Stars On Ice // Rogers Arena

May 18, 2018 - For The Permanent Rain Press.  Words by Chloe Hoy:

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Entering Rogers Arena, the energy was palpable. On a Thursday night, the crowd of all-ages was buzzing in anticipation of 2018’s installment of Investors Group Stars on Ice, which would end its tour in Vancouver. I even spotted figure skaters Elladj Baldé and Liam Firus in the audience, both of whom competed at Nationals this past January. When the lights dimmed just past 7 o’clock, the main event had begun.

I was most excited for the group numbers, having seen versions from the tour in Japan and the US online, and Team Canada (along with their friend, European champion Javier Fernández) did not disappoint. Opening with a routine to P!nk’s “Raise Your Glass,” the skaters’ infectious energy had the crowd engaged from the start – synchronized leaps in the air, hip shaking, dance moves, and smiles a plenty! It was fun, and set the stage for a night that showcased the cast’s chemistry, in solo and group skates throughout the show.

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Gabrielle (Gabby) Daleman has had her highs and lows this season, but her resilience is one to admire. Skating to Michael Bublé’s “Save the Last Dance” showed off her bubbly, sassy side complete with a cartwheel and the splits at song’s end. Her skating is strong and fast, as further demonstrated with her solo to Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” She sparkled on the ice (both in skating ability and wardrobe!) and you could tell the audience was loving each moment, having lit the dark room with cell lights for much of her performance.

The ice dancers affectionately known as #WeaPo to their fans, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje brought passion and theatrics to their pieces. “Applause” was my favourite of the two, where their intensity brought a new layer to Lady Gaga’s famous pop track. It was dramatic, but exactly what was needed along with their crisp ballroom dance elements – cue the pasodoble! The solo skater who perhaps received the most love, was Elvis Stojko. The three-time World champ and two-time Olympic medalist has a timeless quality to his skating, and did not look out of place for a skater whose last competitive season was 2001-02. A legend amongst the Canadian figure skating world, he skated to rock songs by Shinedown and Nickelback. Stojko’s jump landings were smooth and he skated with precision, utilizing the ice as a dance floor for numerous spins and tricks.

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The all-girls number was to Priscilla Ahn’s wistful “Dream,” and it was such a graceful number to witness. I particularly enjoyed watching Tessa Virtue and Weaver skate side by side, who in my opinion are two of the most expressive skaters in the sport. Later in the night, the pair skated with Poje to SYML’s “Where’s My Love,” a short but emotional piece. The next to take the ice was none other than SOI Director/Choreographer Jeffrey Buttle, who brought a youthful glow and energy to his skates. I personally loved his routine to “For Forever” (as sung by Ben Platt in Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen), which captured heart, joy, and gratitude in his movement. His choreography was top notch, with diverse numbers (most to commercial music) that showcased his skaters as characters playing to a range of emotions. The playful all-boys number to “Feel It Still” showed off their impeccable rhythm, edges, and personality.

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I am so grateful for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford’s partnership over the last eight years, and their dedication to the sport. Watching the pair compete in PyeongChang, notably their free skate, was something to treasure. Their gutsy skate to Ofenbach’s pop house cut “Be Mine” brought the arena to its feet, with their daring lifts, throws, and a death spiral. Vancouver gave the duo a rousing send-off after they announced their retirement from competition following this season. A fresh face who also completed the tour in 2016, Spain’s Fernández is a showman. The reigning bronze Olympic medalist demonstrated his style, but also technique that has helped him twice capture the World title. His routine to Pablo Alborán’s “Promise” was a nice homage to his Spanish roots, vulnerable and engaging to the large audience.

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Virtue and partner Scott Moir elicited thunderous cheers from the crowd. Praised for their versatility and chemistry, the pair discussed their opportunity to be Canada’s opening flag bearers in PyeongChang and what an honour it was for them. Their skate to Michael Jackson’s “You Rock My World” was groovy, as they channelled the late pop icon’s abstract, avant-garde style of dance. However, the real showstopper was their Moulin Rouge!“Medley.” I don’t believe there was a person in the audience who hadn’t seen the skate – you know, just the passionate free dance that helped them achieve their second Olympic gold. Their sharp movements, and subsequent transition into grace through dance was a pure joy to witness live. Their twizzles and lines exquisite, it was a breathtaking performance from the beloved pair.

Patrick Chan arrived in a Vancouver Canucks jersey and denim jeans, drawing much praise. The figure skater has made Vancouver his new home following retirement and hopes to open a skating school in the province with his girlfriend, former pairs skater Elizabeth Putnam. His number to the Barenaked Ladies’ “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” was a warm reminder of his artistry and commanding skating ability. Perhaps his signature at the close of his career, “Hallelujah” received a standing ovation. Chan’s clean, fluid form and feel for the music is a quality that I’ll miss in the seasons to come.

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Kaetlyn Osmond was introduced in a cute video clip from the cast, welcoming her to the World Champion club. Of her two skates, I liked the theatrical play to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Too Darn Hot.” Donning red gloves and suspenders, her ice coverage and speed was remarkable to watch. She had a career season, and will no doubt be one to watch on the circuit in 2018-19.

I wanted to give credit to the creative team behind Stars on Ice: choreography, technical/production, and the crew behind the scenes, who pulled off a visually stunning show. Between the cast introduction montage to the classical remix of Armin van Buuren’s “This Is What It Feels Like,” to the heartwarming video clips of Canadians answering the question, ‘Why do you love the Olympics?’ and the lights to set the mood for each skate. No details were left unnoticed, and this helped propel the memorable evening.

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There was a teasing, sensual performance by Virtue/Moir, Weaver/Poje and Duhamel/Radford to “Shape of You,” but the night closed with my favourite of the show, an ensemble skate to Dear Evan Hansen’s “You Will Be Found.” Complete with costume changes from black to white attire, the number was simply beautiful: from Daleman and Osmond’s triples, the cast’s embrace of one another at the song’s climax, and Virtue and Moir’s spotlight lift at the end. It brought a hopeful and uplifting air to the arena, and at that point, everyone in the audience was enthusiastically on their feet commending the group of athletes.

Stars on Ice was a celebration of some of the sport’s best, past and present, and to be part of an encouraging audience who laughed, smiled, and cheered (even during the minimal falls taken!) was a heartwarming feeling. I look forward to its return in 2019, and hope everyone has an opportunity to watch figure skaters demonstrate the best of art and sport during the annual tour.