Wednesday, March 17, 2010

thin ice: preview

Later today, I catch a flight for Boston and then tomorrow, I'm driving with two friends, Chele and Jen, to the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut for Thin Ice.

Thin Ice is a new mini-series of a competition for professional skaters, who have been given new partners for the event. They're skating several shows and "preview" shows at the ballroom in the MGM Grand this weekend, with the Friday night and the Sunday night shows to air nationwide on ABC. The skaters have been encouraged to think outside the box and do something outside of their comfort zone. They're all skating to popular music that will be accessible to the average TV audience (as opposed to an audience full of skating fans) and some have even worked with choreographers from the dance world, as opposed to the skating world.

The pairs are Shae-Lynn Bourne & John Zimmerman, Marie-France Dubreuil & Michael Weiss, Jamie Salé & Patrice Lauzon, Elena Berezhnaya & David Pelletier, and Shizuka Arakawa & Stéphane Lambiel. Two "real-life" teams are a part of the cast -- Dubreuil & Lauzon and Salé & Pelletier -- so it will be fun/possibly weird to see them competing against each other and with different partners. Of the 10 cast members, 7 are used to skating with partners, either in pairs (Zimmerman, Salé, Berezhnaya, Pelletier) or dance (Bourne, Dubreuil, Lauzon). Weiss, Arakawa, and Lambiel are all singles skaters and only skate with partners for ensemble work in shows. Only one pair comes from the same partner-discipline -- Berezhnaya & Pelletier are both pairs skaters. However, Bourne does have pairs experience from very early in her career.

Some of the early press I've read has indicated that Dubreuil & Weiss and Berezhnaya & Pelletier might be early favourites, but it's hard to tell who will mesh well with a new partner. Some of the pairs have been practicing a for a couple of weeks, but no more than that, so this is all happening fairly quickly. Based on what I know about the skaters and how they look on the ice, it's easiest for me to imagine the pairings of Bourne/Zimmerman and Dubreuil/Weiss, but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and I'm sure there will be surprises!

Here's a bit more info about each partnership and what they have planned.

Shae-Lynn Bourne & John Zimmerman
Disciplines: dance (her) + pairs (him)
Career highlights: Bourne won 10 Canadian titles (with Victor Kraatz) between 1993 and 2003 and 6 World medals (4 bronze, 1 silver, 1 gold). She competed with Kraatz until 2003, did some show appearances with Kraatz for the rest of the year, and has been skating as a solo dancer since then. Zimmerman won 3 U.S. titles with Kyoko Ina, as well a bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships. He skated professionally with Ina until 2008, when she decided to retire from skating, and has skated mainly as a soloist since then, although he's also skated in a couple of shows with Elena Berezhnaya.
Programs planned: "Closer" - Ne-Yo and "Poker Face" - Lady Gaga, choreographed by David Wilson
My thoughts: Both skaters are gorgeous and have a commanding on-ice presence. Their long lines should look great together. Bourne did a great job adapting her style to a new partner when she finished second in Canada's Battle of the Blades last fall, where professional female skaters were paired with former NHL stars.

Marie-France Dubreuil & Michael Weiss
Disciplines: dance (her) + singles (him)
Career highlights: Dubreuil (with Patrice Lauzon) is a five-time Canadian champion and a two-time World silver medalist. Her last competitive appearances were in 2007, and since then, she's been touring with Stars on Ice and skating in other shows. She also appeared on Battle of the Blades last fall, where she finished third. Weiss is a three-time U.S. champion and a two-time World bronze medalist. He retired from competition in 2006 and has also been with Stars on Ice since then.
Programs planned: "Meet Me Halfway" - Black Eyed Peas, choreographed by Fatima Robinson and "Broken Strings" - James Morrison & Nelly Furtado, choreographed by Mark Ballas
My thoughts: Both skaters are high-energy performers and they've toured together with Stars on Ice, so this seems like a good match, too. Weiss doesn't have experience doing lifts, so I hope they don't try anything too crazy (also because Dubreuil's partner on BOTB dropped her a few days before the first show...she's had enough of that!), but I already appreciate that they've taken some choreographic risks and tried two different choreographers from different areas of the dance world.

