10. Nina Jiang (USA): "Man with the Golden Arm"
I've been a fan of Nina's ever since I saw her at junior nationals a few years ago. This program highlights how much she's grown in her presentation and performance. I found her very entertaining with a nice level of maturity and just the right amount of sultry va-voom! She stays in character and sells every second of this program. I love the feel of it and all of the in-betweens of the choreography. Check out the tough entrance to her axel...very nice. I was impressed with her performance here. If she can get her technical content up she'll be in good shape.
9. Haruka Imai (JPN): "Song Without Words"
I saw this for the first time during an exhibition prior to the season beginning and I was surprised by how much Haruka had matured. This program (choreographed by Yuka Sato) highlights the lovely qualities of her skating and shows that she definitely has the goods to compete with the top ladies in Japan. I love the speed and positions in her flying spin as well as the beautiful footwork section. Seeing her pull off this music makes me excited to see how she'll continue to develop and mature.
8. Mao Asada (JPN): "Scheherazade"
It's been a long time since I've actually enjoyed one of Mao's SPs; the last one was her "Clair de Lune" from the 2008-2009 season. Tatiana Tarasova's choreography is usually hit or miss for me and, more often than not, it's a miss when it comes to Mao's competitive programs. When I found out she was skating to "Scheherazade" I cursed loudly (it's so freakin' overused!) but it turns out, the version was very different from the majority and the edit was nicely done. I liked this program because Mao looked genuinely happy when she skated to it. Great footwork section as usual, as well as that light and graceful flow she always has. Kudos Tat! You finally got one right!
7. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS): "Bolero"
I have never been a fan of "Bolero" but this program actually did it justice in my opinion. It's very different from the SP Adelina had last season; more mature and tougher to get into. The choreography is classic Tatiana Tarasova but it's Adelina's delivery of it that makes this program work for me. She's a powerful skater with huge jumps and gorgeous lines but she also did a great job of listening to the music rather than skating over it completely. The footwork section was very difficult and I love the improved spins. Again, good job TT!
6. Akiko Suzuki (JPN): "Hungarian Rhapsody"
Akiko is proof that fun upbeat programs are not juniorish. I love how this program starts of slow and kind of serious and then midway through switches to upbeat and energetic. Akiko's the kind of skater who builds with the music without letting it get away from her; she matches the energy the music generates which makes the program ten times more enjoyable. I can't help but smile when I watch her because you can feel her happiness and love for what she's doing when she skates. She didn't have a lot of clean performances to this program but this particular performance was spotless and scored huge. I love her reaction at the end!
5. Carolina Kostner (ITA): "Allegretto"
I love the quirky quality of this program. The music is different from pieces Carolina has skated to in the past which makes it stand out. I love her musicality and the way she stays in time with the music and hits so many notes throughout the program...those little accents highlight the music and really bring the program to life. Wonderful speed and flow, great footwork and lovely presentation as always. Despite what people say (including me), Lori's still got it!
4. Ksenia Makarova (RUS): "Maria and the Violins String"
Ksenia's program was one of the most unique this season (to me anyway). I don't know why but there's a bit of a contemporary dance feel to it to me. The movements are very different and not necessarily pretty, but it totally fits with the character of the music. Maybe I've been watching too much "So You Think You Can Dance?" or something, but I got this program. The music is lovely and she commited to the choreography and performed it well. I really enjoyed this one...
3. Zijun Li (CHN): "The Carousel"
Love, love, love-love this girl and love, love, love-love this program! In my opinion Zijun is one of the best performers in the junior pool of ladies. She listens and skates to the music rather than through it like most of the top junior ladies. Zijun's programs are some of the best as well. Her style is usually lyrical but I love the fun carnival-like feel of this program. Great speed and spins, she finishes out her movements and I love the use of her arms throughout. This SP is my favorite of all of the junior ladies last season.
2. Alissa Czisny (USA): "La Vie en Rose"
This is typical pwetty Alissa but you know what? I like typical pwetty Alissa! There is a classic elegance and ease about this program that is so appealing to me. Alissa has a wonderfully smooth flow across the ice that works so well with the tempo and feel of this music. I'm sure the fact that I absolutely adore this song has something to do with it, but I love this program. She didn't have a number of great performances but looking back at the trainwreck that was most of last season, she should take comfort that this particular program was a success.
1. Kanako Murakami (JPN): "Violin Muse"
I don't know if people will agree or think I'm just nuts...regardless, this is my absolute favorite short program from last season. Kanako matured quite a bit and this program showcases that maturity. "Violin Muse" is a great selection of music and Kanako really made it shine. She gives speed and energy from the beginning and doesn't let up until the last note. I love the gianormous 3t-3t in this performance and the way she holds the landing on the flip (I wish more skaters would hold their landings). I also love the steps into the axel and the footwork is every bit as complicated and involved as Mao and Adelina's footwork sections. You can see that Kanako feels the music and it shows her passionate performance of the choreography. She doesn't have the grace or elegance of some of the other top skaters but she more than makes up for it with her performance and energy. I can watch this over and over again (and I have!). It's defintely my favorite of the season.
Those are my favorites...which ones were yours? I'll do the long programs next!