2013 Stars On Ice Canada (Halifax, N.S.) Review



I've been to my fair share of skating shows and competitions over the years (and been in more than a few myself, but certainly not at an elite level) and each time I've gone to watch one I've certainly never had killer seats. That all changed this year when my amazing sister, who spends her days working at rinks in British Columbia, treated my mother and I to on ice seating at Stars On Ice's Canadian debut in Halifax as a Christmas present. The seats couldn't have been more fantastic, with Joannie Rochette stepping on the matted area and back on to the ice literally right in front of us as part of the opening number's choreography, and skater after skater performing jumps, lifts and spins right in our faces basically. It was certainly a different experience altogether and from now on - on ice or not at all!

The show's first act opened with a SICKENINGLY choreographed group number to Gotye and Kimbra's "Somebody That I Used To Know", with a very eerie Alice In Wonderland type theme (that's the only way I can describe it) with skaters using umbrellas as props. The umbrella theme was carried throughout the show right until the end.

Three-time World Champion Patrick Chan's first number was set to Aloe Blacc's "I Need A Dollar", using a hat as a prop. I didn't take notes and wasn't able to live tweet as my phone battery was dwindling by the minute, but it was a well skated program with only one iffy landing and a minor issue with the hat, which he covered up nicely.

U.S. Champion Ashley Wagner followed with a slower piece set to Billy Joel's "Vienna". I adore Ashley, and although I wasn't crazy about the program, she was on point all night throughout both programs and all of the ensemble pieces, with triple flips and loops all over the place, including one particularly gorgeous triple loop she landed literally right in front of me. I wish Ashley would hire me as her music person - her skating is simply too fabulous and I can think of about 20 pieces of music she could just rock.

British Champions and Olympians Sinead and John Kerr followed with Adam Lambert's cover of "Mad World", which was just absolutely haunting. They skated this program on the U.S. tour as well and they couldn't have been any more spellbinding if they tried. And yeah, I totally have a crush on John Kerr and adore Sinead and was just drooling over their skating all night.

Always the crowd favourite, Shawn Sawyer was up next with a very creative program set to Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana", a piece of music made famous in the skating world by the iconic Paul Wylie. Shawn gave it a very different interpretation, using a costume change from a cocoon or something into a butterfly (I don't have a sweet clue about biology girl). With a gorgeous Cantiliever, his trademark spins, spirals and backflips, Shawn was every bit as charismatic, innovative and truly artistic a skater as ever. Just love him!

Now the next program featured two skaters I love as well - Joannie Rochette and Jeffrey Buttle, Olympic medallists both. The music was Dave Brubeck and Van Cilburn's "Piano Guys" and as much as I love these two, I really didn't care for this program or the music choice, although they were both very on, landing side by side jumps and really selling the program.

After the duo was 4 time World Champion and 3 time Olympian Kurt Browning, who really IS Stars On Ice. I've seen Kurt skate many, many times and his first program, set to "Kurt's Song", like his "Antares" program especially composed by The Tragically Hip. What a gorgeous, breathtaking piece of choreography. He doubled his salchow but rebounded with a series of double axels and I have to say this was one of the PRETTIEST programs I've seen Kurt do.

Next up were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the reigning World silver medallists and 2010 Olympic Champions. They skated to Rihanna's "Stay" and you could hear a pin drop. A gorgeous, emotional performance from these two. Time for a shameless plug. If you like the song "Stay", you NEED (and I mean NEED) to listen to my dear friend Megan's cover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDa_xz1m_DU. Megan's a SWEETHEART and I cannot rave about how beautiful her version is enough.

World Champion Jeffrey Buttle followed with a jazzy program to Mel Torme's "Just In Time". Jeff was really on all night and sold this program nicely. I also don't remember seeing him miss a single jump all night. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

Olympic Bronze Medallist and Canadian Champion Joannie Rochette followed immediately with her first solo program, set to Sade's "Is It A Crime?". I'm a huge Sade fan - "In Another Time" is one of my favourite songs - and she really played to the audience during this program. Joannie is absolutely GORGEOUS in person by the way and continues to grow and grow as an artist.

The first act closed with a group number featuring Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Kurt Browning, Jeffrey Buttle and Patrick Chan to "Wonder" by Naughty Boy and Emelie Sande. Another amazing piece of group choreography that I can only describe as enchanting and majestic.


After a quick good Christian cigarette and a surprise run in with a dear friend who I didn't even realize was in town, we made our way back to our killer seats for the second set... I mean act. That's the drag queen in me coming out. The second act opened with a "Come Together" medley featuring music of The Beatles, Eurythmics and A. Skillz. I'm not sure who A. Skillz is but God love them. The whole cast looked like they were having a blast. All smiles!

