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Dec 29, 2014

Favorite Performances of 2014

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a figure blog on the cusp of a new year, must write a retrospective listing favorite performances from the year past. And so here are mine for 2014.

Note that I said "favorite," which may or may not necessarily correspond with "best." Insert usual caveats such as de gustibus non est disputandum, etc., here.

14) Elena Radionova, 2014 Grand Prix Final SP (Pepe Romero/JLo mashup)
Blah blah poor posture blah blah horrible music cuts blah blah blah tacky choreography blah blah blah CHEESY CHILD PAGEANT ESCAPEE MESS. There, I got the complaints off my chest. But I confess: I found myself bopping my head to the music and singing along with JLo while watching Ms. Radionova skate this program. Judge me if you will, but it's time to pull my head out of my sphincter and face the facts: it's love. I know the Grand Prix Final version of this SP has a fall, but performance-wise, it's my favorite.

13) Samantha Cesario, US Nationals 2014 LP (Carmen)
The skating skills are lacking, but the performance skills are certainly not. A fiery, passionate, and above all, an angry Carmen in a sea of bland Carmens. The choreographic sequence is to die for! Why did the program have to change this season?

12) Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron, Cup of China 2014 FD (Concerto No. 23)
Just dreamy . . .

11) Tatsuki Machida, 2014 Japanese Nationals LP (Beethoven's Ninth)
The jumps were not quite there, but the performance quality absolutely was. I questioned this program earlier in the season, but I can no longer deny the grandeur of Mr. Machida's ambition and vision.Why does Mr. Machida have to retire now? For me, his performance at Nationals was the first--and now only--time he has skated this Beethoven program to its potential. But it was a wonderful swan song nonetheless: the freedom and joy in his performance was palpable.

10) Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland, 2014 Rostelecom Cup FD (Exogenesis; Hurricanes and Butterflies)
Evgeni Platov is a genius! Coomes/Buckland have improved as skaters, but this is a stunning, beautiful program that makes it easy to overlook the technical weaknesses that still exist in their skating.

9) Carolina Kostner, 2014 Olympics SP (Ave Maria)
After watching Carolina Kostner's nervy, white-knuckled disasters at the previous two Olympics, it was utterly bizarre watching how calm and serene she was in Sochi . . . but very fitting, considering that Ms. Kostner was skating to Ave Maria. Excellent 3F-3T out of nowhere as well. Unfortunately, the non-team version of Ms. Kostner's Olympics SP isn't available on Youtube, so we must make do with the Worlds version, which is also quite excellent.

8) Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov - 2014 Olympics LP (Addams Family)
I've liked and rooted for Stolbova/Klimov ever since I first saw them in 2010, but I never expected them to skate so well in Sochi! Their Addams Family LP is so wonderfully quirky, with such creative choreographic flourishes throughout. And most of all it's them and it's a style they clearly mesh with. Nina Mozer may have tightened up their technical elements and made them consistent, but Stolbova/Klimov's programs were so much more memorable and just simply better under Ludmila Velikova.

7) Mao Asada, 2014 Worlds SP (Nocturne No. 2)
Effortless, elegant, and entirely enthralling. A rare example of a skater re-using music that works.

6) Elena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganshin, 2014 Rostelecom Cup SD (Carmen)
It's extraordinary how things change over the span of a few months. Earlier in the year, when Ms. Ilinykh and Mr. Zhiganshin were dumped by their respective partners and announced their partnership with Elena Kustarova and Svetlana Alexeevna as their coaches, so many people (including I, admittedly) thought that Elena Ilinykh definitely received the short end of the stick: Ms. Ilinykh had to skate with a schoolboy who looked like he could barely keep up with her (like, a TOTAL DOWNGRADE from Nikita Katsalapov), and she would probably end up wearing the ugly dresses and hideous makeup that Ekaterina Bobrova used to wear. Ilinykh/Zhiganshin would probably also skate to some fusty old-fashioned dance like Faust and lose a bunch of levels on their elements, which Ms. Kustarova would blame on the tech caller instead of fixing. But lo and behold, we were wrong. We were so wrong. And it has never felt so good to be wrong.

5) Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov, Skate America 2014 LP (Manfred Symphony)
What I said here. 

4) Satoko Miyahara, Japanese Nationals 2014 LP (Miss Saigon)
I knew I was obsessed with Ms. Miyahara's Miss Saigon since the Japan Open when my mind kept drifting back to that one moment in the program when Ms. Miyahara starts her choreographic sequence with a spiral at the musical climax, which then smoothly segues into soft piano notes. I don't care if Ms. Miyahara jumps 2cm off the ice--lovely, thoughtful choreography + Ms. Miyahara's refined, nuanced skating = a masterpiece.

3) Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje, 2014 Grand Prix Final FD (Four Seasons)
I find the ending of this Four Seasons free dance--from when Ms. Weaver and Mr. Poje take those running steps on the ice at one end of the rink before touching their hands together during the steps and onto the lift and the ending pose--breathtakingly, euphorically, and salubriously beautiful.

2) Sara Hurtado/Adria Diaz, 2014 Olympics FD (Picasso)
Unfortunately the Olympics version of Hurtado/Diaz's LP is not available on Youtube, so we will have to make do with their skate at Worlds. I adore this Picasso FD--such a clever, charmingly patriotic choice for this Spanish dance team, and their passion really shines through together with the superb choreography. Also, this program is notable for being the only memorable program David Wilson choreographed all last season...but give credit to the man: it was the best-choreographed free dance of the season.

1) Yuzuru Hanyu, 2014 Grand Prix Final SP (Ballade No. 1)
A stunningly-choreographed program and performance that shows a mature, lyrical side of Yuzuru Hanyu that we haven't quite seen before. It's true that the original choreography is superior, but let's cut Mr. Hanyu a break with all his injuries and illnesses this season. It's interesting to note how Mr. Hanyu's short programs are so much better-choreographed than all his long programs, which are quite similar no matter what kind of music is in the background. I used to think it was David Wilson's fault, but given that Shae-Lynn Bourne is this year's choreographer and his Phantom still resembles Romeo and Juliet 2.0 and Notre Dame de Paris somewhat, it's become evident that Brian Orser's strategy for Mr. Hanyu is to skate a stunning, well-choreographed SP and hope that the PCS carries over to the LP, which is above all designed to allow Mr. Hanyu to crank up the base value as high as possible. Thank Beelzebub (and Janet Lynn) for the existence of the short program.


  1. Yuzuru's SP debut at an Ice show with original layout. With spread eagle 3A, 4T, a walley before the luzt. I love the walley, what a pity he's not healthy this season:

  2. And here's Elena and Ruslan's SD at Russian Nationals, they rocked here as well. Clip from Japan Tv ironically. I love this performance even better than their SD at CoR:

  3. Thank you for the links, Hakkai :)

  4. With regard to a certain Olympic free dance (among other things): Vimeo is your friend.

    I actually like the camera angles from Euros better, but Sochi was the better performance.