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Lots of figure skating 1/10/04


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#16 Old Fashioned

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 04:51 PM

I like Michelle's Tosca program and think she can pull it off quite well, IMO. I do not like the arrangement of Swan Lake Cohen skates to; I much prefer Ann Patrice McDonough's, but there's this one moment when a critical point in the music is cut off which is very annoying.

Unfortunately, I missed the men's competition. I don't know when it aired.

Any thoughts on the pairs competition? It may not be fair to say this since this is my first look at them in a long time, but the American pairs do not look like they're in good shape. :D

#17 Drew

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 05:30 PM

I suppose I'm a bit ornery about music for skating -- I'm actually not crazy about Swan Lake for skating programs either. Just as nineteenth-century critics found it too symphonic for ballet, I find it too symphonic for skating...and the abrupt cutting of the music bothers me as well. I also think the "swan" image created by Tchaikovsky is a woman-turned-swan, and young skaters can't do much with that...

For a while I even decided I prefered to see skaters use shlockier music, since the music cuts and mediocre arena sound systems don't seem to be as much of a crime against the music when the music isn't that great to begin with. And, to consider the problem a little more seriously, I think skating needs music that doesn't, in effect, overwhelm it artistically. But, of course, one tires of listening to schlocky music! So, I'm always hoping for some kind of balance -- something I find interesting and genuinely supportive of dance and movement, but at the same time something that won't 'compete' with the skating and won't suffer too much from the exigencies of cuts etc. (By the by, I like Michelle Kwan's choice of Peter Gabriel a lot.)

I'm afraid there isn't too much to say about the pairs -- though afterwards Baldwin and Inoue seemed fairly candid in discussing their "bittersweet" victory (one of them described it that way) and he also seemed quite the gentleman in taking responsibility for their problems.

ABC telecast men's and dance (final groups) on Saturday afternoon.

#18 tempusfugit

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 07:52 PM

I found the discussion of Cohen and her personality/public persona interesting. I'll agree with Drew that Cohen does look better in person than on television, and that her technique and positions are unusually correct and refined; for example, she does the best forward scratch spin I have ever seen, period. However, I believe that the comments about her not having a "nice" personality, looking as if she is "swallowing bitter medicine", etc, are getting at a serious issue in Cohen's presentation of herself. Whether or not a skater, a dancer, or any other performer is "nice" is not important for the public, and Drew is probably correct that few stars are wilting wallflowers, to say the least. As a performer myself, I feel that what is important is a gracious and welcoming presence-- one which conveys confidence, poise, and an interest in the audience's potential pleasure, joy, and rapture. Alas, Cohen conveys none of these things when she skates in competition, superb skater though she is; she looks tense, edgy, slightly haughty (which is no doubt covering profound nervousness), and completely separated from the audience. Her audience does not seem to exist in her mind when she competes, nor does the response of said audience buoy her and lend her support, extra brio, increased passion, etc. she appears to be enduring an ordeal. I don't know if anyone who saw last night's telecast, in which Cohen waited a long time before even skating out to begin, also recalls Debi Thomas' performance at the 1988 Olympics? Thomas, a brilliant skater and favorite for the gold medal, had a complete meltdown in the free program, and the looks on her face, and her coach's face, were eerily similar to those of Cohen and Cohen's coach last night. That look of terror is unmistakable, and I hope that Cohen's obvious virtuosity, impeccable preparation, and beauty on the ice will someday carry the day and make it possible for her to skate with the freedom she has earned.

#19 britomart

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 09:01 PM

I must admit that I too am a bit disturbed by the criticism of Cohen's personality. She is, after all, only nineteen, and has much to learn, no doubt, about the cultivation of a public persona. Her ability cannot be denied, and I do not find her cold - perhaps a bit reserved in front of the camera - but her passion for what she does is clearly there. She is as musical as Kwan, and if she does not engage with the audience as much, perhaps it is because she hasn't received the same sort of devotion. I don't entirely understand the backlash against her. Perhaps it is because she is so undeniably talented that people wish to see her fail. I look forward to the day when she comes into her own, which despite her flawed performance at Nationals, cannot be far off. Worlds are coming up, and we'll see what she does there.

#20 carbro

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 09:03 PM

Despite Drew's very valid defense of Cohen, I agree that there is a vague nastiness about the persona this skater conveys while performing/competing. There is a qualitative distinction between passion and determination. Cohen does not lack the latter by any means, but it's not something that invites the audience to share her moments on the ice in an enjoyable way.

