Sweden hasn’t contributed much to the world of figure skating until recently. However, in the last few years, Swedish figure skating has improved. Kristoffer Berntsson has done a lot for Swedish skating, the current Junior Championships bronze medalist Alexander Majorov is very promising and a lot is expected from Adrian Schultheiss and the sisters Viktoria and Joshi Helgesson.
Now Sweden has its own glamorous show “Stockholm Ice”. It is organized in cooperation with Switzerland’s company “Art on Ice”. The “Art on Ice” recently celebrated its 15th anniversary and is very successful in its homeland where every year they have a mini-tour in Zürich, Lausanne and St Moritz. The “Art on Ice” team knows how to arrange a successful show as all the locations are usually sold out, getting full attendance in venues such as Zürich’s biggest hall, the 13000 seat Hallenstadion. Last year, the director of “Art on Ice”, Oliver Höner was asked about arranging a show in Sweden. He decided that the market mentality of the people in Sweden is quite similar to Switzerland. “Sweden doesn’t have a big population but most people can afford tickets and are interested in seeing figure skating. You can attract not only figure skating fans but also people who enjoy artistic entertainment. It works in Switzerland and I think it would work in Sweden as well.
While the audience was gathering to the Ericsson Globe Arena, the organizers offered a pre-show, which featured a performance from Viktoria Helgesson, a synchronists team, with the performances adorned by airborn flames. All this created a mood of anticipation at the arena.
The show was opened by Kristoffer Berntsson and the succesful Swedish synchronists group “Team Surprise”. I’ve always enjoyed collaborational numbers, they offer variety to the show. This diversity of performers enables interesting choreography, as Berntsson and the synchronists girls gave the show a vibrant start. Berntsson’s second performance was en entertaining program to music by Bee Gees. It’s a pity that he has retired now and we won’t be seeing him at competitions. About his future he says: “Well, that is in the future and the future will tell. I want to take it easy and not only concentrate on figure skating. I just finished my studies too so there are new opportunities coming up in life.”
After this, the skaters were introduced and the show proceeded with Swedish hope Alexander Majorov. The nineteen-year-old performed to the music of Metallica wearing a black tank top and seems to be influenced by Alexei Yagudin’s style. He was very enthusiastic about performing on the same stage as Evgeni Plushenko and had eagerly practiced his triple axels and quad toes.
The next Swedish skater on ice, Adrian Schultheiss is known for his own original style. He says: “If you only do standard classical [music]… people get easily bored. You need variation. That’s what I’m trying to show.” Schultheiss has had a complicated season with a coaching change and with a crossroads on his own skating career. Right now is he working with two Swedish coaches – Johanna Dahlstrand and Maria Bergqvist. He did show his new short program to the music of Black Violin “Nuclear Warhead”. The Black Violin is band which mixes different styles and so also was Schultheiss’s program a mixture of spanish music and hip hop with some amusing moves and neat jumps.
The newly created pair Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov have fast become an audience favorite. After winning the domestic championship in Russia they are in constant media highlight and the Russian skating federation is anticipating high placements from them for the Moscow World Championships. Volosozhar and Trankov presented in Stockholm their new exhibition program to the music from video game “Super Mario”. Dressed in red, blue and yellow costumes they embodied the characters of the game with some funny moves and lifts, as they ran and fell as the figures in the game. “Super Mario” was the favorite of children in the arena, the little boy sitting near me enjoyed it greatly. Their second performance was totally the opposite of the previous one. It was a lyrical and spirited flow to the song “Amore Sei Tu”. The program was initially created for “Art on Ice”, with both their exhibition numbers choreographed by Nikolai Morozov. The pair greatly values his work and say that Morozov himself has excellent skating skills and creates very original transitions, lifts and steps.
Newly crowned European Champion Sarah Meier presented new program on Beyoncé music “Why don’t you love me?”. The seductive and sexy moves of this program opened new facets of Sarah Meier’s skating style, which is mostly lyrical and classical. Sarah Meier’s second performance was the anthem-like “Prayer”, premiering at Art on Ice. Sarah Meier has very clean lines, beautiful spirals and spins but her jumps remained modest. Meier said that her best performance was at Bern and she can never exceed it.
A good inclusion to the show were acrobate skaters. Fiona Zaldua and Dmitry Sukhanov are two high level skaters who focus on dangerous and very spectacular lifts. Their new program to the music of Depeche Mode fit well for the concept of the show. The second pair of acrobates, Ekaterina and Alexander Chesna were even more extreme. They have developed their own beautiful style where they combine intricate circus acrobatics with skating where they rise to the air and take complicated poses on white sheets.
