If skaters choreographed their own programs
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
I’m always criticizing music choices so I decided to publish my list.
This kind YouTube user has uploaded a lot of videos from Worlds. Thanks placeabonament!
I had this fun idea to give out superlatives to the teams! I was also interested to compare my thoughts to the judges’ thoughts.
Best NHE: Team Russia 1. Judges agreed! They earned a 3 in GOE’s. Finland 1 and 2 both earned 2.29. This may have been the highlight of Russia 1’s program, for me (as it was in “Hallelujah” last season). Throughout this entire program, no note in the music was left unaccented. Every opportunity there was for choreography, as subtle as it may have been, was used. This program seemed truly complete. I also want to give an honorable mention to Team Germany’s NHE.
Best Creative Element (Cr): 3-way tie between Mexico, Japan and Russia 1. Best GOEs went to Russia 1 and Finland 1, who both received 0.73. It was so interesting to see how each team interpreted this element. It was also funny to compare freestyle ability between countries like Finland and Sweden, where skaters are trained in synchro from childhood, to Russia and USA, where freestyle is the first type of skating you learn.
Creative Element: This has been a great addition to IJS. It gives teams to showcase their freestyle skills and definitely added an element of entertainment to the LP that it may have been lacking. Right now, the only level you can get is Cr1. The rest is up to GOEs. I wonder if they will ever create levels for Cr. I sort of like it how it is now!
Best Group Lift (GL): I’ve got to give it to Sweden 1. Judges agree, they were given a 3. That lift is still unbelievable.
Highest Base Value: Finland 2 - 47.10
Highest TE score: Finland 1 - 65.74
Highest PC score: Canada 1 - 74.06 (Russia 1 in close second with 73.71) Russia 1 received the highest marks for Transition/Linking Footwork and Interpretation. Canada 1 earned the highest marks for Skating Skills and Choreography/Composition. Finland 1 won Performance/Execution.
Best Music: Sweden 1. I love Beyonce. Honorable mention to Finland 2 for “Chess.” An underrated musical!
Best Dresses: Tie between Sweden 1 and USA 1. Sweden 1’s were simple but they sparkled more than any dress I’d ever seen before. I love the cut and color of USA 1’s LP dresses. I like the back of it.
Worst Dresses (sorry, I have to): Croatia. They reminded me of tucans.
Worst Music: Tie between Canada 2 (“Tango de Lola”) and Finland 1 (“Living Proof”). I disliked the tango only because I feel that piece is used too much. As far as Finland 1, I just did not understand the whole thing. What was the story here? I felt like I was in church (or what church looks like on TV and in movies).
Best Cheering Section: Tie between Canada and Finland. USA doesn’t count because it was home ice :)
Merging Edge (Mexico): Wow. I am so looking forward to what this team brings in the years to come. Clearly these skaters are very strong individually. Once they figure out the sport a little bit more, they’re going to be really competitive. This was definitely the most heartwarming and inspiring skate. I heard a rumor that over half of the skaters have a clean double axel…
Team Berlin 1 (Germany): I really like this team in general. I feel bad that they always seem to be stuck around the Top 10 area and I feel like they definitely have the potential to break though and consistently be in the Top 10. I liked their music and choreography a lot. They need to be altogether cleaner and less sloppy, but I think they have all the makings of a top team. I hope to see good things from them in the future and I hope they move up.
Paradise (Russia 1): These girls are athletes. There is no other way to put it. They are strong and flexible but they also have grace and artistry. My favorite thing about them is probably, like I said before, that they use every opportunity for choreography. I also love that they do everything to the maximum. Their 135s are 180 - instead of doing what is asked of them, they do the maximum. I was really hoping for them to earn a place on the podium but at least they got a medal for the short program.
Team Surprise (Sweden 1): I love this team because they are always innovative. In my opinion, they are the most creative team in the world right now. I love that they strive to be different. It really shows and honestly, IJS owes many of its rules to Team Surprise. Imagine if every team tried to be as innovative as Team Surprise…
Playing it safe/Innovation: I hate to say it, but I felt so many teams were playing it safe this season. Canada 1, for example. Beautiful skating, nobody can deny that. But where was the risk? They did only what was asked of them, nothing more, and as as result they had neat shapes and clean step sequences. Sure, that’s one way to get good marks. There are different types of “WOW.” On one end we have Nexxice, who cause you to say “WOW” because of their smoothness and softness. On the other end we have Team Surprise, who make you say “WOW” because they are so creative and take big risks. My personal preference is to watch a Team Surprise-style “WOW” program.
