Brian Boitano's Holiday Skating Spectacular

               Photos by Alice Bledsoe -- Opening and Closing numbers of Boitano's Holiday Skating Spectacular

Live performance December 15, 2001, Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV

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Friday, December 14, 2001
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Better Than Most
Boitano says his skating special will outdo poor competition because the former champion has creative control

Skating shows are a dime-a-dozen on television lately. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're good, says Brian Boitano, whose Skating Spectacular will be taped Saturday at Mandalay Bay for later broadcast on NBC.

"There's a lot of stuff on TV, but it's not the best quality," says the 1988 Olympic gold medalist and six-time world professional champion. "If there's a burnout point (for viewers) it's when there are a lot of bad (skating) shows on TV."

A solution lies with the skaters. "It's up to them," Boitano says. "They can work all year, but they need to say they don't want to do that" when they're offered work that lacks quality.

So what has Boitano done about the state of TV skating shows?  "I like doing something of quality and the only way to do that is to have control," says Boitano, who has a major creative hand in his network specials. "Our productions are a little more diverse than other programs on TV lately. I say this every year, but I think this is going to be the best show ever. We have creative support people."

The current edition is, as usual, an exhibition show, not a competition. Featured performers include 1992 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, Kristi Yamaguchi; Ekaterina Gordeeva, the two-time Olympic gold medalist (along with Sergei Grinkov); 1996 U.S. national champion, Rudy Galindo; and Yuka Sato, the 1994 world champion and 1995 world professional champion.

Pairs skaters include Elena Leonova and Andrej Khavalko, the 2000 world professional pairs champions; the Russian acrobat team of Vladimir Besedin and Oleksiy Polishchuk; Renee Roca and Gorsha Sur, two-time world professional dance champions; and Sato and Jason Dungjen, the U.S. national pairs champion.

And adding a different look to the show will be the Pilobolus Dance Theatre, a six-member group from Washington Depot, Conn. Pilobolus was formed at a Dartmouth College dance class in 1971, and the group mixes humor and dance.

"Kristi has been with me every year," Boitano says of Yamaguchi, who has joined the show for the sixth year. "She's the ideal person to skate with."
Yamaguchi will skate to a Janet Jackson song and perform a duet with Boitano.

This will be Gordeeva and Galindo's first year with the show, however. Gordeeva will skate to a Russian folk song, and Galindo will perform to "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and a classical piece.

After the show is finished, Boitano, 38, will take a break in January. It will be the first time in 15 years that he hasn't toured. Instead, he will concentrate on corporate ice shows around Salt Lake City during the Olympic Games in February.

Review of the show by Mary B. Horton (used with permission)

Two sections of Boitano Fan Club Members plus more than 2000 others attended this holiday production on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The show will be televised on NBC, on January 1st at 4:00-6:00 PM Eastern.

The opening number had everyone except Kristi, who was the first soloist. She did her Janet Jackson number and, except for doubling a toe loop, looked sure and happy.

The special guests "Pilobolus" performed. Three men clothed (apparently) only in white trousers stood at one side of the low stage set up at one end of the rink. A fourth man jumped in, falling on his face and lying there. Once he got up the other 3 frowned him into taking off his shirt to match their outfits. Shades of Philippe! The four modern danced with the poor pseudo Philippe landing on his face a lot when trying to join in the figures the others were doing. Brian came out in white and briefly performed in front of the Pilobolus dancers, ending up on the stage with them.

Leonova and Khvalko entered wearing black close fitting outfits with orange/red 'flames' running from left shoulder to right knee. They are adding more and more traditional amateur pairs' moves in their programes - including very nice SBS spins. Of course they did some spectacular lifts as well.

Renee Roca, who was the 'muse or angel' (Brian's words) throughout the evening, brought Steven Cousins onto the ice. As she left, Steven skated.

Then he introduced Ekaterina Gordeeva. She was a doll skating to Russian folk music and did a 1A, 2Lz, and 2S.

Then we saw the "Popovers" dance team - Besedin as a pigtailed blonde and Polishuk as a mustashed drunk - doing their slow motion number (last year it was as ballet dancers).

Rudy Galindo wore a very pretty closefitting sparkly shirt and did 2T, 3T-2T, 3T, and 2 separate, beautiful double axels.

Jason Dungjen came out with a rose in his right hand as the anouncer said "Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen". As the music started, Yuka joined him and they skated to "Ribbon in the Sky" wearing black and shocking pink costumes. Their pairs skills look more comfortable every time I see them skate. It doesn't seem possible that Yuka had never skated pairs before Jason came into her life!