Jamie Salé & Patrice Lauzon
Disciplines: pairs (her) + dance (him)
Career highlights: Salé (with David Pelletier) is a three-time Canadian champion, World champion, and Olympic champion. She retired from competition in 2002 and has been touring with Stars on Ice. She won Battle of the Blades in November with Craig Simpson. See above for Lauzon's highlights.
Programs planned: "Sexy Chick" - David Guetta and "Hey, Soul Sister" - Train, both choreographed by David Wilson
My thoughts: I respect both of these skaters tremendously. Salé is one of my favourite pairs skaters; Lauzon is one of my favourite ice dancers. It's a bit tough to picture them together, though, and a lot tough to picture Lauzon skating to "Sexy Chick," but I guess I have to go with it! Salé is a crowd favourite, though, and Lauzon is definitely one of the best partners in the world, so they have a lot going for them if they can put this together.

Elena Berezhnaya & David Pelletier
Disciplines: pairs (both)
Career highlights: Berezhnaya (with Anton Sikharulidze) is a four-time Russian champion, a two-time World champion, and the 2002 Olympic champion. See above for Pelletier's results. Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze and Salé & Pelletier were close rivals between 1999 and 2002, always going head-to-head in major competitions. The rivalry was a pivotal moment in the 2002 Olympics when the discovery of a judging fix resulted in both couples sharing the pairs title. Berezhnaya also retired from competition in 2002, touring with Stars on Ice for four years, until 2006.
Programs planned: "Hot 'n' Cold" - Katy Perry and "Cowboy Casanova" - Carrie Underwood, choreographed by Steven Cousins (Berezhnaya's off-ice partner)
My thoughts: Well, I fully expect the TV broadcast to blow up the past rivalry between the skaters, as they always did whenever they appeared in the same event post-Olympics. When I heard that they would be skating together, I didn't have a hard time picturing their skating meshing, but I wasn't anticipating these music choices, so now I'm not so sure!

Shizuka Arakawa & Stéphane Lambiel
Disciplines: singles (both)
Career highlights: Arakawa is the 2004 World champion and 2006 Olympic champion. She retired from competition after her Olympic win and has been skating in shows since then, though she hasn't skated very often in North America. Lambiel is a two-time World champion and the 2006 Olympic silver medalist. He retired from competition due to injury in 2008, but after a year off, was rehabilitated enough to return for a final Olympic season. He finished fourth in Vancouver this year and again announced his retirement from competition this month.
Programs planned: "Get Bodied" - Beyoncé and "Magic Touch" - Robin Thicke & Mary J. Blige, choreographed by Hi-Hat
My thoughts: I think these two have a disadvantage because neither has extensive experience skating with a partner and I could be wrong, but I feel like they don't have much of a height difference, so I don't expect wow-factor lifts from them. They're both exquisite skaters, so I expected them to choose more lyrical music, but I'm also confident that they'll have fun with these programs. On a personal note, I'm really excited to see both of them skate! I haven't seen either live before, and Lambiel is actually one of my favourite skaters of all time.

Overall, I'm thrilled that ABC has put their support behind this show. I hope it does well, and I hope its success would mean a resurgence in skating's popularity. It's a great time to capitalize on the post-Olympic wave and I think the format, where viewers are asked to vote for their favourites, is a good choice. It's also great to see skaters pushing the boundaries and trying to do something different.

I'll be covering the show for, so check the website for photos and thoughts, and keep an eye out for me on TV!

spring break 2010: progress blog

Spring Break 2010 might be my favourite yet! I'm having a fantastic week so far, spending time with some of the people I love most in the world and eating some stellar food while we're together. What more could a girl want? Oh, a skating event to photograph? Check, I'm off to one of those this weekend!

Last Friday, I spent the day cleaning and getting ready for the girls, then went to fetch Christina at the airport in the evening. By the time we got back to my place, it was ready to think about food, and after carefully considering our options, we decided on Flat Top Grill. I'm a big FTG fan, going back 4 or 5 years now, but I hadn't been to the West Loop location yet. It's an easy walk from my place, so despite some drizzle, we walked over, which made us feel a bit better about eating two bowls each of yummy create-your-own stirfry! Jules arrived later and arrived hungry, so we walked over to the Jefferson Tap & Grill, my favourite neighbourhood bar. It has a good bar feel, but not a scummy one, and it also has a great menu. C & I just got drinks, Jules had a turkey burger and their fab waffle fries, and then we got hit on for a while, by a guy who really loved our Canadian Olympic jackets and his very inebriated friend. They weren't too obnoxious though, so it was fun. And finally our last stop of the night was Berry Chill, conveniently open until 2am on weekends. Best froyo ever! (Though I haven't tried Pinkberry, but I've heard that PB and BC are pretty comparable.)

