This is how it all started: Muscovite stories. A photo recap

2017 Rostelecom Cup happened three months ago already – but we’re still taking you in a journey into the finest moments of the first Grand Prix event of the season. Because apart from being important by themselves, the highlights of the CoR, along with the promises, the first impressions, gave a sense of how this season would develop. And we’re not talking about any season – we’re talking about that season, preceding the Olympics. And so, looking back, we see…

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

Yuzuru Hanyu: start of his road to PyeongChang

Maia and Alex Shibutani: “We realized that we’re unique and we embraced it”

Misha Ge: “What our predecessors could do – we still have a lot to learn from them”

Mirai Nagasu: “I am impressed with myself, if that makes sense”

…and many, many more.

by Florentina Tone

Here’s a sure thing: Denis Ten wants to be on that Olympic podium again – and he’s got himself two amazing programs for this season, both choreographed by David Wilson. And if you think we put too much emphasis on the choreographers’ work, well, think again: the program can either make or break you – it has to suit you like a glove, it has to leave no one indifferent, and Denis’ programs, and their musics, already gave you the impression of a second skin. In his short, Denis is skating to uplifting Italian music, “Tu sei” by Vittorio Grigolo, while for the free the choice is “SOS d’un terrien en détresse”, performed by Kazakh singer Dimash Kudaibergen.

…and though in Moscow, in October, his big jumps were more or less absent, the overall feeling was that Denis hit the jackpot with the programs; and once the jumps are there, something that he’s perfectly capable of, he’ll be again a podium contender. Not to mention Denis’ skating has class written all over it.

Misha Ge didn’t retire after all. Thank God for that. And for the Olympic season he came back to one of his trademark programs as the short – “Ave Maria” – while in the free he chose to continue what he started last season with Liszt: he skates to another soft, lyrical piece – “Méditation” from the opera “Thaïs” by Jules Massenet. In Moscow, at Rostelecom Cup, it was a quad-less strategy for Misha, one that proved successful, considering his 4th place finish (in a men’s event that featured 10 out of 12 people landing or attempting quads).

The other one without a quad in Moscow was 18-year-old Deniss Vasiljevs – he attempted one in the free, but the quad toe was not there yet. Still, Deniss has time on his side – and, for the moment, his most precious allies, apart from coach Stéphane Lambiel, seem to be his wonderful musicality and his genuine wish to make people love figure skating even more. His programs this season are tailored to enhance this love for skating: watching him skate is a joy. For his short, Denis and Stéphane chose “Recondita Armonia” by Giacomo Puccini, while for the free there’s this beautiful mix, half calm, half energetic, of “Put the Blame on Mame”, “Anyone to Love” and “Sway”; and the last one really allows him to expose his true self – Deniss is dancing and the ladies in the arena are screaming.

To people complaining there’s no future, or present, in men’s figure skating in Russia I’d say: look again. There’s Mikhail Kolyada, and there’s Dmitri Aliev – and both of them have shown signs of greatness in Moscow, at 2017 Rostelecom Cup. Mikhail has energy, has character (especially in his Elvis Presley free skate), while Dmitri has the elegance on his side, and the quad Lutz; what he didn’t have yet in Moscow was stamina: towards the end of his routines in Megasport Arena he looked utterly exhausted – but this will come for sure; it was just the beginning of season, and Dmitri has just turned senior.

What a marvelous choice of music for his SP: Dmitri Aliev is skating to “Masquerade Waltz” by Aram Khatchaturian

…while for the free he chose a piece of music previously used by Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, “To Build A Home” by Cinematic Orchestra, to which he added musical fragments from the soundtrack of the movie „Little Miss Sunshine”.

A black and white short program, and a beautiful one, from Mikhail Kolyada, to tango and “Piano Concerto no. 23” by Mozart

And an energetic free skate, with loads of character, to music by Elvis Presley: “Steamroller Blues”, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and “Rip It Up”.

