Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Seattle & Wenatchee, WA - Feb. 25 & 26, 2012

Written by Tina

My anticipation for the 2012 Stars on Ice tour was somewhat higher than usual. It is the first year Kurt Browning has taken over as choreographer and co-director of the tour, and I was eager to see what he'd come up with for the tour. Aside from the challenges of choreographing a full show for the first time, Kurt had some other significant hurdles to overcome. A much reduced rehearsal time (just 3 days) and tour schedule meant that the skaters had far less time than usual to learn the choreography of a complete Stars on Ice show, and far fewer performances to get the show under their belts. In the past, when the tour hit some 60 cities, sometimes it would take ten or so cities for the cast to really hit its stride; this year, the tour is only ten cities long.

Despite the limitations, however, it is very gratifying to see that Kurt refused to dumb down the show or dilute what makes a Stars on Ice show unique. The show features multiple transitions involving most of the skaters in the cast, to help the programs flow from one to another, and multiple group numbers, many of which feature quite complex and intricate choreography and thought out concepts. There is also a strong sense of the "Love 'n Life" theme running throughout the show, without overdoing it to the point of beating the audience over the head with it.

This year, the Seattle and Wenatchee shows were the only two consecutive stops on tour within a reasonable driving distance of each other (if you ignore the fact that there is a snowy mountain pass between the two, as I unwittingly did). They also happened to be the first two full performances of the show after the opening show at the end of December. The cast has performed some of the programs and two of the group numbers (Rolling in the Deep and Dog Days are Over) in Japan, as well as in the special Salt Lake City show commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Olympics, but they hadn't performed the entire show since Lake Placid. As a result, there were some rough areas that obviously just need a bit more practice to smooth out, but also a high sense of energy from the skaters.

Opening - A Suite for Stars - Cast

The opening number of the show's main function was to introduce the theme of "Love 'n Life", while establishing a connection with the audience by letting them see the skaters' personalities on the ice. The show opens with Kurt's voice over the speakers musing "Love and Life. What is it?" and continues with the skaters offering their own takes on the answer via voiceover, as they skate on the ice. Their on ice actions often mirrored or acted out what was being said in the voiceovers. For instance, Kurt is bent over panting while his voiceover says "life is exhausting", while enthusiastic puppy Ryan pushes him playfully and says "life is great! I'm the champion!", flexing his arm victoriously. Or Todd keeps quoting Gandhi while trying to look zen, until the skaters confront him and ask him what *he* thinks and he admits he doesn't know. There are the expected uplifting platitudes about life being about forgiveness, family, etc, but there are also threads of humor in the skaters' thoughts and interactions. It's a bit of a skating-light opening, compared to past openings, and it can be a bit cheesy, but it does strongly establish the theme and set us up nicely to transition into Katia's first number.

Love Will Keep Us Together - Ekaterina Gordeeva

Katia's voice offers the last thought on life ("life is full of possibilities") and the rest of the skaters leave the ice as "Love Will Keep Us Together" starts playing. Katia's first program is light-hearted and charming, with Katia flashing playful smiles at the audience as she skates. Katia's effortless grace and astonishing speed couple together to present a polished, fun performance of a song that I admittedly do not love. Her technique is gorgeous, her spins lovely and centered, and her jumps, though many of them are doubles, are beautiful (and she does several). All in all, it is a nice way to start the night.

For the first two transitions of the night, Ilia played the odd man out in the dancing quartet of Ilia, Ryan, Todd, and John Kerr. In the first transition, each man comes out in a red jacket with a flower pinned to the lapel, presenting themselves all cool and happening. Ilia, however, has a ginormous daisy pinned to his lapel, which keeps getting in his way and distracting him, throwing him off so he keeps falling out of step with the other guys and has to get pulled back in line as he distractedly bats the flower away from his face. Finally, each guy dances off the ice, and Ilia finds himself alone. In frustration, he pulls the daisy off his jacket and throws it at the tunnel before stomping off the ice.

Johnny Got a Boom Boom - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

Within seconds of starting their fun, energetic, trick-filled program to "Johnny Got a Boom Boom", Kyoko and John quickly reminded me of just how much fun and energy they add to a Stars on Ice show. These two are guaranteed crowd pleasers, from their gasp-inducing "fly high and say bye" to the applause-drawing spin where John holds Kyoko out upside down and spins around, to the headbanger where Kyoko really seems about to bang her head on the ice and then fly super high off the other side, to their numerous one-handed lifts with exciting dismounts. They also seem to have invented a few new moves, one of which I can not describe for the life of me, but which I found immensely cool each time I saw it. It's so good to see them skating together.

I'm Yours - Kurt Browning

No transition into Kurt's number - the lights go down and the announcer simply says "A true legend - Kurt Browning". The first few notes of "I'm Yours" start playing as the lights come up, and there Kurt is, skating his immensely charming love letter to the fans. "I'm Yours" isn't a new program - Kurt first skated it in 2009 - but he's never done it on the US Stars on Ice tour, and it fits beautifully in with the theme of the show. Although I've seen this program countless times, I never tire of it, and I'm still staggered by how quick and light his feet are, especially in some of the initial dancey-segments. He just seems to lightly skim right over the ice, barely touching down. In Wenatchee, there seemed to be an odd patch of ice in one section, since a number of skaters had problems there. In Kurt's case, he was just sidling along sideways for the choreography to the "scootch on over closer dear, let me nibble your ear" when he suddenly tripped and fell, to his obvious amused consternation. Kurt being Kurt, though, he just smiled ruefully, scrambled back up, shook his finger at the problematic spot on the ice, and went on. To me, "I'm Yours" is the perfect match of song and skater, and it just makes me smile every time I see it.

The same four guys from the first transition came back out on the ice to continue to dance and charm the audience, and once again Ilia was out of step. In this case, the choreography kept having the skaters make punching motions, and Ilia kept finding himself at the receiving end of Ryan's punch. As the dancing progressed, he found a solution, by watching the other skaters cautiously as he danced, ducking out of the way each time Ryan's fist came his way. He began to smile proudly at his cleverness, dancing with greater confidence, until he failed to duck the last punch, which knocked him slowly backwards into a patented Ilia backbend until he slumped onto the ice. It was quite amusing to watch. Hats off to Geoffrey Tyler for some fun transitions.

Dos Gardenias - Sasha Cohen

Sasha's first program was to the Spanish-esque Dos Gardenias. I'm not quite sure Sasha has quite the red-hot intensity required to really pull off a sultry number, but she did quite a credible job with this one, making unflinching eye contact with the audience as she performed the choreography. The positions she hits are always beautifully extended and lovely, and she has lost none of that signature flexibility in her transition to full time student. This was a good program for her, and enjoyable to watch.

Footloose - Ryan Bradley

In my opinion, Ryan Bradley seems to be the new Steven Cousins on tour. Super-charming ear-to-ear grin, fun and entertaining connection with the audience, at times similar types of choreography, and somewhat less polished than the other guys on tour. I loved Steven, and Ryan is fast winning me over, so this is not a bad comparison. Footloose is the better of his two show programs, playing to his strengths of enthusiasm, energy, and charm. He throws some really fun steps in, dancing on his toes in a way that made me appreciate that he wasn't going to fall into the "point into the audience and grin while skating on two feet" style of show skating that some skaters get into when they go pro. However, I have to admit that after seeing it for the 3rd time (once at Love on Ice in January) the program doesn't hold up as well as on initial viewing. It's VERY choreographed to only one side of the ice (the opposite side than the one I was on), and there is a lot of repetitive choreography which starts making the program feel a tad bit long. These are all things that can be fixed and refined as he becomes a more experienced show skater, though, and Footloose is definitely a lot of fun to watch, especially the first time.

Formidable - Joannie Rochette

As Ryan leaves the ice, Ilia comes out with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other, clearly all pumped up and in a confident, flirtatious mood. He presents himself all "yup, yup, I'm all that", grinning into the audience, putting the flowers down to smooth his hair and primp himself up. As Joannie comes out on the ice, he spots her and confidently and happily strides down the ice towards her, flowers and chocolate outstretched, only to have her blow right by him without even seeming to notice he was there. He's all "wtf??" and starts gesticulating wildly with frustration while ranting in Russian, with a random "triple salchow" thrown into what he was saying (drawing laughs from the audience), and then sulkily opens the chocolate box and starts munching while glaring at Joannie. His voiceover makes eating noises and then mumbles "Women!" as he stomps off the ice.

