Kurt Browning's Gotta SkateOctober 10, 2007
Photos from the Show
On October 10, 2007, Kurt Browning hosted his annual Gotta Skate show in Mississauga, Ontario. Showcasing a North American cast and featuring live music from Boyz II Men and The Temptations, the audience clearly pronounced the event to be a success.
After a group opening to a Temptations medley, Ryan Bradley and Boyz II Men began the first half. Browning mistakenly identified Ryan as the reigning bronze medalist from the United States. Bradley skated an energetic program to “Money” by Boyz II Men. I had not seen him skate live since 2004 Four Continents, so I noticed drastic improvements. He performed with a surprising amount of polish, while really getting into the character of the music, making him a great choice to open the show.
Evan Lysacek followed, skating to “Mercy Mercy Me,” with music provided by Boyz II Men. This program didn’t stand out as an incredible number, but I think that over the past couple of years, Lysacek’s skating has become more suited to shows. He gave an entertaining performance, was solid on his jumps, and in general, looked like a two-time world medalist.
Next came the highlight of the show for me. When I heard that Shae-Lynn Bourne and Kurt Browning were planning a duet, I had high expectations. Their program to “Proud Mary” certainly did not leave the crowd wanting more. They combined Browning’s trademark footwork and Bourne’s dramatic flow to perfection. The program featured side-by-side single axels, a variation on a death spiral, and some fantastic dance sequences. Both skaters are crowd favourites, especially at home in Canada, and bringing both to the ice at once was a fantastic move. After they finished, they embraced twice, and it was clear to see the admiration that they each have for each other. I’d love to see them join forces again in the future.
I feel like I was one of about five people who liked Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon’s “Whole Lotta Love” program from the first time they skated it at Worlds last spring, so I was excited when I saw the horrific blue and gold costumes at the far end of the ice. This program has only grown on me since then, because they now skate it with more conviction and commitment. Although I will always have a soft spot for their romantic programs, I love seeing them explore other options. This program highlights their strength, and watching it, it was strange to remember that they will not be competing this season. They’re certainly still fit for it.
Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt” provided the backdrop for Sasha Cohen’s first program, and I was quite surprised by how well she skated it. Since she has not been competing, I expected her to be sluggish and out of practice, but she was neither, combining her exceptional flexibility with plenty of emotion. This song was a great choice for her, highlighting her strengths, and she appeared to relate well to the sentiment of the music.
Kurt Browning came out next, wearing striped pants, sunglasses, a purple hat, and the most fantastic purple suede trench coat I have ever seen. After some introductory moves in the program, Joannie Rochette came out and took his coat for him, and I confess, I kind of wanted her to toss it to me. This program featured Kurt the Goofball at his finest, and was thoroughly entertaining. It’s obvious that his jumps are fading quickly, but a lack of jumps seems to only make his showmanship level increase. I’m not crazy about his new goatee, but it fit well with this program to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”
The Temptations returned to the stage for a set of programs, leading off with Joannie Rochette’s medley to “Just My Imagination” and “My Girl.” Seeing such a proficient skater perform to live music by one of the true legendary groups of the past century was a treat. Her purple costume went well with the trademark matching purple suits donned by The Temptations. Rochette’s expression made it hard to believe that she’d only just begun skating this program for this show, and her technical elements were spot on. She looks like she’s in great shape for the competitive season.
After Rochette’s solo came the obligatory number where Browning skates with the girls. The music was “How Sweet It Is,” one of my favourite songs from the 60’s. Although “How Sweet It Is” was originally by Marvin Gaye, The Temptations won a Grammy Award this year for their cover of it. Kurt began the number alone, then was joined by Rochette, followed by Cohen, then by Dubreuil and Bourne. I thought Kurt looked a little out of place skating with Rochette and Cohen, considering that he’s old enough to be their father, but that aside, the program was a cute filler.
I expected the act to end at that point, but then I realized that Jeff Buttle had yet to take the ice. Boyz II Men returned, and they sang “Tracks of My Tears” while Buttle skated. This program wasn’t much of a standout for me, besides Jeff’s really dreadful, really colourful striped shirt. However, he skated well and did not make any mistakes.
After intermission, Ryan Bradley once again began the show. This time, he skated to “Can I Get a Witness,” performed by The Temptations. I thought the song choice was odd, both as a number for Ryan, and since there were other Temptations hits not performed at the show, such as “I Can’t Get Next to You.” Ryan had a lot of fun with the number, but it felt a little long to me. Still, I couldn’t get over how well he fit in with the more seasoned performers in the show. He looked extremely comfortable throughout his solos.
The Temptations introduced their next song, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” as one of their newer songs. It was one that I didn’t recognize, but the sensual feel was perfect for Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. I thought this program was a little long as well, but the steamy performance was extremely well-done. Dubreuil and Lauzon are really becoming masters of this type of program. It makes me wonder what we will see from them on the Stars on Ice tour this year.
