoko skates off, causing me minor confusion. Why utilize a costume change on Kyoko to transition into Yuka's number? At any rate, this transition was also cute since it was David and Steven who were holding the screen shut as Kyoko changed, and the two stood glaring into each other's faces, nose to nose, until she was ready.

At any rate, transition over, Yuka skates over to the side to get into her opening pose for "Naughty Girl". I think Yuka will never have the right overall demeanor to pull off this program in the vein that the song was originally written in, but I actually do think she does a good job with this program. There was a bit of difference IMO between the Ice Wars performance and this one - she seemed more confident and a bit more free in throwing herself into the choreography, but throughout she still maintains that Yuka poise and dignity that prevents this program from turning into a silly flirt-fest, and that utter Yuka cuteness and sweet smile that makes her so charming. She's so light on her feet as well, definitely a skater who feels like she floats above the ice instead of skating on it, with beautiful, effortless jumps, and nice footwork. Not my favorite program she's ever done, but still an enjoyable performance.

"Harder to Breathe" (Maroon 5) - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

For the transition to this program, Jamie comes out with her crystal ball, all dressed up like a cranky Gypsy woman (ok, she's not dressed cranky, that comes out more in her facial expressions =)). That was a cute bit, with her all "I see that you did not pay for those front row seats but in fact snuck down after the lights went down" and exaggeratedly predicting a few other things until she sees some peculiar stuff and realizes that the ball is "property of the Ice Capades, 1974? (7-something, anyway) and skates off, declaiming her disgust for "props!".

I have to say, "Harder to Breathe" was actually a fairly appropriate title for this program, given the many gasps that it evoked from the crowd. Kyoko and John are clearly going for the excitement value in this program, pulling off some fairly exciting moves (including a Fly High and Say Bye that for some reason felt faster and scarier than the ones B&E have done, maybe b/c I'm used to B&E doing them? and which drew a *very* audible gasp from the crowd) and really playing up the energy and tension of this number. I like this song a lot already - always have - and I think they do a great job interpreting it. This program's emphasis is definitely more on the tricks than the in-between choreography, but they still did some good stuff with the in-betweens. I find it cool how these two seem to keep innovating, trying out new moves, like the lift where John's in the Besti squat and holding Kyoko out, parallel to the ice. I've seen others mention that they seem to be filling the gap that B&E left as a thrilling tricks team, and I have to say, I agree. And, much as I loved B&E, I actually think I&Z are currently a choreographically more interesting team between the tricks. Very fun, exciting program.

"A House is Not a Home" (James Ingram) - Ilia Kulik

OK, I have to admit that when Ilia started skating this, I couldn't help but think "But Ilia, you did this program last year at the Burt Bacharach show, right here in San Jose! We've seen you do this!" Of course, I realize that Ilia is touring in more cities than San Jose, and I doubt that was a particular concern. But it was kind of odd realizing that the only times I've gotten to see him in recent years, I've seen him skate the same program. At any rate, while Ilia doesn't get a Scott or even a Kurt-sized reception (and last year, it was really nice to hear the applause Kurt got), the audience still seemed quite appreciative of his presence, giving him quite a nice ovation when he first skated out and was announced (first mention of his presence in the show, incidentally). And Ilia didn't let the crowd down. I can't help but compare Ilia and Alexei, given their status as Russian Olympic gold medalists, and I find their styles to be very different. There's a certain controlled/neat feel to Alexei's movements and style, IMO, that Ilia doesn't have. Even when Alexei is doing his very dramatic, passionate moves, every move feels very deliberate and very controlled in exactly how he's doing it. Ilia, on the other hand - I feel like he has a freer style to him. It could just be his build - he's much more rangy looking than Alexei is, and he's taller - but his limbs have always felt a little less controlled to me. Which is not to say he's out of control. It's just a different feel entirely to his skating. The two of them also give me a different impression in their facial expressions. Especially in recent years, I've really enjoyed seeing Ilia grin during his program, b/c he looks like he's genuinely enjoying the hell out of what he's doing, and kind of being like "whee this is fun, don't you think this is fun too? Have fun with me!" as he looks into the audience. Alexei's grin, on the other hand, feels a bit more knowing, a bit more sly to me, kind of like he knows he has the audience in the palm of his hand, and is flirting up a storm with them. Of course, in both cases this applies a lot more to their second programs than their first, so maybe I shouldn't be talking about that here, but then I don't want to be comparing Alexei and Ilia in both programs. Anyway, back to Ilia - Ilia still has some of the prettiest, highest jumps in the pro world. "A House is Not a Home" is not my favorite program of Ilia's, but Ilia skates it beautifully and emotionally, and it was a real treat to watch.