Ages: While I was watching Russia 1 I noticed that it seemed like the average age of the skaters was probably 24. I could be completely off, but they just seemed like such seasoned athletes. USA 1 and 2 probably have average ages of 19 or 20. Obviously there is nothing that USA 2 can do about this, because they’re a college team. USA 1 offers (offered? not sure if they still do this) a stipend for skaters if they move from out of town and go to college in the Boston area to skate for Haydenettes. While this was a very successful effort to get skaters from other parts of the country, it also means they’re getting more skaters who are college-aged. I think the Haydenettes should try to do something that attracts older skaters. Sure, the Haydenettes have a mature skating style, but I see such a huge difference in athleticism between them and Paradise.
This was a really exciting weekend. This sport is making so much progress! Tell me your thoughts! To whom would you give these superlatives? What was your favorite part of the weekend?
I wasn’t taking notes so I’m going to do this off the top of my head. First of all, this event has been really well run so far, in my opinion. Everything seemed to have stayed on schedule today. I’m impressed! I also loved that the arena was almost completely filled tonight!
This was a really exciting event. I was especially impressed by all of the creative choreography.
Team Mexico was so inspiring. From what I understand this is their first competition…ever? This is so cool. I love witnessing the growth of this sport. Mexico held their own and beat some promising teams! They must be happy. Team Japan's dresses were really cute and I thought their music choice was interesting. Team Australia was good! I like their music choice and the rest of the crowd did, too. I became curious as to what background their coaches have, seeing as Australia isn’t a country with a huge synchro community. Is he a transplant from another country? Just curious. Nice lavender dresses, too. I have to apologize to Team France for doing the world’s most dramatic eye roll at the sound of their music (“Big Spender”). Can we start putting bans on certain songs? I’m looking at you, too, Canada 2, don’t think you can get away clean with “Diamonds” from Moulin Rouge. I’m also guilty of an eye roll at Croatia's music. “I Believe” by Il Divo feat. Celine Dion. I love me some Celine, but the song is a waltz and their crossovers were VERY slow, and when they weren't doing crossovers they weren't skating to the music at all. What's the point of having music if you're not going to skate to it?
Team Italy were great, and better than I remember them being in the past. Sweden 2 were thoroughly entertaining. I thought their official practice was a little better than in competition. One comment is that I felt they didn’t have enough visible facial expressions. Their theme was Zombie, so maybe they did have “zombie” expression (if there is such a thing), but it just didn’t read up to where I was sitting. If I’m remembering correctly, they were the team who did their MF spirals coming from two different sides, passing through each other. Genius! Why doesn’t everyone do that? It reminded me of the old days of synchro. USA 2 was great in both practice and competition. Nice and clean. Russia 2's music was cool and I liked their gloves. All of the choreography accentuated their fingers. The fingers are definitely one of the more overlooked aspects of synchro choreography, probably because we're always connected.
Team Germany's program was so fun. I love their official practice dresses and I thought the competition dresses were fitting for the music. The music was so fun and, of course, I loved the dance break. The girl in front of the pyramid was workin' it. Their male skater was also great. Canada 1's music took me a little while to get used to, but it grew on me. Great skating, as usual. I liked the relaxed feel they were going for. Their skating is just so effortless that I seems like they don't get tired! It's as if they're putting as much effort into skating as they do into walking. It looks like it comes so naturally to each skater. Sweden 1 had a better official practice than competition. I liked their music and they were innovative as usual. For those who didn’t see, their spirals were four lines of four, but in each line two girls were forwards and two girls were backwards. It didn’t look incredible or breathtaking but it was really cool to see. Nobody else did that! Russia 1 were great. Of course, if I had my way they would just repeat last season’s short program. Beautiful, understated music and clean skating. Finland 2 were fun to watch. The dresses definitely helped transform the program from practice to competition, at least for me. I liked the color of their dresses. USA 1 had a great skate. I worried this season that they lost their grace in this short program - the theme is “Addicted to Thrill” and the entire thing is GO GO PUSH POWER FAST GO, so much so that in the past I’ve felt they forget their grace and let their skating get a little too wild. Their performance was ideal - clean, fast, connections made, no feet down. Finland 1 was great in official practice. It was actually the one short program that stood out to me and said this could win. I’m not sure what happened in the competition performance, besides the fall. Regardless, this is a great program and I really enjoyed watching it.
