Skating Off-Season Roundup: The First Program Debuts

Three of the World’s top men show their short programs to an audience as music announcements continue.

When last weekend began, we were all eagerly awaiting the broadcasting of “Fantasy on Ice” in Japan, knowing already Javier Fernandez had debuted his Charlie Chaplin short program to the world there. It turned out he wasn’t the only one. So did the training mate with which he’s split the World titles the past four years. Except Yuzuru Hanyu was actually debuting the new version of an old program. But there was a second debut of a completely new short program, by Shoma Uno. Unfortunately, when his is to Vivaldi’s “Winter,” it felt very similar to Hanyu’s, and suffered by comparison. Not even because it was at all bad, but simply because Hanyu’s is so good. Poor Uno will have that disadvantage for the entire season.

Javier Fernandez was luckier. He is, after all, the showman whom everyone else is trying to match, and he threw that gauntlet down well enough, though hopefully he’ll lay off on the falls:

One piece of news, however, may have been wrong. After unofficial word proclaimed that Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin were retiring, and a media report claimed Zhiganshin was, at least, more recent unofficial word is that they’re not. They’re not on the Grand Prix roster, but the word is that’s simply due to his health. The Russian federation certainly doesn’t seem to believe it. They had already said Ilinkyh & Zhiganshin would be on the National Team as reserves, and indeed they are on the official roster released this week. They’d also spoken of meeting with them early this month, so we may hear more shortly.

As for their former partners, this week Alexander Zhulin gave an interview colorful enough to deserve a translation, which Figure Skating Universe member quiqie was kind enough to provide. He is putting a very optimistic face on Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov. While Russian coaches are often more honest than other ones, he could just be campaigning. But one of his music choices for them is ambitious. Going “unusual” in the short dance is fair enough; everyone wants to stand out. Rachaminoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto is a warhorse, although it’s less used in ice dance. But “Vocalise” is still heavily associated with Ekaterina Gordeeva & Sergei Grinkov. Zhulin must really think more of them than everyone else does right now if he truly believes they can outshine one of their greatest programs.

One of Russia’s top singles coaches, Alexei Mishin, was also talking this week. It was from him we got yet another skater reworking an old program. This time, however, it’s Carolina Kostner, redoing her Afternoon of a Faun long from all the way back in 2011. That’s probably the best program she’s ever done, and one most other skaters couldn’t pull off. If it wasn’t for all the other skaters recycling old programs, this would be truly delightful news. Meanwhile, he describes her new short only as modern, but it would have to be very modern indeed to be more modern than the one she did last season!

Mishin’s longertime student, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva isn’t reusing old music with her short program, set to Pyotr Leshchenko’s “Sinjaja Rapsodija.” This isn’t the first tango she’s done, and the other one she used for multiple seasons. However, that was some time ago, and the two pieces of music are pretty different. She’s also doing her long program to an unidentified French piece, which could mean absolutely anything.

Google Translate claims Alexander Petrov is skating to “Dance with sabres,” which probably means Aram Khachaturian’s famous “Sabre Dance.” He’ll probably also have fun with that, especially if he pulls off the quadruple flip Mishin also says they’re working on. He speaks also of the quads of a flamenco-dancing Andrei Lazukin. He’ll need those to follow up on his surprise fourth place from Russian Nationals. One questions, however, if Mishin’s junior student Sofia Samodurova should be skating a tango free when Tuktamisheva’s already using the rhythm, however “unusual.” One doesn’t even want to address what he says about her short program without getting more details, or at least a proper translation.

Mishin also confirms he lost a former up and comer, Artur Dmitriev, Jr., who is now at the rink of his Olympic champion father. His new coach is Ilia Klimkin, who’s been much less on the radar since his retirement from competitive skating ten years back. One wonders if he knows what he’s doing. It’s not promising that Klimkin choreographed him a short to the music Alexander Samarin skated to when he broke out last season, which is a bad idea, especially for a skater in Dmitriev’s position of an also-ran. Perhaps whatever Spanish music Klimkin says they’re using for his long is not particularly associated with anyone right now, but who knows.

One question when the Grand Prix assignments came out last week was whether Junior World Champions Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor wanted to be on the roster or not. We learned this week: they did, and still do. Which goes to show they should probably bring back the rule at least guaranteeing the winners of Junior Worlds one spot; for them not to get that is truly absurd. In better news for them, the outlook for her Australian citizenship is optimistic. They made a music announcement too: their short program is do an unidentified remix of “Paint in Black.” That song was hardly an unknown musical choice even when skaters had to use instrumental versions. The key question might be what kind of remix. Hopefully not techno.