In the meantime, Joannie has made her way in her big sunglasses and scarf and stunning red dress to the side of the ice, and is calmly standing there in a flirtatious manner, just waiting for her music to start and the ranting Russian to leave the ice. Formidable is one of my favorite Joannie Rochette programs I've seen from her on tour. It suits her to a T - she's languidlly flirtatious, and sexy, and really commits to the choreography, and yet there's a certain degree of elegant reserve and grace underlying everything she does, which doesn't detract from the interpretation, but makes it uniquely Joannie. She's also usually one of the most solid and consistent performers, in terms of going for triples and landing them cleanly. She was having an unusually off night in Seattle, maybe because her hair came loose and she couldn't see, or she was tired from all the traveling she does, but was back on her game in Wenatchee the next night.

The Waiter's Gallop - Todd Eldredge

After Joannie left the ice, the spotlight came up on Kurt, dressed in a red shirt, black vest and bow tie, gesticulating wildly as his (accented) voiceover declares that as Maitre de Hotel (I think) of the restaurant, he expects everything to be of the highest standard (or words to that effect) before storming off the ice. The audience around me seemed kind of confused as to whether this was a Kurt program, and it took them a second to notice Todd, pushing a table and two chairs out onto the ice and setting things up for the dinner service.

The Waiter's Gallop is essentially a comedy piece featuring Todd as the harried, frantic (and possibly not entirely competent) waiter trying to serve his customers, John and Kyoko. He gets off to a good start by seating Kyoko but letting John fall to the ground when he goes to sit in his chair, and then forgetting to serve them water - when this is pointed out to him, he rushes off with the pitcher to the end of the ice, where he grabs a water bottle out of an audience member's hand and proceeds to pour that into his pitcher, tossing the still partially full bottle aside, and then rushing back with it, turning and doing footwork along the way (and spilling water everywhere). When he gets back to the table, he pours Kyoko water, and then distractedly shrugs and splashes water all over John, who leaps to his feet in anger. Things get knocked over, but he somehow manages to placate them. More frantic whirling about the ice ensues as he grabs a tray with dinner plates fixed to it and zooms around the ice with it before finally placing it in front of them, and then goes on to do various other little leaps and moves down the ice as his customers try to eat. He then comes to them with the check, taking the dinner with him as he goes. In Seattle, this worked effectively - John reacted like "wait, wtf, I'm not done eating yet", so when he then exclaimed in irritation over the bill and refused to pay it, it made more sense - he was mad at all the crappy service. In Wenatchee, he didn't seem as irritated by the mishaps, and then didn't react at all to the dinner being taken away, so the stomping away without paying the bill made less sense. At any rate, Todd returns to find the customers gone and the check unpaid, so he hands it to an audience member, miming "someone's got to pay", and then leaves the ice, pushing the table and chairs ahead of him. The program isn't exactly high on meaningful skating content, but it's amusing and fast-paced, and Todd plays the character well.

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3 - Sinead & John Kerr

The next program was a stark contrast to the previous comedic high energy number. It opened with Sinead and John standing still at the side of the ice, covering their eyes, and gradually built from there. I LOVE this program. I love its elegance and grace, the beautiful, yet not overplayed subtle emotion, the flow and speed of their blades across the ice, and the way the program just builds in intensity with the music. It probably helps a great deal that I like the music rather a lot, but I think Sinead and John do a fantastic job interpreting it. Just gorgeous.

Who Wants To Live Forever - Ilia Kulik

Instead of using other skaters to do the transition, after the applause for their program, Sinead and John put their serious faces back on and skate a slow, glidey transition to the opening strains of "Who Wants to Live Forever", and pass things off to Ilia as he skates out between them. This is another song that I love, even if this was a violin interpretation rather than Queen's beautiful song. I at times didn't find the choreography all that compelling - a lot of throwing one arm into the air dramatically - but Ilia's power and intensity more than made up for it in making this a compelling program. His speed across the ice, the height and power of his jumps and leaps, the expansive movement of his long limbs across the ice - it's just an uniquely Ilia package that draws the audience in.

