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Figure Skating World Championships: Notes from Gothenburg

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The 2008 World Figure Skating Championships began yesterday in Gothenburg (Goteborg) Sweden. Opening yesterday afternoon was the Ice Dance Compulsory Dance. It was the Argentine Tango. Each competitor is allowed to choreograph a beginning and and end, neither of which counts, but the meat of the dance is that the steps and the ice pattern are the same for all competitors. It's a great way to compare style and ability of all of the competitors. (There were 31.) I love this phase, because there are no lifts, turns, or footwork patterns that look like crocheting to gain difficulty. Each CD is different, and the difficulty varies. Some by virtue of their elements and/or timing favor taller or shorter dancers, and most dance teams have a style preference, but Argentine Tango is fairly neutral this way, unlike Yankee Polka or the Golden Waltz, which is a minefield of difficulty transitions. It requires tango attitude to an extent, but basic skating, posture, toe point, knee bend, and hold are key. It's an exhibition of basic skating and dancing.

Weaver/Poje are a youngish team skating for Canada. I remember seeing Poje with his former partner at 2006 Canadian Nationals, and I was very impressed with his ability to do Latin style. Two seasons ago he teamed with American Kaitlin Weaver, and they were a surprise bronze medallist at Junior Worlds. They haven't had great international success at the senior level, and I think that he looks subdued where he was previously strong. They changed coaches late in the season to their choreographer, Matthew Gates, and former Canadian and World Ice Dance champion Shae Lynn Bourne, who had been consulting the team. The "Shea-ification" of Kaitlin Weaver gets stronger and stronger with each competition. What they did beautifully was interpret the changes in the music, particularly in one tricky part about 2/3 through the pattern, when coming off the curve at the short end of the ice, she does a quick turn into a melting arabesque, among the best of the competition, in my opinion. They skated very closely, and I was a bit perplexed at their scores, but the protocols aren't out yet to answer the questions.

The man of one of the lower ranked teams, Sun Hye yu and Ramil Sarkulov (competing for Uzbekistan) impressed me as a fine social dancer, with a very nice sense of rhythim.

I read somewhere that Ina Demireva is last year's World Champion Albena Denkova's younger half-sister. Demireva and her partner Juri Kurakin were not very skilled, but she had the long, slender Bolshoi/Mariinsky corps legs. In this case anatomy is destiny: had Albena Denkova had her half-sister's legs, she'd be an Olympic gold medallist and multi World Champion, because that line is what the judges reward in almost every case. (I think it's overrated and that movement quality is more important.)

Belbin/Agosto skated sixth, since the CD starts with a random draw, instead of modified seeding as in the later phases. They were fast and skilled, and in the first pass, he had a lot of style, but she struggled with a put-on "serious" expression to suppress her natural perkiness, and I didn't find her convincing in the tango. On the second pass, she tripped and fell on the turn, and they did not recover quickly. Nonetheless, they received the 9th-highest technical score (although they had a -1 deduction for the fall), and the second-highest Program Components scores, including their highest component score of 7.92 in interpretation, while I didn't think they had a particularly strong sense of partnership or style and found their interpretation flat. My first "wuz-gifted."

The Reeds, a young Japanese/US brother/sister team competing for Japan, were convincing enough to make the sibling thing a bit uncomforable, even more so than the more experienced Kerrs and Zaretskis. Even though he's younger, he patted her on the head like a big brother, restoring a sense of equillibrium. (That's why they call it acting...)

The young team from Belarus, announced as "Bulgaria" by the American announcer, who kept butchering names -- there was Swedish and English announcing -- were my first costume snark: she wore a slightly too short close-fitted black sparkly dress, which was quite nice, but it had a white underskirt with black polka dots, which was quite not nice. They were clearly among the lower ranked teams for skills, but Senia Shmirina had lovely arms and shading in her shoulders. Her partner, Egor Maistrov, had an unfortunate bobble, but I'm looking forward to their original dance, the next phase.

I tend to look at ice dance in two ways: who dances well together, and with whom I'd like to dance with if I could do social dance. Fabian Bourzat is the latter, my #1 choice in every CD I've seen him do. He communicates the dance through his body and line. He is Da Bomb. I do not understand their components marks, which I thought should have been as strong as anyone's, and that he and his partner, Nathalie Pechalat were behind Belbin/Agosto, even by .2, I find frustrating.