And now let me ask you – as I have asked myself throughout 2017 Rostelecom Cup: who’s this Valeriia Mikhailova, skating with such ease, such joy, such confidence on bigger stage, the ice of Megasport Arena? She opened the ladies’ event in Moscow, quite literally, and, in a matter of seconds, ran away with everyone’s attention. And how could she not to? Valeriia was radiating joy, embracing the first Grand Prix event of her career, while skating to “Run Run Run” performed by Jill Scott in the short and to an Abba medley in the free. And, let us tell you, Inna Goncharenko was one happy coach.

Kaori Sakamoto: now that’s another lady who enjoys her time on the ice, and manages to convey that to the audience as well. Kaori chose “Moonlight Sonata” for the short program, alongside with the strategy of having all jump-passes in the second part – but it’s her embodiment of Amélie, in the free, that really moves you, and sets her apart: we loved the flow, the glide, the silence and the colours; and she’s so, so convincing playing the part of beautiful, imaginative Amélie. Both of Kaori’s programs have been choreographed by Benoît Richaud – and we have to congratulate him for finding two pieces of music that embrace the Japanese skater so well.

Mariah Bell: you gotta love her energy. And the fact that she chose to keep her “Chicago” short program for the Olympic season: a proof that you have to stick with what works for you when you find the perfect “tool” to do that. And Mariah Bell, aka Roxie, is beautiful and sparkling – and the following photos do nothing but prove it. And for the free, she’s red and blue, while performing to Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” – and the audience in Megasport Arena welcomed her with open arms.

One thing you can’t deny: Elena Radionova definitely wants to stay in the big league, and so she started the season in a fighter-mood, while skating to “It Ain’t Necessarily So” by George Gershwin in the short and “Historia de un Amor” by Carlos Eleta Almarán in the free. Both programs have been choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne – and we have to say that was a great decision from Elena’s team.

Elizabet Tursynbaeva: a fragile lady skating big. But so you know, her fragility is just an appearance – there’s plenty of power, confidence in Elizabet’s presence on the ice. She takes you with her while performing, and both her programs scream intricacy, for everyone to see it. And the truth is she’s always been a wunderkid – at least from where we stand – but in the last couple of years she’s become this wonderful, mature skater, and the team behind her, at Toronto Cricket Club, has definitely something to do with that. We do hope her components will start keeping pace with Elizabet’s progress – so far we feel she’s a bit underrated.

This season, Elizabet is skating to “Carmen Fantasy” in the short – a program choreographed by Misha Ge, and one of our favorites in the ladies’ event, while for the free she’s chosen “The Prayer”, performed by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. And no better time to look at her closely – you’ll see she’s already among the best.

Words (and gestures) of encouragement at the boards from coach Brian Orser and mom Pashakan Sultanalieva

Perseverance was Mirai Nagasu’s most precious ally entering her third Olympic season. Remember: she was just a slender 16 year-old in Vancouver, finishing the event on a remarkable 4th place. She then experienced the toughest times of her career, being left outside the US Olympic team for Sochi – only to become stronger and more determined while going for her second Olympics, 2018 PyeongChang. The triple Axel is definitely part of Mirai’s strategy for this season – and she did attempt two of them in Moscow, in short and free, though both of them were deemed under-rotated. Still, you have to admire her guts while going for the most difficult jump in the ladies’ event, while also trying to remain in the character of the music: “Nocturne no. 20 in C-sharp minor” by Chopin in the short, and “Miss Saigon” (the soundtrack) by Claude-Michel Schönberg in the free.

Wakaba Higuchi has been just Wow! at 2017 Rostelecom Cup, in both the short (“Gypsy Dance” from “Don Quixote” by L. Minkus) and the free (“Skyfall” by Adele). And though she’s still so very young – the Japanese was 16 at the time of Russian GP – there’s so much maturity in her skating this season; and, apparently, so much time has passed (and wisdom has been gained) since 2014-2015 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, when Wakaba’s feet didn’t really touch the ground.

And what’s even more commendable is her boldness, her attack – she really wanted to go to the Olympics, and her programs in Moscow had this wish written all over them. And the choreographic details here and there? Glorious – and congratulations are going to both Massimo Scali and Shae-Lynn Bourne, for figuring out Wakaba’s joyful (SP) and powerful character (FS), and playing with it all along. And congratulations to Wakaba as well for giving it all, and expecting great things in return.

