Stars on Ice: You Had to Be There

When you’re watching Olympic figure skating, something you don’t really take into account is the quality of the cameras recording the performances.

I learned this when I attended the Stars on Ice figure skating showcase presented by the Olympic Team USA. As a figure skating enthusiast who casually enjoys a good performance (read: a fanatic who once watched exclusively ice skating videos for a month straight and obsessively follows all notable figure skaters on their social media), I was stoked to be there.

The show opened with Karen Chen (no relation to fellow skater Nathan Chen), who opened the night with a heartbreakingly beautiful piece set to classical music – and seeing an Olympic-level skater in person is no joke. With the spotlight on, she looked poised and flawless as she glided and looped over the ice. I could feel my breath catch in my throat as Karen skated by the edge of the rink, close enough to touch with a lipstick red smile on her face. And her dress! The blue dress she wore was radiant in the spotlight, sequins catching the light like a sparkler. The crowd cheered at every dizzying leap and spin, the ground shaking with the passion of the audience. It felt surreal to see figure skaters I admired and watched for years existing in the same space as me. This was nothing like the distant, apathetic view of ice skating afforded by television broadcast. There was no score being kept, no instant replay if you missed a moment, no commentator on the loudspeaker.

It was soul personified.

Of course, when I tried to capture any of this magic on my iPhone’s unworthy lens for the next few performances, this is what happened:

It’s hard to tell, but this is Adam Rippon. In 144p glory.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White, of Sochi 2014 gold.
Nathan Chen, your Quad King! So fast his entire foot is a blur.

Okay, okay – I did get a couple of better photos, but only with serendipitous timing and quick fingers:

Ashley Wagner with her million-dollar smile. Literally.
Maia & Alex Shibutani, better known as the ShibSibs – consistently making a killing with their twizzles.
Somebody give Charlie White a Pantene sponsorship!

The videos fared a little better. You can feel the visceral excitement of the crowd as Nathan finishes his spin, and the bated breath as Adam Rippon and Alex Shibutani get close enough for the light to illuminate their features:

Still, that night made me realize that live art performances are still special in a way that many other commodities no longer are. I discovered that was true for music when I attended my first concert, and I know it to be true for ice skating now. In an age where you can download an MP3 file of virtually any song from any country, or find footage of anything you can think of on YouTube, real experience is still a cut above the rest. It’s the reason FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a term; it’s the reason people still travel and buy tickets and have bucket lists. After all, neither the television cameras nor my own iPhone camera could do those ice skaters any justice.

You had to be there.


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