Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Choreographers take spotlight

Guest stars, others highlight memorable routines at 'Let's Dance'
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Yebin Mok choreographed her own program in 'Let's Dance' in Chicago. -Grace Wiley

Choreographers had a well-deserved moment in the spotlight at the Let's Dance show put on by American Ice Theater (AIT) on May 31 in Chicago. Performances by Young Artists Showcase (YAS) choreography contestants and winners alternated with AIT numbers, and guest stars Jason Brown, Ryan Bradley and ice dance team Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt showed off their own styles.

Judging from the video we were lucky enough to see, it was a great show. Even the younger choreographers from the 18-and-under category delivered interesting, well-performed pieces, and some of the numbers by the more established artists were breathtaking. Coach and YAS founder Audrey Weisiger hosted the show and even skated in the closing number.

"The show takes us on a journey from classical to contemporary music through the artistry of dance and skating," Weisiger said in the show's opening.

Rohene Ward's own seven-minute modern piece, choreographed with Deneane Richburg to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," was a major highlight. Dressed in a skin-colored jumpsuit with black ribbons wound around his body, Ward showed that his sophisticated skating skills still match his brilliant choreography. The piece is a work of art, seamlessly connecting innovative spins to interesting steps, spirals and triple jumps. Stillness and tension contrasted to intervals of quick fluid motion. Bravo.

Brown, Ward's prized student, performed his 2013-14 Prince short program with effervescence. It honestly never gets old.

Ryan Bradley reprised his Stars on Ice number "Wake Me Up," choreographed by Jeff Buttle. It's hardly surprising that the program fit right into the dance-and-choreography evening. Buttle's choreography perfectly presented Bradley's ebullient speed and energy.

Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt skated a passionate, romantic number choreographed by YAS competitor Robert Mauti to John Legend's "All of Me." It included a prone lift that was heart-stopping in its beautiful simplicity. We will miss this elegant couple, who announced their retirement from competition earlier in the year.

Zabato Bebe skated with his own distinctive, muscular contemporary hip-hop style in two of his own pieces: "Dream" and "Without a Word." In the former, he skated in black pants and no shirt; even his stomach muscles had choreography. He is not afraid to interact fully with the ice; his face-down horizontal slide on hands and toes was arresting. Adam Blake skated another Bebe creation to "Dirty Diana," and it was nice to see Bebe's signature style work so well for another performer. The spread eagle to cantilever was a striking touch.

Ashley Clark performed an energetic piece designed for special lighting effects using "Glo-blades" on her skates, multicolored lights on her blades and extended glow-sticks that she whirled around. It was most effective with the lights off, when you couldn't see her body but just the spinning lights.

AIT founder Jodi Porter choreographed a soulful contemporary piece to "A Thousand Years," skated by Stephanie Chase Bass, Mauro Bruni, Eve Chalom, Aimee Evans and Ami Parekh. Amber Van Wyck choreographed a group number to "Madness" where five performers dressed in variations of stripes and white coats with light-tipped gloves.

Yebin Mok performed her own haunting and compelling piece with an immense silk scarf that was more partner than prop. Kate McSwain skated her African-style Rusted Root program with strength and power. Paige Rydberg performed Stephanie Chase Bass's cute mambo program. Mauro Bruni skated Mark Hanretty's stylish soft-shoe "Steppin' Out with My Baby" program impeccably.

The AIT Umbrellas of Cherbourg program, skated by Bruni with Bass, Blake, Mauti, Mok, Erin Murphy and Ryan Santee, was particularly lovely. Blake delivered Katherine Hill's debauched jazz "Love is the Drug," wearing a white shirt with suspenders hanging down to his knees with white laces in his skates, adding a cool touch to hot jazz that included, cool slow cantilever. Garrett Kling choreographed a pretty Adele duet for Bass and Parekh.

The young choreographers Izzy Gorowski and Alison Merges held their own in the impressive company. Gorowkski's "Mad World," in particular, was intriguing. She wore a metallic-splashed bodysuit and a green mesh ball studded with lights on her head to start, and pulsed the ball in and out as she skated and spun. She is a rising young creative talent.

All in all, it was a stunning show. We hope it will become an annual event.

Vacation Time

Last month, it seemed as though most skaters retreated to a warm location for a vacation -- understandable after spending so much of time freezing in cold rinks. Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani went to San Francisco to enjoy some of the great food. The "ShibSibs" videomakers also visited the headquarters of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Interesting.

Hawaii was the destination for plenty of skaters, including Yuka Sato. Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon took a nice trip to Maui.

"After Olympics, Worlds and touring with Stars in Ice I was ready for the beach!" Wagner told us.

"[Adam and I] had amazing days relaxing in the sun, going on hikes, riding the waves…incredible sunset meals and, of course, a few spa treatments."

Gracie Gold also went to Hawaii with her twin, Carly, and ice dancer Tim Koleto. Koleto said the highlights of the trip were spending time in a quiet cove with sea turtles and climbing up the dizzying Haiku Stairs on Oahu.

"One day we did a sail and snorkel trip," he said. "We saw some dolphins and we got some cool pictures underwater."

Meryl Davis and Charlie White also went to Hawaii, but not together. White took his vacation with girlfriend Tanith Belbin, and proposed to her. He then tweeted: "Hashtag she said yes!"

As for Simon Shnapir, he forwent a vacation in favor of searching for a new partner.

"I was trying to make plans to go to Hawaii this year, but it didn't happen," he said. "My vacation has been not coming into the rink. I've been playing a lot of golf -- it's my new hobby. I play three or four times a week. I'm taking lessons and I'm really into it. When I'm done with skating -- down the road, in the far future -- you'll find me on the golf course."

Shnapir's new partner, DeeDee Leng, did get a nice break, spending vacation in Los Angeles.

We went to California for our vacation as well, enjoying time in San Francisco and the wine country, and did our best not to talk about skating at all the whole time.

Baby! Weddings!

Congratulations to Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, who are expecting their first child in November. (They asked for name suggestions on Twitter.)

"We are thrilled and excited about our expanding family," Gregory told us. "We have not picked out a name yet."

Jeremy Abbott was the best man -- well, man of honor -- in former pairs skater Stephanie Kuban's wedding June 21 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Also on June 21, ice dancer John Kerr married Nadine Ahmed in Scotland. Yes, he wore a kilt, as did Bradley, who was a member of the wedding party. And next month, coach Damon Allen will marry longtime boyfriend Enrique Viveros on July 5 in Santa Fe. Congratulations to all the happy couples!

Clinking champagne glasses,
Sarah and Drew
Follow them on Twitter @SarahandDrew