Renee came back pushing a coveralled Brian Boitano (the coveralls were orange on the front and black [or possibly navy] on the back, with the right leg partly rolled up. He also has a narrow brimmed, floppy hat on his head). Renee tried several arm and leg positions out on Brian before leaving him to do a hiphop number that included 2A, 2F, 3T, death drop.


The first number in the second half was a collaboration between Pilobolus and the skaters. First Rudy, the pseudo Philippe (now wearing a top hat), and a young lady came out. Rudy was talking to the fellow while eyeing the girl. He skated over to chat up the girl and took a bite out of the apple she held in her mouth. Rudy and the girl disappeared leaving the tophatted fellow to do a routine balancing on 5 logs and a park bench. Rudy and the girl came back in on the stage and Leonova/Khvalko and Steven and Jason came out on the ice making a tight foursome that zoomed up to the stage and removed the girl, taking her off (without skates) to manipulate her.

Renee appeared and gracefuuly (as only she can be) helped the girl regain her confidence. The 5 skated and carried and continued to manipulate the girl. This description sounds disjointed and confusing. The reality was very nice.

Katia did her ribbon number. Last year at Kristi's Cancer show I mentioned that Katia looked more womanly than I had remembered her. Possibly that was because of the pregnancy we soon learned of. Last night she still appears to have a more mature figure. Very attractive.

Yuka came out and skated her Borodin number, wearing a lovely green or black over aqua dress with sparkly bodice. She did 2Lp, 3T (fall), 3S-2T, and 2A. Sandra G informed me that the camel spin she did was a Cranston Camel.

Leonova and Khvalko, in black and purple, skated to an English (female vocalist) and Italian (male vocalist) piece. This was more of an Adagio number. I really enjoy their skating.

Rudy was next in gray or light blue with sparkles down the arms. The music was Pie Jesu with accompanying noises. Sandra and I agree that there were birds and water. She said lakeside waves with loons, I thought someone in a bathtub with the window open. Whatever, it was an odd background for the piano. Rudy did 2A-2T, 3Lp with a step out, a lovely combination spin that
included a beautiful layback, a Charlotte with legs at about 10-minutes-to-6:00, and a Rudy-pike (much more graceful than Mike Weiss' and lower, but still not a real shoot-the-duck).

The acrobats came out in miner's caps and lights and did a fast-paced number.

Renee brought in Jason and Yuka and Andrei and Elena who then did a double pairs number including a 4-person death spiral with Yuka on the bottom. At the end of the number Renee was dancing, in skates, on the stage.

Kristi, in purple sequins, skated to something with 'dance with me slow' in the lyrics. She was spot on with her jumps, doing 3Lz (really nice!), 3Lp, 3T, and 2A.

Brian came out in his shirt with the large rose appliques and skated to Josh Grobin singing "You're still You". He showed off his incredible edging, did an outstanding 'tano triple lutz, 3T, 360+ degree outside spreadeagle, 3Lp, death drop, and 2A. After he finished that number, he exited while Josh started singing "The Prayer". After a verse, Kristi and Brian came in and did some mirror skating and other not-really-pair moves, including SBS double axels.

The Finale was to "Grace", starting with Renee alone at the far end of the ice. She did some beautiful solo skating and moved to the stage end of the rink where she 'introduced' Steven, who made a solo pass before briefly skating with her. The Rudy joined them and did a 2A. Three ladies entered next, Katia, Kristi, and Yuka. Then Brian came in and skated with Renee. The five remaining skaters came out, and after too few ensemble moments, the performance was over.

We did get to watch the retakes. Yuka replaced her 2Lp with a 3Lp and then took 3 tries to get a 3T (she had a 'yipe' on the second attempt, quite audible from the seats).

Kristi, in her first act costume and hairdo, came out to do a 3T. She did it and and left.

Then Katia and Brian came out. Brian announced that Kristi has forgotten her arm band and would have to try, try again and that Katia would take her turn first. Katia did a 2Lz to replace her 1Lz in the ribbon number.

Kristi came back, complete with armband and did a 3T easily. Brian, in his orange/black coveralls roared down to the far end and did a 3F.

Then we were truly at the end of a fast moving evening.

Fan comments

"Galindo, Pieu Jesu, started out with loons thought he was doing Golden Pond, Rudy doing what he does best..."

---Meagan Leigh

"Rudy's second number was lovely and innovative, almost Toller Cranston-like in its artistic sensibility and innovation. The skating quality was evident (vs. "Let's Hear It For the Boy" which was lots of posing and dancing and not so much skating.)
Yea Rudy!! This is what I hope for from him. I hope we see more of this program."


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January 20, 2001