The Kerrs from Great Britain were very strong; she has lovely turnout and toe-point. They had the best ending, in which she did a lunging slide and he caught her suddenly, but that didn't count in the marking. They are in a well-deserved 8th place, and, barring disaster, they should end in top 10, which would earn two spots for Great Britain next year.

Bobrova/Soloviev were last-minute replacements for European Champions Oksana Domnina/Maxim Shabalin; he is injured. Soloviev was my second favorite as the man I'd choose as a social partner. He has a great sense of the underlying rhythm, and was able to imbue the dance with rhythmic detail and grace notes. She's a lovely skater, and I think they were undermarked by at least a few points. It rarely helps in these days of non-dominance to be the #3 team from any country.

The Zaretskis, a brother/sister team competing for Israel, show fine rhythmic sense, but to me their skating feels choreographed down to the last iota, removing the sense of tension and play. They are very fine dancers, though.

Faiella/Scalli, the senior team from Italy, did a very smooth tango. Of all the couples, they had the most similar style and feeling, and they skated with great speed and flow.

Capellini/Lanotte, the "baby Italians" were a delight: they dance like the really mean it. She's a diva-in-the-rough.

Delobel/Schoenfelder showed that there are things that should be left to grown-ups. These grown-ups. [Enter your favorite cliche/truism about fine wine or other food metaphor]. They created a dance with an underlying story, through hold, posture, and subtle body movement. I believe he wore the suit in which he fell during an until-that-point equally fantastic CD at Europeans a few years ago, which in the superstitious world of skating, was a very brave thing.

Davis/White, the second US team, had a great first pattern, with a lesser second, having trouble in one spot. She is looking like a young Jane Seymour. Her arm movement was masterful and made the dance more difficult, for example having her arms in high fifth after the turn before resuming hold, while many of the skaters did the turn carefully and then used their partner to restabilize. She was subtley sultry, adding a new shade to their dancing.

More later.

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Compulsory Dance, Part II.

Rubleva/Shefer, whom I generally like, blinded me with what looked like a medley of day-glo costume parts.

Hann-McCurdy/Coreno are a young team, coached by former World Champion (with Shae Lynn Bourne) Victor Kraatz. They were lovely, with nice expression and flow, and nothing extraneous added.

Khoklova/Novitski gave a wonderful performance; her form is gorgeous, and she has the best knee bend, turnout, and toe-point of any of the women competing currently, in my opinion.

Virtue/Moir, like at Canadian Nationals, took the first pass at a blinding pace. When they took a bit off the speed in the second pass, the very fine detail shone through.

Navarro/Bommentre didn't wait for her costume to make a wedgie: she had a sparkly silver one decorating the back of her black skirt. They gave a nice interpretation -- you could see them meeting and doing this dance socially -- and their performance was full of life.

I am noteless from last night's Pairs' Short Program, but my section wondered what they did with the real Dan Zhang, because there was a mature imposter on the ice: Zhang/Zhang were a cut above everyone else, skating flawlessly and with ease, flow, and musicality, not usually their hallmarks, even nailing their side-by-side spins with near-perfect synchronicity and close together. Sadly, the past's Dan Zhang competed in the Long Program, where both were stiff and tight, made uncharacteristic mistakes on jumps, and slowed to a snail's pace in places. It was as if they were a team that was given a significantly harder program and were struggling with it, although they've been doing programs with this difficulty for years. Sadly, they were overmarked, in my opinion, in PCS, so that when the German team, Savchenko/Szolkowy also made a number of mistakes and weren't "on," they had to be even more over-marked, since they were clearly better than the Zhangs tonight.

Savchenko/Szolkowy's program had their typical number of very difficult, very intricate transitions between elements -- something for which they've never been given credit in proportion to how much more difficult and transition-filled their programs are. They made mistakes on a few elements, and their levels of difficulty were very high. They struggled a bit, sometimes losing speed on the exits of elements, like an amazing, acrobatic lift that stopped dead on the put-down. Still, from everything but the standpoint of skating skills, they were superior. As Szolkowy put it in the post-competition interview from Kiss and Cry -- all the winners are put on the spot to answer questions in English, the official ISU language -- "it wasn't perfect, but it was enough."

