Monday, July 29, 2013

Off Season Fun 2012-2013: Favorite Free Skates

Let the Off Season Fun continue!  Time for my favorite Free Skates of the 2012-2013 season.

5. Kanako Murakami – “Adios Nonino”

This was by far Kanako’s best FS to date.  We saw a lot of tangos throughout the season but this was my favorite.  I loved the pacing of this program; the break after the footwork and the way it revved up at the end.  I think they really captured the essence of a tango and Kanako pulled it off brilliantly.  I loved her choreographed spiral sequence the most; lots of fire and energy, the fast steps, the musicality of it…and I love the final spin and ending move.  This was an excellent program for her.

4.  Ashley Wagner – “Samson & Delilah”

Ashley had a tall order to fill coming off of the success of her “Black Swan” FS from the season before but I think she nailed it.  Ashley’s confidence really helped this program shine.   Her presence and command of the ice has grown so much and she really got into character and sold this version of S&D.  I thought the program was great, definitely the strongest of the US ladies.  I loved her layback spin and the way she changed positions with the beats of the music as well as that invincible final 3F into her Charlotte spiral-spread eagle choreographed sequence.  This was a strong program for her and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

3. Mao Asada – “Swan Lake”

Usually I roll my eyes whenever a skater chooses such overused music but I was interested to see what Mao would do with this.  Mao’s ethereal balletic-like grace is unmatched in this field of skaters so if anyone could pull off a ballet, it was her.  I thought Tarasova (whose work I’ve criticized heavily in the past) did a great job with this.  I really loved the music edit; there’s a nice rise and fall throughout the program with dramatic parts here and quieter moments there and the ending is all kinds of spectacular!  The footwork is incredible and the spiral sequence is absolutely wonderful.  It was a simple yet highly effective program for Mao and I loved every second of it.

2. Carolina Kostner – “Bolero”

I have never liked “Bolero”; not even when the Kween did it.  I did not expect to care for this program at all but Carolina has a way of bringing music to life in a way that very few skaters can.  The Lori/Carolina combo is a match made in heaven but the magic of this program came from Carolina herself.  She has an amazing presence and energy when she skates that really pulls me in.  I wasn’t sure about the pose-y nature of some of the choreography at first, but you know what?  It totally worked!  I loved the feel of the program and the way Carolina really got into it. The footwork was perfection (as always) and even though it wasn’t always successful, the 3S at the end was a nice touch.  Another gem from Carolina…

1. Akiko Suzuki – “O from Cirque du Soleil”

It’s tough to find a way to describe how much I love this FS.  The entire package of this program (music, costume, choreography, delivery) was absolute perfection.  I loved the music so much.  I don’t recall hearing it prior to this which makes it stand out from the rest of the often used selections by every other skater on this list.  I loved the avian theme as well; the light, graceful and delicate qualities of the choreography did make me think of birds.  I loved the faster tempo of the music in the footwork (excellent musicality) and then the way it melted right back into the slower section.  The music towards the end…the way it’s this culmination of energy that builds and builds and bursts forth after that final jump…and then Akiko just soars.  That choreographed spiral sequence was, hands down, THE BEST of the season.  The sweeping quality of the music, the way she used the entire surface of the ice and the joy in her movements was indescribable.  The steps into the final spin and then that ending pose right with the final note of music…perfection.  This is the program Akiko will be remembered for when she retires.  It is nothing short of a masterpiece and it’s my absolute favorite of the season…hell, probably the last four years.  

Rounding off my favorite top 10...

6. Zijun Li – “Sleeping Beauty”
The music was perfect for Zijun’s light and lyrical style.  In a word, this program was delightful.  I really love Zijun’s skating and I’m excited to see how she will progress in the years to come.

7. Angela Wang – “Ladies in Lavender”
Angela is the only junior included on either of my lists.  I love this piece of music and love what she did with it.  She has a beautiful quality to her skating that has me thinking she is going to be something very special one day.  I thought this program was lovely.

8. Yu-Na Kim – “Les Miserables”
Yu-Na is all the way down in 8th?!  I can hear the outrage already…  Well, to be honest, I didn’t care for this program.  I’ve never been a fan of the music so I’m thinking that’s why I couldn’t connect to it.  Yu-Na's "Les Mis" was good but, as a whole, it just didn’t stand out enough for me among the rest of the programs this year.  It’s her fault...she’s a victim of her own brilliance.  I always expect greatness from Yu-Na (Danse, Lark, Bond, Gershwin) so a simply good program from her is actually a disappointment to me.  I hold her to extremely high standards because she’s that amazing.  Her performance at worlds was incredible though so even if I'm not a fan of the program itself, I had to give some kind of recognition to what she did there…

9. Kaetlyn Osmond – “Carmen”
Yet another warhorse that has been beaten to death and then resurrected only to be beaten again…I really liked Kaetlyn’s delivery of this program.  Her personality and charisma make nearly everything she does enjoyable to watch.  I’m looking forward to seeing more from her in the future as well.

10. Christina Gao – “Libertango”
I thought this program was choreographed wonderfully by David Wilson.  Great pacing, good rise and fall in the mood…it’s very nice.  Unfortunately, Christina’s delivery didn’t match the program.  She managed to have some great performances but she never captured the fire and passion needed to pull off this tango convincingly.  She does get an E for effort in my book though…

Those are my favorite Free Skates of the season.  Agree?  Disagree?  Did I forget someone?  Vote for your favorite on the poll!


  1. The thing I most agree with is your placement of Akiko Suzuki's "O". :)

    Would you say that Ashley's Black Swan was better or Samson & Delilah?

  2. Could you maybe have a "best 3-7 seconds of figure skating," like in animated gif format? Moments like that brilliant layback in Ashley's FS. This is especially good for mediocre programs like Gracie Gold's Life is Beautiful long program, but have one moment of WOW - that triple lutz triple toe. And I know you're not fond of Julia's sticking her leg up above her head at random moments, but you could include that too, if only for gentle teasing