Hey sports fans!! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am a self admitted “rink rat” so a lot of this blog will be about figure skating and hockey, however as an ex-figure skater, ex-varsity athlete and a sports fan in general, I usually have thoughts and opinions about alot of different sports I follow, so visit often!
I have been to many ice shows, both in the distant past and some more recently. Most of the ones I have attended have been in North America, but I was lucky enough to also go and see Fantasy on Ice once in Japan as well. All of them were good. Good, in the sense that the great list of skaters on the roster all came out and skated wonderfully, and there was a regular opening and closing number that included the entire cast. Ice shows are a pretty standard show all around, and for me, getting a bit boring.
I prefer watching the competitive skating events more than ice shows because I am a very competitive person by nature. I like watching skaters putting out their best efforts, seeing their highest degrees of technical difficulties and the drama that sometimes accompanies a competition. It’s exciting! While I may not always agree with the judges, I also like the Kiss and Cry moments while waiting patiently for marks to be announced. Ice shows on the other hand are a no pressure, more entertainment based event, but the program/recipe has not changed as far as I have been watching skating.
Fast forward to Continue…..With Wings (CWW). A show imagined by Yuzu, designed by Yuzu, and produced by Yuzu. In all fairness, this show was going to be fabulous even if Yuzu just stuck to the same old menu of an ice show, but this is Yuzu, and he never does anything half way. Yuzu’s attention to detail is the stuff of legends, but he also brought it to this show. He really put a lot of thought and TLC into this show!!
With the competitive men’s event, Yuzu has transformed the sport over the years, taking it to new heights both technically and artistically. Now, given the opportunity to take figure skating one step further, Yuzu has now transformed the production of an ice show. Yuzu planned an event that fans will be talking about for years. He wanted to make it different, and special. It was no longer just 2 halves with a nice opening and closing number that involved all skaters. Without making the show into an Ice Capades, or a Carnival type show, Yuzu told a story, his story.
While CWW was a celebration of all of the people that helped shape Yuzu into the athlete he is today, Yuzu took what could have been an regular ice show program and added some wonderful segments that truly brought the show to life!! It was simple, yet so impactful. He inserted a new element of creativity to it, and while he has an advantage of being the show’s highlight itself, Yuzu didn’t rest on his laurels. I’m not saying that the additional individual segments have never been done before, however, the way Yuzu put the entire show together told his personal story in a way I have not seen before.
Yuzu has a firm understanding of what fans want from him. Initially, it was reported that Yuzu was not going to skate during CWW due to his on-going injury recuperation. Despite the potential of Yuzu not even skating in the show at all, and just being there to perform interviews with skaters, the shows still sold out immediately.
Yuzu surprised everyone by actually putting on his skates and performing moments from his iconic programs (minus the jumps). During the three CWW shows, Yuzu provided insight into his private thoughts and emotions. His live interaction with the audience was genuine and heart felt. His command over an audience is truly something to behold. I haven’t seen anything like it.
There were so many new and interesting special show segments that Yuzu added to CWW such as:
Yuzu added a sideline Q&A session with some cute kids who were aspiring to become skaters. He also answered some questions from fans that were posted on Twitter.
Before each program he skated, Yuzu gave insight and commentary into his past programs and why each program was an integral part of his career. Having a skater talk about their program(s) before/after they have skated it, is a really cool concept. I think that more skaters should do this. Fans are invested in their favourites and as a fan, I love this added element of insight. At one point, Yuzu even had an impromtu Q&A with the audience about himself!
Yuzu added a fun, “technical” session with Takahito Mura and Minoru Sano (Japan’s first ever World medalist who hadn’t skated in 22 years but went out and skated for Yuzu). Yuzu asked Mura, who was a great sport for doing this, to demo some of his signature moves. I think it helped people realize how hard some of the things that Yuzu does, are.
Due to overwhelming demand, CWW was also live streamed into 66 theatres nationwide in Japan. This idea definitely would not work in North America, but then again, the shows like Stars on Ice (in North America) don’t even have much of an international flavour over here, so that alone is one of the issues with ice shows where I live.
Yuzu didn’t let geography or scheduling conflicts get in his way of having Javi participate in his show. Name one show that has had a top rated skater perform live from half way around the world (in Spain) and be broadcast into the arena, complete with small interview at the end of the skate? A special mention to Yuzu’s ability to have 9,000 people simultaneously sing Happy Birthday to Javi as well. Did I mention Yuzu’s special command of an audience?
Yuzu’s one on one interviews with the guest skaters and choreographers was a special touch. Of course, Jeff and Shae-Lyne are revered in Japan, and it is wonderful that they both skated as well.
Not one show of the three CWW dates were the same! Yuzu performed different programs for each show, and the content for each segment (the kids Q&A, Mura’s technical demo) was different for each show. I love the unique scripting for each show. The only downside to this is that now fans will be clamouring to go to every rendition of every show. Like Yuzu needed to create more demand, NOT! Now, it is not enough just to attend a show with Yuzu anymore, you now will have to see all of them to see each of his different performances. Yuzu-mania will reach new heights.
Not many skaters can say that they would fit comfortably into costumes that they wore 7 or 8 years earlier. Thank goodness for lycra! The tributes Yuzu made to his older programs, and wearing the original costumes were a very unique touch, although, I have to admit that seeing an older Yuzu wearing the Etude, R&J, and Zig costumes were a bit mind bending for me. While everything still fit (I assume they had to let out some of the seams), each of those programs and costumes were a special image in my mind and represented a specific point in time. Seeing a 23 year old Yuzu in them was a bit perplexing to me (not in a bad way, just in a scratch my head way). I actually preferred the original image in my head, but this idea was still pretty darn cool and not something many can do. Yuzu still knew (or refreshed himself through video) all of his old choreography and it was amazing to watch.
The most unique thing about all of the programs that Yuzu performed, was that high flying Yuzu did not really attempt a single jump over the 3 day period. Sure, there was the odd hop here and there within his footwork, but true to his conviction of proper rest and rehab, Yuzu stayed grounded on the ice. Yet, his performances were still breath taking! It takes a very special skater to enthral an audience this way.
The concept of this show, to showcase Yuzu’s life in programs and his supporting cast was exceptional. Every guest skater was hand picked by Yuzu for their impact on his skating life. The personal touch with each skater was innovative and special. It was achieved without making the show over the top. It was simple, powerful, and a brilliant concept from start to finish. I wish I could have seen even one of the shows in person.
Yes this was Yuzu’s event and about Yuzu’s life which basically guaranteed it’s success, but maybe ice show producers can take something away from this, a fresh new look, fresh new ideas.
Next up – Yuzu’s victory parade in Sendai!!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!