VANCOUVER, British Columbia–This has got to be my favorite night of the Winter Games—the Figure Skating Exhibition Gala. The competition is over, the medals have been doled out and the winners get to strut their stuff in fancy-free routines to music people actually like (hopefully). The top five skaters or couples in each event will skate tonight. No labored movie scores, no required elements—just unabashed skating like nature intended.
The lights are already dimmed in the Pacific Colisuem, and a blue light is shinging on the ice. So sit back, relax and enjoy the sparkles and spangles in the Olympics’ most carefree event.
4:30 pm: The lights are dim and the evening starts with a group skate (not the Olympians) skating to Olympic Fanfare. The teeniest tiniest little boy is on the ice. Super cute!
Now four skaters are skating with hockey sticks. The USA vs. Canada men’s hockey final is tomorrow. This city is going to go bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S, I tell you.
4:40 pm: Here come the skaters! And we already have a crazy costume alert! Stay tuned. I also see some pretty costumes and jeans. Yup, I’m getting really excited for the skating.
4:43 pm: First up are a pair of local junior ice dance champions: Madeline Edwards and Zhai-Kai Pang skating to Tango Innominato and Minor Swing. They’re super cute.
4:46 pm: The first Olympian is about to take the ice: Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi who won the men’s bronze medal. He’s skating to Luv Letter by DJ Okawari. There are purple lights on the ice. I kind of want to give him a crazy costume alert, but he skates so beautifully that I hardly notice what he’s wearing. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing him in years to come. He’s only 23.
4:50 pm: Jian Tong and Quing Pang of China won silver in Pairs. Tonight they’re skating to Adagio by Albinoni. I already love it–the costumes, the music, the passion. Good pairs are so lovely to watch. I just involuntarily let out a “Gorgeous,” under my breath at their throw. They look like they love this. Okay, I’m such a girl, getting misty eyed that was so beautiful. There’s something about knowing you’re watching the best in the world do what they love. Wow.
4:55 pm: Okay, here we go: Crazy Costume Alert! Miki Ando of Japan placed fifth in the ladies’ competition, but her outfit isn’t doing her any favors here. She’s skating to Requiem by Mozart. But her knee length mustard-colored skirt actually clashes with her purple bedazzled top. And with the open back, we can see her bikini tan line. Someone buy her some self-tanner to fill that in. She skates beautifully, but all the business going on with her costume is detracting from that. A lovely skate, nonetheless.
5:00 pm: Italy’s fifth place ice dance team are on the ice skating to Quel Posto che Non C’e di Negramaro. Even if the music isn’t my cup of tea, music with a vocal track tends to be so much more engaging for at least one reason: if there’s a vocal track, chances are there’s a hummable melody unlike so many of the movie scores skaters use these days. Hummable melodies, for better or worse, get into your head and get you into the performance.
5:05 pm: Canada’s Patrick Chan took fifth in the men’s event. Now he’s skating to Yesterday–a non-Beatles version. Lots of slow and serious music from these skaters so far. Not too many upbeat routines yet. I love his shirt. Nice sheen, just a hint of sparkle, gorgeous steely gray. Nicely done, Patrick.
A single baloon has floated down from somewhere. Patrick scoops it up at the end of his routine. That was lovely, Patrick.
5:09 pm: The bronze medal German pairs skaters are wearing jeans (or faux jeans at least–I don’t know how you’d really skate in jeans). Yay! I like to see skaters take advantage of the exhibtion and let loose. They’re skating to Bad Day of American Idol fame. I can see her blue eyeshadow from my seat as they skate by. And if my eyes aren’t lying, her skates have little sparkly red hearts on the heels. That’s a nice detail. They might have had a bad day, but they just had a good skate.
5:13 pm: Canada’s sweetheart, Joannie Rochette won bronze in the ladies’ competition. Tonight she’s skating to Vole by fellow Quebecer Celine Dion. The audience loves her and they are hanging on her every jump and spin. That was beautiful.
5:17 pm: Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto finished fourth in ice dancing. They’re skating to Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis. They have a prop. It’s a letter. If you haven’t already seen it, check out the Bleeding Love routine by choreographers Tabitha and Napolean on So You Think You Can Dance, featuring Chelsea and Mark. It’s one of my all-time favorite dance routines.
5:23 pm: The Russian fourth place pair is skating to Waltz Jokes with a fake bunch of flowers. It’s a cute idea, but the schtick is falling flat. Also, their costumes have absolutely nothing to do with each other. They don’t have to be matchy-matchy, but some reference to the other would be nice. Wow, they just nailed a gorgeous spin. Their music, costume and prop choice may be questionable, but their skating speaks for itself.
5:27 pm: Mao Asada won silver in the ladies’ event. She’s skating to Caprice by Paganini. I LOVE her costume–absolutely gorgeous. She just missed a jump, but you know what? It doesn’t matter on exhibition night. She can skip all the jumps if she wants. I’ll just look at her costume, which is gorgeous enough–pink and black lattice. Two thumbs up.
