SIOUX CITY - Brian Boitano and a red chair? Who knew there was a new pairs team in professional figure skating?
At the Olympic gold medalist's Skating Spectacular at the Tyson Events Center Thursday night, Boitano flung a folding chair like it was his Jamie Sale. Done to “Missing You,” the number also included plenty of spins and triple jumps, a balancing act and a whole lot of speed. The upshot? Boitano's still very much in the thick of figure skating's best even though all the jumps didn't go as planned.
The night, though, got its biggest mojo from the numbers Boitano and company did to the music of Heart. Still in fine voice, Ann and Nancy Wilson breezed through a handful of hits, squeezing in a little ice play for their latest CD. That newest release, in fact, prompted the most touching skating of the night - former world champion Yuka Sato doing some of the most graceful spins and jumps to “Red Velvet Car.” With the chilling number, Sato tapped into the heart of Heart.
Surprisingly, the show had more visual oomph than most skating events. A series of projections on the ice added much to the atmosphere and helped telegraph the skaters' punches. The costumes? They were as outré as these things get. Renee Roca's group choreography? Dazzling.
And Heart? It was hard to decide where to look - at the skaters or at the sisters. Both were difficult to ignore.
A skating show without hot shots? This one had a strong pair in Steven Cousins and Ryan Bradley. Cousins, a multiple British men's champion, and Bradley, a rising star in the United States, challenged each other with flips and jumps. They did a duet in “Even It Up,” then got their own solo turns.
Thursday's event also gave the audience a shot at seeing some of the latest skating from those still in the medal hunt. Bradley did the short program he plans to perform for the U.S. Nationals and it was full of those oh-so-necessary triple jumps. Done to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” it had all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a strong competitor.
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And John and Sinead Kerr, British ice dancing champions? They did their contest-worthy dance - “Shut Up and Let Me Go” and created magic with their Heart number, “These Dreams.” The brother-and-sister act is so synched it's like watching conjoined twins. Even more impressive: She can lift her brother. In “Shut Up,” Sinead was so good at twisting and turning John the two could do a gymnastics routine on the side. Clearly, they were the night's best.
The crowd pleasers? That had to be pairs skaters Elena Leonova and Andrei Khvalko, who did death spirals that should be outlawed, and Irina Grigorian spinning more hula hoops than you could count. That she was wearing the night's best costume (a barely-there red sequined thing) only added to the woman's impact.
Michael Weiss had a slight misstep with “Beatbox Harmonica” (a flip didn't go as planned) but he more than made up for it with some edgy skating. Later, he found his groove with “Alone,” a number that brought out his technical best and Ann Wilson's emotional core. The two deserved a standing ovation.
And Boitano? In addition to serving as the night's emcee, he also was its designated ham, working the cameras and skating so close to the edges you half thought he was going to wind up in the seats.
The night? Magical. Now when the show airs on NBC Dec. 26, watch and see if that magic translates.
Brian Boitano's Skating Spectacular warmed the heart. More important? It captured the essence of Heart.