Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 5 Favorite: Yu-Na Kim Programs

In honor of Yu-Na doing her thang this weekend at Korean nationals, I decided to take a look back at some of her best programs and performances (in my opinion anyway) in hopes that she’s able to channel the greatness from these programs and apply them to her current ones!

5. Tango de Roxanne – Worlds 2007 

This performance holds a special place in my heart. This was the first time I ever saw Yu-Na Kim skate. I didn’t follow skating during the 2006-2007 season (I was having a rough time adjusting to figure skating without Michelle Kwan) so I had never seen Yu-Na prior to this. I didn’t know she’d won the GPF or that she was from a country with zero figure skating history. All I knew was there was something about her that immediately caught my attention: her sharp movements, the way she hit all of the accents of the music throughout the program...I didn’t even take notice of her excellent technique or huge jumps or speed across the ice...I was too enthralled with her performance. She performed. I could see shades of my Kween in this girl: the conviction in the delivery of the choreography, the way she connected to the music and the judges as she skated... My exact words when she finished skating were, “Wow! Who is this girl?” 

Needless to say I was beyond impressed with Yu-Na. Sure, she was a little gangly and needed work in certain areas but I could tell right away I’d found a skater to ease my Kwan-withdrawal symptoms. When I later found out Michelle was Yu-Na’s role model in skating, I understood why I was drawn to her. Others may disagree but I definitely see the influences of Michelle in Yu-Na’s skating, none more than that first time I saw her.

4.  Lark Ascending – TEB 2006 

Having sat out the 2006-2007 season (“Michelle! Michelle! I want my Michelle! Waaah!”) I had to go back at the end of the season to review Yu-Na’s previous performances. Lark Ascending is probably my all-time favorite FS of Yu-Na’s. It was such a great contrast to her Tango SP that year. Tango is fiery and fierce while Lark was gentle and lyrical. I love versatility in skaters and seeing her do Tango and then downshift to Lark caused me to fall in love with her all over again. To me, Lark is some of David Wilson’s strongest work. The music and choreography were gorgeous and Yu-Na pulled it off magnificently. This is my favorite performance. Even though she started running out of steam at the end I was spellbound up until the few mistakes at the end…and even with the mistakes, this was a magical performance of a beautiful program.

3.  Bond – TEB 2009

By this time Yu-Na was the world champion and the one to beat. It was an Olympic season and everyone knew she needed to come with something very strong to back up the excellence of her past two SPs. By this time I figured Yu-Na would have run out of ways to surprise me but nope!  She blew me away again!  It took one performance (this performance) and I was hooked. It was a new sultry and flirty Yu-Na and I loved it! Again, amazing musicality throughout in addition to the increased technical difficulty, and that step sequence was perfection. It’s always great to debut a program strongly and she nailed this one to the wall. It was definitely my favorite SP of the season and to date, it has the distinction of being the highest scoring SP under this judging system.

2. Gershwin – Olympics 2010 

I always pictured this elegant piano bar back in the 1930s with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sipping martinis whenever I watched Yu-Na perform Gershwin. This program was proof that a skater can adhere to the overly-complicated and ever-changing rules of the International Judging System without losing the soul and artistry of figure skating. This program had everything: difficult jumps, intricate transitions into and out of those jumps, high level spins…but it also had musicality, wonderful moments and a lovely elegance to it as well. Yes, this program won her an Olympic gold medal and is the highest scoring program for a lady ever under this system, but what really made it stand out for me was Yu-Na’s delivery of it especially at the Olympics. She was completely calm, controlled and relaxed. I remember being 100% at ease while watching her. I adore this program and nothing was more beautiful than her tears at the end when she realized she'd accomplished her goal of winning the Olympic Games.