TKO (Genesis) - Steven Cousins, Todd Eldredge, David Pelletier, Alexei Yagudin, John Zimmerman

The transition to this piece had, I think, Anton come out with a small magic trick, and then had Yuka trump him by continuously pulling a longer and longer knotted series of scarves out of her sleeves until it got so long that Anton, who was holding the other end, ended up going back into the tunnel, and when the scarves emerged again, it was Steven holding onto the other end.

This program confused me a bit at first b/c it starts off with Steven coming out alone and standing on the ice, doing a slow series of choreographed punches up in the air, off to the side, and down low, repetitively, in time to the beats of the music. Since I wasn't reading the program, I didn't realize this was a group number, and since I was trying to get pictures of him, given that he was going through a series of slow, deliberate poses that were rather easy to capture, I didn't even notice he'd been joined by David Pelletier until I put down my camera for a second and saw that somehow, another skater had appeared on the ice next to him and was mirroring his punches. I have to admire Chris Dean for coming up with a different theme year after year to have his all-male group number to (and he clearly realizes the appeal to the female segment of the audience), but I think he's starting to stretch the concept *just* a little bit since some of the choreographic elements IMO are getting a tiny bit repetitive. He's still got new variations in there, but there are only so many ways to pair up guys doing tricks with each other down the ice before it starts looking the same, even if the tricks are different. At any rate, this ensemble had a pugilistic theme, with the guys dressed up kind of like early 20th century/late 19th century guys, gearing up for a street fight (put me in mind of the Irish in Boston, somehow, or in NYC). I think this was one of the numbers where I thought the choreography lacked a certain something, maybe b/c of the carefully choreographed repetition. It was cute, though, with the guys variously knocking each other out, draping Todd E's supine body on top of two of the other guys, getting together in their little train move, dropping each successive person on the ice (didn't they do this in the clown number?) until John Zimmerman stood victorious over them all, and then taking each other out at the end until Steven Cousins was the last man left standing.

"Raindrops Will Fall" (Tamyra Gray) - Sarah Hughes

Since I'm not an eligible skater watcher, I'd never actually seen Sarah Hughes skate until her long program at the Olympics (which was fairly impressive, partly just for the joy she seemed to emanate as she skated it) and haven't seen her skate since, so this was basically the second time ever I've ever seen her. And I hate to say, I wasn't impressed. I totally admire her dedication towards concentrating on going to school and being a "normal person" last year, but her lack of training is really showing. Aside from the fact that she was only doing double jumps (as far as I could see), her basic skating and choreography wasn't as smooth or polished or complex as you'd hope to see from an Olympic Gold Medalists. She's still got a quite nice layback spin, but her spirals (which she builds a lot of her programs around, particularly the second one) seem a bit forced and unsteady (and she has a kind of odd position in them, which I actually thought at the Olympics as well). This program was cute - a rather bluesy number - and in the beginning, she actually did carry off the choreography with some pizzazz. But pizzazz doesn't quite cover up the fact that she's just not in top shape or training.

This program had a bit of a transition, IIRC, with Todd bringing out Sarah a big batch of flowers, then her pulling off petals as his "voiceover" goes "she loves me, she loves me not" with the appropriate corresponding facial expressions and body language, until he lands on "she loves me not", looking all dejected, whereupon she makes the flowers blossom a whole new set of petals and he declaims "she loves me!!" and they happily skate off the ice together.