Rolling in the Deep - Cast

After Ilia's program, the lights go down, and three shadowy figures make their way out onto the ice, accompanied by the unusually amplified sound of their skate blades on the ice. And so begins my absolute favorite number - ensemble or solo - of the night, and one of my favorite group numbers in recent memory. This number showed, IMO, more than anything how Kurt wasn't going to compromise on complex choreography just because they were limited in rehearsal time. The number opens with just Todd, Ryan, and Kurt on the ice. Their blades are miked, like in the "Five Minutes for Icing" number over 15 years ago, and the opening is an exploration of creating rhythm and sound patterns with footwork, with a little personality thrown in, as Kurt tries to strike out on his own to do footwork, only to be pulled back by the other two. They make their way down the ice, as a pulsating beat starts up, and as they reach the end, they stomp their feet and throw the attention back down to the other end of the ice to the three ladies who have appeared down there, as Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" starts up in earnest. Then it's Joannie, Katia, and Sinead's turn to pull the audience's attention in with their strong, music-driven moves as the guys slide back and forth at the end. When the guys and girls meet, the choreography is combative, miming stylized punches and blocks. In the past, Stars on Ice has done numbers with the guys pulling or lifting each other into moves, or the traditional guys lifting girls, but Kurt seems interested in having the girls also skate together, from Sinead and Joannie lifting Katia by the arms and pushing her forward, to Joannie and Sasha doing side by side spirals with their arms around each other's waists. He also mixes up the pairs, with John Z lifting Sasha and John K lifting Kyoko when they first come out, or in a slightly repeated motif over "we could have had it all", having each guy flip a girl over his shoulder and then carry her. He doesn't seem to do any of the traditional group number stuff in the typical way - rather than skaters skating in a big circle, they skate into a kind of moving spiral, with the skaters spiraling closer in and then breaking out as they weave in between each other (a potential disaster waiting to happen, but very cool looking when it works). Rather than doing simple footwork or steps back and forth in unison when skating in a line down the ice, individual skaters in parts of the line (whose blades are still miked) break into swooping slides which punctuate the music with the sounds of their blades, which provides both an interesting visual and aural counterpart to the music. This being Kurt Browning choreography, he challenges the skaters with his steps, but he also challenges them with the lack of steps - at one point, the girls glide in a V formation super slowly down the ice on one foot, having to stay perfectly balanced for an extended period of time without momentum helping them, as they gracefully move their arms. Since most of them were wearing stomach-baring costumes, you could see their abs tensing and flexing as they fought to hold their balance. Describing each individual part isn't really adequate - this is just a really cool ensemble number with interesting complex choreography to a great piece of music, and a great way to send people into intermission wanting to come back.

Act II

A Life Loved - Todd Eldredge, Sinead & John Kerr, Katia Gordeeva, Ilia Kulik, Joannie Rochette, Kurt Browning

Act II opens very differently than act I closed, with a quiet, melancholy, introspective tribute to the movie Up. If you've seen Up, then you know that in the beginning of the movie, there is a montage depicting the main character's life with his wife through the years. "A Life Loved" in Stars on Ice puts this on ice, with Todd Eldredge dressed as an old man sitting in his living room at home. He puts on an old record and begins to reminisce. First, Sinead and John come out dressed as the young, vibrant couple, with John noticing Sinead, courting her, them happily skating together with great speed and energy, and John lifting Sinead. Their segment ends with John on his knee proposing to Sinead. There was a difference between Seattle and Wenatchee here, because they're still tweaking this number to fix what doesn't work and what does - in Wenatchee, Todd over in his armchair is also down on his knee with the actual ringbox in his hand, mirroring his memory. After Sinead and John, Katia comes out dressed as a housewife, busily dusting away. Ilia comes in as an older, more dignified (and taller) version of John, and entices her away to take a stroll with him. Their choreography is more subdued - slower but still vibrant and powerful, less youthful exuberance and more controlled passion. As it progresses, it becomes clear that Katia is pregnant - she protectively cups her stomach, and as Ilia realizes what it means, he takes his glasses off and jumps for joy. The last couple is Joannie in a perfect costume - saggy socks and "flesh" on her legs - saggy everything, in fact, with granny glasses and her hair in a grey bun, and Kurt as the old man, unable to pull his suspender up over his shoulder without help. Mirroring the motions Ilia used to convince Katia to take a walk, Kurt gets Joannie to go for a slow, creaky walk together. There are some really cute bits here - like the two of them taking a deep breath and look like they're about to plunge into some energetic skating together, only to let out the breath and hobble slowly down the ice. Kurt goes to try to lift Joannie, and basically throws out his back, and the two together just present a really cute picture of an old, physically decrepit, but still loving couple. The joy is broken, however, when Joannie doubles over clutching her chest and Kurt holds her with concern. If you've seen the movie, you know she dies, but I have to say that it's not super clear in the show what's happening, b/c she basically looks like she's just coughing. They're still working on trying to make this part work better - in Seattle she literally looked like she was just coughing gently while Kurt skated away from her backwards. In Wenatchee, she doubled over more and Kurt held her while they sank down somewhat. Unfortunately, the light didn't cut out soon enough they just sort of froze in a hunched over position, rather than the light going down over them as they sank (which is what was supposed to happen). I suspect this number will look subtly different in future performances as they work on improving this. At any rate, after Kurt and Joannie leave the ice, Todd nostalgically picks up the photo of his wife (it's a picture of Katia), looks fondly at it, and then slowly and laborious does a few turns while holding it, like he's imagining dancing with her, before sitting down, and finally kissing his fingers and gently placing them on the photo. It's a really cute, sweet number, and should get even better with some tweaks.