Shawn Sawyer followed with another amazing performance to "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes. Again with trick after trick and just so much personality on the ice, this program got a huge response from the crowd. Shawn is originally from New Brunswick so he is well known in the Maritimes, but it's not even that at all. He's just that good. Standing O.

With their only solo performance, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford followed with the Artists Against Bullying cover of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors". Being one of my mother's favourite songs, I was half afraid she was going to start bawling but she held up well and so did Meagan and Eric, who couldn't put a foot wrong as usual. Being the only true pairs performance of the evening, the crowd especially freaked over the throw, twist and lift, having not seen anything like that yet. If they don't medal in Sochi, I'm throwing a hissy. A big one.

Ashley Wagner's second program was set to The Eurythmics - "Sweet Dreams". Anyone that knows me knows I am OBSESSED with Annie Lennox and actually impersonated her for years in shows so when the music came on I was just in my happy place. Ashley was a class act as always, and really seemed to enjoy this program.

NOW.. the next two skates were in my opinion the two best skates of the night so hold on to your weave and let me rave. First was Jeffrey Buttle, who skated a mesmerizing program to "In This Shirt" by The Irrepressibles. It's that song about being "caught in a rainbow". I think it was on a YouTube video or something. I know I've heard it before somewhere and it was just like being in a trance or a Natalie Merchant "catatonic dance". Just a gorgeous program.

Following Jeffrey with another one of the evening's top skates were Sinead and John Kerr, skating to "Coronach" by The Porridge Men, which they also skated in the U.S. tour. Now, not only was this a great program jam packed full of interesting lifts, choreography and difficult footwork (and not the crappy CoP stuff) but they were performing it in Nova Scotia, which to those of you who don't know the area translates to New Scotland. I'm a proud Nova Scotian and you wouldn't believe how proud people are of our unique culture, heritage and music here. Needless to say, a standing ovation where John pulled up his kilt and flashed each section of the audience. Disappointingly, he was wearing something under it. I want my damn money back. Wait, I didn't buy these tickets. Waa!

Those programs were two tough acts to follow, but Joannie Rochette ertainly did it, skating to Caro Emerald's "That Man", another sultry (but more playful) number in a very burlesquey kind of outfit. I just love Joannie!

Following Joannie was Patrick Chan, who skated to an old Muddy Waters tune called "Mannish Boy". And I have to hand it to him, he played with the audience, turned up the heat on those blues and put on a fantastic show. Enjoyed this way more than his first number.

Next up were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir with a BRAND NEW PROGRAM... CARMEN. Gotcha! No, really, they performed their very popular "Carmen" free dance and I could just hear PJ Kwong raving about it my head. Way better live and they really adapted it well. It was a big hit with the crowd!

The final solo of the evening was "an oldie but a goodie" and I'm talking about the program, not the skater: Kurt Browning. Getting to see "Singin' In The Rain" live was an absolute treat. I first saw this program during one of Kurt's TV specials in the 90's and it was every bit as good, despite the only bad fall of the night. Kurt managed a nasty fall on his double axel that landed him on his stomach and really looked like it hurt. Like the true pro he is, he got up and continued to sell the program and earned himself a standing ovation as well.

The grand finale ensemble number was set to OneRepublic's "Marchin' On" and again was a masterfully choreographed program that ended the show on such a warm and positive note. The English major in me saw the militaryesque garb and looked at these skaters as serving up a little allegory. After all, they are marchin' on in an uncertain time in the skating world where no one quite knows what to make of the judging system, the empty seats in arenas (which fortunately was NOT AT ALL the case at this show) and the general decline of the sport's popularity in many circles. These skaters did march on and they did it with their heads high and entertained the hell out of this audience...

Being that close to the ice made a small part of me think "wow... I wish I was out there again". The last time I skated in front of an audience was in 2001, at my club's ice show. I skated to Emm Gryner's beautiful cover of "You Do Something To Me" and probably gave the best skate I ever had. I ended on a high note and put skating on the back burner in my life, always continuing to follow the sport but never seriously feeling that draw to the ice like I did here. In the last year I gave up performing as a drag queen after 10 years of that wonderful fun because it just wasn't serving me or making me happy anymore. In fact, it was making me miserable. I have to say, returning to  writing and getting more involved in the skating community by WRITING about it is the best replacement for that hole in my life I ever could have found. I'm writing about something I'm passionate about, and I genuinely, genuinely think the world of all of the amazing skaters who have tugged on my heartstrings, made me cheer, laugh or  even yell at a TV screen out of frustration when they falter in some way, or prove themselves human I should say. This show was no exception. Everyone was just fabulous.

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