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Ravel's "Bolero" and Dick Button


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#1 dirac

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 04:09 PM

Those of who you watched the U.S. national figure skating championship this weeked may have taken note of Dick Button’s comments (“sensual...sexual [and then something about a climax]) regarding Ravel’s Bolero. Did this cause anyone else to raise an eyebrow? (He was critiquing Michelle Kwan’s long program, choreographed by Christopher Dean. You don’t usually hear this sort of thing during sports commentary, but that’s why I love Dick Button and figure skating.)

It’s not that I disagree with him about the music or the fact that Michelle’s program has big problems – it just seems to go on and on until it stops which is often true of other skaters’ routines but not what we’ve come to expect from Kwan -- but how sensual can you make straight line footwork? :wink: Regarding a climax.....well, national television is hardly the place. Maybe Michelle could have concluded her program by taking her final pose and lighting a cigarette. Comments?

#2 Helene

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 05:58 PM

Those of who you watched the U.S. national figure skating championship this weeked may have taken note of Dick Button’s comments (“sensual...sexual [and then something about a climax]) regarding Ravel’s Bolero. Did this cause anyone else to raise an eyebrow? (He was critiquing Michelle Kwan’s long program, choreographed by Christopher Dean.  You don’t usually hear this sort of thing during sports commentary, but that’s why I love Dick Button and figure skating.) 

It’s not that I disagree with him about the music or the fact that Michelle’s program has big problems – it just seems to go on and on until it stops which is often true of other skaters’ routines but not what we’ve come to expect from Kwan --  but how sensual can you make straight line footwork? :wink:  Regarding a climax.....well, national television is hardly the place.  Maybe Michelle could have concluded her program by taking her final pose and lighting a cigarette. Comments?

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I think the music is unsuited to singles skating, because it builds slowly, and it doesn't have the musical highlights to showcase 13-14 singles elements, of which 7-8 are jumps and usually require long preparations. (Dance, at least in Torvill and Dean's day, was a much better discipline through which to reflect the music using less overtly dramatic edge and hold changes, and the interaction of a couple turning on an axis.) That means that the only way to be all that sultry or sexy or climactic -- Mr. Button, get a grip! -- is through a combination of slinky movement (ugh) and overdone facial expressions (ugh).

I think that Michelle Kwan was more successful trying to look sulty when she was 15-16 -- in Salome and Taj Mahal -- than she has the past few years -- in The Feeling Begins, Scheherazade, and even Arunjuez. So I'm really glad she kept it to a minimum in Bolero. Having seen it live at Nationals last week, the program is no great shakes in this version. Both she and coach Arutunian have said that this isn't the version for Worlds, which is more CoP friendly, now that she's gotten input from ISU technical committee official Alexander Lakernik. The music won't change, though, unless they decide to cut it differently, and that, in my opinion, will be its weakness.

Similarly for Cohen's long program, the Nutcracker Act II pas de deux is strange music for a single's skater, especially given that Shen/Zhao did a very well-received version last year. She really moves beautifully, though. I saw the "live" broadcast in my hotel room after getting back from the arena and dinner, and I was surprised at how fast and energetic all of the women in the last group looked because of the camera work, when the only one with real power and energy was Liang. This made Kirk, Meissner, and even Kwan look better than live, but it took away much of Cohen's smoothness. The program may be empty of all but elements, but except for the two flawed landings (hand down on 3Loop, and fall on tentative entrance into 3Flutz), she has a knack for highlighting each move. It's really too bad that she didn't become a pairs skater.

IMO, BeBe wuzrobbed. But not as badly as Matt Savoie.

#3 perky

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 05:35 AM

I'v always loved Dick Button. Perhaps we could call his ideas on Kwan's Bolero program his Big Bang theory. :)

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 06:02 AM

Christopher Dean does seem inordinately fond of "Bolero", does he not?

#5 Helene

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 09:32 AM

Christopher Dean does seem inordinately fond of "Bolero", does he not?

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I'm afraid that this was a special request by Kwan. Dean has his hands full as head choreographer/AD of Stars on Ice.

#6 dirac

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 10:48 AM

I try to avoid, not always successfully, the “_____- wuzrobbed” stance, but what happened to Savoie in the short program was painful. He was beautiful to watch. I would have liked to see Beatrisa Liang a notch above Jennifer Kirk, too......

That skycam has gotta go. I shouldn’t get motion sickness just from watching TV, and I keep thinking it’s going to fall and hit some poor skater on the head.

I also wondered a bit when Dick said, apropos of Jennifer Kirk and Hitchcock blondes, “Grace Kelly, watch your step!” I suppose it could have been worse. He might have said, “Grace Kelly, keep your eyes on the road!” or "Princess Grace, watch out for that one!" something like that..... :)

#7 carbro

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 10:57 AM

  Regarding a climax.....well, national television is hardly the place.  Maybe Michelle could have concluded her program by taking her final pose and lighting a cigarette. Comments?

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Tongue in cheek, dirac? :) I think Button used the term generically, as in, "the climax of the program was the flying camel-combination spin."

The problem with the sensual quality of the program was not just straightline footwork, but also the lack of a partner to relate to. Using the audience for that purpose could easily have devolved into the realm of vulgarity, something alien to both Kwan and Dean.

You don’t usually hear this sort of thing during sports commentary, but that’s why I love Dick Button and figure skating.

Me, too!

--Carley

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 12:32 PM

Christopher Dean does seem inordinately fond of "Bolero", does he not?

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I'm afraid that this was a special request by Kwan. Dean has his hands full as head choreographer/AD of Stars on Ice.

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AH! That would explain a lot! Considering Dean's magnificent creation to that music with Jane Torville, that someone would ask him for a solo program to "Bolero" is nearly a natural. That dance changed the entire face of ice dancing! And, mirabile dictu, for the good! :)

#9 dirac

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 01:46 PM

I agree that Bolero presents problems for a solo skater, but I also suspect that Dean was having an off day when he made this one......

#10 Helene

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 02:20 PM

I agree that Bolero presents problems for a solo skater, but I also suspect that Dean was having an off day when he made this one......

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Kwan has competed with three versions: one at Campbell's, one at Marshall's, and one at Nationals. I didn't see Marshall's, but I understand they've all been different. It looks to me like he choreographed the first 20 seconds and the two footwork passes, but little between elements. I'm not sure how much of this really is his anymore.

#11 dirac

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Posted 20 January 2005 - 10:59 AM

The one she did at Campbell’s seemed more Deanish, particularly the final pose, which was changed at Marshall’s. The spins are now very different, too. I imagine Kwan and her coach are noodling with the program to make it more competitive internationally, but it may be that all the changes are throwing her off. If she is in top form for Worlds, that may make a big difference.

carbro, although Dick may have intended "climax" in the usual sense, it sounded rather different in that context......:P


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