Skaters send off Kurt Browning in a beautiful goodbye
Behind the awe-inspiring jumps, captivating twirls and intricate dancing, much of what viewers see of competitive figure skating is shaking off nerves and awaiting program scores. The Stars on Ice tour is the perfect chance for figure skating fans to watch their favorite performers skate care-free – and also get a sense of their personality and music taste. This year was no exception; on June 2, figure skating superstars graced the CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore for the 2023 Stars on Ice tour and dazzled.
While this year’s cast lacked many international skaters due to ongoing COVID-19 traveling restrictions, the cast was phenomenal nonetheless, each skater meshing well with one another in group performances. The cast included the best of the best, including Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen, world champion Kurt Browning and world champion ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates.
The music didn’t fall short either. Each song paired perfectly with each skaters’ personality, and it was clear that the skaters picked songs they actually love. From pop classics like Madonna’s “Material Girl,” Britney Spears’ “Circus” and The Who’s “Who are You” to heart wrenching orchestral arrangements like “The Swan” by Joshua Bell and “Ne me quitte pas” by Jacques Brel and Maysa, each song’s sound translated exquisitely to the movement on the ice.
The sweeping vocals of “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper paired with Alexa Kinerim and Brandon Frazier’s acrobatic chemistry, brought undeniable spirit and romance to the ice. Jason Brown, on the other hand, wooed the audience with his charming rendition of 90s boy band moves during his comedic skate to Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).”
Even outside of the pair skaters and ice dancers, the group as a whole had excellent chemistry. Enveloping individual programs, the Stars on Ice cast delivered colorful performances of “All These Things That I’ve Done” by the Killers and “Brand New” by Ben Rector, and introduced a campy parody of “James Bond” featuring Kurt Browning’s spoof of antagonist Blofeld, stuffed cat and all.
While high resolution broadcasts of national skating competitions definitely display skaters’ technical skills, the Stars on Ice tour allows figure skaters to shed the restrictions of competition and be themselves. Most skaters opted out of their hardest jumps and instead chose to showcase their performance and creative interpretation skills. Ilia Malinin, known as the “quad god,” landed an impressive quad but also sprinkled in some of the silliness and personality that he has lacked in formal competition; his air riffing and grin topped off his performance of “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’Bone Man.
Nathan Chen earned thunderous applause for his backflips, which are illegal in professional competition, in both his performances of “Hold Me Closer” by Elton John and Britney Spears, and “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. Both performances featured Chen’s signature skating swagger and confidence – the same pride that earned him the Olympic gold medal.
Most importantly, it’s clear that the skaters didn’t perform for judges – they performed for the audience. The audience gave resounding applause and support to each skater. Even after Leona Hendrickx fell during her first jump and Kurt Browning fumbled his back handspring, the audience only clapped louder when they landed their following jumps. The interactions between the skaters and the audience were adorable, as well. Browning danced with a young fan off at the side of the ice and gave a senior fan a big hug, and Jason Brown jumped up and down the ice while giving air kisses to the crowd.
The 2023 tour was also a heartwarming farewell tribute to Canadian superstar Kurt Browning. Throughout both acts, the skaters gave ample time for Browning to show his love for his last three decades with Stars on Ice, with dedicated musical performances where Browning left his goodbyes to each skater on the cast. His last bow of Stars on Ice granted him a standing ovation, so fans could show their gratitude and love. Browning expressed his appreciation to the tour as his farewell. “Endless memories of friendships, skates, costumes, jumps, a few spins, and of course… many, many bows. Thank you, Stars on Ice… gonna miss ya,” he said.
Although Browning’s energy cannot be replaced during future Stars on Ice tours, his skating legacy has only just begun. As for the 2024 Stars on Ice tour, the cast will most certainly be filled with phenomenal skaters and performers. Stars on Ice isn’t just about watching top skaters land quads or pack the most technically advanced elements in their programs – it’s about making memories that last a lifetime..
Sophia Li. Hey, it's Sophia, SCO's blog editor and fact checker! I love eating hot pot and any other spicy foods. More »