Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ice Champions Live!

Ryan Bradley meeting with fans after the performance.
This event benefited the Michael Weiss Foundation and is currently in it's 8th year.  The Foundation has given out over $455,000 in scholarships to skaters to help with their training expenses.  Weiss started the Foundation as a way to give back after seeing how difficult it was for his family to meet his training expenses.  The Foundation is a family affair with his brother-in-law emceeing the show along with several family members selling programs, working the auction and setting up the meet and greet area with the skaters.

The show was kicked off by local novice skater Elise Romola, who will compete at the Challenge Skate in Salt Lake City next week.  Skating to Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen she showcased two pretty double axels and nice spins in addition to great personality on the ice.  After her performance, she received a large cheer from the hometown crowd.  She described participating at this event "amazing" and said that "it inspires you to skate with this level of talent."

Gigi and Luca Becker are the reigning U.S. Intermediate Dance Champions and hail from Bethesda, MD.  They had lovely spins and a nice straight line lift as well as lovely ease on the ice.  Two of their most impressive elements were three sets of twizzles and a change of position rotational lift.  Having attended this event as spectators the last two years, they are first time recipients of the Michael Weiss Scholarship and first time performers at this event.   They called skating in the show "an honor" and "amazing."  "It's so fun to skate with Olympic Champions.  I never thought I'd meet Richard Dornbush.  I even had a conversation with John Kerr."  

Two time U.S. Bronze Medalist Dan Hollander debuted his new Popeye program and started by mopping the ice.  He showcased an incredibly high double axel along with some inventive spins.  His sailor dance section in the middle was very entertaining, especially after he needed some spinach to get through a turbo speed section which ended with a back flip.

Rachel and Michael Parsons are the reigning U.S. Junior Pewter Medalists and train alongside the Beckers in Wheaton, MD.  They'll make their Junior Grand Prix debut in Austria this week and showcased their new hip hop and blues short dance.

One of the biggest highlights of the evening was Richard Dornbush's nerd inspired Let's Get It On/Stayin Alive program.  He landed a nice triple axel as well as a triple loop along with three double axels in a row.  He is a master showman and really got the crowd laughing along with toe pick walks and boogie arms along with the worm.  Afterward, Dornbush said that he really enjoyed the show, especially getting to be around all of his idols and have a great time in a non-competitive environment.

2008 U.S. Ladies Champion Mirai Nagasu skated a gorgeous program to "Crazy Dreams."  She floated across the ice and seemed like a dancer with great arm movements and wonderful timing with the music.  She ended her program with an impressive Biellman spin that she brought back down to a haircutter.

Ryan Bradley, the 2011 U.S. Men's Champion had the crowd screaming for his "Footloose" program with a quad and a triple axel along with a back flip.  His only fluke in the program was a fall on a spin but in typical fashion he played it off and was laughing at himself as he got back into his program.  

British ice dancer John Kerr performed solo at this event after his sister and partner Sinead had a conflict at the last minute and couldn't attend.  He mimed dancing with a partner at points in his Rat Pack inspired program and even landed an axel!

Skating to Nessun Dorma, Olympic Champion Brian Boitano landed a huge double axel and performed a spread eagle that went halfway around the rink.  His music and his skating filled the rink for an impressive performance.

Ashley Wagner, the reigning U.S. Ladies Champion showcased her new Philip Mills choreographed short program to the "Red Violin."  She landed a triple lutz, triple loop and a gorgeous double axel along with nice positions in her spin and an intricate step sequence.  She had great intensity and confidence in her program and it was a hit with the audience.

Stephen Cousins, Kimmie Meissner, The Next Ice Age and Capitol Steps also performed at this year's show.

Michael Weiss, himself a two-time Olympian, closed the evening with his daughter Annie Mae singing "Don't You Remember" by Adele.  After her impressive vocal performance, Weiss returned to the ice and showcased his signature athletic moves including a headstand, spread eagle on his heels and an x-out backflip.  For the curtain call, Weiss was joined by Hollander and Bradley for simultaneous back flips.

The Becker siblings said that the scholarship makes it "easier for [our] mom to send us to lessons."  But Dornbush reiterated that it's more than just the money that makes a difference.  "It's great to have these people behind you...After my short program at nationals [where he finished 17th], Michael made the time to talk to me and I really appreciated that."

For the older skaters, the show gives them an opportunity to inspire the next generation.  "It feels like just yesterday I was looking up," said Bradley.  "Michael Weiss came to my club show [in St. Joseph, MO] when I was nine, so it's cool to come back and do his show."  Nagasu's advice is "I wish them the best of luck and tell them to have fun.  It's all about the journey."

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