5:32 pm: And now the “King of the Quad,” Evgeni Plushenko, who took silver in the men’s competition, which he was none too happy about. He had some sore loser words about Evan Lysacek not doing a quad. Too bad, so sad. I thought Lysacek thoroughly deserved his win. If it was all about jumps, this would be skate jumping. But it’s not. It’s figure skating, which involves a lot more than jumps. He’s skating to Je Suis Malade by Johnny Hallyday. He’s throwing out quads left, center and right. He’s certainly good at them. He’s skating very fervently, like he has to get something off his chest. He gets a standing ovation from part of the crowd, mostly the ones waving Russian flags. He’s the first act-finale heading into the intermission.
5:58 pm: We’re back from intermission. I’m sad that Johnny Weir didn’t make the top five (he finished sixth). I really wanted to see his Lady Gaga Poker Face routine. Here it is, if like me, you missed it.
8:59 pm: There’s a tiny little girl on the ice that has to be 3 or 4 years old, she’s being replaced by ever older girls. The name of this segment is “Child to Champion.” Now the local skaters are wearing body suits the color of the Olympic rings. Methinks that is where this is leading to. Yup, and there they are, laying on the ice, being Olympic rings.
9:03 pm: And here’s Evan Lysacek to give the Olympic Champion Speech. He’s wearing a USA jacket over his tuxedo costume. I think he has this speech memorized. No teleprompter. Nice job, Evan!
9:05 pm: And now Nam Nguyen, a juniors Olympic hopeful from Canada, skating to Fever. I love his blue skates. And he knows to sell a crowd. He’s even playing to the camera! Who is this kid? He’s 11 years old and has won consecutive juvenile, pre-novie and novice national titles.
9:09 pm: You have entered The Matrix, thanks to the Russian bronze medal ice dancers. I’m guessing they’re big fans of the movie. I think I’m the last person on the planet that hasn’t seen it. And is it terrible that I have no desire to? She just did two assited front walk-overs. Nice.
9:13 pm: America’s newest sweetheart Mirai Nagasu finished fourth in the ladies’ event. She’s skating to Faith by Jordin Sparks. She’s finishing with a beautiful spin sequence. She’ll be around in the years to come.
9:17 pm: The fifth place pair from China are skating to Flying on the Wings of Song. Their costumes are beautiful. I love the swirly, lacey-look of his shirt. China placed three pairs in the top five, and watching these two it’s easy to see why. They skate with a heightened elegance.
9:21 pm: Oh, Jacques Brel. Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel is skating to Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas. Lambiel finished fourth in the men’s event. A classic music selection. Though, I can’t tell what is hanging from Lambiel’s shirt. I’m digging the faux-tuxedo pants. If I was a guy, I’d actually wear those in earnest. And Lambiel is sharing his unique talent for spinning. If this were a spinning competition, he’d win–no contest. A gorgeous routine.
9:25 pm: Now USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They won silver in ice dancing. They’re skating to David Cook’s version of Billie Jean. Their synchronization is spot on.
9:29 pm: Enter the Queen. It’s champion time. First up is Yu-Na Kim of Korea skating to Meditation from Thais. She makes a dramatic entry back-lit by a purple light. She singled her first jump but lands the second beautifully. You can see why she’s the gold medalist, World Champion and high score record holder. This is an particularly somber routine for an exhibition–instrumental music, gray costume. But I love watching even her fingers. She’s truly a ballerina on ice.
9:35 pm: The winning pair from China, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, are skating to Io Ci Saro by Andre Boccelli. They brought tears to my eyes with their gold medal performance last week. They skate like they are in love. I guess being married helps. And at 31 and 36-years-old, they are the grand veterans on the ice tonight. Wow, a brillaint throw. They are brilliant. Bravo and Brava! That may well be the last time they skate on the world stage, as they have hinted they’re going to retire and start a family.
9:41 pm: The men’s gold medalist, Evan Lysacek of Team USA is skating to Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, wearing my favorite costume of the night–a midnight blue velvet tuxedo, complete with red pocket square. He might as well be Cary Grant out there on the ice. If Cary Grant was a figuer skater, Evan Lysacek is what he’d look like. Smooth, debonaire, masculine and fun-loving at the same time. He just put a huge smile on my face. Another flawless skate from the champion. He just silenced the naysayers with that performance. I’m still smiling.
9:46 pm: Last, the gold medal ice dancers from Canada, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They’re skating to Everybody Dance Now. She’s in a tutu and he’s in a Canada Hockey jersey, doing an opposites attract sort of routine. Oh, C+C Music Factory. You bring me right back to 1990. This is the only upbeat routine of the whole night. Someone had to do it! Finally! Thank you, Canada!
9:50 pm: All that’s left is a finale. The skaters are all coming out in their groups–pairs, mens, ice dancers, ladies, and finally, the Champions–everyone of them truly deserving.
But I’m going to give best routines of the night to Pang and Tong, China’s silver medal pair, Shen and Zhao, China’s gold medal pair, and Evan Lysacek. They were flawless and they were moving. I liked Lambiel and Kim’s routines too, but I thought the Chinese pairs and Lysacek stole the night. They’re skating away to k.d.lang’s version of Hallelujah from the Opening Ceremony.
Ah, the girl in me who loves ballerinas and sparkles and tap dancing and musicals is very happy right now. Like I said, the most fun night at the Olympics.
This post first appeared in The Washington Times Communities on Feb. 27, 2010.