"If I Could" (Michael Bolton) - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze

I have to say, I'm a tad bit bemused that somehow B&S chose this music in the same year that Michael Bolton guest-starred on Kurt's show and Katarina skated to it (is it off a new album or something?). Having said that, though, I think that this is a really lovely piece for B&S. The two of them do pretty and soft really, really well, and you really get that sense of romance and wistfulness from both Elena and Anton in the choreography and their facial expressions. It's kind of funny, b/c Elena and Anton and Jamie and David actually do a very very similar move in their programs, where the guy is in a spread eagle and the girl stands on his skates, staring into his eyes, but the move has a very different feel in the two programs. Elena and Anton's feels very romantic, with Elena staring deeply into Anton's eyes and kind of tenderly cupping his face, while Jamie and David's was more, I don't know, tense? dramatic? Had more attitude? Which also fit the program. But it was interesting to see how the same basic move could be used so differently in interpreting the music. Another thing that really impressed me in both of Elena and Anton's programs Sunday night - when Anton throws her into a throw jump, he really really throws her. It seems like he tosses her way out so that she lands a good 20 ft away from him (big random estimate on my part). It's really quite impressive. Very pretty program. ETA: Oops I may have been wrong, I'm not sure Anton is doing a spread eagle in the move I described above. S&P and B&S have very similar poses but I think Anton is actually skating forward on both feet on a deep edge. I'll have photos later so people can see for themselves.

"Radar Love" (Golden Earring) - Jamie Sale and David Pelletier

And now, something completely different. Putting this program after the "If I Could" is like night and day. We're quickly snapped out of our romantic haze into the energy and driving beat of "Radar Love". I had actually completely forgotten that B&E did a program to this song a couple years ago at Gotta Skate (my bf was telling me on the phone as I sat in the arena waiting for the show to start), but having rewatched part of it, I have to say that Jamie and David's program is infinitely more interesting choreographically (when did this review turn into bash B&E?). This program suits them to a T, since both Jamie and David can really pull off attitude and that sense of cool. They've both got that sense of showmanship you need to draw the audience into a program like this. Very fun to watch. Oh, and I should mention that they (and pretty much everyone else) were very solid, jump-wise.

"Passion" (Peter Gabriel) - Alexei Yagudin

The transition to this program was very cute. John, Steven, Kyoko, and Sarah skate out with watches on long chains, busily trying to hypnotize the audience into buying merchandise, particularly the shirt with the cast photo, and periodically putting themselves to sleep in the process (Sarah seemed particularly prone to being hypnotized by her own watch). The audience obviously enjoyed the hell out of this one, laughing frequently, and the skaters were really cute in body language and facial expression as they skated through this. I do have to say that it's not the most effective distraction from what Alexei is doing, since when Alexei comes out on the ice and the sheet is lowered, they're actually still on that side of the ice. But it's still a really cute attempt at a "distraction".

As for Alexei's much-discussed aerial acrobatics at the beginning of "Passion", after having watched it live, I can see why people are concerned (he's suspended *very* high over some very hard ice, supported only by a piece of cloth), but at the same time, I don't think he's at quite as much risk as you'd imagine. He doesn't do the really hard moves we've seen Cirque du Soleil performers do (I have to point out, though, that Cirque du Soleil frequently employs spotters, disguised as performers, and that a seasoned circus performer did actually die doing one of these aerial routines, so no amount of training makes it risk-free), and he's very very careful and quite slow when he transitions between moves or sets up for the next one. You can tell he's not an experienced performer of these types of tricks b/c his setups and transitions are not particularly well-disguised, but you can also tell he's making sure that everything is in place before releasing himself into some of the scarier moves (he ends up hanging upside down quite frequently, and at one point flips down the cloth as it unravels around his legs). I have to say, the slow transitions makes this part of the performance a tad bit less thrilling or interesting than a real Cirque performance would be, but at the same time, I'm not complaining b/c I'd much rather see him carefully set up the next move than try too hard to seem seamless that he ends up screwing himself over. And it does provide some rather striking visual effects. It's an interesting concept. And as long as his muscles don't betray him some night, I think he's fairly safe. BTW, I do have to say that he must have worked out immensely in preparation for this program, b/c it does require some rather significant upper body strength, IMO.

As for the on-ice stuff, I was very gratified to see that he did, in fact, ditch the "humping the ice caterpillar" move and other similarly unseemly choreography. On the other hand, I was rather bemused to find that I found his program in his current incarnation, as he performed it live, to actually be less dramatic and passionate than the version we saw at Ice Wars with its questionable choreography, and actually more similar in feel to Kurt's very precise and controlled "Passion". Which is ironic, b/c in the Alexei's Passion vs Kurt's Passion topic on FSU, several people chose Alexei's b/c of its greater sense of passion (a description I couldn't disagree with, since I don't think the point of Kurt's program is heightened drama or passion). At any rate, this is a good program, dramatic, filled with a lot of footwork, and interesting to watch. But strangely, somewhat lacking in the passion department, at least from my viewpoint.

