So what can we expect from the exhibition gala?
First off, more smiles.
Many of the skaters take the opportunity to shine a light on the sunnier sides of their personalities and indulge in their passions, as opposed to their more formal programs during the games that tend to be geared towards judge-friendly drama and emotion.
For example, at the 2014 Sochi gala, fourth place finisher Javier Fernandez of Spain did a routine titled “Aerobic Class” that featured props (a boombox and a gym bag), costume changes (including a superhero costume), and a bucket of water getting dumped on him. Tatsuki Machida, the 5th place finisher from Japan, skated to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” complete with a full 30 seconds of air guitar.
Outside of song choice and costuming, the gala gives skaters a chance to perform tricks that may be too risky to attempt when their entire future can be determined by a single botched lutz. In the 1994 exhibition at Lillehammer, France’s Surya Bonaly landed a backflip on one skate, despite the fact that backflips had been banned from competition.