The Best Is Yet to Come - Ryan Bradley

While the transitions in Act I were all done by the guys, the transitions in Act II were the girls, and I have to say, didn't work nearly as well. There wasn't much character, the theme was carried forward more by the music (each clip had some "life/love" theme - like one was to "that's what you get for making whoopie" or something), and the transitions didn't really fit in with the programs they led into. I still have to be happy that they did transitions, though. The transition for this program was Sasha and Kyoko skating together, which was pretty and elegant, and then Ryan comes out and does a few turns with each before they both skate off the ice, leaving him standing there (which was a bit odd).

I understand why Ryan picked this song, thematically (between the life theme and wanting to express that his national championship wasn't the end of him), but I just didn't feel he really had the maturity or choreography to really pull this program off. There is absolutely no faulting his personality, smile, or charm, but I liked Footloose for him way more.

Pencil Full of Lead - Sinead & John Kerr

On the other hand, Pencil Full of Lead suited the Kerrs really well, and presented a real fun contrast to the flowing elegance of their first number. The fun upbeat nature of the program already made itself apparent in their costuming - John in black and white striped pants and a loud pink shirt, Sinead in similar patterns/colors in her dress. It opened with them both "sleeping" on the ice, spaced far apart. John wakes up in a really amusing fashion, and then tries to wake Sinead up, who just waves him off and continues to sleep. He mimes winding up a clock and putting it next to her, and then backs away, covering his ears. A really loud alarm goes off, scaring her into an indignant sitting position, but she quickly cheers up as he jumps over her head, and they're off into a fun, fast-paced, goofy number. The number features a lot of fun bits, including their patented gender bender lifts, where Sinead carries John, and some fun straightline side by side footwork sequences up and down the ice. It's a great number for them (the Scottish accent of the singer works perfectly too), and so much fun to watch.

Indestructible - Joannie Rochette

I'm not sure what's up with Joannie's single word titled, formidable/indestructible themed programs this year - is she trying to say something? ;) - but I enjoy them both. "Indestructible" is kind of a techno-club dance number with an underlying driving layer of emotion and power. The song itself is kind of electronic with a driving beat, and Joannie dances really well to it, with great intensity and an entirely different vibe from her first number. I love that her programs don't really have empty space - her feet and arms are always moving and her body is always creating different shapes. I have no idea who she actually worked with to choreograph this program, but it reminded me of some of Jeff Buttle's recent dance-driven show programs, which was quite interesting.

Amazed - Todd Eldredge

The next transition had Kyoko, Sasha, and Sinead skating around all flirtatiously, each kind of coyly skating around Todd Eldredge when he comes out, as he stands there smiling fondly at them. It's an odd choice, given that his number is basically about how in love he is with one woman, but at least the transition doesn't really have him reciprocating, just standing there as they skate around him.

This number threw me off a little, because I kept thinking "hasn't he skated to this before?", but it turned out I was thinking of Michael Weiss' number to the same song a few years ago. Comparisons aside, this was a nice program from Todd, expressing his love for his fiancee in his heartfelt and graceful choreography. He's not doing too many jumps these days, but his spins are still fast and centered, and he knows how to deliver a lovely performance.