"The Ride of a Life" (The Who medley of songs) - Cast

This ensemble was cute, yet was really the group number that made me start wondering about Chris Dean's group choreography. It opens with a rather cute concept of the skaters on a roller coaster, going up and down the track, bumping their way up the first hill, screaming as they went over the drop, etc, and spreads out to have more of a feel of them having a good day at a theme park, alternatively breaking out into solo bits while the other skaters kind of just chugged around the outside, or skating as a group. The interpretation of "Behind Blue Eyes" was cute, with Anton being the preening "bad man", David (I think) being the hangdog "sad man" and the two of them plus...John? dramatically throwing their hands over their eyes "behind blue eyes", but I have to confess seemed to be a tiny bit too literal, despite the incredibly cute Anton "bad man" expression and body language, and a bit too repetitive, given that they repeated this same bit of choreography whenever the verse repeated (which may have been only twice, come to think of it). This number closes on a visually striking note, though, with all of the skaters except Kyoko and John getting red umbrellas and skating around with them, and a downpour starts from above (quite amusingly, you could really tell where the main spouts were since there were some definitely bigger streams of water in particular spots that made wet slicks on the ice), drenching Kyoko and John as they skated dramatically to "Love Reign O'er Me". This worked quite well b/c Kyoko and John really evoked the drama of the piece, and b/c the visual effect of them weaving in and out of the red umbrellas, ending with John lifting Kyoko directly under a stream of water (think Kurt lifting Sonia at the end of "Blues After Hours" in Gotta Skate II) and a spotlight highlighting them. The only distracting factor of this dramatic final pose was that he seemed to be carefully centering her so she stood directly under one of those larger streams of water, which seemed to beating down on her upturned face, something that struck me as potentially very uncomfortable. The choice of "The Who" for the music was a good one, though, IMO. The sound of their music worked quite well for the Imagination theme (especially given that they used Willy Wonka as their opening number) and the music itself is good stuff. An interesting, if choreographically disappointing (to steal a page from a Seattle newspaper reviewer) act I closing ensemble.

Before the lights came up for intermission, Todd came out with a microphone asking if we'd enjoyed the first act, and to stick around for the second, warning us to pay attention to the weather report.

Act II

Throughout intermission, we were treated to goofy weather reports about snow in the forecast, etc etc. They were kind of fun, but I was so busy trying to delete half my photos (I have a gift for taking too many photos in the first act and not leaving room for the second act) that I couldn't really pay attention to them.

"Mr. Blue Sky" (Electric Light Orchestra) - Sarah Hughes, Steven Cousins, Todd Eldredge, David Pelletier, Alexei Yagudin, John Zimmerman

I have to confess that I didn't watch this program on the NBC broadcast, since I was cleaning the kitchen, but did people say they saw Kurt in this? B/c I don't see where they'd fit him in....

At any rate, this is the Sarah and a bunch of guys ensemble. It's a pretty cute, if kind of fluffy number, that mainly consists of Sarah skating around and getting to skate with each of the guys, at one point getting lifted in a split position by a bunch of them. It's not a particularly exciting number, but it's a nice enough way to open the second act.

"Amazing Grace" (Hayley Westenra) - Yuka Sato

This program was much more classic Yuka (down to the costume), and as you would expect, she performed it beautifully. One thing I like about Yuka is how she never feels to me like she's just skating generic female ballad choreography to the slow and pretty songs. Maybe it's b/c her execution is so lovely, but she does an excellent job of evoking the feel of the music, and skates really softly and lightly, which works well with this music. A beautiful program, and definitely my favorite of Yuka's in this show.

"Come Back to Bed" (John Mayer) - Steven Cousins

I thought this program opened with a bit of gratuitous shirtlessness, but looking at the title of the song, the argument could be made that it's actually kind of consistent with the whole "come back to bed idea", but at any rate, the opening of this program has Steven coming out shirtless (the audience was quite appreciative), looking around, and getting tossed his shirt (by Yuka or someone else). As he pulls the simple white T over his head (are we meant to think this is him just out of bed, getting quickly dressed and extolling his girl to come back to bed?), the music starts up. Despite the opening, this program proves to be a nice, intense one, rather than an overly flirtly audience pandering one. Steven doesn't quite have the footwork abilities of a Kurt or an Alexei, but he still makes the effort to do more than just glide on two feet, doing a bunch of steps and turns to the music that choreographically work quite well for him. And he's definitely got more than enough charisma. I like this kind of program on Steven - it plays well to his audience appeal while allowing him to emote a bit more and try choreographically interesting stuff to the music. Fun to watch.