It seemed to me that Robin Wagner has already had an impact on Cohen, getting her to find a calm place before taking her spot. Some of Cohen's edge is attractively blunted, but her dynamism is still at full potency. It will be interesting to see how this teaming continues to influence the overall impression Cohen makes in the future.

#21 vagansmom

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 09:17 PM

I hope that nobody is reading my "bitter medicine" comments about Cohen's on-ice appearance as an attack against her character! That was definitely not my intent whatsoever. I was just commenting on her inability to connect with the audience and I think her facial expressions are part of the reason. In no way, shape or form do I believe they're an indication of a personality flaw! I see it simply as a case of nerves.

Cohen shows her intensity with tight lips and an often fierce look in her eyes whereas some other skaters, notably Kwan and lately Kirk, have the ability to put an audience at ease. We see the same thing in ballet. There are some wonderfully talented dancers with technique "to die for" who don't really connect with their audience. Yet none of us would assume that it makes them bad people.

I often LIKE Cohen's intensity. I sometimes love her fierce expressions. Other times, though, I think that it's that very intensity that brings her down. What she shows on her face is also what causes those falls. Such tension evident there. She is SO enormously talented and I've been a most fervent fan of hers since I first saw her skate when she was 15. Nothing would delight me more than to see Sasha Cohen win a string of first place finishes. Much as I love Kwan, it's Cohen I've been rooting for the most these last three plus years.

#22 Funny Face

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 09:23 PM

Wow. I'll never get over how much emotion enters these discussions on skaters. As for Cohen, I'll stand by my earlier remarks and for this reason. I have just completed the dance major program at my university with dancers decades younger than I (me having done my career/school in reverse). And I have heard my share of comments over the last several years from dancers about their favorite figure skaters. I constantly hear from these youngsters about how they "hate" Sarah Hughes. They adore Cohen. My take on this as an older dancer is that they are still sufficiently immature to believe that technique is everything. (However, even taking that into account, I don't see how anyone cannot comprehend that Hughes --even to someone like myself who was not a particular fan -- gave arguably the strongest, most flawless performance in figure skating history).

It simply takes a different kind of maturity to understand that longevity and magic like Kwan's has to do with HEART. You cannot fake this. This is not meant to take anything away from Cohen's ability. It simply is what it is. She has not yet connected with her audience. This is what endears a skater such as, say, Steven Cousins (who never placed higher than 5th or 6th at Olympics) to the audience and guarantees a long career.

Remember "Pasha?" Yeah, bet you don't. She was going to be the next Marilyn Monroe (of the ice). Where is she now? Who cares? She may have been the darling of the judges in ice dance, but the audience said "We're not buying it."

I would not venture an opinion as to the personality of most of these skaters. The only one I had a personal relationship with was one of my teachers, a former U.S. pairs champion. It's not my place to comment on the personalities of the rest since I don't know them. What I am opining about is that I sense when young dancers eulogize Cohen and dismiss all others, they are not understanding what other qualities it takes to make a complete performer. In that, I think Cohen shares their naivete.

#23 Swiss_Chard

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 09:36 PM

I'm afraid there isn't too much to say about the pairs -- though afterwards Baldwin and Inoue seemed fairly candid in discussing their "bittersweet" victory (one of them described it that way) and he also seemed quite the gentleman in taking responsibility for their problems.

I'm going to interrupt the Cohen vs. Kwan discussion to ask if someone could tell me what the story behind Baldwin and Inoue is about. I don't have a tv so I find I"m rather out of touch. Thanks.

#24 britomart

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 10:04 PM

As an admittedly "mature" (at least in age) viewer, and one who has a background in dance as well, I think that what you say, Swiss Chard is true. Heart goes a long way. My only argument is that I believe Sacha Cohen has that heart. I like Kwan, and was a long-time fan of hers, but feel that in the past few years, her ego has gotten the best of her. While Cohen may look tense during her skating, Kwan is busy "giving face" trying to look fierce and unconquerable: she has lost the vulnerability I so loved in her earlier presentation. Her performance Sat. night was commendable, but I haven't really seen improvement in her skating for a while. Heart, in my opinion, is not just showing uncontrolled joy when you do well, but doing what you do outside of competitive reasons; that is, finding joy in the ability to do what you love. I don't think Kwan does that any more than Cohen, although she may be more adept at performing joy. I think that Cohen's bitten lips and the extension of her fingertips in her spiral show that joy, although perhaps not in as palatable a way as Kwan - give her time.

