The Inside Edge: Kwan on hand for 'Stars on Ice'Skating's best impress Providence crowd with unique performances
Sarah was delighted to be able to attend the Stars on Ice show in Providence, R.I., on April 12. It was even more delightful to see Michelle Kwan, who came to watch the warm-ups before the show.
"It's so exciting to have the show here in my neck of the woods," said Kwan, who lives in Providence with her husband, Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell. Kwan looked stunning, as always, in a black velvet tuxedo jacket and loose silk pants nipped in at the ankles.
"I knew it might be cold by the ice, so I wore this," Kwan said. Well, she should know.
We sat and watched the cast members warming up and working on some of their tougher competitive elements.
Ryan Bradley videotaped Jeremy Abbott's quad toe for him and shared a little advice. Abbott responded by promptly landing a beauty. Jason Brown landed a number of nice triple axels and at the end of the session he and Simon Shnapir spent quite a while practicing a throw double salchow. Yes, Shnapir was the one doing the throwing, given that he's a good 9 inches taller than Jason. They make a nice-looking team.
"I am dying to try triple!" Brown said. "Once I'm ready, I'm hoping to do it. It started because for some reason a dream of mine has always been to be thrown and know what it is like to be thrown into a jump. And when Simon came on to tour, I asked him if he could teach me one and he said, 'Sure!'"
Brown, always happy, is still giddy about his wildly successful season.
"I still don't believe I have a national medal," he said. "They have a case that your medal's in, and I open it up and I would be like, 'What? When did this happen?' Because it all happened so fast, and it's all such a blur."
Shnapir said that his parents threw a big party for him after the Olympics, to show off his medal. And a new restaurant in his hometown of Sudbury, Mass., has named a drink after him, the "Simon's Gold."
"My dad had a welcome-home party at his work for me as well, so I brought the medal into his office and we passed it around, took pictures and signed autographs, and he wore his big 'Uncle Boris' hat," Shnapir said. "It was my hat first; I wore it at World Team Trophy. It's a staple of his wardrobe now."
Marissa Castelli, the first-ever Olympic figure skater from Rhode Island, was honored by a big crowd when she got home from Sochi.
"A state trooper escorted us from the airport," Castelli's mother, Lori, said. "And 400 people were waiting for us at the arena that night."
A big crowd of locals turned out to cheer Castelli on at the show, greeting her appearance on the ice with rapturous screams. Castelli and Shnapir joined the tour April 8 for 11 shows.
"I feel like I've been on the road for a month, and it's only been since Tuesday," Castelli said, laughing.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White practiced briefly and then left the ice. They do plenty during the show, performing two programs, the opening and closing numbers, and participating fully in the men's and ladies group numbers. They skated the show in Long Island on Sunday and then got straight onto a plane to LA for their "Dancing with the Stars" appearance Monday night. Amazingly, they didn't look tired at all.
Ryan Bradley landed a nice backflip on one foot during practice.
"Just because, you know, you can!" Ashley Wagner shouted.
"There's a lot of energy in the show this year," Bradley said after practice, "With all these young ones. It's a little intimidating -- usually I'm the one doing the most, with my triple toe. Now I'm doing the least, including the girls!"
Bradley lifts Wagner during the show, renewing his pairs skills. It was a little more surprising to see Josh Farris lift Kim Navarro, but he looks like a natural.
Stars of the show
Jeff Buttle choreographed the show this year, with assistance from Renée Roca, Sinead Kerr and John Kerr. The lower levels of the Dunkin' Donuts Center seemed completely full, and the Providence fans made plenty of noise cheering on all the skaters. The performance began quietly, with spiritual music and falling snow. Skaters covered in dark robes and hoods entered in dim light, and Davis and White cast off their robes and posed gracefully under a single overhead spot. A narrator read a script with words contributed by the cast about what being on ice means to them.
It's hard to single out any skater or program, because everyone was absolutely excellent. Mirai Nagasu's intriguing, Adam Rippon-choreographed "Demons" program was stellar, emotionally compelling and flawlessly skated. Abbott's "Latch" program, which he choreographed himself with an assist from Benji Schwimmer, mixed a little hip hop in with his signature contemporary style. Farris also choreographed his own mesmerizing program to "To Build a Home." And kudos to Abbott, Farris and Brown for including triple Axels in their programs under spotlights.
The ever-popular all-men and all-women group numbers never fail to please. They came up to the mark this year; the men closed out the first half with a fun program to "The Walker," as John Kerr's silhouette danced on screens in the corners of the rink. The boys included a spectacular, but hard-to-describe, trick that combined a lift, a balance cantilever and a pull-through. Or something. It was fun to see Farris taking the lead, hamming it up and skating outside his introspective comfort zone.
"It was a real stretch for him," Kerr said. "He's such a beautiful skater that giving him this rough and tumble routine was a stretch, but he came through with it. He found his own way to do it."
The women started out the second half with an eerie ballet number set to a boychoir singing Radiohead's "Creep" that was strange and lovely. At the end, Alissa Czisny, Wagner, Gold and Nagasu lifted Davis and slung her under the barre, before dragging her offstage.
It was good to see Czisny back on the ice, albeit with limited jumps. Her "Piano Guys" duet with Abbott was charming. Bradley revved up the crowd to almost the same decibel level with his turn-it-up-to-11 energy. "Pony Power" signs and teenybopper squeals greeted Brown's superb Riverdance and MC Hammer programs.
Wagner and Gold received excited cheers every time they appeared. Wagner's "Young and Beautiful" and Gold's Chicago numbers were standouts.
Of course, Davis and White got the loudest screams, and they earned them with flawless skating. They looked beautiful, and their Rachmaninoff and Scheherezade programs were stunning.
Gold, by the way, had a very special guest at the April 13 show on Long Island: her friend Taylor Swift.
"Taylor and I met the first time in person in [Los Angeles]," Gold told us. "We had dinner a few times. She recently moved to [New York City], so we met up and hung out."
The two got together recently for dinner, and made chocolate chunk cookies.
"She's really sweet," Gold said.
We were sitting behind Pell and Kwan during the show, and it was funny to hear "Michelle Kwan, Michelle Kwan" over and over throughout the evening as fans spotted her. Kwan was ever-gracious to the non-stop parade of fans asking her to autograph programs, skates, notebooks and more. She also posed for pictures.
An Evening on Ice
Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner will host the fourth annual "An Evening on Ice" show, benefitting Nicholas LaRoche's US Athletic Foundation. Carolina Kostner is the headliner this year, and other stars include Czisny, Kimmie Meissner, Polina Edmunds, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, Rachael Flatt, Jonathan Cassar and more. Additional cast members will be announced soon. Karen Kwan Oppegard will choreograph.
"I feel like each year 'An Evening on Ice' is not only becoming better but stronger," LaRoche told us. "[The] first year ... I had to reach out to people I personally knew in figure skating to make the event come together. Now, we are asked by Olympic medalists and world skaters if they can join our cast and help support our cause. My gratitude for the volunteers and skaters that helped us become what we are today could never be explained in words."
There will be two shows on July 19 at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif. More info is available at http://usathleticfoundation.org.
All in all, two great shows; we hope you all get to see one or both of them!
Sarah and Drew
Follow them on Twitter @SarahandDrew