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Kim, Kwan come together for "All That Skate L.A."

Event marks Southern California homecoming for Kwan

Ice queens Michelle Kwan (left) and Yu-Na Kim hit the ice together at the Staples Center.
Ice queens Michelle Kwan (left) and Yu-Na Kim hit the ice together at the Staples Center. (Marilou Vetter)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/03/2010) - Welcome to SoCal, Yu-Na Kim, and welcome home, Michelle Kwan.

"All That Skate 2010 Los Angeles," held at Staples Center this weekend, marked returns for both ice queens, a decade apart in age but linked in showmanship and lyrical, soft-kneed grace.

Kim performed in her newly adopted city for the first time since winning her world title in 2009; Kwan hit U.S. ice again after a four-year break.

The magnificently produced show, which filled more than three quarters of the 18,000-plus seat arena Saturday night, promised the co-stars would "share the dream" with fans, and it did not disappoint.

The crowd cheered loud and long, oohed and awed at the smallest tricks and, in the second half, gave partial standing ovations more often than not.

"This is the third time I've performed with Michelle, and the first time in the U.S., so I was very nervous," a relaxed and happy Kim said backstage.

"Michelle, she has always been my idol. The "Hero" [Mariah Carey] program, it's the second time we've done it together, so it felt emotional and comfortable. I really had a lot of fun tonight."

In addition to their duet, which closed the first half, the co-stars each performed two solo numbers. Kim popped a triple jump in her first, an elegant outing to Massenet's "Meditation for Thais," but was letter-perfect in her skate to La Roux's lively track, "Bulletproof."

"I just started training [in L.A.] a few weeks ago, and this week I prepared this show," the 20-year-old, who relocated from Toronto about a month ago, said.

"I really enjoyed it -- the audience here; it was very amazing. A lot of Koreans came, and I loved that. I really had a lot of fun skating with the great champions today, so now its time to celebrate."

The South Korean phenom, who handily won Olympic gold in Vancouver in March, hasn't had much time to explore the city. No, she doesn't have a boyfriend, she told inquisitive reporters with a giggle; she spends most of her time practicing at Artesia's East-West Ice Palace, owned by Kwan and her family. When she ventures out with mom Park Mi-hee, they stick mainly to Korean restaurants. A long-awaited trip to Disneyland is still in the future.

The biggest difference between L.A. and Korea, Kim said, was that here, her daily routine draws relatively little notice.

"I get a lot of spotlight in Korea, and everybody recognizes me, so it's kind of a lot of pressure and uncomfortable sometimes," she said.

"Back home, I can feel they love my skating and shows, so I love to go to Korea, but I can't always be there. I'm sad about that in a way. But I love to skate at my new rink, with new skaters and new coaches. I wish I could go out more, but someday I will."

Kim, who parted ways with coach Brian Orser this summer, added she is still "thinking and hoping" about competing at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, but gave no word on who would be taking the reigns of her skating career.

"I will see what happens with a new coach; I can't say yet," she said with a smile.

Kim's co-star looked equally happy backstage.

"It feels great to be back especially here in L.A., with family and friends," Kwan, who performed near-flawless programs to Alicia Keys' "No One" and Sarah Bareilles' "Winter Song," said.

"After four years away from the ice, performing here in the States, having my family and friends here in L.A. and in the Staples Center -- go, Lakers! -- it was very liberating."

Kwan, 30, who usually hits the practice ice in Boston, where she attends Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, also admitted to nerves.

"I forgot what adrenaline feels like -- that surge of energy that you get before you take the ice," she said.

"It's funny; someone asked Yu-Na today what they see her doing in ten years, and she said that she would still be skating in shows and stuff. I looked at her and laughed because she will be my age then, and that's exactly what I am doing."

The five-time world champion made it clear the admiration train runs both ways.

"Watching [Kim] the past couple of years, seeing her get more and more consistent, developing more passion in her skating...I think the Olympics was an exhibit of it all," Kwan, a two-time Olympic medalist, said.

"It was a statement that 'I am here to take command,' and she really did. With all of the pressure that she had, and being able to stand up and just do it, I was just blown away."

Kim and Kwan's stellar supporting cast included two reigning Olympic champions, the ageless Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao -- who thrilled with a show version of their "Nessun Dorma" free skate -- and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who showed a version of their new Latin-infused competitive free dance.

World and Olympic medalists Stéphane Lambiel, Patrick Chan, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto and Johnny Weir brought their A-games, and creative opening and finale numbers, as well as an Act 2 opening of B Boys vs. the male skaters, brought some of the loudest cheers.

"The way we pulled it all together, the kids were wonderful to work with," David Wilson, the show's creative director, said. "I had about half the cast the same as in ["All That Skate Summer"] Korea, so they knew the opening number and the finale, so that made it a little easier in the two days we had to prepare. The B Boys number was new."

Asked if "All That Skate" was going on the road in North America, Wilson gave a definite maybe.

"I would love it to, very much so. We'll see. To see the audience react the way it did, it almost felt like we were in Korea. I said to the kids at the end of the show it felt like the entire stadium was full because of the enthusiasm."

More "All That Skate 2010 Los Angeles" Notes
Thrilled as fans were to see Kim and Kwan, the biggest ovation of the night came for Lambiel's rousing rendition of Rossini's "Wilhelm Tell Overture," which closed with his famous headless scratch spin . . . Former U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner, who opened the show with Christine Aguilara's "Ain't No Other Man," admitted she was "starstruck. I can't believe this. I feel like I've been up-and-coming for so long, and now I've arrived to wherever it is skaters go" . . . Wilson, who juggles creating competitive programs with seemingly countless tour and television commitments, said maintaining his busy career is all a matter of "picking and choosing. My amateur kids, I put all my routines together for them April through July, so I was available for this kind of project right after that. Immediately, I went to Korea to choreograph this. I've been doing follow-up with my amateur kids and then I had time to do this. It's been a dream come true for me."

2010 All That Skate Los Angeles will air SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET.