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Sep 10, 2017

2017 Russian Test Skates: Day One (Ladies and Men)

Some snap observations / reactions to Day One of the Russian men's and ladies' test skates this season, i.e., the first look at many of the Russian skaters' new programs this season . . . please insert usual caveats about how the performances at the test skates are often rough drafts of what the skaters' programs will look like during the actual season, how skaters are not quite in fighting shape at this point of the year, etc., etc.

The ladies

Evgenia Medvedeva
Are those weirdly deep breaths, anguished expressions, and shoulder rolls at the end of Ms. Medvedeva's short program actually part of the choreography? Ilia Averbukh, what does it all mean?! Whatever, the judges are going to love this program regardless of the questionable ending, or the fact that it's basically the same choreography (minus the miming) copied and pasted from Ms. Medvedeva's short programs for the past two seasons. I have learned to accept the inevitable, and am at peace.

Alina Zagitova
The Black Swan. Why is Eteri Tutberidze so fixated on choosing ballet music for Alina Zagitova's programs when such ballet music draws attention to the fact that Ms. Zagitova lacks the impeccable lines and posture demanded by ballet? That said, however, it's a smart choice for Ms. Zagitova to skate to the music of Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (with some music from Moonlight inexplicably thrown in!) as opposed to straight-up Tchaikovsky, as her less-than-classical posture and lines can more plausibly be waved off as avant-garde, or perhaps the consequences of portraying a character undergoing mental breakdown. Aside from that, there are some good highlights in Ms. Zagitova's Black Swan short program, such as the very cool back charlotte into a 2A, which is nicely placed in the music and looks very impressive even if the axel wasn't perfect like it was during the test skate. Black Swan is definitely an improvement on Ms. Zagitova's short program from last season, but the whole program would be more impactful if Ms. Zagitova held out her moves more and created moments for the audience instead of constantly rushing to cram in the next transition.

Maria Sotskova
The White Swan. In contrast to Ms. Zagitova's more . . . contemporary . . . Black Swan short program, the statuesque Maria Sotskova is clearly aiming for a more traditional look with her Swan Lake short program, which sticks to Tchaikovsky's original music. Many wave off Ms. Sotskova as "boring" and deride her packaging as "dated," but Ms. Sotskova's more old school, classical styling helps her stand out more among the sea of Eteri Tutberidze ladies skaters, none of which can be deemed as classical in any sense of the term.  I actually quite enjoyed Ms. Sotskova's stately, elegant Swan Lake, but her jumps at the test skates--as well as her increased height--do not bode well for her performances this season. One has to admire Ms. Sotskova's ambition, however, at moving all her jumps to the second half of the program and adding all those arm variations this season even as her jumps look more precarious than ever.

Elena Radionova
Elena Radionova kept her Porgy and Bess short program (choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne) from last season, but switched coaches from Inna Goncharenko to Elena Buianova. Unfortunately, Ms. Radionova's jumps and speed over the ice look quite disappointing at this point of the season, and her performance was definitely quite muted compared to earlier iterations of Porgy and Bess from last season. However, under Ms. Buianova, Ms. Radionova's skating does look slightly less frantic and more smooth as a whole.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva's arm choreography are a bit distracting; not sure what Ms. Tuktamysheva is aiming for here--it's all very Mishin. Also, does anyone else feel like the extremely quick tempo of the baleful fiddling at the end of Ms. Tuktamysheva's short program makes Ms. Tuktamysheva's final two spins look very slow? That said, however, Ms. Tuktamysheva's jumps and overall skating look stronger than than they have for the past two years--Ms. Tuktamysheva is clearly aiming for one of the two open Olympic ladies' spots (two, because one of the three spots has clearly been locked down by Ms. Medvedeva since Boston and/or Helsinki, take your pick).

The dudes

Dmitri Aliev
Khachaturian's Masquerade Waltz demands quite a bit more sweep and snap than what Dmitri Aliev is currently providing to really work, but I have little doubt that this talented young man from St. Petersburg has it in him to start channeling his inner Anjelika Krylova,the immortal patron saint of all Masquerade Waltz programs.

Alexander Petrov
What is going on here?! If the judges at the Russian test skates don't order Alexander Petrov to change his bizarre, totally nonsensical short program this season immediately, quality control at the test skates has clearly failed, and failed catastrophically.

Mikhail Kolyada
What is it with Russian skaters mashing together Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 with a random tango? Ms. Tuktamysheva did it last season, and now Mikhail Kolyada is taking his turn. Nonetheless, I'm just relieved that Mr. Kolyada isn't skating to yet another super-kitschy piece of music this season.


  1. So we finally get an interview from Evgenia:

    "This is the flight of the soul, and I want to show the purity of its essence.

    From the very beginning of this program, I stand with my eyes closed, and people hear the beating of my heart, and then I seem to come out of my body, take a step, as if I see myself from the outside, fear in my eyes and misunderstanding of what is happening.

    It is the step of a person's soul from the body during the state of clinical death. It may sound rigidly, but I say this so that people understand the image that I want to show.

    In this program, I seem to re-learn this world and the other, which is also luminous, and there is no fear in it.

    And at the very end of the performance, I return to my body, and my breath is heard. This is my own breath, we specially recorded it for this composition."


    Honestly why do we ever doubt our lord and savior Ilia Averbukh.

  2. Anonymous @ 8:22AM

    . . . please tell me that is a translation from the Russian version of The Onion. Please!!

  3. I love both of Aliev's programs and hope very much to see him at Rostelecom, where I'm sure he'll have added the snap! He might be my favorite thing in Russian men since Yagudin. :)

    And that Medvedeva interview is hilarious. Speaking of interviews, I was browsing Japanese sites and saw an interview with Hanyu where he said he originally meant to bring back "Let's Go Crazy", and immediately thought of you. You almost had it all...