Saturday was St. Pat's Day (observed) in Chicago and although we didn't make it over to see the traditional dyeing of the river, we did get our Irish on early when we stopped at a pub on N. Broadway in Lakeview for lunch. Wilde wasn't the best food I've ever had and I'm not sure I'd go back, except if I really want an Irish experience, but we had a great time. It was a cute place, it's just that there are so many incredible restaurants in Chicago. From Wilde, we walked south to Molly's Cupcakes, which is a must whenever I have visitors in town—and sometimes even when I don't! I love Molly's. They had a minty green cupcake delight in honour of St. Pat's and I probably could have eaten three, but I stopped at one...better not to gain ten pounds on cupcakes, since I can't afford to buy all new pants!

A cupcake and a Coke = my own little slice of heaven

Molly's has fun swing seats at the counter

We were stuffed at that point, so we definitely needed to walk off some of our food babies. Unfortunately, when we got off the bus in Near North for some bougie shopping, the unpleasant mist had turned nasty, complete with a nippy wind off the lake. So instead of shopping Oak Street, we headed for 900 N. Michigan, which is an indoor mall. Jules and Christina bought some new pants at Lululemon, but I was holding out for my first Anthro trip! So after a bit there, we walked over to the red line and jetted down State to the other side of the river. I was so glad that I waited for Anthropologie to spend any money! After hearing Christina and Jules rave about it for months, I knew I would love it—my friends have great taste! I tried on a bunch of tops and a couple of dresses. There was one dress on clearance that I would have bought in a heartbeat if they'd had it in a smaller size and one gorgeous navy dress that fit me perfectly, but it was $188 and I didn't have any reason to buy it. So I convinced myself to say goodbye to it in the dressing room, but I did by a sassy silk printed top that I can't wait to rock this weekend at Thin Ice...then again many times this summer, so I can get my money's worth out of it.

Post-Anthro, we were giddy about our purchases but kind of starving. I'd talked up Decolores to death since my first visit with my mom about a month ago, so the girls were excited to try it. I'm happy to report that they loved it as much as I do! The Tres Leches cake (from Kristoffer's) is so incredible that after we split a piece of the vanilla-coconut, we had to try the chocolate one, too. I had the fish tacos and although they were quite good, I think I'll get the shrimp ceviche again next time, which is what I had last time. Or I might have to try the fajitas, which was what Christina ordered.

After devouring one tres leches cake and before devouring the next

The night was still (sort of) young after that, so we went back to my place and changed to go out. Since we'd already done the Irish thing in the afternoon and we'd just bought classy clothes at Anthro, we decided to go to The Gage on Michigan, my favourite classy bar in Chicago. No one came over and hit on us this time, but I did catch the guys at the next table over looking like they wanted to, haha. It was just as well—we were busy trying to name our Top 5 Beatles songs. In the end, it was too hard for me to come up with a top five that didn't change every two minutes, but my favourite is definitely "All You Need is Love."

Sunday morning came way too early, thanks to a late night and the time change, but we got up and headed to Diversey Harbor, because Jules and Christina had signed up to do a 5K! I don't run and I walk 5K regularly because that's a round trip from my place to work, so I wasn't keen on paying $30 for this event, so I may or may not have taken a nap in the car while they got their exercise on. The rest of Sunday was low-key. J's sister and brother-in-law had driven in from Indiana to see her in the race, so after some showers, we went out for lunch with them and since it was convenient, we went back to the Jeff. After that, we hung out at my place until Jules had to leave, and then C and I wrapped up the evening with looking at photos and watching the premiere of this season of Amazing Race. We're a bit behind, yes, but that's what happens when shows start during the Olympics.

