Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Skaters debut new programs

Brown, Cain, others use Broadmoor Open to test out fresh material
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Jason Brown and Ashley Cain pose with their trophies at the Broadmoor Open. -courtesy of Ashley Cain

The new season is underway, and some of the top senior skaters have already debuted their new programs. At last week's Broadmoor Open, Ashley Cain, Mirai Nagasu, Jason Brown, Jordan Moeller and Alex Johnson each showed off two new programs.

At this point in the season, skaters are usually just trying out their new programs and getting the feel of performing them in front of the judges. They often water down the content, and sometimes the programs aren't even completely finished. It seems a bit unfair to discuss the technical content at this stage, so we're mostly going to report on the music and choreography.

Brown, who won the senior men's event, skated a fun short program to a jazzy blues-harmonica number, Little Walter's "Juke." His serious and dramatic free skate is to Maxime Rodriguez' "Tristan & Iseult."

"I've never really had a program that tells a story, and it's very theatrical and dramatic," Brown told us. "Tapping into another side of myself that I haven't ever explored before is such a challenge, but I love it."

Rohene Ward choreographed both programs, and Brown said that each is completely different from the other. He also went on to say that these pieces are a big departure from any programs he has performed in the past.

"This year, like every year, we're trying to push the limits of what I've done before and try a completely different direction," Brown said. "This year is all about that growth. Both my programs this year are two genres that I've never done before. Rohene never wants me to get comfortable in the style I'm doing but to take what I've learned in the previous style and work it into the next one."

Brown skated both programs in black practice clothes and says he has no idea what his costumes will eventually look like.

"There will be suspenders in the short program, I can tell you that!" he said.

The ladies winner, Cain, skated her Mission Impossible short program, choreographed by Scott Brown, in a spangled black unitard with gloves. She looked fierce and strong, delivering a great triple lutz-triple loop and a sit-spin-to-pancake spin position -- along with the rest of her elements -- with power and speed.

"The unitard idea was actually mine," she said. "I thought it would make the program very fierce, and very different from other people who had skated to it in a dress. It's a different look for me, but it makes me stand out quite a bit."

Cain had debuted her short program at another competition in April, so she was already ahead of the game. For her free skate, she wore a white dress for Evita, also choreographed by Brown.

"This season, I feel like I'm really exploring my skating styles," Cain said. "My short and long are very different, and I like that -- I can show people I can relate to two different types of music."

Cain said the current version of her Evita music is the 11th she and Brown have tried, and they may change it again. The program includes vocals, and starts with the announcement of Eva Perón's death before telling the story of her life. Cain will next skate both programs at Skate Milwaukee, and then at the Philadelphia Summer Championships formerly known as the as the Liberty Summer Competition.

"It's a pretty busy summer, but it's exciting," she said. "Being in pressure situations is something I need to get used to. I was very happy with the performances I put out. I feel that I showed I was very prepared early in the season. I'm hoping to go to Skate America. I got Cup of China, so I'm really excited about it."

Johnson finished in second at Broadmoor, making a welcomed return to competition after missing more than a year due to injury that culminated with ankle surgery last July that left him with nerve damage. He characterized himself at 75-80 percent recovered at the moment.

"I was fortunate enough to do some shows this spring, so I had that performance mindset," Johnson said. "I thoroughly enjoyed each moment I was out on the ice. ... Now that I've remembered what it feels like to be out in front of people again, I know what I need to work on for this upcoming season."

Catarina Lindgren choreographed Johnson's lyrical short program to Rachmaninoff's "Trio élégiaque No. 2."

"I actually had suggested this music because I had always loved it," he said. "I knew I wanted to start fresh and forget about what had happened last season. Catarina used the imagery of the surgery as the story. It's like a story of a bird with a broken wing that learns to fly again. I think it's really neat."

Johnson's coach, Tom Dickson, choreographed his emotional and powerful free skate to selections from Sweeney Todd. The music includes two vocal sections: "The Barber and His Wife" and "Johanna." Johnson says he likes tapping into a different side of his personality for the dark piece, although he wasn't convinced at first.

"I'm generally a happy person, but there's a side of me that people don't know," he said. "Not that I'm psychotic and I want to kill people and turn them into pies! I'm kind of a quirky person and I think I have more of a personality than I can sometimes let on, so this program brings that out. It's very theatrical, and the ending is disturbing. But the music is beautiful, and if I can tell a story that entices people, I'm going to do it even if it's a little crazy. Don't worry, there's no blood in my program."

Maybe not, but we're pretty sure we saw him mimepulling the lever on the Demon Barber's chair. Johnson will next compete at Skate Detroit.

Adam Rippon choreographed both of Nagasu's programs for the upcoming season. She wore practice clothes for her lyrical short, to Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." The program includes a lovely Ina Bauer transition into a double Axel and her trademark incredible spins.

She wore a pretty blue dress for the free skate to Madama Butterfly. The middle section is skated to "Un bel di," and the program ends in dramatic style with the final music of the opera, as Butterfly sacrifices herself for her son's future. With Tom Zakrajsek at the boards, Nagasu finished second overall.

