Ice Network

Edmunds sasses it up at 'Evening with Champions'

Hughes, Wylie co-host shows; Aldridge, Eaton reunite for one more run
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Two-time U.S. silver medalist Polina Edmunds gave a sassy performance to "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" at this year's "An Evening with Champions" show. -Sarah S. Brannen

At last year's "An Evening with Champions" show, Molly Malone's goal was just to get on the ice for the Jimmy Fund Kids Skate.

Every year, as part of the student-run benefit show at Harvard University, young cancer patients and survivors are invited to skate with the stars in a casual setting during the day between the shows.

Malone, a juvenile skater, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in her spine when she was 15. She had just finished chemotherapy a few days before the 2016 show, and as it turned out, she wasn't up to skating. She got on the ice, bald from chemo, in a wheelchair, and the skaters pushed her around.

This year, she is coming up on one year cancer-free, and she did get on the ice. In fact, Malone performed as part of the cast, skating to Christina Aguilera's "Fighter."

She is still recovering from a broken ankle and can't jump yet, but she gave it all she had, and the crowd returned the favor, giving her the biggest ovation of the night.

"I love that song, I always have, and now it has a completely new meaning for me," Malone said before the show.

Malone said she would love to return to competition, eventually.

"Skating helped me get through the cancer treatment," she said. "Just being motivated to go back to skating got me through it."

Emily Hughes and Paul Wylie co-hosted this year's shows, Sept. 15 and 16 at the Bright Hockey Center in Allston, Massachusetts; almost unbelievably, Wylie's first performance at the show was 35 years ago. A reported illness prevented Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov from making their annual appearance; instead, organizers showed a video tribute to the beloved pair.

Polina Edmunds was the star of the show, skating a sassy number to "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" from Grease. Angela Wang skated to Sia's "Alive," and Karina Manta and Joe Johnson skated their new short dance, choreographed by Christopher Dean.

Two young pairs teams, Nica Digerness and Daniel Neudecker, and Cate Fleming and Jedidiah Isbell, also performed, as did Shotaro Omori, the Haydenettes and several skaters who attend Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Harvard senior Yasmin Siraj took the ice twice, performing both as a soloist and as a member of the Haydenettes.

Proceeds benefited the Jimmy Fund of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


A highlight of "An Evening with Champions" was a beautiful and romantic male duet performed by Joel Dear and Christian Erwin to Adele's "When We Were Young." Erwin, a member of Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY), competed as an ice dancer with partner Kenzie Reid, last appearing at the U.S. championships in 2013. He asked Dear to choreograph a program for him and Reid last spring.

Erwin lives in New York City and Reid lives in Wisconsin, so Dear skated her part as he worked on the program with Erwin. People noticed and were intrigued.

"I ended up performing the program with Kenzie in the first iteration, and then the director of ITNY really liked the piece as two men," Erwin said. "We had the opportunity to perform it in June at the Ice Theatre 'Unplugged' event. We're going to do it again with Ice Theatre in October."

"We really wanted it to just be about the connection between two people, and not necessarily matter whether it's male-female, two males, two females," Dear said. "It's just about the way we connect with people in passing and form relationships and have a really deep connection."

Erwin said the relationship between the two performers is deliberately ambiguous.

"It could be brothers, or friends, or lovers," he said. "We drew inspiration from the song: You're walking by someone on the street and they remind you of someone; you see this person and you get swept up in this memory, taken back to this moment you shared with a person, whoever they may be."

Take two

There will be a déjà vu feeling in senior dance at sectionals this season: Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton are skating together again.

Aldridge and Eaton were the 2013 U.S. junior champions. As seniors, they got the bronze medal at the 2014 Four Continents Championships and won the 2015 U.S. International Classic, but they were disappointed with most of their senior results.

Both skated with other partners during the 2015-16 season and sat last year out. Both were coaching, but neither felt ready to be done with competing. As the summer wore on, each started thinking about skating with the other, and it was Eaton who made the first call.

"Dan and I sat down three weeks ago and talked, and skated, and came to the conclusion that we needed to skate together again," Aldridge said by phone last week.

The two are training at the Detroit Skating Club (DSC) with Angelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo.

Eaton has been living in Chicago, coaching freestyle alongside Mary Beth Marley.

"I wasn't sure where my skating career was going, after none of my tryouts were promising," he said. "I loved my work, but I was kind of in a limbo. I knew that I still wanted to compete, and I knew there was only one person I was comfortable skating with, and that was Alex."

Meanwhile, Aldridge was coaching in Detroit.

"I loved coaching, but I wasn't satisfied," she said. "I wanted to skate and rebuild a strong career. It was hard to see all the other ice dancers at DSC. I felt really lost."

Aldridge and Eaton both said that skating together again feels normal and familiar. They are still pretty young for dance (she's 23, he's 25), and they plan to compete together through the 2022 Olympic season.

"After our last season together, we were both pretty upset with ourselves at nationals, and we both kind of realized that something had to change, and I don't think we knew what," Eaton said. "We made the decision (to split) without fully comprehending the repercussions of it."

"We needed to know we had tried everything to complete our careers," Aldridge said. "Neither of us was satisfied with where our careers were. We had a great career together two years ago, and we want to continue building that."

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