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Apr 30, 2017

Stuff I Like: Top Ten of 2016-2017

Without further ado, my favorite performances from the 2016-2017 season . . .

10) Julia Lipnitskaya, Les Feuilles Morts SP at 2016 Rostelecom Cup
Though we unfortunately got to see Julia Lipnitskaya's Les Feuilles Morts short program only once this season, at least it was a good performance. Unsmiling and understated, Les Feuilles Morts nevertheless evokes an air of both melancholy and mystery that makes Ms. Lipnitskaya utterly enchanting to those of us who enjoy her skating.

9) Madison Chock/Evan Bates, Bad to the Bone, Uptown Funk SD at 2016 Skate Canada
After multiple seasons of unwavering criticism, one cannot help but feel somewhat sheepish at admitting that Madison Chock/Evan Bates' Bad to the Bone, Uptown Funk short dance is in fact my favorite ice dance program this season, but here we are. Unfortunately, some of the choreography--including the original, fantastic entrance to the twizzles--was changed midway through the season, but the end product (especially the Uptown Funk half) is nonetheless worthy of praise and we have Youtube to thank if we want to revisit the program's original incarnation.

8) Jason Brown, The Scent of Love LP at 2016 Skate America
I said this in 2015: "[T]his will be a truly mesmerizing program if it is ever performed cleanly. The moment when the strings come into the music and when Mr. Brown hits those spirals is just gorgeous in that quiet, solemn way when you enter into a beautiful, empty church for the first time as the voices of an unseen choir sing the vespers all around you." Having finally seen The Scent of Love (sort of) clean this season, I am happy to say that the program was indeed mesmerizing.

7) Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres, Earned It at 2017 Europeans
Cool, contemporary, and just a breath of fresh air in the pairs field. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres' Earned It short program embodies the leaps and bounds by which this team has improved not only technically (e.g. the twist, transitions, etc.) but also in terms of audience projection, chemistry, as well as the the sharpness and conviction of their movements. The creative, unexpected entrance into the throw 3F is especially gush-worthy, and if James/Cipres can improve their skating skills and consistency, they will be worthy additions to the topmost echelons of the pairs field.

6) Wenjing Sui/Cong Han, Blues for Klook SP at 2017 Worlds
Incredible choreography paired with that ineffable je ne sais quoi performance quality that only Wenjing Sui/Cong Han have in the current pairs field. It's astounding how literally every element is perfectly matched to the music--just look at the timing of those side-by-side 3Ts and the triple twist!--which is so, so difficult to do. Not to mention, the transitions into the elements are not meaningless transitions done for the sake of boosting GOE and the TR score, but are creative moves that actually reflect the music and the program as a whole--note, in particular, the transitions between the triple twist and the death spiral. And to top that off, Sui/Han perform every gesture with such ease and expressiveness as they blaze down the ice with speed and power . . . for those of us who remember watching Sui/Han almost a decade ago when they were juniors with awful basic skating skills and choppy choreography, Blues for Klook is a testament to how far this pair has come despite limited resources and countless injuries, and is also truly an inspiration to all.

5) Satoko Miyahara, Satoko in Space LP at the 2016 Grand Prix Final
I find it interesting that I love both Satoko Miyahara's and Anna Pogorilaya's long programs this season, given that both skaters each have what the other needs: Ms. Pogorilaya has big jumps, power, and abandon in her skating, while Ms. Miyahara has nuance, polish, and attention to detail. Those latter three qualities are perfectly embodied by Ms. Miyahara's Satoko in Space program this season, which simply buzzes with intelligence and intention in every single movement from the first second of the program to the last.

4) Shoma Uno, Buenos Aires Hora Cero, Balada para un loco LP at 2017 Worlds
When I first watched Shoma Uno debut his long program this season at a show in Japan last summer, I wondered who on earth would ever could ever enjoy watching a figure skating program consisting of over a minute of disembodied, overbearing, and extremely shrill yelling. Not to mention the fact that even Mr. Uno himself--no slouch in the charisma and projection departments--seemed somewhat overwhelmed by the verbal assault. Yet after watching Mr. Uno skate to his long program for a year with increasing intensity, passion and power, I finally have an answer to the question I pondered last summer: me.

3) Anna Pogorilaya, Memorial Requiem, etc. LP at 2016 Rostelecom Cup
It's not the most sophisticated piece choreographically and a slight raise of the eyebrow is perhaps merited regarding the music cuts, but there's something utterly compelling about Anna Pogorilaya's long program this season. There's a certain rawness about Ms. Pogorilaya's long program that makes every performance of it--from the triumphs to the disasters--seem intensely personal, the story of her struggle against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune writ large. Whatever it is, it's fascinating to watch, and has filled me with a newfound appreciation for Ms. Pogorilaya's skating this season.

2) Wenjing Sui/Cong Han, Bridge Over Troubled Water LP at 2017 Worlds
Sui/Han's Bridge Over Troubled Water is not the most choreographically dense program of the top pairs . . . however, the simple but sweeping, sustained moves in the program is beautifully choreographed in a way that perfectly matches the soaring qualities of the song. What is most remarkable about Bridge Over Troubled Water is, however, the pure, palpable emotion Sui/Han skate with, the type of emotion that hits you with beauty and force to bring tears to your eyes yet also a smile to your mouth.

1) Yuzuru Hanyu, Hope and Legacy LP at 2017 Worlds
Well, duh. It was an incredible experience to watch this version of Hope and Legacy live, and watching the skate on video just doesn't do justice as to how spellbinding the performance was. Upon re-watching Mr. Hanyu's Worlds performance on Youtube, however, what is more apparent in retrospect is how . . . effortless the entire skate was despite the overwhelming pressure that Mr. Hanyu must have been feeling: the flow in and out of the jumps, the lightness of the steps, how unharried and serene every movement was, as if Mr. Hanyu was skating alone in an empty rink with not a care in the world. Astounding.


  1. Lovely list :D Altho no Patrick Chan's A Journey? I think it's quite exquisite.

    10) I wish we got to see this sp further down the season, because I feel like she hadn't entirely settled into the choreography yet and there was a lot of untapped potential there.

    1) The more I hear about the performance from people who were in the arena, the sadder I get over Helsinki's awful awful awful camerawork.

  2. @ Anonymous

    Patrick Chan's A Journey LP would definitely make a top 15 list! If he had skated it clean it might have cracked the top 10 . . . I think it is unquestionably Mr. Chan's best LP ever, performance-wise.

    I echo your thoughts on Ms. Lipnitskaya's SP. There was just so much untapped potential there, but I'm glad the one outing we saw was decent.

    Yeah, the camerawork was pretty bad at Helsinki . . . luckily I've seen some decent fancams of Mr. Hanyu's LP performance on Youtube, like here: (this was actually not too far from where I was sitting in the arena, except I was sitting more to the right of this angle).