Figure Skating: From the Boards

Finally, a skating show that really is “All That!” October 6, 2010

I don’t know the last time I’ve been so excited about a skating show in the US.

Okay, I had a few more butterflies than normal due to the long overdue return of Michelle Kwan to American ice. She’s the reason I fell in love with figure skating and after following her journey for so many years, it felt like she’d never skate in the US again.

The mutual admiration between Michelle and Yu-Na is one of the most endearing things I’ve ever seen. One great skater looking to the brilliance of the past, the other looking to the promise of the future. Both forever etched in the history books, not only of the skating community, but of the world. And perhaps that buzz is what made this show so spectacular.

I was not in attendance myself, but from all I’ve seen, read and heard, the show was one of the best – if not the best – skating fans have ever been given. Every video I’ve watched (Check YouTube for “All the Skate LA” and you’ll find all kinds of HD videos of the show!) shows the top-notch production value from the staging, to the lighting, to the music and the video board that accentuated each performance with images and videos that created a separate moment for each program. It was truly a production, not just an ice show with a few specialty lights.

Plus, the skaters themselves seemed fully invested in making it a stellar show by skating their hearts out for each performance. It started in the opening number to “Get the Party Started” and continued through the comedy of Tanith and Ben, the drama of Shen and Zhao, the pizzaz of Michelle’s “No One” number. Competitive programs from Patrick Chan and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were technically brilliant, but artistically captivating. What could have been a tiny bit cheesy, Kwan and Kim turned into a duet to “Hero” that was like a snapshot of what makes skating great – athletes who pour their heart and soul into what they do, taking in every second, every cheer, and every opportunity to show the brilliance that inspired a new generation, and the determination that will inspire the future. Kim, of course, did not disappoint either. Her “Meditation” piece is as great as it was the first time after her Olympic win. And “Bulletproof” shows that she’s just a girl, having fun doing what she loves. Plus, she can really get a crowd on its feet! Even the transitional pieces with just the ladies or the men were well choreographed (David Wilson is truly a visionary!) and well skated, all playing off the crowd that was buzzing with excitement.

I’m told that Michelle Kwan’s “Winter Song” stole the show, though, and after watching the videos, I can see why. There is no one like her, and although Yu-Na is similarly brilliant, it’s still entirely different from the way Kwan paints a picture with every move on the ice. With Michelle, it’s like that song came from the deepest part of her soul. She was vulnerable, emotional and passionate, all while maintaining an impressive amount of technical difficulty and unique program structure (Thanks, Karen Kwan!). She hasn’t been competitive for four years now and she still looks like she could step out at Nationals and throw down a vintage Kwan program and draw a standing O.

I hope to see most of this when it airs on NBC on the 10th, however due to the time slot it’s planned to fit into, some things will certainly be cut. (Sad day.) But I hope the show garners much attention when it does air, because this is a show that deserves to be seen.

It got me thinking, though. What has happened to show skating in America? Champions on Ice folded after several years of struggling to pull in a full-house crowd. Stars on Ice has had its moments, but despite the champions skating in it the last few years, the production value seems to have gone by the wayside. Now, I realize that the economy has been tough. Ticket prices have gone up in order to pay for the big-budget production, meanwhile family incomes have gone down and just-for-fun extras like skating shows have been cut from the budget.

But I hope this show that Yu-Na and All That Sports put on showed the “powers that be” something – skating is not dead. It may not be as popular as it once was, and it may take some time to draw the attention that it once had, but it can be done. And when it’s done right, people will come. And when people come, they spread the word…thus,  recharging the buzz around skating in the US.

Props to Yu-Na and her management for pulling this show off not once, but twice, and for pulling it off in front of a tough to please LA crowd! And props for showing how a skating show should be – and could be – done. And of course, props to the skaters who came to play and skated their hearts out instead of watering it down to “show level” like sometimes happens. And we can’t forget the mastermind, David Wilson. He seems to be a spark for skating these days. What he brings to the table as a choreographer excites his skaters, then allowing them to excite an audience. That’s an impressive talent to have. And boy, am I glad he’s using it!

Now to get this show to go on tour and come to a city near me…

And for good measure, here is the video of Michelle’s “Winter Song.”

In other Yu-Na news, it was finally announced that she will be training in Artesia at East West Ice Palace (the Kwan’s rink) with her hero’s brother-in-law, Peter Oppegard. Like most people, I’m not surprised. He’s the highest level coach at EWIP and he’s done a fabulous job with his skaters in the past. Plus, there’s a great team at the rink there and I personally hope Karen Kwan does some choreography and Naomi Nari Nam gets to work some with Kim, too. Ultimately, I love this choice for Kim. It’s her decision, on her terms, and I see her fitting in well to the program there in Artesia. It also says to me that she’s still very serious about staying competitive. She may be sitting out the Grand Prix, but come World Championships time, watch out. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

To those who have come here looking for a new blog in the last week or so, my apologies. It’s been a rough couple of weeks and I’m having a bit of trouble getting back on track. But I was so inspired by this show and the quality of “Show Skating”  that I just had to come post something to get back to it! So many things are going on right now in skating, so hopefully I’ll keep up much better. Thank you again for reading, some of you ever so faithfully. Feel free to leave comments, follow me on twitter, email questions, ideas or comments as well. I’ll be back soon…I promise!

Until then…

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3 Responses to “Finally, a skating show that really is “All That!””

  1. John Says:

    Thank you for the great review. It was a wonderful show, as wonderful as a skating show can be. I was there in person and I felt I was witnessing something very special, more special because I sensed what happened in front of my eyes for the two days at Staples Center marked a beginning of something… maybe a series of spectacular ATS shows in years to come. Considering Yuna’s relationship with Kwan now, I can see Kwan playing Yuna’s advisory role when it comes to ice show production. For instance, Kwan could use her influence as a skating legend in inviting other North American or European legends (Katrina Witt comes to my mind) to the show. Kwan’s status as a North American skating royalty, Yuna’s as the top current female skater and reigning Olympic champion, her company’s resource, and David Wilson’s exceptional talent as a show director, I feel they could pull something really special for many years. I hope I am right about this.

    About the performance, I actually felt similar feelings toward Yuna’s performance as you described about watching Michelle skate. Yuna might be young, but she has gone through so much to get to where she is now, especially coming from a country where there is no history of figure skating as a competitive sport. Her family was far from wealthy either. For every step she has taken, she had to fight for it. To me and to many Koreans who know about her history understands her performance, its ageless maturity and soulfulness that are difficult to find in other skaters.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed my thoughts! Yu-Na is certainly something special as well. There’s a reason she caught Michelle’s attention enough for her to be so involved in this show! She’s shown so much courage, class, strength and determination in the past few years. I respect her so much, and she’s such a deserving champion!

  2. […] wasn’t until I wrote a piece on Yuna Kim’s skating show coming to the US that I realized the international reach I’d somehow developed. I mean, I knew Korean fans […]


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