THE GIRLS just before we sent Jules on her way

On Monday, C wanted to hit up a Trader Joe's, so we started with lunch at the Chicago French Market, then red-lined up to the Near North TJ's, then walked around a bit before we got free Berry Chill (it was their 2-year anniversary) and walked back to my place. Near North is a bit of a walk, but the weather was nice and we like to walk, so it wasn't bad at all. We had time for one more Amazing Race ep before we had to go to the airport and say farewell until my next scheduled trip to Toronto (first weekend of May).

Yesterday was part two of spring break fun—I went up to the Rockford area to see my cousins! I don't get to spend as much time with my family as I would love to, so even though it was just an evening, I really treasured it. I had dinner with them, danced around the living room to Irish music, played basketball at the park, and then promptly passed out on the couch around 8, slept for almost 4 hours, got up for about an hour, and passed out again until 8 this morning. I guess I needed to catch up on my sleep!

The trip began when I spaced out and got on the wrong train. I had to get off at the Ashland stop to switch lines. Worth it for this view of my city!

Kristin, the middle cousin.

Today has been a day of catch-up and homework because tomorrow, I leave for Connecticut (via a night in Massachusetts). I'll be at the Thin Ice tapings at Foxwoods, which I think I mentioned in my last blog, and I have another blog scheduled for tomorrow about that event. This one is too long already.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Break 2010!!!

After work today, I was chatting with Rose and Adrian, who were on their breaks, and when I mentioned that I was unofficially on spring break (it's next week, but I only have class on Mon & Tues, so I guess mine started yesterday), Rose laughed and said, "Spring Break 2010, yeahhhh!" And we laughed about the MTV Spring Break specials that we used to watch in high school.

I guess I've never had a typical college spring break, and I'm okay with that. I like having a good time with my friends, but trying to have a good time while a couple thousand coeds puke on the sandy beaches around me while I'm trying to have a nap? No thanks! I'd rather save my money for more trips to the Great White North of Canadian skating land.

I do have a fun week scheduled, though, including a bit of traveling. Tomorrow, Christina flies in from Toronto and Jules drives in after work from Michigan, and we embark on a fun-filled weekend in the city. Chicago on St. Patrick's weekend should be a good time! I hope that the rain holds off so we can see the Chicago River get dyed a bit greener than usual on Saturday morning. If it's a gross day, though, I'm not sure I'm going to get up and drag myself over to the bridge. I've lived here most of my life and have never seen it and I've survived so far. Another year won't kill me. The girls are scheduled to run a 5K on Sunday, so for their sake, I really hope that the rain is over before then! I already ran once this year, on the first day of Olympic ice dance practice to get inside the arena before CroPo got announced, so I don't think I need to do any more running for at least another month. However, I'll be on hand with my camera to capture the big race for future generations (and Facebook) to enjoy.

Besides the Greening and the Run, I'm not sure what else we'll do, but it's likely that we'll squeeze in trips to the Whole Foods Mothership, Molly's Cupcakes, one of Chicago's many Irish pubs, and the new(ish) Anthropologie on State Street. Oh, and Jules has requested The Gage. We had a fabulous night there about a year and a half ago when the bartender (Sterling!) designed a drink for us and then didn't charge us for it.

Jules has to skedaddle on Sunday and C's flight is on Monday night, but the fun keeps going because on Tuesday after work, I'm going to grab a ride with my mom towards Rockford. She's going there to meet friends at a conference, and on the way, she'll drop me off at the family's house for a visit. My aunt, uncle, and cousins are some of my favourite people in the world and it's been too long since our Christmas celebration. I can't wait to catch up with the kids and give them Olympic presents!

Mom and I will head back to Chicago Wednesday morning and then I'll need to get ready for another skating/photography trip. I'm still not caught up from the Olympics, but I have to keep moving forward. I'm headed to the Foxwoods resort in Connecticut (via Boston and Chele) for Thin Ice, a reality miniseries that will air March 19 & 21 on ABC. 5 pairs will compete for fan votes, which isn't that groundbreaking, except that the pairs are professional skaters who don't normally skate with each other.

