Stéphane Lambiel’s Ice Legends: A Midspring Night’s Dream
2016 Ice Legends. Act One: Let yourself be amazed. A photo story
On paper, the program for the second act looks utterly amazing – and no other figure skating gala has ever produced something like this: Carolina Kostner’s Boléro, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov’s Masquerade: Waltz, Mao Asada’s Madame Butterfly, Stéphane Lambiel’s Poeta, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s Carmen, Daisuke Takahashi’s Historia de un Amor. Really, how much can a fan’s heart take? Well, all of the above.
The 12-year-old Noah Bodenstein opens the second part of the show, skating an energetic routine to George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm.
Noah is followed by the wonder-girl Elizaveta Nugumanova – what a talent she already is, and that’s so easily traceable in her Sing, Sing, Sing performance.
And then we arrive at one of the most emotional moments of the night: Stéphane Lambiel’s favorite skater performing in Stéphane Lambiel’s very own show. With Ilia Kulik entering the ice, a symbolic circle closes itself in front of our eyes and, for the next couple of minutes, Stéphane is one of us, one of the fans.
Ilia Kulik retired from competitive skating the season he won the Olympic gold – 18 years ago, to be precise – but what a powerful, impressive gliding he still possess; and he proves all of his skills in Geneva, while skating to Josh Groban’s Thankful.
And then the marathon of masterpieces starts – with Carolina Kostner‘s famous Boléro. As Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s Boléro, this too will remain in the history of skating: a program that suits Carolina beautifully and, above all, the program that led her to the Olympic bronze in Sochi. And I won’t even try to describe the atmosphere in Vernets ice rink while she skated. I’ll only say that: it was electrifying.
A golden program this is – to Khachaturian’s Masquerade: Waltz – and in Geneva, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov performed it as if they were, again, at the Olympics. Their waltz had everything – the spark, the musicality, the aura – and, skating to it, they were truly the embodiment of elegance.
[Stéphane Lambiel, two days before the show: „Since Sochi, Tatiana and Maxim have never skated their program to Khachaturian’s Waltz, they simply refused to redo it. Here, in Geneva, we’ll have the chance to see, for the first time after the Olympic Games, this program of theirs, which is simply incredible. And, after the show, they will give their costumes to the Olympic Museum (in Lausanne), so this will be also the last time we’ll see the program”.]
For the next couples of minutes, with Mao Asada as Cio-Cio-san, my heart is filled with gratitude. To me, Mao’s long program to music from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly has been the most emotional composition of the entire season in the ladies’ event; a jewel in itself, with choreographer Lori Nichol creating a program that puts Mao’s wonderful skills and musicality into the limelight. And seeing her skate on the ice of Vernets – a flower, a butterfly, a ray of light in the half-shade of the rink – has been one of the biggest moments of the night; for me, an incurable fan of Mao Asada.
Allow me to share a secret with you: I came to Geneva with a T-shirt featuring Stéphane Lambiel skating Poeta in my luggage. I have had it for years, a birthday present from a dearest friend, and it’s the best tribute to a program that I was so, so in love with a couple of years ago. Nine, to be exact. Because when Stéphane made a public display of this masterpiece, at the 2007 Worlds in Tokyo, the entire skating world was swept off its feet. The flamenco music by Vicente Amigo, the (literally) breathtaking choreography (Poeta has become one of the signature programs of Antonio Najarro), the details of the costume, the haunting voice of the singer… well, all of the above were a complete novelty in the men’s event. And some fell in love with the sport precisely after watching Poeta.
In the figure skating world, there are programs and… well, masterpieces. Every once in a while, there comes a program, a magnificent one, that grabs your attention and runs away with it. And though the season ends, and so it ends, presumably, the life of that routine, it continues to stay in fact in a corner of our minds – until someone decides to breathe again life into it. That’s the case with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s Carmen, my absolute favorite from everything they’ve skated in their career so far. In Geneva, Tessa and Scott’s performance had everything, but first and foremost it had intensity – you could almost cut it with a knife. And for a couple of minutes, my eyes are glued – especially to Tessa, who’s a magnetic Carmen. As she should be, as I had always imagined her to be.
The story of Daisuke Takahashi’s enthusiastic Mambo at Ice Legends started even sooner than the actual performance, with Stéphane Lambiel recreating some of the famous steps of the routine, in February; with the confirmation that Mambo would be a part of Ice Legends, as stated in the official program released two days before the show; but mostly with all the other skaters cheering and applauding Daisuke, during the long sessions of rehearsals. All the colorful hints led to this: something special was about to happen in Geneva, under the roof of Patinoire des Vernets.
And when the first music notes are heard in the arena, and the light of the projector uncovers Daisuke Takahashi – in the middle of the rink, black pants, lively, colored shirt, with a generous V-neck, as if he were indeed a ballroom dancer – the audience goes nuts. That big is the frenzy, that many people were looking forward to this particular performance, the cherry on Ice Legends’ cake.
And then there’s Daisuke Takahashi literally between temptations. The indecision: Tessa? Carolina? The blink, the blush, the game of seduction.
…and then all the cast of Ice Legends returns enthusiastically on the ice, for the Finale.
The final part of Ice Legends has (again) Daisuke Takahashi under the spotlight, since the last minutes of the show can be very well considered a tribute to his Mambo: to a Mambo Medley by Nettai Tropical Jazz Band, each and every skater in the cast recreates those famous, anthological steps. And a day later, asking Carolina Kostner what she has learned, if any, from the Ice Legends’ team, she’ll answer quickly, with a laughter: “We all learned Daisuke’s Mambo steps, and that’s very special”.
And then, one by one, the skaters do their tricks in front of a very, very loud audience.
I’ll spend the end of the show on my feet, soaking up the atmosphere, a smile to my ears – as the whole cast of Ice Legends says Thank you and Goodbye to a very loud and grateful audience. I’ve been a part of it for the last two hours, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. As the people near the ice, on my right, I too would hold those tiny, round banners with “6.0” on them. For years on end, 6.0 was the ultimate reward in figure skating – the equivalent of Nadia Comăneci perfect 10 in gymnastics – and I feel Stéphane Lambiel, the organizing team and the whole cast thoroughly deserve the mark for putting together an incredible show; one setting the standards for the years, the shows to come.
The true end of Ice Legends: Hugs and hands in the air for this hugely talented young man, former colleague turned into choreographer-producer-director-orchestrator of emotions. Stéphane Lambiel, chapeau!
…and a bonus-photo, a jewel, a surprise, to whoever followed us till the end: Mao Asada and Daisuke Takahashi, precious guests of Ice Legends, off-stage.
Still to come: an extensive interview with Carolina Kostner