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Dances with Tara and Johnny

 Johnny Weir has always known how to exhibit himself. Here performing to “Poker Face” at the 2009 Festa on Ice.

Johnny Weir has always known how to exhibit himself. Here performing to “Poker Face” at the 2009 Festa on Ice.

The penultimate night of the Sochi Games brought us the Figure Skating Gala, in which the top finishers in the various skating disciplines put on an exhibition that was more relaxed and playful than the competition. In that spirit, NBC invited free-wheeling NBCSN commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir to sit at the big people’s table, as it were, and offer commentary on NBC in prime time. Both Tara and Johnny, who’ve earned raves for their repartee, sported gold sprigs in their hair that Tara said were Sochi flowers. Sidekick Terry Gannon – whom some in the press have dubbed the pair’s chaperone – wore his in his lapel. The hairpieces brought to mind Pauline Kael’s famously acidic review of “Dances With Wolves,” in which she said “Kevin Costner has feathers in his hair and feathers in his head.” 

NBC actually showed little of the event in prime time. Among the highlights were Gracie Gold’s sassy salute to Fosse, her hometown of Chicago and “Chicago” with “All That Jazz”; gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s balletic skate to the Adagio from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2; and Yuna Kim’s simply stunning interpretation of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

I must confess that it took me a long time to jump on the Yuna bandwagon. I’m always skeptical of hype, and she was all anyone talked about at the Vancouver Games. Her impersonation of a Bond Girl there was the kittenish performance of a young woman who had not yet come into her own.

But time and adversity have a way of tempering all of us. In Sochi, where the deck was stacked against her as she attempted to defend her gold medal, Yuna skated a lovely short program to “Send in the Clowns,” a song about a woman’s missed opportunities and regrets. She followed with an equally strong free skate to a tango. In losing the gold to Adelina Sotnikova and heading off into the Olympic sunset, Yuna nonetheless displayed the depth and musicality of a woman and an artist in full.

Adelina, in contrast, wore a garish patchwork costume for the exhibition and waved around two large flags that suggested she might be auditioning for a Nascar race.

She rolled around on the ice and flung herself through choreography that included a few high, tight jumps.

Given Tara and Johnny’s love of dress up, it was surprising they had no comment on Adelina’s getup, although I thought I heard a catch in Tara’s voice as she described Adelina getting in touch with her artistic side.

One can only imagine with Pauline might’ve said.