The show is of particular interest to me for a few reasons. The most important one is that Stéphane Lambiel, one of the cast members, is one of my favourite skaters to watch and I've never seen him skate live before. I'm really looking forward to that opportunity. Another super dorky reason is that I've never been to Connecticut, and I'm a little obsessed with wanting to visit every U.S. state. CT will be my 38th state, so I'm well on my way. And of course I'm excited to see everyone else as well, both the skaters competing in the event as well as Chele and Jen, who I will be joining for the mini-road trip.

I get back from that trip on Monday the 22nd and that night, I have to pass out manuscripts for my second Fiction workshop. I guess that means that in between the fun, I have to work pretty hard over this break. Perhaps I shouldn't be blogging right now.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

a classic week

I'm still mulling over a few Olympic posts, but since I'm more likely to write about those things after the fact, I've decided to write a few thoughts about the events of this past week instead.

Last Sunday, my mom and I went to the opera. We have a subscription to the Lyric Opera in Chicago for four operas each season. This year, we've seen Faust, Ernani, Tosca, and this week, it was The Marriage of Figaro. After all the tragedies (and I do love a good operatic tragedy), ending the season with a comedy was so refreshing. I do think that Figaro is a bit long for a comedy, but I drew upon what I learned when I studied the history of comedies in an undergrad English class, and it certainly followed the conventions of the period. The set design was incredible, as it always is at the Lyric, and I thought that the entire production was done well. In particular, I thought that Danielle de Niese was so charming in the role of Susanna, which in my opinion, is the key to a successful Figaro. With a dull Susanna, the whole opera would fall flat.

Before the show, Mom and I had met at Flat Top Grill for lunch. It was our first visit to the new Loop location and it's overall a bit crisper and classier than the other locations I've visited (Oak Park, Old Town, Lakeview). After lunch, we swung by work so I could check my schedule and then at the Starbucks down the block, I ran into my manager. Amanda was so impressed that my mom and I were heading to the opera, something she brought up again a few days later at work. "I always feel so uncultured when I'm around you," she said, which made me feel bad. I never mean to come off as elitist when I talk about going to the opera and the symphony and art's just one of the things I love most about living in Chicago. My mom could never afford opera or symphony subscriptions when I was younger, but I grew up loving classical music anyway, listening to music online (anyone remember MIDIs?), and playing piano and french horn. She also grew up playing the piano, so a love of classical music is something that's always been in me. And she always made sure to take me downtown a couple of times every year to see different exhibits and museums. My favourite was always the Art Institute, and that's still my favourite Chicago museum.

So I apologized and tried to say that I didn't want her to feel awkward about it, and she said it was fine, so it wasn't really an issue. And then I went to the symphony last week, too. Ha.

Mom and I usually also go to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Sundays, five times a season for that subscription, but I was out of town for our January date, so we switched to something we thought we would like better, anyway. I'll start with the not-so-great: The second piece on the program on Friday was Shostakovich's 11th Symphony. What I've learned about Shostakovich is that is his first ten symphonies were Mahler-influenced, and I guess those are the ones that I like a little better. The 11th, however, is very Soviet. Verrrry. Soviet. I love loud orchestral music, but this was loud and monotonous and I just wasn't crazy about it as a whole. Plus it wasn't the best performance, either. I heard quite a few wrong notes from the brass section, and as a brass player, I can recognize how difficult the parts are, so I understood...I just wasn't crazy about the symphony. Ah well, the afternoon really wasn't lost, because the first piece more than made up for it.

As a skating enthusiast and photographer, I hear excerpts of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto often. Every season, it seems that someone prominent skates to it, sometimes more than one person, and that doesn't include all of the younger kids who often select music because they saw someone famous skating to it once. So there's a lot of Rach2. I've never disliked it, and I do own it on a CD, so I would have said that before Friday, I liked Rach2. However, after Friday, I love Rach2. Hearing it live made a difference, as did being able to watch Kirill Gerstein play it. What incredible technique it requires, and what genius it took to compose! I was in awe.

We sit in the terrace, behind the orchestra, facing the conductor. I love sitting there because our seats are just over the horn section, and it feels like I'm sitting inside of the music the way that I did when I was a music major. At times, the richness of the concerto's score actually overpowered the soloist, since the piano was opened to face the rest of the hall, not the terrace. It was exhilarating, because I knew the piece well enough to know what it must have sounded like out in the house.