Ward choreographed Moeller's free skate, to selections from Grieg's Peer Gynt, including "In the Hall of the Mountain King."

Moeller, who finished third, had to cope with an unexpected hitch when his music stopped three minutes in. The official backed up the CD and he began again, but the music stopped again at the same point.

"I thought I wouldn't be able to finish my program," Moeller said the next day. "I was like, 'Oh no, this isn't going to end well, my iPod is in the car!' I was wracking my brain for where I could find the music without leaving the building. I knew I had sent the music to Rohene, so I pulled out my phone, opened Facebook, scrolled through the messages and finally found it."

After a 10-minute delay, Moeller was able to finish the program.

"The last part of the program is so passionate and intense, I really wanted to show it," he said. "I'm not going to say the long isn't my skating style, but it's a different branch. It's much more passionate."

The program is actually an interpretation of a Game of Thrones plotline, although Moeller admits that he hasn't seen the show yet.

"My homework is to start watching it," he said. "There's a mad king, who is kind of washed up and driven to the point of almost insanity. It's kind of that turmoil of trying to regain the throne and still deal with the things that are going on inside."

Katherine Hill choreographed Moeller's short program to "Wakare no Kyoku," a version of a Chopin étude from a Japanese anime, Fullmetal Alchemist. Like the free, the short program has a dramatic storyline -- romantic, in this case.

"It's set in the early 1900s, and the storyline is there's these two people who used to be lovers, and the guy had to move away, but they found each other again," Moeller said. "And, at the end, they're like, 'Where do we go from here?' It's kind of open-ended. I like it a lot."

Moeller will next perform the programs at the Glacier Falls Summer Classic.

Mariah Bell performed a crisp, jazzy and sprightly new short program to "Little Talks," choreographed by Cindy Stuart.

Dean gets surreal with Korean team

Ice dancing legend Christopher Dean only choreographs for a few teams each season. He recently spent two weeks working with Korean dance team Yura Min and Tim Koleto on a new free dance, which they plan to debut at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City in September.

Koleto told us he wanted to work with Dean, particularly because of his work with Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

"We always loved Piper and Paul's programs," he said. "We thought they were interesting and intricate. Paso [Doble] (the 2014-15 short dance rhythm) was going to be so intense; it has a strong, aggressive character. We wanted to do the polar opposite of that for the free dance."

Dean, Koleto and Min chose music from the movie The Triplets of Belleville, along with Caravan Palace's "Suzy."

"I love it," Min said. "It's a lot different from what people usually choose. I feel like we chose really good music that fits our style; it's quirky and cute and fun."

"You can throw sophisticated in there too," Koleto added. "It's very surreal."

The team's coach, Igor Shpilband, choreographed their short dance to "Malaguena" and "Fiesta Flamenca" by Monty Kelly.

Aerial Ice Extreme

Last summer, the aerial/skating troupe Aerial Ice wowed television audiences -- and a panel of judges that consisted of Howard Stern, Heidi Kulm, Mel B and Howie Mandel -- in the quarterfinals of America's Got Talent. This summer, the group has reunited and expanded, taking the stage -- and ice, and trampolines -- 17 times a week at Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California.

Adagio pair Tosha Hanford and Chris Trefil have been performing at the park for several years. Aerialist and skater Joel Dear, one of the original six members of the troupe, has joined them for the new show, along with pair Brandee Malto and Neill Shelton and aerialist/skater Allyson Ritchie.

"The cast is brilliant. There's so much talent," Hanford said.

Unlike last year's show in which the skaters performed on plastic, this year they have a real, albeit small, sheet of ice at the park. They do skate down ramps of plastic at the sides. Hoops, silks and curtains lower from the ceiling for some numbers.

A tumble track, a sort of bouncy runway, edges the front of the stage. Two trampolines flank a high platform at the back. These apparatuses are for three acrobats: Preston Hardeman, Stephen Siebert and Ben Holden. They tumble and fly in routines of their own and as join the skaters as well. And on a small stage to the left, Elijah Cherweznik rolls on a cyr wheel.

Hanford said that one of her favorite numbers includes a "rain curtain."

"I really enjoy 'Temptation,' which has water falling -- it looks like rain coming down from the ceiling," she said. "That's beautiful. And the LED number is awesome, with hula hoops and glo-blades and a glow-in-the-dark cyr wheel. It's a modern, upbeat, awesome show."

Jill Schulz and Lisa Navarro (mother of ice dancer Kim Navarro) put the 30-minute show together, starting with the available members of last year's team and then casting the other skaters and acrobats. It runs Wednesday through Sunday of each week until Aug. 17.

"It's probably one of the more difficult shows I've been involved with," Dear said. "The energy everyone is putting out -- the pair teams, Allison and I flying -- it's an amazing amount of energy. It's great, though, because we're all having so much fun with it."

Baby #2 for Ladwig

Mark Ladwig announced today that he and his wife, Janet, are the parents of a baby boy, Felix Rye Ladwig, born July 1. They have a 4-year-old son, Holden. Congratulations!

Happy Fourth of July to all,
Sarah and Drew
Follow them on Twitter @SarahandDrew