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Ambitious Athletes Light Up Stars on Ice

Photo courtesy of Stars on Ice

Photo courtesy of Stars on Ice

If you did not go see Stars on Ice this year, you missed out. It was a great show that  featured some incredible athletes. Stars on Ice dazzled with creative, beautiful and amusing performances. Jeffrey Buttle once again was on point with his remarkable choreography. It is exceptional to see figure skaters at this elite level come together and create such intricate and fascinating group numbers.

This year, Stars on Ice invited U.S. men’s Champion Nathan Chen and U.S. ladies champion, Karen Chen to join the cast for the majority of the tour. This decision to include both of the Chens (not related) was a brilliant one. Not only did Nathan and Karen add so much to the show itself, but they also gained and grew as performers by simply being a part of Stars on Ice.

I had the opportunity to speak with both Nathan and Karen prior to the show. Nathan had actually never seen Stars on Ice before, as it apparently wasn’t in his area while he was growing up. For Karen it was one of the first times that she has performed in front of a large audience outside of competition. This was great experience for both of these young skaters who will be in the spotlight as we head into the Olympic season.

Karen Chen’s Musicality Was Spot On

Karen Chen performed two different numbers. The first was “Rise” by Katy Perry and the second was “Butterfly Lovers” by Lu Si-quing, which was exceptional because she used fans as props for her performance. The one thing I noticed was that Karen was so expressive in both of her performances. It was obvious that she feels and relates to the music. She may be more of an introverted personality, but on the ice she shines brightly.

Karen confessed that finding music for the Olympic season is a bit of a daunting task, since she does have to feel such an authentic connection to her music in order to interpret it well. Chen has choreographed her own programs in the past, but has opted to use two different choreographers for her new programs this upcoming season.

Karen is relieved to be graduating from high school in the next few weeks so that she can focus on skating as she enters the Olympic year. Because Chen attends high school online, she will not get to wear a cap and gown like a regular high schooler, but then again not many high schoolers have plans to compete in the Olympic Games after they graduate.

Jeremy Abbott Creates a Work of Art

With the exception of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the rest of the cast from Stars on Ice will be vying for spots on the Olympic team this next year, though one skater is still undecided. Jeremy Abbott told me prior to the show that he has not ruled out a comeback for the Olympics in 2018. This would be Abbott’s third Olympic Games. In practice, he was executing beautiful triple axels. Jeremy informed me that he is not currently working on the quad toe, but is working on his technique for the triple toe, which he believes will translate to the quad toe. Abbott has not competed since 2015, but feels that he still has more to give to the sport. He has been spending time choreographing programs, performing in shows and visiting New York for artistic purposes.

Jeremy performed two very unique programs at Stars on Ice. Both of his performances reminded me of a piece of art. Some may find his creation strange, while others may be fascinated or moved. It was a dangerous and bold move on his part to try something so different. Jeremy could have easily performed a beautiful program that most would find relatable and enjoyable, but instead he chose to push the boundaries of his artistry. I appreciated the risk he took to bring something to the audience that wasn’t generic, but was rather unique.

Gracie Gold’s Stability Remains Unknown

I was anticipating seeing a renewed Gracie Gold at Stars on Ice since she has not competed since the U.S. Championships in January. Gold had a difficult season and did not qualify for the world team and she was not a part of the World Team Trophy. She has recently made a big change in her life and has moved out on her own and training with Marina Zueva. Maybe my expectations were too high, but Gold was not in the best shape. Gracie only performed one jump in each of her programs and it was a double toe loop in both programs. In her second performance to “Golden” Gracie fell on a spin.

I was hoping that all of these life changes would be good for Gracie, but I left wondering if they had an opposite effect on her. Karen Chen was performing triple lutz jumps in her programs and yet Gracie didn’t attempt one triple. The double toes did not seem like a fluke, they seemed planned, which makes me wonder if she’s injured. There’s not an official report of injury, I was just surprised not to see any triples from her or even a double axel. Fingers crossed, this is all part of the transition for her and she will find her footing once she is settled and had more training time in her new home.

Ice Dancers are in a League of their Own

Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White have certainly not lost their star quality. They are in great shape and performed two wonderful numbers. It is amazing to me that they can perform to “Adagio for Strings” in one performance and then turn around and skate to “Sax” by Fleu East in their next performance. Their versatility and innovation is without bounds. The two carry the show quite well and there is something about them that makes them stand out among the rest. They do not give out the “retired” vibe in their skating. Davis and White have not lost their edge and they are still bringing something quite extraordinary to the ice and to the sport as a whole.

This was the first time that Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were a part of the cast of Stars on Ice and they were a great addition. Every time I see this team skate I enjoy them more and more. They had some incredibly innovative lifts and their passion was captivating.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates skated to the “Tango” and used a chair for a prop in their first number. It was such a perfect fit for these two. Their use of this red chair and how they fed off of each other was both intense and entertaining. In their second number, Chock and Bates performed a modified version of their free dance “Under Pressure” which is just a fabulous program for them.

With three top notch dance teams as a part of the cast, I was glad to see a number where these three teams skated together. They skated to “Black Hole Sun” and it was extraordinary. We have some of the best ice dancers in the world in the U.S. and to see them perform together was definitely one of the highlights of the whole show.

Adam and Ashley: True Entertainers

When I first interviewed Ashley Wagner several years ago, she described herself as a “show pony.” Wagner is a true showman at heart and she did not disappoint in this year’s show. Ashley’s ability to engage with the audience, have a great time and make you feel like you’re having a great time with her reminds me of when Scott Hamilton performed in Stars on Ice. There is no one like Ashley and she brought the energy, charisma and excitement that made the show feel incredibly lively. 

Adam Rippon, who is a very good friend of Ashley’s, is also a star at heart. Adam is such a great entertainer. Rippon was injured and unable to compete at the U.S. Championships this last year and subsequently did not compete at the World Championships. It was clear after both of his performances during the show, that he has recovered and he is in great shape and ready for this upcoming season.

Nathan Chen is Coming into his Own

One of the many highlights of the show for me was watching Nathan Chen skate very appropriately to “Stole the Show” by Kygo. I was impressed by his ability to interpret the music so well. Maybe it was because it was the first time I have seen him skate in person, or maybe because it was not a competition, but he has more musicality than I had originally given him credit for. Chen performed a quad toe in each of his performances, but more than that he really got into his performances and put on a great show for the audience. “Just to be able to not  worry so much about the jumps and just really focus on the skating, I think it helps,” Nathan said in an interview prior to the show. Nathan may have never sat in the audience of a Stars on Ice show before, but he certainly caught the essence of the show.

Stars on Ice has been around for 31 years and the show’s ability to not only entertain, but to make you feel like you watched a piece of art moving on the ice, is astounding. The show never feels thrown together or cliche. This new generation of skaters involved in the show is breathing fresh life into Stars on Ice. Hopefully with the attention of the Olympic Games, the show will continue to gain momentum and new fans along the way, because they have no idea what they are missing.

One Comment

  1. Jens Lyon

    May 23, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    I hope Stars On Ice comes to Detroit next year.

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