Waiting for my Real Life to Begin - Ryan Bradley, Kurt Browning, John Kerr, John Zimmerman

Stars on Ice has a tradition in the last decade of an all-guys' number, and it's usually a goofy number with a lot of personality and guys doing fun tricks together. Kurt, knowing the tradition, decided to take a decidedly different tack with the guys' number, creating essentially a modern dance work of art with the help of dancer Linda Garneau (who did his "Downstream" number last year). In my opinion, the number in concept, design, and execution, was simply stunning and mesmerizing to watch. The setup is almost beautifully simple - four guys, each with a single spotlight on a stand, which provided the bulk of the lighting for the program, wearing simple white tank tops and black pants, skating to a simple acoustic guitar-and-vocals song. The program derives its power from the play of light and shadow, from stillness almost as much as from movement, from the beautiful shapes made by a dancer's body position and arms. It alternates between utter stillness as the skaters each stand in place, only moving their head or a limb, and bursts of passionate movement that are both perfectly controlled and yet contain an ocean of emotion. In particular, John Zimmerman's and Kurt's solo segments stood out gorgeously. John's was all passionate movement in spread eagles and stretched out lunge position, and movements in and out of pools of shadow and light as the other guys moved the lights to all point at him. Kurt's started off as a beautiful demonstration of dance in body positioning and movement, and then turned into a gorgeous demonstration of edge control as he did essentially a square shaped spread eagle around the four lights, going straight down between the lights, then curving around the corner to instantly straighten again around all four sides. Unfortunately, Ryan also stood out, but in a less positive way. I give kudos to Kurt for choosing to include Ryan to help him develop as a skater, but at the moment, Ryan doesn't have the body line or grace in arm movements and tends to rush the choreography a bit. I think it will come with time, though, and I think this number is a great opportunity for him to really stretch artistically. If it isn't apparent by now, this number was by far my other favorite in the show. I found it impossible to shoot photos of it, due to how dark it was, but I could watch it over and over.

Big Spender - Sasha Cohen

The lights from the previous number became a rather suitable transition prop for Sasha's number, as each light alternated turning on and off to light Sasha's path onto the ice, in a very Vegas showgirl kind of way. I have to say, "Big Spender" is very clearly a program that Sasha loves performing, and which works extremely well as a result. The number's a bit of a showstopper - Sasha in a very cleavage-baring silver sparkly dress, alternatingly coy and full-on sexy, flirting openly with the audience, and unashamedly flaunting her assets. Aside from an odd transition from show tune to almost a heavy metal take on the song, the music fit Sasha perfectly, and the audience absolutely adored this number. It's a great show number for her, and really took the energy up in the room.

Love in this Club - Ilia Kulik

In the next transition, Sinead, Joannie, and Katia all notice Ilia when he comes out in his glitterbombed sweatshirt (says IK on the back in glitter), but it's Katia who beckons him after her and draws him into the tunnel, only to unceremoniously push him back out, which was funny, but also didn't really go with the opening to his program. I think the guys' transitions worked better partly because they *didn't* interact with the performers on either end of the transition. If they were going to interact, they needed to flow into the program better.

I have to say, if you listen to the lyrics, "Love in this Club" is a rather eyebrow-raising choice for a song in a "family" show, but honestly you hardly notice while watching Ilia skate. Power is still a defining theme when Ilia skates - when he goes up into one of his flying camel/butterfly/whatever you call them, it's jaw dropping - but this number also played to his take on techno dancing. It also highlighted how Ilia has become a much more extroverted show skater, playing up the sex appeal and even taking off his outside shirt rather flamboyantly while grinning into the audience. It's a fun number, and a fun contrast to his first program.

Take Me There - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

Even when Kyoko and John do a quieter, softer program, it's still chock full of exciting lifts. In Seattle, one of their newer lifts got a little too exciting, when Kyoko lost her balance while leaning way out from John, and he had to save her from crashing to the ice (I think getting her ankle stuck up on his shoulder a little too long in the process). They recovered as quickly as they could, but the rest of the program looked a bit more tentative, possibly b/c Kyoko may have hurt something during that botched lift. In Wenatchee, things were much cleaner, and we were able to see both the moves that they had had to skip after the lift, as well as the sentimental, romantic flow of the number.