Before hearing Rach2 live, I might have put it on a top-ten list of my favourite concertos. After hearing it live, though, I think it's on my top-ten list of favourite orchestral pieces. In fact, I even came up with a list of what might be my ten favourite orchestral pieces. The list is subject to change in case I forgot something amazing, but for now, it's something like this:

#1: Wagner - "Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde"

Berlioz - "Symphonie Fantastique"
Tchaikovsky - "1812 Overture"
Mahler - Symphony No. 2

Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No. 2
Mozart - Horn Concerto No. 1
Gershwin - "Rhapsody in Blue"
Stravinsky - Firebird Suite

Brahms - Symphony No. 2
Beethoven - Symphony No. 6

Honourable mentions, because I love cheesy programmatic stuff:
Sibelius - "Finlandia"
Williams - "Olympic Fanfare and Theme"
Copland - Rodeo Suite

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2009, guess it was fine: Part 3 of 3

Much belated, but here’s the last part of my 2009. I know you’ve all been on the edges of your seats waiting for skating, skating, and more skating.


September marked the return to school and the beginning of my second year as a grad student, but I don’t often photograph my classes, so let’s talk about the better times that I had in September.

Jules came to visit me in mid-September, just for kicks, because we’re BFFs and she loves Chicago. We went to Celtic Fest, one of the last festivals of the season, where we viewed some unfortunate Irish dancing and visited Nova Scotia. Then we left the Celts and hopped on over to Buckingham Fountain, one of my favourite places in the city.

The next weekend, I went back to Ottawa to shoot another skating event, EOS Autumn Skate. I was a big fan, because it had a huge dance roster. Fall events like Autumn Skate are a great way for dancers who don’t compete internationally to stay in competitive mode and build toward Sectionals. And I love photographing all ice dancers, whether or not they compete internationally.

Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa, a sibling team of ice dancers on the novice level. They train in the Montréal area and she has a fabulous skirt on this dress. Fun costume fact: this dress was worn by Milena Todaro at the 2005 Canadian Championships, which was the first time that I saw Milena skate.

Marie-Philippe Vincent & François-Xavier Ouellette skate their Québecois folk original dance. Lots of energy, cute dress.

Lisa Casselman & Jonathan Arcieri made their competitive debut here. I’d met Lisa in July at Minto Summer Skate, and she was recovering from surgery and bummed about not having a partner. What a difference six weeks made...the brand-new partnership won the junior compulsory dance at Autumn Skate.

My mom’s friend Cheri is a breast cancer survivor and a former high school teacher. She’s been recruiting kids to participate in the Race for the Cure for quite a few years now. The Eisenhower High School contingent won largest group again. Everyone at the race is always surprised to hear that Eisenhower is a regular public school in a middle- to lower-middle-class suburb.

This year, I went along for the first time as team photographer.

My friend Adam Morgan won FOX’s screenwriting contest in 2009. I’m sure it has a more official name; it’s actually a really big deal.

Here we are, celebrating his big win after he got back. Of course, what he’s most excited about from 2009 isn’t this award—it’s that he’s now made my year-in-review blog three times.


First up in October: a trip to Toronto for the Battle of the Blades premiere, where CBC paired ex-NHL stars with professional figure skaters and taught the boys how to skate. Hilarious concept turned into an awesome show because they really got into it! I was lucky enough to attend both the first and the last shows, so I really got to see how much they improved.

While we were in town for BOTB, Toronto had Nuit Blanche, its all-night public art festival. We took in some street art, ate some sweet food at The Drake, experienced Miracle Fruit shortly before C got impregnated by an alien, and went to the Bata Shoe Museum at 3 in the morning. Great night!

Me and C, ready to paint the town white

Favourite self-portrait ever, also taken that night

The next night was the BOTB premiere...

...where Claude Lemieux and Shae-Lynn Bourne started running toward the finish line...

...and Craig Simpson showed that Jamie Salé really taught him how to skate...

...and we goofed around after the show with contestant Marie-France Dubreuil (paired on the show with Stéphane Richer, not pictured this month) and her real-life partner/husband Patrice Lauzon.

Being at the first show made me crave more, but unfortunately, my October was quite booked, apparently with things that didn’t allow photography like the opera, because I didn’t take any more photos until I went to Michigan with some friends in late October.

