Stars on the Ice in Toronto

I have been attending Stars on Ice shows since 2003, and I always enjoy seeing stops on both the U.S. and Canadian tours. It’s fun to see the changes made to choreography in order to accommodate different cast members, and sometimes, a few new solos will give the show a completely different feel. This was the case for me this year. After the Chicago show in March, I was happy with this year’s tour, but not blown away. After the Toronto show, however, I was heralding the 2012 show as the best in years. The show had a cohesive feel that reminded me of the old days, when the cast members had six weeks to work on choreography, instead of three days. The group numbers added to the show’s repertoire; they didn’t just fill in space between solos. Kurt Browning (pictured below) and Geoffrey Tyler did a terrific job in their first year as tour directors and I certainly hope that they get the gig next year.

Browning

The Toronto stop was at the Air Canada Centre on a Friday night, as usual. I traveled to Toronto with my best friend through thunderstorms the night before, but Friday turned out to be a lovely day. I lunched with my editor on a patio, and tried to do the same at dinner with my friends, but the patios were packed, so we had to settle for a table in the atrium of a shopping centre. There were more photographers than usual at the Toronto show, so we were packed in like sardines around the ice level. I was happy to get a spot at centre ice, but I was sandwiched between another photographer and a woman who’d paid $150 for her seat and wasn’t shy about telling me that she didn’t appreciate my camera clicking in her ear. I understand her frustration, but I was only sitting where I was told, and our chairs were locked together, so I couldn’t even do any scooching. Two weeks later, I still have a knot in my neck, but such is the life of a photographer. The knot is well worth it for the terrific shots that I got!

I have attended the Toronto stop every year since 2008, and I really love it because their lighting is always just stellar (except for the year when they didn’t have a lighting budget…) and I get great shots. I’m so excited to share some of them, along with a few thoughts about the show.

Virtue & Moir

Olympic champions Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir were, once again, among the headliners for the Canadian tour. Fresh off of winning their second World title, they brought two new programs to the tour. Their first, to “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley, was intimate and lyrical, and their second, to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (pictured above), was a glittery disco-tastic ball of energy. I was surprised by how much they got into the number, and I just loved it.

Weaver & Poje

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje earned their spot as cast members during a breakthrough season which saw them reach fourth in the world. They connected with audiences all season in both of their competitive programs, so it was no surprise to see them adapt their “Je Suis Malade” free dance (pictured above) for the tour. I have loved this program all year, and was glad to see it one more time, although the shortened version threw me off a bit. They skated to “Shake it Out” by Florence + The Machine in the first half, and although I love that song, I didn’t love their interpretation of it as much as I thought I would.

Davis & White

For the first time ever (I think!), Stars on Ice put three dance teams in the same show. Meryl Davis & Charlie White, the recent world silver medalists and world champions in 2011, were guest stars at the three tour stops in southwestern Ontario. As a dance lover, this was a terrific treat for me. It had been two years since I had photographed Meryl & Charlie, so I was thrilled to have the chance to shoot an adaptation of their “Die Fledermaus” free dance, and was sorry that they only skated once during the show.

Rochette

I felt that the show really emphasized the dance headliners this year, instead of putting all of the spotlight on the ladies, as the U.S. version of Stars on Ice has done in years past. Still, Canadian Sweetheart Joannie Rochette got her well-deserved share of the spotlight with a feature in one of the group numbers and two fantastic solos. Her first, to “Indestructible” by Robyn, was a fast-paced electronic program, and her second, to “Formidable” (pictured above), was completely charming. I had seen both programs at the Chicago stop, and I’m pretty sure that “Formidable” is one of my favourite Joannie programs in several years. Two-time Canadian champion Cynthia Phaneuf also did an excellent job. After a difficult season, I really enjoyed seeing her sparkle again.

Sawyer

Three Canadian men really helped to push the artistic boundaries of the show. Kurt Browning, already mentioned above for his direction and choreography, also skated two enjoyable programs in the show. Shawn Sawyer (pictured above) brought the flair and flexibility that he’s known for and really won the crowd over. Although he wasn’t a major title-winner in his competitive days, I am so glad that Stars on Ice has taken him on, and I hope that he will continue to be on the tour.

Buttle

While I didn’t love Jeff Buttle’s “Big Love,” I respect his effort to present two different styles. I think that he is really pushing himself to develop artistically as he pursues work in choreography. However, I did absolutely love his second program to “Both Sides Now.” The song is enough to bring tears to my eyes, and Jeff’s skating only amplified that effect. I think it instantly became one of my favourite programs that he has done.

Abbott

I found it an interesting choice to add both U.S. champions to the Canadian tour. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that both Jeremy Abbott (pictured above) and Ashley Wagner are represented by IMG. I thought that Jeremy was an excellent addition to the show, though. In the first act, he presented a simple, elegant program to “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, and my only gripe with that is that my photos would have looked so much better if he’d worn some colour! In the second act, he did his swing short program, which was a ton of fun to see live. Ashley didn’t stand out as much for me. She did a fine job, but her programs were not as memorable for me. With two Canadian ladies already in the cast that are such great performers, I wonder why she was chosen for the cast instead of having a pairs team. I can’t remember another instance where Stars on Ice toured without a pair.

Browning and Rochette  Moir

Of course, I cannot end this review without mentioning the spectacular group efforts. From comedic transitions to innovative blends of modern dance and skating, the 2012 Stars on Ice tour really used group work to make the show a memorable one. One of my favourite group pieces was “A Life Loved” (pictured, above left), the opener to the second act. The piece is built around Browning, playing an elderly man who has lost his wife, reminiscing about their life together. I had liked the number fairly well when I saw it in Chicago, but they made some changes when they subbed in the Canadian cast members, and I thought that the new ending and a few tweaks in each of the segments made the story clearer.

It seems that everyone who has seen the show is talking about the guys’ group number, “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin” (pictured, above right). The program is built around four guys (Moir, Poje, Abbott, and Buttle, in the Canadian tour), simple costuming, movement that draws from modern dance, and lighting supplied only by four one-ice lightstands, which the guys incorporate into their movements. It’s hard to describe, and is something that must be experienced live, because the lighting does not lend itself to film.

The big group numbers (Opening, Act 1 Closer, Finale) were all effective, and were so much more difficult to shoot than traditional openers and closers. I don’t often say that I wish that I could attend a show without shooting it, because I really love shooting and I feel like I’m missing shots when I don’t have a camera, but I wish that I could have seen these numbers without shooting them. I know that I missed a lot!

2012 CSOI Cast

Overall, the 2012 Investors Group Stars on Ice Presented by Lindt “Love ‘N’ Life” tour was extremely memorable, and I think that I’m going to look back at a lot of these programs as classics in the future. I’m so glad that I was able to make the trip!

I covered the show for Ice-Dance.com, so you can see many more of my photos in my gallery on IDC.

2 Comments

  1. Jack Hoyt

    I enjoyed these photos. They are sharp!

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