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Lysacek, cast shine in Stars on Ice

Source: Portland Tribune
Date: March 2, 2011
Author: Ellen Spitaleri
The cliches about figure skaters gliding into town and burning up the ice are true, as personified by the Smucker's Stars on Ice cast that performed last Saturday at the Rose Garden.

The headliner was last year's men's Olympic gold medalist, Evan Lysacek, a crowd favorite.

His first performance was a low-key balletic number that paired him with previous Olympic gold medalists Jamie Sale and Ekaterina Gordeeva about mid-way through the first half. Later, the threesome was joined by Sale's partner, David Pelletier and three-time U.S. national champion Michael Weiss. The group number was hauntingly beautiful and followed an equally ethereal number by ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, featuring stunning lifts and partner work using a transparent, floaty scarf as a prop.

The next skater on the ice was popular Kurt Browning, who first won the world championship in 1988. Browning had opened the show with narration about the event honoring the 25th anniversary of Stars on Ice tours. He also chatted with Stars on Ice founder Scott Hamilton via satellite link.

Browning, a four-time world champion, is famous for his precision dance steps on the ice and his amazing jumps; the Guinness Book of World Records credits him with landing the first quadruple jump in competition at the '88 worlds.

And Browning did not disappoint, channeling Fred Astaire as he performed a tap dance on ice to "Steppin' Out," featuring classic props like a cane, top hat and a set of tails, lowered from the ceiling. Because he is never content to just skate, Browning also narrated his routine in a hilarious stream-of-consciousness voiceover as he performed.

Following an act like Browning can be hard, but 2006 Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen was up to the challenge. The tiny powerhouse steamed up the arena in a spangly dress designed to show off her curves. The queen of flexibility, she performed a layback spin with her back at an impossible angle for most mortals, a flawless spiral that covered the ice with speed and grace, and her signature spin with one leg against her ear.

Next, 2002 Olympic gold medalists Sale and Pelletier wowed the crowd with one-arm lifts and a huge throw jump that showed off the strength of both the Canadian pairs skaters.

And finally, what all the squealing girls in the crowd were waiting for — Lysacek in his solo number; and the man lived up to Browning's description of him as having "no respect for gravity."

Early in his career, Lysacek was known for powerful jumps but little artistry. Now, however, after finishing second on "Dancing With the Stars" last year, he has grace, expression and charisma to burn. He wore a stark black costume that highlighted his muscular, tall body, and he performed with such speed that it seemed like his silent skates were not even touching the ice.

And then it was time for a huge group rock-and-roll number featuring Browning playing a prop piano. The female skaters, including 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Joannie Rochette, pranced and danced in hot pink and black costumes and "saddle-shoe" skates.

Six-time U.S. national champion Todd Eldredge led the male skaters in several "bad boy" numbers that paired them up with the ladies at the end.

The crowd was responsive, the skaters sparkled and Browning summed up the evening best, saying, "It took 25 years and a lot of sequins to get to this spot — that is pretty special."