The performance of the night was Jessica Dube and Brice Davison. Apart from a less-than one revolution synch issue on the side by side spins, and a hand-down on the second throw, they were flawless. They have the best basic skating of any of the competitors, and they maintain speed going in and out of each element, the only ones to do so in this competition. They have beautiful form, and their ice coverage is extraordinary. On two of their lifts, they covered the length of the rink. They skate extremely closely together; their spirals were practically nested. They float across the ice with silent speed. They were worthy bronze medallists.

Marina Aganina from Uzbekistan has skated for a number of years with several partners, and this year she teamed with Dmitri Zobnin and is coached by her former partner, Artem Knyazev. Although ranked in the lower third, she has very nice line and basic skating. When she came out in a simple dress, with a silver, sparkly bodice with spaghetti straps and the rest in simple black, I couldn't guess what she was skating to. (Zobrin was in the generic uniform of a black shirt and pants, with diagonal slashes. It turned that their program was "Giselle." I was very impressed with the way they interpreted the music, to the best of their ability reflecting the changes in the character of the music.

I like the young French team who had been injured earlier in the season and were forced to miss Europeans this year, Canac/Coia. They skated to "Malaguena." His posture was superb in the spirals, which he did as classic arabesques. She had great posture and position particularly in the star lifts, and terrific rhythm in the air in the twist and throws.

The young Italian team, Magitteri/Hotarek, did a fabulous program to "Grease," showing that the judges aren't using the full spectrum of the program components score. This, compared to what we saw later, was the kind of program that deserves a 7 in Interpretation. They were delightful.

One short program I really loved was Murhortova/Trankov's Short Program to "Otonal." She can be exquisite, particularly in her shoulders, using epaulment to shade her movement, often making the element, like a lift, more difficult, since her upper and lower body is in opposition ten-fourteen feet above the ice. They started their Free Skate tonight with several mistakes, but then seemed to recover, until they stopped skating, and he went to the referee. Someone then proceeded to split one of his sleeves up the middle, and he rubbed his upper arm. They resumed, with a very nice side-by-side spin, but their competition was over. It was sad because they have such great movement quality and a lot of potential, and their choreography, to a ravishing Rachmaninoff prelude, was superb.

One of my favorite of all of the teams in both phases of the competition was the 3rd pair from China, Huibo Dong and Yiming Wu. She in particular, at 19, is much further in her development than Xue Shen, Qing Pang, and Dan Zhang were at that age, and they skate much more like a pair than their older compatriots did until at least their mid-twenties. She has a little bit of flair, and is fearless. It seemed like Bin Yao's rink was running dry after the Zhangs, particularly after Ding/Ren retired, but there are a handful of excellent young Chinese pairs, and this one could prove to be the best of all. He still has the ill-advised throw technique that all of the Bin Yao's men have: they heave the woman and lung forward with their leg back in an arabesque, but in a huched over position. His approach to the twist and throws sounded like a skater or skier who skids to stop. Not pretty, but he's no slouch either, apart from the Bin Yao's teaching quirks. I would have watched him more if she wasn't so compelling.

The Ladies Short Program was all day. I don't have it in me to watch 53 Ladies Short Programs: too many Carmens, Malaguenas, and tinkly piano music. I did see the final 26. Mao Asada landed a 3Lutz/3Loop combination -- it was quite beautiful -- but her program died out halfway through. She doesn't carry much speed, and she wasn't flawless. While Carolina Kostner has a terrible rink-long telegraph on her 3Lutz, the way she carries speed would have justified her first place position after the SP.

Apart from a leg wrap, Yurikari Nakano skated a flowing, masterful program to Chopin. Miki Ando's skated as if she was stymied by a head wind: nothing flowed properly, and last year's World Champion will skate in the penultimate group. Joannie Rochette has the best basic skating of the field. Unfortunately, she changed what was to be a 3Flip/3Toe combination to a triple/double. She has polish, and she flows across the ice. Just behind her in skating skills were the two Ladies from Finland, Grace Kelly look-alike Kiira Korpi, who earned a spot in the last group with a lovely tango, albeit wearing a short, tube skirt with horizontal black and white stripes, and Laura Lepisto, who, unfortunately, was one of the few skaters in the final five groups to have two of three flawed jumps. It says a lot for the quality of her skating and other elements that she qualified for the Free Skate.