#25 vagansmom

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 10:07 PM

I think that young dancers "eulogize" Cohen because she's a ballet dancer's ice skater. Plain and simple. She has the flexibility most dancers would give anything to have. She has line. She has musicality. Of COURSE they're going to go ga-ga over her. I do too.

Conversely, they don't like Hughes because she's most definitely not of the ballet dancer's mold. Her knees were frequently bent. Her arms and shoulders were often sketchy. That said, I agree that Hughes gave the best performance of the night, and of her life, at the last Olympics but I could never say it was

arguably the strongest, most flawless performance in figure skating history).

Too many legendary performances to choose from.

#26 Funny Face

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 11:33 PM

Christopher Bowman's coach said that he thought Victor Petrenko gave the weakest gold medal performance he'd ever seen, and that Wylie should have been awarded the gold.

Urmanov fell during his gold medal performance.

Yamaguchi fell during her performance.

Baiul two-footed two landings.

Witt skated for about a minute and a half without doing much of anything during her 4-minute "Carmen" routine.

The list goes on. This is not to detract from any of these skaters. It's just to review some recent Olympic performances and note that I don't recall a performance that was both that technically difficult (two triple triples) and without any major flaws at the same time. There was also an incredible calmness in Hughes' performance that I'd not seen before. I'm all for hoping that some of this quality can be developed in Cohen now. It would be a shame to see that talent not completely realized.

I do maintain there is something I don't understand about younger students not understanding the importance of combining technical ability with ability to reach your audience.

Also, people often tend to fixate on favorites and cannot give credit where credit is due. It's important to keep an open mind and look at each performance on its own merits. I love having skaters surprise me in a positive way.

I think there have been many dance-able skaters along the way. Browing's musicality is, in my opinion, matched by none, no matter what the style. Gary Beacom was an amazing modern dancer on the ice. Ryan Jahnke was fabulous at this competition. Ditto for Ryan Bradley, in his own way. Weiss actually showed a lot more flair at the exhibition -- I'd like to see more of this. Jenny Kirk is really coming into her own with selling her program.

There's a lot of talent out there right now. It seemed for awhile, only a few names were talked about (Goebel, Weiss, etc.). Now there's room for more variation of style, which I think bodes well for the sport.

#27 Guest_dancindaughters_*

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 01:06 AM

Ah well, I still don't like Cohen.

I'm not saying she ISN'T a nice person; she just doesn't LOOK like she would be.
I agree with Carbo that there is a difference between passion and determination. She skates for herself, not for the audience, in my opinion. And she has been around for a while; 19 isn't so young in skating. I certainly don't "want to see her fail", though I am Canadian.... :D

P.S. I'm the mother of a tall skater and therefore biased. I think leggy skaters are so much prettier than little pipsqueaks. :wink:

#28 djb

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 02:46 AM

Maybe a skater can enlighten me: I've noticed that in the group dances I've seen recently in exhibition skating on TV, the skaters are usually not well synchronized when they're supposed to be dancing in unison. Is the problem that it's just hard to skate consistently on a particular beat or that skaters just don't have the training in synchronized movement that dancers have (unless they're in pairs, of course)/?

#29 Susanne

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 04:40 AM

djb, I'm not an experienced skater, but have been a spectator for a very long time. IMO, bad skating technique and skill is more noticeable in skating, not just to the experienced audience, but to everybody. Which means, that if you watch a less experienced couple in pairs you will soon noitce that they are not synchronized either and those lifts that those top skaters pull off without (seemingly) effort are very hard, and you fear for the life of the poor girl. Sometimes, when they do spins you may notice that it is far too easy to be out of sync. Usually only the most experienced couples who have been skating togheter for many years, can pull that off nicely.

In skating you will have to not only do in certain beats, you can take different length in strokes and push off with different force. A small difference in acceleration will sum up to quite big difference in velocity at the end.

If you watch the top teams in synchronized skating, you will notice that they are quite synchronized too, just as in dance. (I am proud to announce that even though Sweden is not a big nation in singles, pairs of ice dancing we are among the top 3 teams in the worldin synchronized skating :D )

#30 Drew

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 07:19 AM

Swiss Chard -- To respond to your post...there is no particular "story" about Inoue and Baldwin. The final pairs free skates were all quite poor. Inoue and Baldwin had some serious errors, but the other pairs, including the 'favorites' Scott and Dulebohn, were even worse. The camera was on them when they learned of their victory (at least if ABCs editing wasn't screwing with its viewers which is not a given) and they looked pretty blank about it, though he did lean over to give her a hug...Later they said, more or less, that it's not really the way you hope to win.


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