Shae-Lynn Bourne returned to the ice next and skated to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. She is such a wonderful performer and has continually pushed herself to explore new ways of movement, despite skating in the uncommon discipline of solo dance. The program featured another jump from her (quite possibly a salchow, although now I can’t remember), her trademark besti squat, and energetic dancing. At the end of the program, she jumped up on the stage and finished the choreography there before returning to the ice to bow.
From one Canadian champion to the next, Jeff Buttle followed Bourne with his program from last spring to “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” He wore his faux-hawk and performed with a lot of conviction, although his jumps began to fail him. He struggled with the double axel sequence at the end of the number and in retakes, had to attempt that segment twice.
Joannie Rochette also struggled with jumps in her second number to “Heartbreaker.” The program paired nicely with Buttle’s, since the music has a similar feel, and it was obvious that she was comfortable with it. However, I love Joannie’s lyrical skating and I wish that this had been showcased at some point on the program, rather than having her skate to two upbeat numbers.
“I Need You Tonight” by INXS was the music that Evan Lysacek chose for her second number. He surprised me by how well he skated to this music, really attempting to capture some of the music’s character with his choreography. He had a mistake, but it didn’t detract from the performance at all, and I’ve already forgotten what it was. I thought that this program was far stronger than his first, and was a good choice for the second act.
Boyz II Men returned to the stage for another few programs, this time, singing some of their biggest hits. “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” was the song choice for Sasha Cohen, whose performance was not quite as captivating as her first number. She skated without errors, though, and although she appeared relaxed during the number, it seemed like she wasn’t quite as connected to this music as she was to “Hurt.”
Performing a Shae-Lynn Bourne choreographic creation, Kurt Browning closed the solo portion of the show with one of the most hilarious song choices of the night – “Motown Philly.” The program had Bourne stamped all over it, and although I almost would have rather seen her skate to it, since the movement was so characteristic of her, this in no way means that Kurt skated it badly. He did a great job, and it’s nice to see him in clearly dance-influenced choreography. I always wondered what he would have looked like as an ice dancer, and I think that this number, and “Proud Mary” in the first act, gave me an idea.
“End of the Road” was an obvious song choice for the finale, and Boyz II Men repeatedly encouraged the crowd to “sing along if you know it” every time the chorus came along. Unfortunately, the only people who appeared to be belting it out were me, my friend next to me, a woman in the front row across from us, and Sasha Cohen…the entire time she was skating. At one point, Kurt saw my friend and I singing, and yelled out, “Channel your inner Motown!” Overall, it was a typical finale, with the skaters coming out in pairs, followed by some simple group choreography, and some bows. Kurt lited Sasha from a Bielmann spiral and rotated a few times with her, which was a well-performed highlight in an otherwise fairly bland finale.
Since there were two musical groups, there were two finales, so just as I thought the show was ending, The Temptations switched places with Boyz II Men and sang their final number. The cast bowed in a variety of ways and danced around the ice while they did, and it was nice that they gave both groups a chance to close the show.
Retakes were fairly short, since only Rochette, Lysacek, and Buttle had made mistakes. Kurt killed time while they changed by apologizing for introducing Ryan as the U.S. bronze medalist at the beginning of the show, and Ryan made him “redo” it, which was cute. Kurt introduced Brian Orser, explained how he broke his wrist coaching, and they advised everyone to avoid skating with your hands in your pockets. Good to know! Then the skaters came out and did their retakes, and most of the crowd stayed to cheer them on, before the lights came up and the show ended.
At the reception afterwards, I had a regression to about seventh grade and posed for a photo with Boyz II Men. I wish that I could go back in time and gloat about it to all the girls at the cool lunch table. The skaters were all fairly chatty, and we had a good time mingling with them. Joannie Rochette commented that she’d really tried to stay in Montréal all summer and just train, and we wished her the best of luck at Skate Canada. Ryan Bradley just looked excited to be there, and was extremely pleasant to talk to. He left sporting a Boston baseball cap, and it didn’t occur to me until later that I should have asked why it wasn’t a Rockies hat, since they’re also in the playoffs. One of my friends started to wish Dubreuil and Lauzon good luck this season, then corrected herself, and we had kind of an awkward pause with them, until I told them to just have fun instead. We gushed with both Shae-Lynn Bourne and Kurt Browning about their duet to each of them, and they in turn gushed about each other. It’s obvious that they have a mutual respect.
I hadn’t been to Gotta Skate since 2003, and I was glad that I’d decided to go this year. Having it on a weekday now means that it’s difficult for me to make the trip from Michigan. Thankfully, the professor for my Wednesday class had the wonderful timing to cancel class on the day of the show this year. Kurt Browning does not ever disappoint, and I’d have to say that his show is usually the strongest event on the Disson calendar each fall. This year was no exception.
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