The dancer and the faun – highlights on the ice of Moscow

This is it: 2017 Rostelecom Cup is in the books – and we’re taking you in a colourful journey into the biggest moments of the first Grand Prix event of the Olympic season. Because apart from being important by themselves, the highlights of CoR (along with the promises, the first impressions) give a sense of how this season might develop. Less than 4 months separate us from the first Olympic figure skating events – the team pairs’ short and men’s short are scheduled on February 9, 2018 – so this is how it all started.

by Florentina Tone

It started with Nathan Chen performing a beauty of a short program in Megasport Arena in Moscow, on October 20; and it ended pretty much the same, a day later, with the American running away with the first gold medal of the Grand Prix series, defeating Yuzuru Hanyu, the World champion en titre, in what was their first encounter this season.

That’s the short version of the story.

The longer one says that Nathan has an incredible set of programs for the Olympic season – the short one, to “Nemesis” by Benjamin Clementine, choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, and the long one, to the soundtrack of the movie “Mao’s Last Dancer”, choreo. by Lori Nichol. The American surrounded himself with the talent and creativity of some of the top choreographers – and you could surely see that in his first outing of the programs, in Moscow. An explosion of energy and movement, him owning the music and the character(s) – almost a new face of Nathan, one that got massive appreciation from fans, journalists, figure skating experts altogether. In fewer words, Nathan’s short program especially has been the revelation of this year’s edition of Rostelecom Cup. There, we said it.

The longer version of the story also says that Nathan Chan is definitely a contender for the Olympic podium in PyeongChang. He has the technical abilities – his quad Lutz-triple Toe is definitely one of the best in business; not to mention his overall arsenal of jumps – but he also has the artistry, and his programs this season are really meant to show off his qualities. Relatively new on the senior stage, Nathan’s progress was fast (more like in Shoma Uno’s case), and he now proves himself a tough opponent to Yuzuru Hanyu – if we rightfully consider Yuzuru the benchmark and the main favorite to win the gold in South Korea.

Nathan Chen in Moscow – and a photo capturing the mood, the intensity of the first seconds of his short program this season

…and then everything becomes lighter, and you really get to see the ballet dancer in Nathan – he took ballet classes since he was 7.

And the free skate is also a beautiful 4:30-minute “space” where he can show off his qualities – Nathan is skating to music from the movie “Mao’s Last Dancer”.

And it is gold for Nathan Chen in Moscow – no better start of his (first) Olympic season

You cannot write Carolina Kostner off – and who would want to do that, anyway? She was mesmerizing in both her short program and the long, and won a silver medal in Megasport Arena – four years since her last Grand Prix medals (bronze in 2013 Cup of China, silver in 2013 Rostelecom Cup). And her scores in Moscow – 74.62 points for the short, 141.36 for the free, 215.98 overall – are among the highest she ever received: the overall score is actually less than a point lower than her personal best total score (216.73 points at 2014 Olympics, when she won the bronze medal).

Yet, it almost seems like a blasphemy to talk about points and scores when it comes to Carolina. Because a string of numbers can’t really – and never will – truthfully describe her style of skating.

With Carolina Kostner it’s always – and always will be – about a bouquet of emotions.

In her short program this season, the Italian is skating to “Ne me quitte pas” by Jacques Brel, as performed by Celine Dion; a musical choice surely meant to say something at this point in her career. And in Moscow, at this year’s edition of Rostelecom Cup, Carolina Kostner graced us all with a moving performance, more like a warm blanket to cover your heart with. At the end of it, face in her palms, she saw hundreds of people in the arena standing up – and then we all saw a smile, her happy smile: she skates for moments like these, Carolina Kostner – and we watch figure skating for moments like this, filling hearts, nourishing souls.

As for her free skate, it’s subtle, it’s refined, it’s beautiful – it’s Carolina’s embodiment of a faun: she’s skating to Debussy’s Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune seven years after using this piece of music for the first time in her long program.

Time has passed, Carolina has matured, she even took ballet lessons during her time away off the ice – and now we see her choosing Debussy again, for a program that resembles more a work of art, a painting, a delicate miniature, reminding everyone of the iconic gestures of the famous dancer Vaslav Nijinsky; Debussy’s piece was turned into a short ballet in 1912, choreographed and performed by Nijinsky himself – a bold, intriguing dance, more like a suite of movements, performed under the generous umbrella of the Ballets Russes, the famous dancing company conceived by the equally famous Sergei Diaghilev.

And as the company making history a hundred years ago through its modern, non-traditional, non-conservative compositions, choreography and costume-wise, Carolina Kostner makes some history of her own through the sophistication, matureness of her skating: the 30-year-old just entered the fourth Olympic season of her career, and her skating has never been more beautiful.

Plus: she has wonderful aces up her sleeve Carolina – coach Alexei Mishin, who instilled easiness, confidence in her jumps, and long time choreographer Lori Nichol, who, as always, is responsible for the content of her programs. And these are all reasons to smile…

Story to be (continuously) updated.


Carolina Kostner: “I can search for my own best version, and then that’s my gift”