This has been such an unexpected season. The playing field is unusually even. I’m sure a lot of these teams haven’t been sure what to expect in this competition, or what goals they should aim for. A gold? A medal at all? Top 5? The top teams are so similar in ability that it’s really anyone’s game. I like that the scores are evenly spread, and there’s plenty of realistic opportunity for teams to bring themselves up in the standings.
I’m going to take better notes tomorrow. I can’t wait to see every team’s creative element. What were your thoughts? What are you looking forward to in the LP?
Here are my thoughts on the last flight of junior long. It only took me a week - thanks, midterms!
Before I talk about the teams, I just have to make a comment about the IceNetwork videos. Every time a team did their no hold block, they showed it from the short side of the ice, without fail. That is THE worst angle to watch those from. I basically disregarded all of the no holds because I knew it wasn’t the view that the GOEs were based on. Now, on to the skating.
Braemar: This team’s formula is that they’re simple, clean and they get things called. That being said, I don’t get the hype. I can’t deny that they have great skating skills but I didn’t really feel a “moment” in their program (so technical, right?). The program was technically well executed, but I’m not dying to re-watch it. I also like it when teams have a signature skating style - Miami, Hayden, Synchroettes and Jazz, for example. I wish Braemar and Skyliners had more of a unique style. In their warm-up block, I want to be able to say, “This is Braemar.” or “This is Skyliners.” I think it would give them that extra…something. Just a thought.
Skyliners: First off, I was thrown by their warm-up block. Why were they moving so quickly (here, I mean how they were physically moving their legs, not how fast the block was going)? Warm-up blocks are the time to sink into the ice, get into your knees and stretch out your extensions. There is no rush! I hate to say it, but I thought this program was a little messy, however it could have been due to bad camera angles. I also felt that they transitioned a little early at times, and that some shapes began to dissolve before the element was fully executed. Of course, I have to address this team’s music for both programs. Their coach is definitely NOT afraid of anything with a 3/4 or 6/8 time. I just wish he had a better solution for figuring out timing than choreographing those uneven crossovers. I understand that they add variety to the regular old one-two one-two rhythm, but I just think it looks really unattractive and they could stand to gain a lot of extra power if they had more time for an initial push, before the undercut. It’s there for a reason! Use it! As far as their long program music, I thought the singing was a little distracting and I prefer the Haydenettes’ West Side Story music choices over these.
Hockettes: The only thing I really have to say about Hockettes is that they looked like they had so much fun. It looked like they loved their music and that got me engaged even more.
Lexettes: Last year at Nationals I said that I really hoped Lexettes would get something other than third place this year, but my hope did not come true. At least they have Junior Worlds (where they skated beautifully)! I definitely agree with the scoring of the top three teams. In this competition, Braemar had the superior skate. It frustrates me to see skaters drop their feet on turns and let things go, especially on great teams like Lexettes. Unfortunately, you never know when you might have a freak accident and mess up on something you have always done perfectly. Overall this was a good skate. I knew they were capable of better, and they definitely showed that at Jr. Worlds (take a look at the videos if you haven’t already…but I’ll do a separate post on Jr. Worlds).
Other things I noticed: I seems like teams need to spend more time working on their fundamental shapes. The importance of the no-hold line-ups is so underrated. Every skater knows that they are supposed to be lined up in every direction, but I feel that most skaters could do a better job of working together and being observant of their surroundings. Some Finnish teams do a really great job of this and it really stands out to both spectators and judges. We must not forget the fundamental building blocks!
I can’t wait for next season. Here’s to clean programs and creative music choices!