French ice dance champions Isabelle Delobel-Olivier Schoenfelder have found a new life in professional figure skating, demonstrating some mature and cognitive skating. Their programs are often exciting dramatic spectacles, which drag the crowd into a furor. In the first half of the show they performed a number to the soundtrack of “Gladiator”, embodying the freedom-desiring couple who are bounded with a chain, they try to get rid of. Delobel and Schoenfelder’s second program consisted requisite too, opening and closing door. The program, to Alanis Morrissette’s “Uninvited” had deep psychological meaning, portraying relationship problems, departure and comeback.
In a surprise move, the Finnish skating star Laura Lepisto also participated at Stockholm Ice. Injuries have plagued her throughout the whole season so she hasn’t been able to compete but she still gave off a good performance. She skated playfully to “All That Jazz” with seductive moves and demonstrated some solid jumps.
The German pair skating champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy skated a cheerful program to “Barbie girl”. The premiere of this program was last year at Yu-Na Kim’s show “All That Skate Summer” in Korea and the experienced audience had already seen it many times around the world. In the beginning Robin Szolkowy sits as Ken in a pink inflatable armchair, accompanied by Aliona Savchenko as Barbie. The program is full dollish and sometimes hilarious moves. They also performed their innovative free program “Pink Panther”. The program was choreographed by their coach Ingo Steuer and the idea came from Aliona who was interested in playing the character of Pink Panther.
Olympic Champion Shizuka Arakawa is one of the most admired show level skaters. It is remarkable how she has maintained her jumping technique and gives off the impression that she could still enter competitions and be a medal contender. She pays great attention to the choreography of her programs and uses the best choreographers like Kenji Miyamoto, David Wilson, Shae-Lynn Bourne. Her first performance was to Queen’s famous song “Who wants to live forever”. To to this intense and anthem-like music, she gave off a very inspired perfomance, demonstrating her flawless jumps, perfect spirals and spins. The climax of the music was marked by her famous Ina Bauer and spread eagle. Shizuka Arakawa’s second performance was to a Japanese theme. The program was called “Yugao” and was one of the highlights of evening. Yugao is one of characters in a japanese famous traditional story “Genji Monogatari”. Yugao means “flower face”, with the name coming from the same word used for „moonflower“ and it’s a girl who fell in love to Genji. Arakawa, dressed in a kimono gave her best interpretation to the choreographic masterpiece by Kenji Miyamoto. The growing tension and passion hidden in this tragic love story kept all the audience spellbound until the end. After this excellent show of skill, she was showered with bouquets to a thunderous applause.
After finishing his competitive career, double world champion Stéphane Lambiel is one of the most requested pro skaters at ice shows. He was the star at “Stockholm Ice” already last year and as in the previous year he celebrated his birthday on the same day as the show. His first program to Evanescence’s music “Bring me to Life”, premiered at “Art on Ice” with a vocal performance from Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins. There the skating was accompanied by a special video on a big screen where a frozen girl was brought to life. “Bring me to Life”, choreographed by Salome Brunner and Lambiel himself, belongs to his lyrical numbers and consisted of many graceful motions, gestures, original steps and spin combinations. It was like a soft flow on the ice. Lambiel earned a big ovation at the end of his performance. The little flower girls in red dresses rushed to the stage to collect the flower bouquets and stood in queue to receive hugs and kisses from Stéphane.
After the long applause Lambiel didn’t leave the ice. A surprise had been planned for the audience. Swedish audience favorite Viktoria Helgesson was sitting on the border of the ice arena waiting and then they performed with Lambiel a little charming intermezzo. They skated with hands interlocked around each other, performed some spirals together end then a nice spin combination where Helgesson executed a layback spin and Lambiel twirled around her.
Then followed Viktoria Helgesson’s program to music from the hippie musical “Hair”. Like a real flower child, she was wearing colourful costume and demonstrated nice spins, spirals and some witty step sequences. Viktoria has said that she is very much waiting for the World Championships in Moscow, as she likes competition and adrenaline that help her skate even better.
Evgeni Plushenko’s performances were the climax of the show. Initially he planned to perform a new number to the Jewish melody „Hava Nagila“ but the premiere was delayed until the week after at the gala in Italy, Turin. Instead, Plushenko performed his last year short program “Aranjuez”. “The Tzar” of figure skating was impressive, in good shape, executed brilliant triple-triple combos and triple axels. His Aranjuez program had some standstills and impressive posing, which was enthusiastically received by the crowd. Plushenko’s second performance was “Caruso” by Dima Bilan which first premiered after his brilliant win at 2006 year Olympics. His strong jumps, beautiful balletic poses and energetic moves made the audience breathless. Plushenko got one of the largest ovations of the evening.
Then followed a fierce finale, where everyone could demonstrate their signature moves to the audience. Then, when it seemed to be over Stéphane Lambiel glided between the skaters in a glittering black costume and executed the epilogue by Donna Summer’s “Last dance” to the audience.
Article by Ia Remmel
Photos © Daniela Feldhoff