"Step-Sisters" (Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin) - Elena Berezhnaya, Kyoko Ina, Jamie Sale, Yuka Sato, Steven Cousins

Quite frankly, I thought the transition into this ensemble was a tiny bit odd, since I don't think it flows entirely naturally from the "character" of Steven's "Come Back to Bed" program. Basically, the four women come out onto the ice dressed in overly cutesy polka dotted pastel dresses with huge poofed out skirts, I guess meant to be kind of Stepford-wivey, each of them carrying a separate item that they put on Steven, transforming him into an inattentive hubby in a smoking jacket, busily reading a paper rather than noticing the women. After skating cutely to music that says something about the importance of looking beautiful, etc, the women get fed up by Steven's lack of attention, tear off their housewife dresses, and become "sexy vamps" in black dresses who overwhelm the poor bewildered Steven and send him packing, apparently strong in being sexy women and in their sisterhood or something like that. IMO this program was better and done better than the four women number of years ago, but there were elements of it that still bugged the heck out of me. It's a cute concept, yet somehow the idea of women bonding together in high-fiving sisterhood, claiming their sexuality and sending the guy packing just irritates me. It's a bizarre concept of women power, and I can't help but think Chris Dean may have had something to do with the original incarnation. Choreographically, it's done well, and the girls all perform it to the hilt. I just don't like the underlying concept of the second part of it.

One of the most amusing transitions happens here. Todd comes out like a circus ringmaster with the world's smallest tenor - a flea - who happily sings, and then gets crushed by an overenthusiastic Todd accepting the audience's applause. The audience completely ate this up, along with Todd's very appalled reaction before he retreated back into the tunnel.

"Green Tomatoes" (Rick Braun) - Ilia Kulik

I *love* this program of Ilia's, and apparently, so does the crowd. This is such a fun, high-energy, choreographically interesting piece, and Ilia skates it so well, and seems to take such absolute joy in it that it's even more fun to watch when you see the huge grin on his face. This program is a great one for footwork, no doubt about it, but Ilia's jumps are also a beautiful thing to behold. And I got a particular enjoyment out of the fact that he did one of his series of dance moves right in front of my section. You get the feeling watching this program that Ilia is throwing himself into it with complete abandon, no holds barred, and he pulls the audience right in with him as a consequence. It's just fun, and very exciting to watch. Definitely a hit with the crowd.

IIRC, after Ilia's program, a whole funeral party of loudly grieving mourners for the flea came out on the ice, whose heartbroken sobs cracked the audience up completely. The biggest laugh, though, seemed to go to David, when he left us with a lingering loud sob as he disappeared into the tunnel. A transition that was definitely a hit with the audience. (thanks to Masha for the correction, I have to confess I wasn't watching this transition all the way through due to camera issues)

"Dance Mix" (various) - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze

I think this program works far better in the show setting than in the competition setting. I don't know what these two were thinking when they skated this number at World Team Challenge (but then, I don't know what Kurt was thinking when he skated Leaky Pipes at Ice Wars), but in the Stars on Ice context, the fun level and the character aspects to this program are amped up and easier to appreciate. The program still has too much downtime in between music/dance type segments, and probably not as much skating content as most skating fans would want from this pair, but they (especially Anton) clearly enjoy it and really play their "characters" to the hilt. Elena's really got that eye-rolling, vamping, completely into the dancing thing down, while Anton is really good at playing the trying-to-be-cool but really kind of goofy guy who's totally unabashed about throwing down and dancing away. There's a cute give and take between the two, and they do some of those dance moves really well. It's a fun number, and definitely a very different feel for them from the first one.

