Dec 13, 2014
Grand Prix Final 2014, Day 3: One Sentence Reviews (Part I)
The Grand Prix Final, though not a competition with quite the prestige factor or importance of the World Championships, features the top skaters going head-to-head for the first time in the season and thus can provide viewers with a rough idea of the present pecking order so far.
Having an idea of the current pecking order had been especially important in ice dance, given that the retirements of Davis/White and Virtue/Moir as well as the dissolution of Ilinykh/Katsalapov created a conspicuous vacuum at the discipline's apex which quite a few teams have scrambled to fill during the Grand Prix season. Similarly, even though the men have not be roiled by retirements to the same extent as their counterparts in ice dance, injuries and implosions have created a sense of turmoil among the rank and file.
Ice dance - Free dance
Elena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganshin: The quality of their skating skills is wonderful to watch, even if their choreography is not quite there yet . . . but it will come.
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron: Even with the slight nerviness of the performance, Papadakis/Cizeron's Le Parc-inspired free dance seamlessly flows from one element into the next, creating an organic, ideally-proportioned whole that echoes the aesthetic of a sensual Rodin sculpture.
Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier: There's a steeped-in-aspic sort of vibe to Gilles/Poirier's free dance that gets too cloying approximately 2.3 minutes into the program--definitely a let-down from their unique, electrifying Hitchcock free dance last season.
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani: Run, Shibutanis, Run (away from Marina Zoueva).
Madison Chock/Evan Bates: A nice collection of technical elements, but not an ice dance program in the proper sense.
Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje: I was lukewarm towards Weaver/Poje's Four Seasons free dance at both Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy, but the stars have finally aligned at the Grand Prix Final and I found the balance of shadows and salubrious radiance in Four Seasons tremendously affecting. Wonderful nuances and details in the choreography, and the yellow dress Ms. Weaver wears is absolutely stunning.
Men - Free dance
Takahito Mura: Mr. Mura has great jumps (I especially like how the first 3A is placed within the music) but his utter lack of projection is an unfortunate contrast to the overt, bombastic sentimentality of his Phantom of the Opera music.
Javier Fernandez: I can understand how Mr. Fernandez placed second overall here, but I felt that his long program was overscored, given all the mistakes on the jumps, the obvious stumble in the steps, the mediocre spins, and the fact that he seemed to be really concentrating on landing the jumps instead of performing during large swathes of the performance.
Sergei Voronov: Simplistic program with elements of questionable quality, but I prefer the spirit and conviction demonstrated by the posing sections of this long program over the very bland Danse Macabre (and of course, the sheer chutzpah of him sneaking onto the podium here, even if I would have demonstrated rather more restraint when scoring him).
Maxim Kovtun: I feel like God is punishing me every time I watch Mr. Kovtun skate.
Tatsuki Machida: It appears that every men's competition of late features at least one nuclear-level meltdown, and today, it was Mr. Machida's turn . . . on the bright side, he didn't give up on the program, which is encouraging to watch.
Yuzuru Hanyu: Mr. Hanyu is clearly returning to his pre-concussion form; one could legitimately thumb their nose at the rather pedestrian Phantom of the Opera long program, but it is undeniable that Mr. Yuzuru is the most complete skater in the men's field right now. A well-deserved victory, and one that firmly ensconces him in the position of apex predator among the men.