1.  Danse Macabre – 4CC 2009 

This is Yu-Na’s signature program in my opinion. This is the program that launched her into the stratosphere as a skater, separating her so far from the rest of the pack there was simply no hope left for anyone else competing. For me, this was the season Yu-Na became Queen Yu-Na. She was pretty much untouchable and I believe her SP is the main reason why. There were some nice programs that year but nothing in the field came close to matching this. I love everything about it! Yu-Na grew a little bit over the summer and it did wonders for her presence on the ice. She had this regal quality and complete command of the ice whenever she stepped out there. The music was wonderful, the choreography was phenomenal…this is her signature piece. Danse Macabre is to Yu-Na Kim as Lyra Angelica is to Michelle Kwan, or Bolero is to Torvill & Dean, or Sex Bomb is to Evgeni Plushenko…you get what I mean. When you hear the music you automatically think of those skaters. For me Danse is that program for Yu-Na.

Honorable Mention - Homage to Korea 

It was a unique and thoughtful program that never got the chance to shine in the competitive arena. She was a little stiff at times and it showed in her jumps; but I thoroughly enjoyed the choreography and the overall feel of the program.  I wish she’d have gone back to it for this season. I think both Homage to Korea and Giselle deserved another shot, neither having been performed to their potential.

I’ll be honest: as much as I love Yu-Na (read the above posts) I’m still not a huge fan of her Kiss of the Vampire SP or her Les Miserables FS this year. I don’t know, maybe I’m expecting too much from her. I’m used to Yu-Na blowing me away with her programs and this year’s feel somewhat routine; they don’t stand out to me. Ah well. This is a short season for her so she and David are probably saving up their creative juices for next year’s Olympic season programs and I fully expect to lapse into fangirl squeals and happy piddles once I see them performed.

Yu-Na is the ridiculously overwhelming favorite for gold at nationals this year but I do hope her successors, Hae Jin Kim and So Youn Park, put up a good fight. Both girls are lovely skaters and did well on the JGP this season. Hae Jin became the second Korean lady to win an ISU championship when she won JGP Slovenia last season and So Youn has grown quite a bit in terms of her presentation and artistry (she reminds me so much of Yu-Na!). Yu-Na will win (duh) but I think 2nd and 3rd place will be between those two. 

Hopefully someone will post videos. Best of luck to Yu-Na and all of the Korean competitors!


  1. Robeye/rock robsterJanuary 4, 2013 at 3:21 AM

    Great retrospective of Yuna's body of work up to this point in her career.

    What I really liked about your commentary was that it was at once thoughtful, with a sense of context and perspective, and yet also genuinely, viscerally felt. A balance that, in writing (as in skating), is not easy to achieve.

    I am in vigorous agreement about Giselle, and perhaps even more so, about Homage to Korea. I would dearly love to see them performed in fully burnished glory. The incorporation of traditional Korean music and the allusions to iconic Korean dance idioms in Homage were stunning. I felt that these programs were one or two performances away from being genuine masterpieces. *Sigh* One can dream.

    RE: this year's programs; IMO, the Nationals and WC performances will be better indicators of how much these programs will add to her legacy. NRW was first and last a technical qualifier, where she had to hit her TES marks or else pack it in for the season. Hardly conducive to eliciting maximum performance quality.

    Keep 'em coming, kwanatic. I've become a real fan of this blog!

    Robeye/rock robster

  2. Those programs will also be the ones I'd choose but some will be in a different order.

    5. Bond
    - Something unique and different in the Oly year
    4. The Lark Ascending
    - I miss this Yuna
    3. Gershwin Oly LP
    - Perfect skate at the perfect time
    2. El Tango de Roxanne at Worlds 2007
    - Like you it was the first time I saw her skate and I was so amazed that's why I ranked it this high. I <3 that she made it into an EX. I miss this program a lot.
    1. Danse Macabre at Worlds 2010
    - This is, for me, her signature piece. Awesome delivery from start to finish. This is also the time I think her SP scores started reaching the stratosphere ( > 75 ).

    I don't quite feel her programs this season. They do nothing for me or maybe I was expecting more from both David and Yuna.

    Don't you think it'll be good if Yuna skated Homage to Korea again in the Oly season?

  3. I still love Les Mis. . . and Bond.

  4. SP
    1 "send in clown" deceptively simple still most hardest tec an art hidden in a low key. this is 1st program I felt Jumps are became just another connecting movements and melt into her flows. we talked about perfect landing, great jump flows between jumps which make yuna's jumps are greatest ever now she go even further! yuna matured into another level!