Battle of the Blades: The Halloween show
It was tricks and treats, thrills and chills on Battle of the Blades the night before Halloween.
The biggest thrill was the season's first 6.0, handed to Tanith and Boyd; the biggest chill was Tessa's handstand lift.
Everybody was pushing limits Sunday, both technically and peformance-wise, with Halloween themes and costumes. And I give the skaters full credit for how well they got into character.
Here's how the night played out, with routines ranked from most to least favourite:
Boyd Devereaux and Tanith Belbin: These two were the night's highest scorers and I put them at the top of the heap for having the most skilful and cohesive skate. Boyd was a wolfman and Tanith the village maiden he was chasing in an on-ice tango. The tricks were well done, including a star lift, a cantilevered lift and a spin with Boyd holding Tanith by the waist, but it was the quality of the skating and the theatricality throughout that made the program a winner. It had guest judge Katarina Witt howling, literally. Katerina said she couldn't keep her eyes off Boyd, despite Tanith's ice-dancing skills. "I kept having this fantasy in my head ... being Little Red Riding Hood," she said suggestively. Jeremy Roenick also put the spotlight on Boyd, saying the ex-Leaf has taken over as the best skater on the show, the way winner Val Bure did last season.
Tessa Bonhomme and David Pelletier: Scorewise, this program put Tessa and David in the middle of the pack, an outcome that was not popular with the crowd at the MasterCard Centre. It could have easily earned a 6.0 for entertainment value, with Tessa and David as a pair of mummies in a haunted house. According to choreographer Renee Roca, the program included everything but the kitchen sink and she wasn't kidding. The toughest element and the biggest crowd pleaser was the handstand lift, which had Tessa balancing on David's arm with her legs straight up in the air. There was also a double shoot the duck; a hands-free spiral with Tessa hanging on to David's neck by her feet; David rolling over Tessa's back; Tessa balancing with her skate blades on the tops of David's skates; a mid-air throw and David jumping over Tessa while she lay prone on the ice. Plus, the pair brought humour to the program. Head judge Sandra Bezic commended them for the hard handstand lift, adding, "I was hoping actually that you'd never bother trying that because it scared me too." And Katarina joked that if they performed at the next Winter Olympics they wouldn't have to share a gold medal "because with your look you scare the entire field away."
Score: Katarina, 5.9; Sandra, 5.8; JR, 5.8; total, 17.5
Bryan Berard and Marie-France Dubreuil: This wasn't the smoothest or most tricks-laden skate of the night, but it had tons of personality, with Bryan and Marie-France portraying a zombie couple, "the Mr. and Mrs. Smith of the zombie world," in Marie-France's words. You could tell they were having great fun and the crowd had fun right along with them. The movements were all appropriately creepy, especially when Bryan lifted Marie-France with both hands around her throat. Katarina said they were "portraying 'Tainted Love' (the song they skated to), but your skating wasn't tainted at all." Sandra loved the fact the program had a "wildness to it and yet it was all with an undercurrent of control because there was so much thought put into it."
Score: Katarina, 5.8; Sandra, 5.8; JR, 5.8; total, 17.4
Cale Hulse and Violetta Afanasieva: The night's second highest scoring program let both Cale and Violetta showcase their acting, with Violetta as a very sexy, "naughty" nurse and Cale as a nerdy doctor she was pursuing to the tune of "Love Potion No. 9." The program was flirty and breezy, and you could tell they were having fun with it, but it had solid skating too, including a couple of big lifts and spirals. My one quibble would be that Cale spent too much time doing nothing at the beginning while Violetta showed off her moves. "Wonderful skating, great character and you portrayed it perfectly," said Katarina, who got a kiss on the cheek from Cale as part of the program. Sandra called it a breakthrough performance for Cale, whom she described as shy. "You really, really nailed it. You just opened right up and JR's right: we all were smiling."
Score: Katarina, 5.8; Sandra, 5.9; JR, 5.9; total, 17.6
Curtis Leschyshyn and Elena Berezhnaya: This is one night when I wish nobody was last on the list. For one thing, I quite enjoyed the opening of this program when an almost unrecognizable Curtis, portraying a circus ringmaster, skated alone, with Elena, as an acrobat, waiting on the sidelines. There were also some tough overhead lifts, a couple with Elena in splits and one with her standing on Curtis's shoulder, and a challenging spiral. But the marks were the lowest of the night. Sandra and Katarina both mentioned technical difficulties (I noticed a couple of wobbles coming out of tricks): Sandra called it tripping around in between tricks; Katarina said they were "not completely in control the whole time," but all the judges acknowledged the difficulty of the program.
Score: Katarina, 5.6; Sandra, 5.6; Jeremy, 5.7; total, 16.9
So that's it. It was a nice bunch of goodies for a pre-Halloween night, I thought. With only five pairs left and everybody skating at a high technical level, Monday's results are going to be interesting. Will we see familiar faces in the bottom two or will a fan favourite be in the skateoff for the first time all season? I'll be watching Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC and recapping it here.
(The photo of Tessa and David is courtesy of Insight Productions.)