There were only 4 1-point deductions among all of them, and two were from Turkey's Tugba Karademir, a very strong showing among the Ladies.

Beatisa Liang skated a choreography-filled program to "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and was quite on; she might have scored higher if she wasn't the second skater up in the second half and skated later, after the judges got their bearings. Yu-Na Kim skated a relatively flat, disappointing proram. The highlights were the skaters who flowed across the ice, integrating the tricks into beautiful skating.

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Helene, I'm in awe of your powers of recall and evocative description. You really make me feel like I am in the arena with you --only now I'm twice as awake/aware as kuskually am when watching a performance. Everyone should be able to watch skating with an expert in the next seat! Many, many thanks.

Despite there being "too many Carmens," it's wonderful that there was also a Giselle. :lightbulb:

Are these early-stage performances being shown on tv anywhere?

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Bart, I don't know what's shown on american TV but you can find links around the web. Please fell free to tell me if you want me to post them here. I saw ladies on turkish TV tonight and it worked very well.

I'm so happy that Mao Asasa won. She was really amazing in the two programms despite her fall today. It was nice to see Carolina Kostner finally fought. Even if she wasn't perfect, she didn't give up. Whatever path she choose now, I hope that Miki Ando will do well, as well Kimmie Meissner. This girl is a fighter and one can admire her courage. She may rebound next year if she's finished with the puberty monster. What a shame Bebe Liang wasn't able to put it together for once. She's such a beautiful and interesting skater. Still, 10th isn't bad at all for her first worlds.

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They have made it so difficult to find broadcast info here.

Ch. 7 in New York's ABC affiliate, has it scheduled for one show (to the best I could find) from 3-6:00 pm Saturday. In past years, I used to be able to find the broadcast info on ESPN.com, but not this year. Even searching "skating" on the site brought up zero hits.

My inner paranoiac sees this as a way to say, "Let's drop the skating. No one watches it." Well, if you tell us how to find it, we'll be there (or record it).

You can find a listing of the month's skating broadcasts here, but I had to do some searching to find this site. http://web.icenetwork.com/events/schedule.jsp?mode=tv

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I used to enjoy watching "figure skating". Then it began to morph into another weird competition of virtuosity which seem to consist of stringing together a series of difficult "moves" or jumps.. sorry I don't know the technical term called a program wearing some rather hideous and increasingly tacking looking costumes always performed to music with the same type of emotional "pitch".

Some of the "shows" were absolutely insufferable such as one which featured Sarah Brightman singing at the rink side in dominatrix gear.

The whole genre as I see it on TV has gone tacky beyond belief. I experienced the same when I watched some "ballroom" competitions. The dancers have great bods, with excellent control of them, but much of the dancing looks like atheletics and the costumes are about as hideous as I can imagine. I don't know if this uglification and altheletification is a US or world wide thing. But it makes me appreciate more and more the ballet and reminds me of what America does / did to classical architecture in their "interpretation" / modernization of classical motifs.

Is this progress?

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Well, the pop music tends to appear mostly in the professional shows (which are thinner on the ground than they used to be since the rules were relaxed about “amateur” skaters earning money). I don’t mind pop music as long as it’s decent pop music – in fact, I prefer it to the often hackneyed choices of ballet music sometimes used in competitions.

The costumes are actually less campy in some respects than they have been in the past. It’s usually the ice dancers who are the most vulgar. I suspect it’s because most of them are doing pretty much the same moves and they become desperate to distinguish themselves from the crowd any way they can.

What does trouble me is the amount of skin shown by the female skaters these days. The girls wear dolly dresses until they reach a certain age, and then it’s skin and more skin. Makes one nostalgic for the modest wool dresses worn in the old days. It’s kind of creepy – even though the women are often in their late teens or early twenties the net effect, with all the heavy makeup, tends to be very JonBenet Ramsey.

I remember in the last Olympic cycle a male sportswriter who doesn’t usually follow figure skating remarked on how beautiful and strong the women looked in their practice gear, and then they went out on the ice for their programs in these little outfits. I enjoy skating but the sport could certainly use a Navratilova or two, and maybe she’d insist on being referred to as a ‘woman’ and not a ‘lady.’

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I experienced the same when I watched some "ballroom" competitions. The dancers have great bods, with excellent control of them, but much of the dancing looks like atheletics and the costumes are about as hideous as I can imagine. I don't know if this uglification and altheletification is a US or world wide thing. But it makes me appreciate more and more the ballet and reminds me of what America does / did to classical architecture in their "interpretation" / modernization of classical motifs.

