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Originally published January 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 16, 2007 at 10:24 AM

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Creative pairs skating doubles the pleasure

Stars on Ice, KeyArena Seattle Center, Sunday afternoon Olympic skating matches getting too dry and technical? For dazzling creativity on...

Seattle Times theater critic

Olympic skating matches getting too dry and technical? For dazzling creativity on skates, one can annually turn to "Stars on Ice," a touring spectacle that came to KeyArena on Sunday.

A taste: The 1998 Olympic gold medalist and "guest star" Ilia Kulik's suave, complex routine to Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot." It sizzled with tricky footwork, awed with double and triple jumps landed as if on a bed of clouds. And it amused when the suited-up Kulik dragged himself around by his own tie.

That touch was pure Christopher Dean, head choreographer for "Stars on Ice" and formerly of the legendary ice-dancing team Torvill and Dean.

Sleekly packaged, exquisitely lit and performed, "Stars on Ice 2007" was rarely a letdown — even if its chatty "up close and personal" video segments felt superfluous.

The real show is the skating, with a cast of gutsy national and international ice champs — most in their late 20s or 30s, and only getting better.

The ensemble numbers (devised by Dean with Cindy Stuart) include a charming baseball bit ("Swing"), and a cliché-but-fun 1960s tribute, a kind of "Hair on Ice" with skaters donning long wigs, tie-dye T-shirts and bell-bottoms.

But for chills and thrills, nothing beats the pairs.

At the Key, Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman floated through a lovely romantic idyll to "You're Beautiful." Then to Melissa Etheridge's roaring cover of "Piece of My Heart," they became rockin' daredevils. At one point Zimmerman grabbed his tiny partner by her skate blades, and whirled her stretched-out form around and around, propeller style. Zowie.

Equally intrepid were the Olympic-gold skating couple Jamie Salé and David Pelletier. Their exciting skate to the tune "Superfreak" blew minds when Salé laced her feet around Pelletier's neck, lay back, and twirled head down, inches from the ice.

The solo turns were more bland (particularly those by Canada's Jennifer Robinson). But Ekaterina Gordeeva, a classically refined slip of a skater, vamped it up (tastefully) in a tango number.

2002 Olympic king Alexei Yagudin, who's suffered hip problems, struggled with the big jumps. But his other gifts (a fiery stage personality, masterful footwork) were well-evident in a flamenco segment.

Crowd favorite Todd Eldredge turned it on, as did Steven Cousins and Michael Weiss, the show's best backflipper. Jason Dungjen and radiant Japanese champ Yuka Sato rounded out the cast.


Misha Berson:

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