Other skaters who have no yet debuted their program before an audience are still giving us sneak peeks. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue made a fancy production of it::

Beth Hart’s “Caught in the Rain” sounds like it’ll have them at their sultry best. No wonder Hubbell thought it the perfect song of hers for them to skate to. They may not be the only skaters this season using Rag N’ Bone Man, but the instrumental version of “Across the Sky” goes with it perfectly too.

Also looking promising is the two programs from one of the lesser American men. Alexander Johnson’s short program by “Legends” by the Sacred Spirit looks good enough, but his long program to two Enigma tracks looks even better:

He probably will only go so far, but he’ll be a treat to watch all along.

We already knew Jorik Hendrickx was skating to “Je Suis Malade” but we got a preview clip of that too:

Sneak peek 〰 Je suis malade

A post shared by Belgian Olympic Figure Skater (@jorikhendrickx) on

So far nobody’s been able to identify the artist. Even Shazam isn’t coming up with anything.

Nor has anyone identified the music of this clip of footwork from Denis Ten, and he doesn’t even specify what kind of program he’s previewing here but it sure looks good:

A post shared by Denis Ten (@tenis_den) on

We also got a preview of Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford’s already announced short program, but it was a pretty short one:

Even shorter was the a five second glimpse we got of Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland’s short dance, which at least assured us her knee’s fine. It was also a soundless one, because they hadn’t announced the music yet. Then that came:

The Rumba D’Amour may be a heavily used piece of music, but perhaps the most famous use of it is Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean’s in 1994. To have Dean do this program for them to his famous music will be a huge thrill. The guy who did the remix is pretty excited about it too; this has got to be a dream come true for him.

We were also anticipating word from Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek, who’d promised last Friday to reveal their long program music Saturday. They were a couple of days late with it, but it finally came out: they’re skating to the soundtrack from Amarcord:

With the World Championships in Milan this year, it seems both the country’s top pairs teams are skating to music by their fellow Italians. It won’t be easy for Marcei & Hotarek to step out of the shadow of Barbara Fusar Poli & Maurizio Margaglio’s famous free dance, but they might just pull it off.

We have another La La Land program, this time in the pairs, courtesy Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov. Currently they’re looking to try to break into the top three and make the Olympics, but that’ll be hard. This is a bit more conventional than their usual style. Whether that’s a prudent move we’ll soon find out, but it is kind of sad that we won’t get them spicing the pairs free up this season.

Another team officially took back a musical announcement, even as they identified their short program music. Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis. The Kizomba remix of Soha’s Mil Pasos is certainly a good match for the rumba rhythm. Marc Antony’s “Aguanile” and Celia Cruz’s “Quimbara” on either side of it makes for a transition of mood and speed that should work, if done well. But while we can thus rest easy on their short dance, they’ve seemingly abandoned the Rachmaninoff free dance. Perhaps they found it wasn’t working, but it also might have been because of the coaching change. One hopes they don’t come to regret it, whatever they choose to skate to in its place.

Over in Poland Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev, have now attracted enough attention in Poland for general articles to be written about them. In one this week, we learned some general details about their programs, though no specific pieces. Their free dance is apparently a modern take on ballroom rhythms, with “motifs of electroswing” and their short samples Luis Fonsi, Prince Royce, and Shakira. It’s all on the modern and popish side, which they did well with last year.

We also got a general update from Daisuke Murakami, albeit one in Japanese. About two minutes in, with the help of some words on the screen, he establishes to everyone he’s keeping last year’s programs to “Bring Him Home” and Pagliacci. But since he’s only had one chance to skate them, and didn’t skate the short program well at all, that’s only sensible of him.

Another American man, Andrew Torgashev who had already done a preview of his “El Tango De Roxanne” long, just announced his short program music. “Moonlight Sonata” is ambitious of him, but doable.

The International Skating Union isn’t done with the releases yet. This week was the scale of values for ice dance elements. They are mostly unchanged, but there are some adjustments to the baseline level elements.

And finally, in the greater world of sport, Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee, addressed possible sanctions against Russia for their mass doping program this week. But it’s as clear as ever there won’t be a blanket ban against Russia, at least not for this next upcoming Olympics, and if there are indeed “several cases” strong enough to prosecute, it’s likely they’ll just prosecute those and leave it at that. It doesn’t even look likely, at this point, that Adelina Sotnikova will be one of them, and even if she is, she’s unlikely to make the Russian team again anyway. With the ISU also unlikely to ban the Russians either, this probably won’t directly affect the skating competition.

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