I think it's deceptive to compare competitive Ballroom (in the global sense) and ballet.

In ballet, you're mainly referring to dancers who are performing for an audience who are paying to see them dance. Their attention is a given.

The ballroom dancers you are referring to are performing for judges, and more importantly they are competing for their attention, usually through 3-4 rounds of dancing where they are sharing the floor many other couples. It usually starts with multiple heats of 12-16 couples on the floor at a time. Perhaps if you are a returning champion, you can afford more subdued costuming and choreography, but most couples are desperate for any way of getting the judges' attention so they can have a shot to get to the next round. Believe me, for the most part the dancers know the costumes are questionable in an aesthetic sense, but that's not what they're designed for.

If you watch ballroom dancers in exhibition, both choreography and costuming are usually much more interesting.

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Thanks, sidwich. I had thought of that in connection with skating but it never occurred to me to apply it to ballroom dancing, too. (I'm one of those who looks at the costumes on television and thinks, 'Yuck.' So it's good to be reminded of these considerations.)

sidwich’s points are excellent and many also apply to skating. Back in the day the competition was less intense and there was less attention paid to costumes and choreography. In fact, if you were too daring in the matter of costuming the judges would whack you for it. As competition increased, skaters had to find different ways of distinguishing themselves. This was actually a net plus, because programs became musically and choreographically more sophisticated and hence more interesting to watch.

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I can't agree with you that figure skating is interesting to watch. Once you have seen trible lutz (sp?) and sow cows (sp?) and the slow glide up to the jump a few times and a few spinning moves like a top it begins to look very much the same to my uneducated eye.

I will say when I first tuned in to ABC a decade ago I was fascinated by figure skating and now I can't even look at it.

On the other hand, I find ballet had so much more nuance that even seeing the same ballet over and over again there is always more to see. My interest in ballet grews as my interest in "flash dance" sports waned.

I am not saying that these are not talented people. They are. To me it is like comparing classical music to rock music. Figure skating pales in comparison to ballet (for me). And this has nothing to do with whether the audience is paying to see it or being paid to judge it.

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Well, if you dislike it, you dislike it. But you can’t demand of sport and competition what you do of art. That’s not what it’s for, finally.

Although in future if you change your mind you probably shouldn’t try ABC. The sport has sunk so low in popularity that ABC is losing interest and I understand it may be moving to NBC (international events are already mostly on ESPN).

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Well, if you dislike it, you dislike it. But you can’t demand of sport and competition what you do of art. That’s not what it’s for, finally.

This is an excellent point which for me is the crux of the matter. Ballroom and figure skating may look like ballet at times and are about movement, but they are really an athletic competition.

I suppose I am not thrilled by movement as athleticism as much as I am by movement as aesthetics... if you get my drift.

To each their own.

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I can't agree with you that figure skating is interesting to watch. Once you have seen trible lutz (sp?) and sow cows (sp?) and the slow glide up to the jump a few times and a few spinning moves like a top it begins to look very much the same to my uneducated eye.

I am strangely reminded of a cocktail party I was at many years ago. I was mentioning to a colleague of mine that I was going to be attending a ballet the next evening, and he turned to me to ask a question. The family of a friend of his, he said, gave $5 million (!) dollars a year to ABT, and had taken him to a performance recently. As he put it, "... so you see the guy spin a few times and jump around the stage...after ten minutes you've seen them do their thing, why do you have to sit through 2 1/2 hours of it?"

Well, my first reaction was "What a waste of $5 million dollar seats!" But he was totally serious (and by the way, my mother's reaction was the same when we went to go see the Kirov perform "Swan Lake" albeit not from such expensive seats). There are media that just do not speak to some people.

For myself, I think as with every media, some of what is created is sublime and most is quite banal. Am I the only one who remembers ABT's "Pied Piper"?

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Well, the pop music tends to appear mostly in the professional shows (which are thinner on the ground than they used to be since the rules were I enjoy skating but the sport could certainly use a Navratilova or two, and maybe she’d insist on being referred to as a ‘woman’ and not a ‘lady.’