I’ve never seen a New England autumn, but I’m willing to bet that Michigan’s are just as pretty and less crowded!

And Michigan has my favourite body of water, the glorious Lake Michigan.

And October closes with Halloween, so I leave with a photo of me as an 80s rockstar, about to head out to a party, where I won best female costume.


November was a HUGE month for me. I began a stretch of 5 skating events in 4 weeks, I stopped sleeping, I fell behind in my classes, I didn’t eat regularly, I got really really sick, and I loved the intensity of it. November made me really believe in my dream to someday be a full-time skating photographer, one way or another, if only because it’s what made me feel most alive, despite all of the struggles.

Before all of the skating craziness, though, I saw Natalie Gelman perform at the Apple Store in Chicago. Natalie and I went to music school at the University of Miami together, although I didn’t meet her until several years later, when she sang at a mutual friend’s wedding. Loved hearing her songs live...she’s incredibly talented!

Then skating craziness happened! Oh, and first, my student loans finally came in and I immediately upgraded to a new camera. Canon 50D, what what!

Cate Culhane & Malcolm Jones, Free Dance practice

It’s not often that it’s easy for me to pinpoint a single image from a skating event that means the most to me, but at Eastern Ontario Sectionals, it was a piece of cake. When I shoot events with Phil, I don’t get to photograph his daughter because he is, obviously, so I am on the other rink. At Sectionals, though, each event had an official practice on Friday morning, so when Cate’s group was up, I took my new camera into the rink because I needed to take some test shots and figure out how high I could push the ISO before I started drifting into grainy. Over the weekends that I’ve worked with the Culhanes, they’ve taken me like an extra family member, so I guess, if they’re my Canadian family, Cate is my Canadian little sister. She’s an extremely talented ice dancer, and I’m not just saying that because I adore her. Although i do adore her, definitely.

After Sectionals, I took the train from Napanee to Toronto, and we hightailed it to Maple Leaf Gardens for the final competitive night of BOTB.

We were cheering hard for Stéphane Richer & Marie-France Dubreuil, so Jules and Christina made t-shirts before I got there (and made one for me too). Maybe M-F was a little excited when she saw our shirts... she demanded a photoshoot at the reception afterwards. Who were we to say no?

At the Finale the following night, some of the skating stars were showcased without hockey players.

Kurt Browning, one of the hosts, brought back his popular “Brickhouse” number. I remembered watching it when I was younger, but had never seen it live, so I was thrilled already...and then he stopped right in front of my camera. Multiple times. Oh, Kurt.

One of the most incredible moments was Barb Underhill & Paul Martini’s return to the ice together -- on the same ice at Maple Leaf Gardens where they’d said farewell to their skates in 1998.

What made it even more emotional was that Barb’s daughter, Sam Gaetz, sang while they skated. The whole performance was a tribute to Sam’s twin sister, Stephanie, who died when she was very young.

And at the end of it all, Craig Simpson and Jamie Salé were declared champions of the first season of Battle of the Blades. They won $100,000 to donate to charity and got to skate around the ice under fake snow with a trophy, as pictured here.

After BOTB, I went home for three days, went to class, unpacked, did laundry, and repacked. On Friday morning, I was back in Ontario -- this time, in Kitchener, for Skate Canada. I wasn’t given a credential for Skate Canada, but I took photos. However, since I wasn’t responsible for uploading photos to, I still have not looked through my Skate Canada photos. So for this blog, I tried to remember my favourite moments and I found photos of a few of those.

Mirai Nagasu’s short program is one of my favourites of the year. It’s charming, a bit powerful (but not too powerful for her at this point), and when she skates it well, it lights up the arena. At Skate Canada, she lit up the arena.

Of course, no one in the ladies events lights up a Canadian arena like Joannie Rochette. With this performance, she broke 70 points in the short program -- a first for her -- and truly established herself as a threat heading into the Canadian-hosted Olympics.

And of course, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, basically a hometown favourite, since London is just up the highway from Kitchener, also lit up the arena. It wasn’t the first time that they brought a crowd to their feet here -- in 2005, they won a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in The Aud in Kitchener. I liked this gentle free dance to the Adagio from Mahler’s 5th right away, but I didn’t love it until I saw it live. What a performance.

