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As cold as ice...

Last Friday, I actually did something fun for a change…. I say that because usually, I get to quite a few concerts and events throughout the year and, so far, this year has been concert/event free. But Friday, I had tickets to see Champions on Ice in Detroit. :D

I had a great time (because, really, if it has to do with skating, how could I have a bad time?!?) despite a bad start of being caught in some serious traffic thanks to the Tigers game. What a great idea to have two events in the same area at virtually the same time!?!? Great planning Detroit. Of course, normally I would have been freaking out that we wouldn't make it to COI on time, but, since the traffic was Tigers related, I was willing to overlook the inconvenience. It's a sure sign that I'm a lost cause when it comes to that team (and possibly just to baseball in general) since all night long I was wondering about the score of the game (I also had secret plans to stop by Comerica Park and kidnap #35 aka Justin Verlander... but, ah wait... I've said too much).

Seeing that I have no friends who actually like or follow skating, I went to see the show with Mary Anne, who's a family friend about 30+ years older than me (lucky for me she acts about 10+ years younger than me, so somehow it all balances out. Once Mary Anne mentioned she loved to watch skating I figured she'd be the perfect person to drag along with me go with to COI this year. (Just a side note to say last year I took my ex-best friend who didn't know ANY of the skaters... yup, that made a fun day for me). And as a bonus, going with Mary Anne made me feel VERY skating savvy because it turns out that she's more of one of those people who watches skating because it's pretty and knows very little about competitive skating. I felt oh so knowledgeable (which made me forget for a night that I still don't have the COP down and still to this day have trouble telling certain jumps apart LOL).

The first order of business, once we were past the traffic and trying to find the parking garage, with about 5 minutes to spare was to get some food because we were starving. Future patrons of the Joe Lewis Arena should be aware that you have to be really fond of hot dogs or hot dog shaped foods (smoked sausage, kielbasa) if you want to eat at "The Joe." My father swears they have pizza, but I never found an open pizza stand so I remain unconvinced. The concession stands were pretty swamped with people... enough that the guy who waited on me said they were busier than they usually are during hockey games. My response: "Crazy skating fans." I quickly followed that up with "I am one, so I can say that."

$7.50 (the price of one stadium frank, one bag of bbq chips and a medium cherry coke) later, we were in our lovely 3rd row seats (so close to the ice... happy, happy me) with literally 1 minute to spare... as in the voice on the PA system was announcing that the show would begin in 1 minute. Good thing the show started late or we would have missed the opening. As others have said online, the arena was maybe only a third full, but there were many more people than at last year's COI in Detroit, so the turn out wasn't as bad as some are making it out to be (plus "The Joe" is pretty big... Detroit loves their hockey).

Now let's see what I can remember about the show almost a week later (and sorry in advance for any typos):

Who I didn't see: Alissa Czisny was doing a local show in her hometown (and home of my alma matter), so she wasn't at COI over the weekend. Also, as people have mentioned at FSU, Totmianina and Marinin were suspiciously absent (although I didn't even realize that until after I'd gotten home).

Opening: Between trying to get my camera to function and trying to eat my hot dog before anything important happened, the opening is a bit of a blur. Of the solo spots in the beginning, all I really remember is Johnny's super shiny disco shirt and that Kimmie Meissner skated to "You're the One that I Want" from Grease. It was at this point that I realized that while my seats were great, and I was near the tunnel so I could snoop on the skaters before they came out, that most of the action in the group numbers took place on the other side of the ice. It might just be me, but this seems like poor planning as every time there was a group number people on my end of the ice were craning their neck to see what was happening on the other end (not to mention trying to see past to odd glowing boxes they use during the finale... but more on that later). You'd think they could split it up so part of the number took place at each end.

First up to skate was Ryan Bradley, doing his Saturday Night Fever program. I see why people like Ryan, because he has a great big smile the entire time he skates and just seems to have fun in everything he's doing. I'm still not a big fan of his skating (he's more of what I'd call a skater who muscles through a program versus skating with much flow, plus his speed on the ice seemed pretty slow) but what he lacks in form he makes up for in enthusiasm.

Next up were Castile & Okolski, who were added only for the Detroit show, which I was thrilled about. I hate saying things that sound like predictions, but I have such an urge to say I expect great things from this pair. Apart from a splat on one of their throws (which happened early in the program and pretty much right in front of me... and you could see she wasn't going to land it because she basically got no height whatsoever going into it). They did the same program as at Marshall's but either they are more impressive in person or it was better in Detroit than it was at Marshall's. They also have great chemistry!