In Canada, for Canadian Nationals and contests controlled by Skate Canada, it is the "Women's Short Program," the "Women's Free Skate," and the "Women's Figure Skating Champion."

What you see as skin is actualy mostly illusion fabric. Some skaters do have bare backs, but the majority use some flesh-colored fabric up to their collar bones, even when they have "cleavage."

Also, what looks gaudy and laughable on TV often, but not always -- especially when day-glo -- looks good on the arena. Like stage make-up, the costumes weren't made for close-ups.

It's been a crazy week here, with intermittent Internet connectivity. I hope I can read my notes :)

Thursday was the Ice Dance Original Dance, with the theme of "Folk Dance," and the Ladies' Free Skate.

There were many "Kalinkas" and "Dark Eyes" and Ukranian dances, but there were also some very wonderful and inventive dances as well. Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno (Canada #3) did a charming dance to "The Log Driver's Waltz" and a Newfoundland country dance. Despite the required elements -- including a dance spin (in place), the closest of which in any dance that I know of is a finger turn in ballet, and even that's not a perfect analogy -- they managed to convey the lilt and freshness of a North American country dance, and they were actually -- yikes! -- in dance holds for at least half of the program. The Czech couple, Kamila Hajkova/David Vincour did several Czech polkas, including a slow polka to which they did their circular footwork, a nice change from the frantic. The program had a good folk feeling to it, and looked very geniune. The Hungarians, Krisztina Barta/Adam Toth performed to South American Folk Music -- apparently, Peruvian flute musicians have become ubiquitious in Budapest -- and while the program had little folk quality at all, they danced it with a lovely smoothness. He has wonderful posture and line. Joanna Budner/Jan Moscicki from Poland did a beautiful Polish folk dance with lots of character, especially from him, a dance of a young man trying to impress his girl. It was sad when they tripped on the circular footwork, because they were really rolling. They did a lift right out of a spin more effectively than the eventual bronze medallists did in their Free Dance.

Bobrova/Soloviev (Russia #3) impressed again in "Kalinka." He plays with the rhythm, which may be a challenge for his partner, especially when he's tossing her around. He played a great peasant, and she's adorable. Russia's #2 couple, Ekaterian Rubleva/Ivan Shefer had some of the best twizzles of the afternoon in their straightine footwork. The couple that came in last in the Ice Dance competition, Leonie Krail/Oscar Peter, danced a flamenco with flamenco-like steps, not just attitude (standard ice dance fare). He's got flair, and a bit of roughness that suited the dance very well. The Uzbeki couple, Sun Hye Yu/Ramil Sarkulov, had a bumpy ride in a Russian folk dance, but despite that, she was sunny and light, and he has quite a bit of charm. US #2's Kimberly Navarro/Brent Bommentre did what was meant to be African folk dancing, but they had too many bobbles, and the program didn't make much of an impression. Not so Australia's Danielle O'Brien/Gregory Merriman who did a dance to Aboriginal music, with great costumes decorated with traditional Aboriginal symbols, completed by face paint. It was a good stylization, as vivid as Navarro/Bommentre's was lackluster, and they had some fantastic twizzles. Sadly, they missed the cut into the Free Dance.

Among the contenders, Tanith Belbin/Benjamin Agosto (US #1) skated to "Cotton Eyed Joe," "Country Waltz," and "Appalachian Hoedown." After the fall in the Compulsory Dance, they needed to close the gap in their OD, usually their strongest competition phase. He was very dynamic, but the program was mediocre in concept and hokey, and Belbin neither matched nor complemented Agosto's charismatic performance. Meryl Davis/Charlie White (US #2) were also given a generic program to "Kalinka" -- Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva are their coaches and choreographers, and Generica is their specialy -- but they imbued it with style and the occasional grace note. Canada's Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir, who are coached by the same two, were given more of the same to "Dark Eyes." The feedback from the judges last year was that they needed to gain power and speed, and all year long they have been motoring through their programs. This was no exception, and while I would prefer a little more breath and smoothness, they accomplished their goal and were justly rewarded.