"Shout" (Otis Day & the Knights) - Alexei Yagudin

The transition from the last program to this one was kind of odd given that both programs are rather upbeat dancy things - Gary Jules' version of "Mad World" (which I love) comes over the speakers as three or four of the girls come out in masks and feathers, holding huge feather fans, and skating rather slowly and eerily, moving the feather fans into a variety of shapes. It's actually a neat little in-between, kind of reminiscent of the girls skating with pins number from last year, but with an added degree of mystery or whatever b/c of the masks. Amusingly, Alexei watches them bemusedly, and then kind of mocks them by flapping his arms after they leave the ice.

Hmm. Definitely not one of my favorites of Alexei's programs. This is clearly the pander to the crowd, content-poor, flirty upbeat number that they seem to like Alexei to do every year, for God-knows-what reason. It's even got him stepping off the ice to flirt with, and sit on, an audience member (or two, who clearly looked very thrilled by the whole thing, yay for them). I mean, Alexei does it pretty well, he has no problem flirting with the crowd and making contact like that, but it's just not that interesting a program. And I don't get the costume choice of putting him in a loud shirt, shorts, and socks pulled up too high. is he supposed to be a geek? He doesn't really play the geek here...

"Who Wants to Live Forever" (Queen) - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

A very cool transition where four red-hooded figures gather in the center of the ice in smoky lighting, apparently brewing something in a cauldron, the lights flash, go down, and when they come back up, Jamie and David are standing dramatically in their opening pose of WWTLF while the other skaters unobtrusively skate quickly off the ice (and this distraction was effective enough that I almost failed to notice that the four skaters had been reduced to two - they really make it look like the two appeared from the middle of the four out of nowhere).

I really like this song to begin with, and I liked Jamie and David's interpretation of it very much. For some reason, they've chosen to take a rather religious-appearing approach to the program, with Jamie often with her hands together in a prayer position, and the two of them often doing lifts which evoke a rather cross-like look. They're also very solemn during this program, showcasing their ability to skate in character and as effectively grabbing the audience that way as they do when they're grinning into the audience. There's a lot that works well for me in this program - David's opening spread eagle that starts out big but spirals inwards until he's closely circling Jamie. Several of the lifts, the interesting positions they get into, and the shifting positions of Jamie in the overhead lifts... It's a very dramatic, interesting program, and I really like it.

"Over the Rainbow" (Eva Cassidy) - Sarah Hughes

I do wonder if one of the reasons Jamie and David aren't skating to their version of "Over the Rainbow" this year in SOI is b/c of Sarah Hughes skating to the same song (not that I'm complaining - I like S&P's program choices this year and I really don't like the Jewel version of this song). At any rate, Sarah's program to this was nice. She does the lyrical stuff fairly well, but again, the double jumps and the unsteady spirals (and there were a *lot* of them in this program) kind of detract from the program. I think if she trained a lot and got back in shape and got her jumps back, she could do some really good things with these programs. I can see the potential in her presentation. But unfortunately, as they stand now, these programs kind of stand out from the rest as not being nearly as good or as well executed.

"Forevermore" (Alessandro Safina) - Todd Eldredge

This program is much more in the vein of what I think of as a "typical" Todd Eldredge program - dramatic, operatic and serious - but that's not at all a criticism. Todd's gotten increasingly good at performing these programs, and he does them very very well. The intensity and drama are excellent, and his jumps and spins are just beautiful. This is an excellent program for Todd, one I enjoyed quite a lot.

"Dream On" (Aerosmith) - Cast

The transition from the last program to this one again involves Kyoko and her magical changing screen, only this time she changes into the silver finale costume and starts off the finale to "Dream On", an excellent choice for finale music, IMO. The whole beginning part of this finale is not actually an ensemble - each skater, or subset of skaters, comes out and skates a part to the music, and then goes back in as the next act comes out, and they gradually build until finally all the skaters are on the ice together. This is a good finale for the show - the silver costumes work well with the "Dream On" music and it all builds dramatically and well. I don't remember much about the individual bits of choreography except that at various points, all three pairs do identical lifts, or skate together doing similar things, or similar successions of things, that Ilia and Steven lift Yuka and skate with her some, that John and Alexei lift Kyoko so she's facing upwards and parallel to the ice, with one leg extended upwards, etc. I think I'd need to see this program again to remember everything everyone did. It's a nice closing number for the show, though.

Overall, I think this was a really good show. They did more with the theme than they usually do, I think, and this type of theme worked a bit better than the "Time" one, IMO. The music was good, the lighting was interesting, and the programs and skaters were excellent.