Feelin' Good - Ekaterina Gordeeva

The last two programs of the night were a first for Stars on Ice - the first time two different skaters performed to different versions of the same song in the same show. They chose to handle this by putting the programs back to back, and I have to say, it worked really well. If "Rolling in the Deep" and "Waiting for My Real Life To Begin" were my two favorite ensembles in the show, these two versions of "Feeling Good" may have been my two favorite solo numbers of the night. The reason they ended up with the same song twice is because each skater independently chose it, and it's clear why - they both obviously strongly connected to the music.

Katia's program was to the Pussycat Dolls' version of the number, a kind of slow, bluesy, sultry take on the song. It was the slinkiest I've seen Katia skate, with intricate sinuous body movements that really went with the flow of the song well, subtle bits of choreography, and interesting steps. I really loved her interpretation of the lyrics and the style of music - this also may be one of my favorite Katia programs ever. She also landed some beautiful jumps here, including an absolutely clean 2-lutz.

Feeling Good - Kurt Browing

To transition between the two numbers, Katia greeted Kurt as he came onto the ice and asked him, "feeling good?". His reply? "Oh yeah..", as he tossed his hat to her. Kurt's program was to Adam Lambert's version of the song, which was less bluesy and more rock, had some more interesting vocal interpretation, and built to a greater intensity than the Pussycat Dolls' version. And Kurt's interpretation was correspondingly more aggressive, more powerful, stronger in its movements, with subtle bits of movement that fit really well with Lambert's vocalization. His footwork built with the music, and his jumps came out of nowhere and transitioned quickly into further choreography, rather than having held landings. There were bits of interpretation that kind of faintly recalled Katia's - how they interpreted "fish in the sea", "dragonfly flying on by" - which helped to both complement and contrast with her program. Kurt's performance in Seattle was considerably stronger than his performance in Wenatchee (he seemed pretty exhausted by the end of the show in Wenatchee, which is completely understandable given his dual duties as performer and director of the show), but both were still captivating to watch. At the program's conclusion, Kurt goes back over to his hat, which Katia left on the ice by the tunnel, and flips it up with his skate and back onto his head. In Seattle, unfortunately, the hat refused to cooperate, kind of ruining the cool vibe of the ending, to his chagrin, but in Wenatchee it worked perfectly. What a great final solo number for the evening.

Dog Days Are Over - Cast

The finale for the show was to "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machine, a song that worked remarkably well as a high energy, interesting, end to the show. The number opened with a subtle callback to Sasha's skateless ballerina program from a few years ago - she is lifted by 3 of the guys, who transfer her from one to the other without ever touching the ground, before carrying her back into the tunnel. The song itself has a great deal of contrast to it - slow bits, super fast bits, loud bits, soft bits - which lent itself to very contrasting choreography. IMO, this number doesn't work quite as well as Rolling in the Deep, and it might actually be because there are *too* many steps - the skaters are all skating a great deal of footwork in a group up and down the ice, and they often don't seem to have quite enough room, and seem to be thinking really hard and scrambling to keep up while executing the footwork. One skater who seems to absolutely have gotten the choreography down and carries it out with aplomb is John Kerr, though. He does a fantastic job in this number. Many of the other skaters look a bit like they need some more performances to really feel comfortable with this number. It is definitely really interesting, a choreographically complex finale, and a fun way to end the show, though. Kudos to Jeff Buttle, who I understand helped a lot with the finale.

Overall, I really loved this year's show, and was blown away by just how much Kurt was able to put into the show with so little time to do it. Some decisions were made, such as making the opening number theme-heavy and skating-light, to accommodate the reality of their logistics, but I really admire that he didn't compromise on doing complex choreography in most of the group numbers. The theme of "love 'n life" carried really well throughout the whole show, without being overemphasized, and the whole thing felt like a real, cohesive Stars on Ice show with some of the best group numbers they've had in years. I realize that the show only visits 10 cities and is already halfway through the tour, but if it is at all possible for you to catch a show, I highly recommend it. For the rest of you, I wrote this review - quite possibly the longest one I have ever written, but hopefully one that will give you a picture of a tour you weren't able to see. Here's hoping Stars on Ice comes back next year, with Kurt at the helm and more resources to put on an even bigger and better show!