I can't say I understand the relative scoring between the Italian #1, Federica Faiella/Massimo Scali, who performed a charming, but not particularly spectacular set of Italian Folk dances -- it was the type of program I would have expected from the younger, #2 team -- and the French #2 team, Nathalie Pechalat/Fabien Bourzat, who performed a magnificent Flamenco, complete with authentic flamenco dress and fan. (Props were allowed for this dance, but few teams took advantage of this.) His posture and line is extraordinary, and their work with flamenco professionals paid off for the audience, but apparently not the judges. The British team of Sinead Kerr/John Kerr, who are Scottish, performed a Scottish dance and had the crowd from the first bars of the music. They had ever-changing holds, and in their serpentine step sequence performed very close and difficult crosses, mirroring each other perfectly. They skated with the kind of infectious energy that makes a trip worthwhile.

The battle for the gold at this stage was set between France #1 Isabel Delobel/Olivier Schoenfelder and Russia #2 Jana Khoklova/Sergei Novitski. The Russian team performed a Russian gypsy dance to "Two Guitars." They performed very difficult end-to-end footwork with ease, changing the speed throughout until the music built to a head. In both of their footwork passes, their hips are so close together. She has such great toe-point and turn-out, and is a pleasure to watch. Delobel/Schoenfelder danced a Breton Gavotte, my favorite program of the competition, thematically, choreographically, dramatically, and musically, conveying character through their interacting. What I found so surprising seeing this in person was how softly and smoothly they skated the program, so that the elements melted into the whole. They earned a very worthy first place after the phase.

In the Ladies Free Skate, three skaters who had been struggling with inconsistency all season gave very fine performances. While none were perfect, Georgia's Elena Gedevanishvili, who struggled with puberty and coaching and country changes after her mother was deported from Moscow during the Russia/Georgia tension a few years ago, regained many of her jumps. Julia Sebestyen skated to Schubert's "Serenade" and she, too, landed many of the jumps that have eluded her since she became European Champion in 2004. Sebestyen's 3Lutz is the best in the business when it's on, with such height and power. I love her basic skating, the way she generates speed from the blade, and her spins, which have classic positions and clean transitions. Laura Lepisto, a young Finnish skater who does not have a jump higher than a 3Lo, had a superb Free Skate to pull up from 21st after the SP to 8th place overall after the FS, in which she earned 7th place. She has gorgeous edges and flow, and quite fine line for someone so young.

Kimmie Meissner, too, got back some of her jumps two flights of skaters later, having moved to train with Richard Callahan earlier this year. She's not in the same form as she was when she won the 2006 World Championships, but it's good to see that her physcal growth hasn't put the kabosh on her competitive career. Sarah Meier skated a lovely, soft program, but it wasn't enough technically to pull her up higher than 6th. Miki Ando retired with an injury. The moment the announcement was made, the Japanese press corps streamed down their aisles and backstage, like rats fleeing from a burning building. It was quite a sight.

Ashley Wagner, the young US skater on whom many hopes were pinned, skated weakly at her first Worlds. With rising juniors Carline Zhang, Mirai Nagasu, and Rachael Flatt moving to seniors next year, it's going to be hard for her to regain that spot. To earn three spots for the 2009 Worlds (in Los Angeles), the total placements of the top two US women could not exceed 13, a tall order that was not met, and the US Ladies will be down to two spots next year.

The final group was the cream of the Ladies crop, with the lone exception of Meier. Finnish #2 skater, former European bronze medallist Kiira Korpi, had many jump problems, and finished 17th in the FS, to end up in 9th place behind fellow Finn Laura Lepisto. It's great that the Finnish team has two Ladies in the top 10, because their basic skating makes them watchable regardless of their jump content. However, I don't think the Finnish Federation envisioned it quite this way.

Joannie Rochette has the best combination of basic skating and power of all of the Ladies today, in my opinion, but she did not jump well enough to make the podium, something she is quite capable of doing; she is the only total package, in my opinion. Still, she ended in 5th place, her highest result at Worlds. Carolina Kostner has a lovely program to the Dumsky Trio by Dvorak, but she had two clean landings in total on all of her jumps -- and not enough deducted for the errors, in my opinion -- a very sloppy, uninspired performance. The only upside of it was her speed. Yu-Na Kim, a skater I find quite lovely, was more choppy and aslow than usual, displaying little of her usual ease and flow. The repeat bronze medallist won the Free Skate nonetheless with two triple-triple combinations and decent, but not spectacular skating. She looked much smoother on the jumbotron in the arena than she did live.

