There really wasn't anything particularly amazing about this program choreographically, but I loved it because...Mao. Just Mao. I love Mao. I'm a figure skating purist at heart. I'll take gorgeous lines, ethereal grace and kick-ass basics over a zillion triples on any day of the week and that's what this program was. Plain and simple this was just beautiful skating. Even when the jumps weren't working (which unfortunately was most of the time last season) Mao's elegance, flow and severely underrated skating skills and transitions made this a lovely program to watch.
After a string of really crappy programs Lori Nichol finally came up with something that worked with Gracie's style of skating rather than against it. This "Firebird" program was a great vehicle to showcase Gracie's power and speed unlike her previous programs which required her to be either very graceful or emotional, two things that are not her forte. I liked the choreography and thought Gracie did a good job of making it work. I don't think I'll ever love her skating (she's just too stiff for my liking) but I genuinely enjoyed this program and thought she looked great performing it. The success of this program (and her SP) hopefully means that we've seen the end of soft princessy Gracie. I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Satoko is another skater who makes the skating purist in me happy. Her posture, lines, elegance and polish are amazing and all of those qualities were on display in this program. I love Satoko's programs so much because she's one of the few skaters in the field who actually pays attention to every single detail and movement. Nothing is rushed or unfinished and everything just flows. The choreography beautifully highlighted the music and Satoko's performance pulled it all together. This was a soft, light, delicate and gorgeous program for her. Another gem from the Tiny Queen.
2. Rika Hongo: "Riverdance"
I really loved this program for Rika. "Riverdance" is a piece of music that generates its own energy and does half of the work, but it's still up to the skater to really bring it to life and make it shine and Rika did that. She's grown so much as a performer these last few seasons and I really think she's underrated in that department. Not every skater can project that kind of energy during a performance but Rika did it with ease and was able to grab the audience every time. More importantly she looked like she was having a blast out there! That's a rare thing to see at competitions on the elite level. I just couldn't help but smile while watching her skate this one. Loved it!
I don't like using repeat programs on my favorites list but I felt as though last year's "Moulin Rouge" was significantly different from the first "Moulin Rouge." Ashley listened to the critics and made a concerted effort to increase the number of transitions throughout her program and it worked out beautifully. The result was a "meatier" and more dynamic program with a noticeable increase of transitions between elements and into and out of jumps. It was so well-paced throughout and when she nailed it (like in Boston), that ending was a total roof-blower. I just really respect the fact that even in Ashley's "advanced age" she's still working on her skating and improving. This was a very well-repackaged program and was definitely my favorite of the season.
Rounding out my top 10...
6. Alaine Chartrand: "Gone With the Wind"
Alaine nailed this FS at Canadian nationals and it was pretty freaking epic. I was very impressed! It's a real shame she couldn't deliver that kind of performance on the international level.
7. Gabrielle Daleman: "Maria del Buenos Aires, Yo Soy Maria"
I thought this was a great program for Gabrielle. She and Lori Nichol work really well together and always come up with well-done and entertaining programs.
8. Evgenia Medvedeva: "W.E. Soundtrack"
Very interesting and lovely program. I like Evgenia's style and the way she performs. After such a strong debut I'm excited to see what she brings to the table for her sophomore season.
9. Anna Pogorilaya: "Scheherazade"
I liked this one. It surprised me because there are actually a number of moments in this program. The music edit was a little odd but overall it was a solid program and my favorite FS to date for her.
10. Elena Radionova: "Titanic"
This program was so deliciously terrible I couldn't help but love it! I have to give Elena props for giving it her all and performing the hell out of it. I pray she has better programs this year.
So that's it for Off Season Fun! Just like that the off season has come to a close and it's time for the regular season to begin. The Junior Grand Prix season kicks off this week in St. Gervais, France. I checked the entries list and was excited to see that I only recognize the Japanese competitors (Rin Nitaya and Kaori Sakamoto). I'm excited because that means new talent! It's always fun to watch a skater's journey from the JGP to the senior level. It will be awesome to see who emerges as the one to beat this year.
Ta for now!