After Skate Canada, I went home again, this time, for about five days. I didn’t have class because of Thanksgiving break, so I probably would have stayed in Canada, except that it was Thanksgiving and it was our year to have my aunt & uncle & cousins for Turkey Day. They came and stayed at my parents’ house in the suburbs and once I got unpacked and repacked and brought home laundry to do, I joined them.

And the girls, Danielle (left) and Kristin (right) took this self-portrait with me, which was overexposed badly, but which looks quite adorable in the right mix of black and white.

On Thanksgiving night, I picked up Emilie, one of my best friends who’d just returned from two years in the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and took her on a mostly-Canadian and mostly-skating road trip. Hey, she asked for it! We went to Ottawa first, where I shot a StarSkate competition in Hawkesbury with the Culhanes, and between destinations, we squeezed in a day trip to Montréal, a city I’d never really photographed before with a “real” camera, even though I’ve been there quite a few times.

Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, the smaller of the two important churches in Old Montréal. It was the first church built here by French settlers and it’s just lovely. The other Notre Dame is a few blocks away and it’s gorgeous, but also huge. NDdB is just more charming.

Place Jacques Cartier after sunset and before Christmas


The main event in December was Challenge, which is the qualifying competition for the Canadian Championships on the novice, junior, and senior levels. The top seniors get “byes” so they don’t usually compete, but other than that, it’s all of the best skaters in Canada in five days in one rink. And I really, really love it. It has the variety of Nationals without the huge crowds. I love getting to chat with skaters and their parents and their coaches, and I love the long days and the craziness to keep everything organized.

Laurence Darveau & Jamie Forsythe, senior original dance. Laurence & Jamie had a rough time in the CD and the free and ended up missing out on qualifying to Canadians by just one place, but over the course of the season, I really loved watching them skate. And they brought plenty of spice to this Latin OD.

Mylène Girard & Jonathan Pelletier’s Indian folk OD was absolutely my favourite OD of the season, and this is also one of my favourite photos of the season. They always skated this program with energy as well as precision, and how can you not love these costumes?

Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon had one of my favourite free dances of the season because they got the Chaplin feel perfectly and paired it with challenging choreography. In Lake Placid in August, Sasha got a fantastic shot of this jump in practice and from then on, it was my mission to get one, too. I still think Sasha’s is better, but I was pretty happy with this one!

In addition to qualification for novice and up, Challenge this year was also the national championship for the pre-novice level. The pre-novice dancers really brought it in their free dances. I had so much fun watching and they provided such great photo ops that I can’t narrow these down!

Audrey Croteau-Villeneuve & Dominic Barthe

Courtney Baay & Drew Wolfe

Samantha Glavine & Jeff Hough

Laura Holbrough & Jacob Marsh

Katie Desveaux & Dmitre Razgulajevs

Carolane Soucisse & Alexandre Laliberté, 2010 Canadian pre-novice bronze medalists

Noa Bruser & Timothy Lum, 2010 Canadian pre-novice silver medalists

Madeline Edwards & Zhao Kai Pang, 2010 Canadian pre-novice champions

Noa & Timothy and Madeline & Zhao Kai train together in BC, so it’s adorable that they went 1-2. I also loved it because their coaches are Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe, 10-time Canadian medalists themselves and also friends of mine.

Once I got back from Challenge, it was work-work-work to get classes finished and work-work-work at the beauty emporium for the Christmas season. I finally got to have a lovely Christmas five days after the fact, when my cousins returned to Illinois.

Kristin, who has been all about making awesome faces for my camera lately

Danielle, upon realizing that she had almost as many American Girl dolls as her older sister

Bradley, triumphant snowboard champ on the local hill


Overall, 2009 was a rough year for me, but doing this year in review has helped me to focus on how many great moments and opportunities I had to balance out the negative aspects. 2009 taught me to be incredibly thankful for what I have, most importantly, my family, my friends, and my passion for photographing skating. Thanks to everyone who kept me sane in 2009, especially everyone who was a willing subject for my camera. Here’s to a great year and even more photography in 2010. Which already started two months ago, but...whatever, I am always late. You should see how behind I am on my scrapbooks.