Mao Asada slipped on her entrance into a 3Axel attempt, and a huge groan went up, not only because Asada took a scary fall, but because some of us were sure Kostner would win the world title with an awful, awful skate. Luckily Asada regrouped, and despite the flutzing -- she received the edge deduction for the 3Lz, and smartly only attempted one Lutz -- and the downgrade on the 3Lo in combination, she stilled landed a 3Flip/3Toe combination soundly, and had wonderful flow that she didn't have in the Short Program. I was relieved when she won, but I wish Rochette or one of the Finns would step up to the plate. This was the worst-skated phase of the entire competition..

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I could never find the women's Long Program here - I too was frustrated with the TV coverage and (lack of) announcements about what little coverage there was. On Friday night they showed the same thing two or three times - would have preferred a bit of variety.

In fact, I never did see the free dance of the Canadian silver medalists, although I'm quite proud of their accomplishments. Seems like it's been a pretty good year for Canada!

Back to the coverage - we did have great announcers here in Canada - Tracy Wilson (former ice dancer) and Kurt Browning.


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Mom2, for the women long program, there are plenty of videos on youtube now. Just type the name of the ladies you wish to see.

The FD of the young canadians was amazing. They have some incredible basic skating for such a young team, although they have been skating together for more than 10 years. The softness of their knees made me speechless. For sure they will be fighting for gold next year.

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The absolute highlight of the ladies finals was Yukari Nakano. That she was left off the podium is an abomination.

I agree. She's not the most artistic and desperately needs to work on her flexibility and spirals, but she skated the cleanest program with great speed and landed the jump that Asada missed.

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I too have come to rely on youtube to watch figure skating. With only the most basic cable package, we get very few channels.

I always view figure skating jumps from an aesthetic viewpoint as well as an athletic one. Some skaters have luscious jumps. Their position in the air is lovely, they are not all hunched up and over, their jumps are corkscrew-like, they land with a beautifully placed back leg that is not swinging around wildly in an effort to finish the jump without falling. When she was "on", Sasha Cohen could jump like that. Toller Cranston too. Paul Wylie. Michelle Kwan in her very best years. Johnny Weir often. I think that their jumps showed artistry as well as athleticism.

To me, the best figure skating artist is the one who seamlessly connects the technical aspects of their skating with their artistry, so that there is never an awkward-looking position while they are on the ice. I imagine that was the original purpose of skating to music. The musicality of some skaters is exceptional. I always have to refer back to Toller Cranston when it comes to musicality, artistry, and athleticism - he had it all.

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What you see as skin is actualy mostly illusion fabric. Some skaters do have bare backs, but the majority use some flesh-colored fabric up to their collar bones, even when they have "cleavage."

I did realize that, thanks, but my point was related to the apparent desire and need to show flesh – not whether skin was literally exposed to the air, which I should hope it wasn't as it gets quite cold out there. I'm not certain whether the hideousness of some of those ice dancer outfits can really be attributed to camera closeups. Tastes differ, of course, but I don't know how you can treat some of those displays as anything other than low camp....

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I would be curious to know what appealed to said millionaire. Did (s)he say?

I'm not sure what appealed to the millionaire or his family, and whether his family donated the money because they were afficionadoes or whether they did it because it was a socially lauded thing to do. My former colleague went because he was invited.

I'm not certain whether the hideousness of some of those ice dancer outfits can really be attributed to camera closeups. Tastes differ, of course, but I don't know how you can treat some of those displays as anything other than low camp....

I think it's probably a combination of both. I would guess the the illusion fabric helps the create the appearance of a longer line in some cases (the same reason many skaters have nude colored boots or pull their tights over their boots). I know many ballroom dancers use fringe, tentacles or feathers on their costuming to enhance the look of their movements, and I would guess it's the same reason many ice dancers seem to like the "ripped fabric" with their costumes (the swirling fabrics probably makes the fast turns look "snappier"). Bright colors probably show up better against the ice. The only skaters I can remember wearing white were Torvill and Dean and they were already well on their way to winning their third straight Worlds at the time ("Barnum" in 1983).

Interestingly, watching "Dancing With the Stars" last week, I was thinking Kristi Yamaguchi's champagne-colored gown looked very nice on TV, but would be exactly the wrong thing to wear in a live competition. The very neutral, beige tone would not stand out and her movement would get lost in the background of the wooden floor. But with the magic of TV close-ups, the gown looked lovely and tasteful.

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