Rudy was next and better than ever, skating to One Night Only from Dreamgirls. Also, he has the most insanely sparkly/sheer costume I've ever seen!!

Next was Dan Hollander, who was funny as usual with a superhero routine, complete with about 3 (or I think it was 3) changes of costume… including a brief time dressed as Wonder Woman. He made his back flip without any problems and certainly didn't look like a guy who had injured himself doing that trick only a few days earlier.

I'd read that Johnny came right after Dan, but while Dan was still performing I could see Denis Petukhov in the tunnel, so I knew he and Melissa must be up next. They did their program where Denis is a magician and Melissa is a doll (at least, I'm pretty sure that's what they’re supposed to be… it was the one they did at Marshalls). I read somewhere online that it didn't seem like the crowd knew who Gregory & Petukhov were, and I agree that they didn't as the applause at the beginning and end of their program was not that loud. I did my best to make up for it by screaming and clapping for them as much as possible :) I wasn't all that crazy about the program, but Melissa especially was very engaging and really tried her best to pull the audience into the performance.

Johnny's "All in Love is Fair" came after that (and, in truth, I MAY have missed the end of Gregory & Petukhov's number because I was looking for Johnny in the tunnel and watching him do some practice jumps in the dark while G&P bowed LOL). Johnny's program is a bit of a blur too only because I had one of those "Oooo, its Johnny" sort of moments (same thing happened to me at last year's COI). What I can tell you is that the program was absolutely perfect, including his jumps. So fluid, but also powerful. Also that sliding move he does is sensational. It was wonderful to see him skating with such heart and passion... he really seems to connect with that piece of music. Also, his costume is really beautiful. (On a side note, oddly enough this song just came on my ipod as I was typing. Very appropriate.)

Next was Surya Bonaly, who I've never been a big fan of so I don't have too much to say. Mary Anne, on the other hand, was VERY impressed by her… but I think that was mostly because of the back flip. She was entertaining, but it still to this day drives me nutty that she telegraphs her jumps!!!

Pang and Tong were one of the highlights of the night for me. I'm a big fan of the Chinese pairs anyway, but P&T were really just lovely to watch. Amazing lifts, a killer twist and great throws (although she went down on one right in front of me). What a treat to have them on this tour.

My least favorite part of COI is Irina Grigorian. She seems to really thrill the portion of the crowd who don't really follow skating, but I just don't get the attraction. She had not one but two programs this year... a really odd one in the first act where she rolled around like a hamster on a hamster wheel with some sort of Catwoman theme (it was very strange) and another at the beginning of the second act… her traditional hoop number. People seemed amazed by her hoop bit, but I just felt like "Bring on the next skater please" :)

Victor Petrenko was pretty boring... I hate to say that, since I like him, but honestly about half way through his cowboy number I was once again thinking, hmm who's next, let's get on with this thing. Nothing against him... it was just a rather lackluster program.

Tanith and Ben closed out the first act, with their hip-hop, Justin Timberlake program. So many people have criticized this program, but I kind of liked it. Granted, I like Tanith and Ben quite a bit so I'm biased, but it worked nicely as an exhibition number (let's just hope they really don't try for a hip-hop competitive program LOL). Their unison was MUCH better than at Marshall's and the program just looked better over all than it did at that time. That said, as much as I love Ben, I don't think he's meant for hip-hop... though it was cute to watch him try!

After Irina Grigorian's hoop number, came Fallen Angels which was out of this world. I don't think enough can be said about the beauty and artistry of this program because it really is like nothing I've ever seen. As much as I could say about the brilliance of Johnny (because, let's face it, I could go on all day about Johnny LOL), I have to say that Fallen Angels really made me appreciate Melissa and Denis. I really hope they get to do the whole tour so everyone going to COI gets a chance to see the trio live... it alone is worth the price of the ticket. Overall I think the audience seemed to like it (hard to tell with this crowd), although I still think silly things like the acrobats got more applause. For my part, I was screaming and clapping up a storm.

Shae-Lynn Bourne was next doing a tango sans partner, but with a chair. She is still nice to watch and, although she's not the first to do a program with a chair, it was interesting.

Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat came after Shae-Lynn, also with a chair (plus some other props). Their program, in which they played a magician and his assistant, was to an assortment Christina Aguilara songs. Overall, I liked this one a lot and Marina & Gwendal really know how to tell a story. The only kind of disturbing moment came about half way through as they rolled around on top of each other on the ice in some positions that looked... umm, let's say they looked less than family friendly.

Kimmie was next and skated to "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan. It was a nice, quite performance. Very sweet. Also (and someone else mentioned this on either FSU or Golden Skate) her costume has long sleeves with little pieces of flowy material on the arms and it distracted from Kimmie's sometime awkward arms. Not a bad costuming idea for her next season.

Evan skated to "I Need You Tonight" by INXS. It was a solid performance and, frankly, I'd forgotten how powerful Evan looks on the ice. He landed everything perfectly, though he didn't look like he was having fun with this program the way he did at last year's COI with his How to Pick Music program. Also, this is just a side note, but at one point during the finale Evan stopped right in front of my section (and directly in front of me) while waiting to go back into the group number and I must say he's better looking in person than on TV. I had a little girly WOW, he's cute moment (and that's saying something because I've not exactly been his biggest fan this year). LOL

Acrobatic duo came next... I don't really have much to say about them, so moving on...

Next, things moved on to the reining Olympic gold medalists. First was Shizuka Arakawa. I've seen online that some people didn't care for Shizuka's program, but I thought it was lovely. Very soft and delicate. I've grown up on music from musicals so I was pleasantly surprised to find Shizuka skating to "I Have A Love" from West Side Story. She looks so happy now that she's no longer under the pressure of competition. Also, in person, that Ina Bauer of her's made my back hurt just watching. Ouch!

Then came Plushy. I know the big talk in men's right now is the return of Plushenko next season but oh my, oh my does he have a lot of work to do before he's anywhere near competition ready. I think Plushy was one of the only skaters to pop jumps and sadly, even the jumps he managed looked VERY rough. I wasn't crazy about his program over all... it went sort of like this: I'm moody, look at me be moody... oh wait now look at me flail my arms... here's where I try a jump... didn't work out so, ok, now I'm moody again... the end. Not at all the dynamic Plushy of just a year ago.

Last of the solo's (in the coveted Kwan spot) was Sasha, who clearly has stayed in better shape than Plushy. As everyone knows from watching Marshalls, she is performing to "Hurt" and really interprets the music well. Apart from one jump that didn't quite make it (meaning I've yet to see Sasha live when she hasn't fallen), the program was wonderful. Also, her dress must be worth a small fortune... it is stunning (as is Arakawa's).

That left only the James Bond Finale, which was fun from beginning to end, although, as I mentioned earlier, much of the action took place on the other end of the ice. Also, as you can see in the video clips [for anyone who happened to stumble on this without being at the Johnny Weir Message Board, I'll posted the video links below], they have big glowing boxes that get pushed around the ice and which constantly get in the way of actually seeing what's happening. As you can tell by my videos, I'd made up my mind to try to keep my attention on Johnny through out the finale, so among the finale highlights for me were the Johnny/Evan fight, Johnny's solo spot to Goldfinger and Johnny and Rudy's throw. It was also fun to watch Tanith (who certainly didn't wear much clothing on this tour) and Evan skate together.

About the only complaint I can make, apart from not managing to get backstage passes (I'll get to meet Johnny one of these days, right????) is that I feel like COI made a mistake in not inviting Davis & White to COI in Detroit. I know they usually invite people who train in Michigan, thus the reason Castile & Okolski were there, and I was really hoping Davis & White would be invited.

- Fallen Angels - (the video is a bit shaky seeing that I was trying to use my camera and watch it live at the same time… it was gorgeous!!!)
- James Bond Finale clip 1 - pre-fight sequence entrance
- James Bond Finale clip 2 - Johnny & Evan fight sequence (most of the action during this part took place at the other end of the ice, so I didn't have the best vantage point, but you still get the idea of what it looks like)
- James Bond Finale clip 3 - Johnny skating to Goldfinger
- James Bond Finale clip 4 - Johnny & Rudy throw (Amazing!!! Also watch Johnny sort of skip happily after he landed it perfectly… So cute!!)

(Special thanks to Brigi for reposting these links to something other than Megaupload!!)