Evgenia Medvedeva: the queen continues to reign. This was the overall feeling in Evgenia’s short program in Moscow, to “Nocturne in C-sharp minor” by Chopin, that’s she unbeatable. But, on the other hand, you sensed something might not be just right, if you looked at her face in the end: she’d been so focused, so preoccupied during he program, and then so, so relieved – as if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. We’ll find out, a couple of weeks later, that she’d skated with painkillers in Moscow, due to an injured foot – and that right here might have also caused Evgenia’s missed double Axel at the end of her free skate, to music from the movie “Anna Karenina”.

People talked during Rostelecom Cup about how Evgenia showed she was human after all, about her unexpected mistake in a series of perfect programs – but, knowing what we know now, she definitely showed strength to carry on with her programs in spite of dealing with an injury. And injury aside – we wish her well, as we wish everyone well in the Olympic season –, her Anna Karenina free program also shows that Evgenia is a wonderful actress, and that she feels, and loves the character that she embodies.

Just that: Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier’s short dance this season is definitely among our favorites, if not, indeed, the one we like the most. There’s Bossa Nova and there’s Mambo – and there’s the energy, and Paul’s wavy sleeves – and the whole program looks so fresh, so intricate. And so they get a big Yes from us at Inside Skating for their choice of music, and overall atmosphere of the short dance. And their free dance in Moscow was so them again, with Piper and Paul skating to a mix of intriguing music, but mostly embracing Perry Mason theme from the TV series with the same name: the program was jazzy, and noir, and so much different from every other program in the ice dancing event this season. It “was” indeed – they decided to change it after all, and so the photos here will stay as a testimony of their initial innovative ideas.

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin skate to Rhumba-Samba in the short dance (and received top scores in return, to the great enthusiasm of their coaches in the Kiss and Cry), but it’s their free dance, and the sheer beauty of the movement that set them apart. And the choice of music did that as well: it’s Liszt’s “Liebestraum”, with “Love’s Dream” by Rick Wakeman, and the theme from the movie “Love Story”.

The energy of the crowd in Megasport Arena carried Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev on its wings, in both the short dance (to Rhumba and Samba) and their peculiar free dance, to “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla and “Beethoven’s Five Secrets” by The Piano Guys. And they’re good at telling stories Ekaterina and Dmitri – and that was such a promising start of the season for them.

Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov skate to a mix of Samuel Barber-Mozart-Carl Orff in the short program (a powerful routine – and what you’d expect of them in terms of unusual music choices), but it’s the long program that puts them under spotlight. Literally – Kristina and Alexei skate to joyful, colourful music from the movie “La La Land”, and we definitely like this new face of them.

Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek: they’re 100% Italian this season. Just look at their music choices, and then again at their programs: they skate to “Tu vuò fà l’americano” by Renato Carosone in the short, and to music from the movie “Amarcord”, composed by Nino Rota, in the free. And the music embraces them as if it were a second skin.

We do have a soft spot for Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau, and we’re telling you why: among other qualities of theirs, they have such a beautiful connection with the music and the programs altogether; and the overall feeling is that you’re watching a pair of dancers, with nuances, with highs and lows – and not just a collection of strong pairs elements. Their free skate, to “Where’s My Love” by SYML, is a gem – but it’s the short program, to “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, that shows this powerful, ironish look in the Olympic season, with intricate choreography to back up the story.

In Moscow, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov were not there yet in terms of jumps and throws; but there already in terms of energy and attitude – and no one can really equal Ksenia when she’s embodying a powerful character. Both their music choices this season are meant to highlight their aces up their sleeve – it’s “Tango de Besame” in the short, and “Carmen Suite” in the free, and the red, fiery Carmen will keep you glued to your chair.

Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov: so very serious in the short, and funny, offbeat in the free. Will that be the winning formula this season? We shall see – half of season has passed already, and we’re still not convinced with their music choice for the long program: “Candyman” by Christina Aguilera. But we’re definitely convinced with Rachmaninov’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” – now that’s a big, powerful Russian music that fits so well their big, powerful skating.

Evgenia Tarasova, embracing Robin Szolkowy at the end of the free skate in Moscow