Wait for It: Stars on Ice shines brighter as show goes on, leaving you wanting more

Wait for It:  Stars on Ice shines brighter as show goes on, leaving you wanting more

The first half of Sunday’s Stars on Ice show at Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago felt like an interminable rock concert with skating as an incidental accompaniment to music blared at twice the necessary volume.

The decibels didn’t drop much in the second half.  But, despite a difficult two days of travel, the skaters amped themselves up after intermission with programs richer in choreography and polish.  Those performances thankfully dampened the music, putting the skaters at the center of the icy stage and allowing the visual to take the expected precedence over the aural.

By the penultimate star turn, with new world champion Nathan Chen doing “Nemesis,” his competitive short program this season, this was a show that clearly understood the maxim to always leave the audience wanting more.   As Stars finished with the entire cast - 13 U.S. Olympians - combining on “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen,” the two hours of entertainment had become more and more compelling.

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In the "little war" between top Russian women skaters, generation next - Alina Zagitova - wins first skirmish at Olympics

In the "little war" between top Russian women skaters, generation next - Alina Zagitova - wins first skirmish at Olympics

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - Last year, the Russian television network RT did an illuminating documentary on how coach Eteri Tutberidze trains her two enormously talented skaters, Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova, and on the relationship between the two teenagers.

At one moment in the 26-minute film, Medvedeva talked about keeping up with the burgeoning technical abilities of the many younger girls whom Tutberidze and her assistants also coach at the Crystal Rink in southwest Moscow.

"I don't want to lag behind the younger generation," Medvedeva said.

Then she laughed about the irony in her words.

"I'm 17, and I'm talking about the younger generation," she added. "Isn't that terrible?"

It is even more ironic that one skater in that generation may have arrived so soon she may take the 2018 Olympic gold medal away from Medvedeva, now 18, winner of the last two world titles.

That would be Zagitova, 15, who beat Medvedeva in a game of "Can you top this?" during the ladies short program Wednesday at the Gangneung Ice Arena.

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With time on her side, Alina Zagitova, a young woman vibrant in red, catches' judges fancy

With time on her side, Alina Zagitova, a young woman vibrant in red, catches' judges fancy

As the Olympic figure skating season moves into the national championship phase, a few more observations about the Grand Prix season and Grand Prix Final:

1.  All you Alina Zagitova detractors (that includes you, CBC) aren’t going to like this: the new Grand Prix Final winner, age 15, looks better every time I see her.

Part of it owes to the costuming and free skate program pattern that emphasize her strengths, which are jumps.

The vibrant red in the tutu-qua-dress and long gloves Zagitova wears grabs the eye, says she is portraying a ballerina and limns her movement so beautifully it is easy to forget she does no jumps in the first half of the four-minute free skate to the Russian ballet classic, “Don Quixote.”  And while I hope the rules are changed to eliminate such 100 percent back loading, who can fault her coaches for taking advantage of the point bonus that comes with those jumps?

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Takeaways: Chen, Honda set themselves apart from skating peers

Takeaways:  Chen, Honda set themselves apart from skating peers

SALT LAKE CITY - Here are six takeaways from the 2017 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, which marked the real start of the Olympic season.

1. Nathan Chen stood out last season, not only for succeeding on history-making quadruple jumps but also for accepting the risk to attempt them.

He stood out in his first competition of this Olympic season, the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, by taking some musical risk while most singles skaters are playing it safe with old warhorses like TurandotCarmenPhantom of the Opera, et al., ad nauseam.

Chen let his choreographers -- Shae-Lynn Bourne (who did his short program to the Benjamin Clementine version of "Nemesis") and Lori Nichol (who used the score from the film Mao's Last Dancer, with its powerful passage from Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, to craft his free skate) -- pick the music.

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Nathan Chen as Nureyev? It's really not a surprise

Nathan Chen as Nureyev?  It's really not a surprise

Search the internet for still pictures of ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev dancing Le Corsaire.

Then compare your findings to screenshots from the first 30 seconds of Nathan Chen skating his short program to music from that ballet.

In several instances -- especially in the time before Chen begins jumping -- the parallels between the skater and the dancer are striking. There are moments when Chen's arm carriage, known as port de bras in ballet, and the positions of his feet are virtually homage to Nureyev's performance.

That is not surprising, given that Chen and his choreographer-coach, Marina Zoueva, put together the program after spending hours looking at YouTube video of Nureyev in Le Corsaire, a mid-19th century ballet to the music of Adolphe Adam.

"We basically modeled it right after Nureyev and tried to make [it] as similar as possible," Chen said.

That Chen can reflect Nureyev seems surprising until you talk with people who taught him and danced with him during the 6 1/2 years he studied at Ballet West Academy in Salt Lake City. It surprises them that some figure skating judges apparently find it hard to recognize the artistic ability, musicality and dance skills they saw in Chen soon after he enrolled at the school as a 7-year-old.

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