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Olympics: dancers' takes on figure skating


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#1 Krystin

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 07:43 AM

http://www.salon.com..._figure_skating

Salon.com has a very interesting article discussing how several dancers and choreographers feel about figure skating as an art form. They range from appreciating the sheer athleticism of the sport to wishing there was more artistic value in the sport.

I have to wonder, with the growth in popularity of ballet competitions i.e. YAGP, how far fetched is the idea of seeing ballet in the Olympics? The same questions would undoubtably arise about whether aristry would be lost when dancers compete against each other, but I also feel ballet making an appearance in the Olympics would raise the general public's awareness of ballet immensely. Why shouldn't Gillian Murphy and Kathryn Morgan be household names just like Sasha Cohen and Kristi Yamaguchi?

I'm really just thinking out loud, but I believe this is something to ponder. International Olympic fame would surely help ballet coompanies sell more seats to their performances, if nothing else.

#2 Helene

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 09:23 AM

I wouldn't watch. Were they willing to showcase dancers in Exhibition, that would be fine. Competition? Do I really want to see Murphy, Bouder, Somova, et. al. in a fouette contest? (Hell, no!) What would the basis of judging be: whoever did the most tricks? If it's the one who did the finest technically -- and how to compare difficulty? -- or the ones the judges felt were the greatest artists? And how to explain that to an audience.

That's just a "Would I watch?"

The IOC only allows in sports that have national federations, established rules of competition, a history of competition, worldwide viewership, and relatively recently, a competitive playing field. (There was talk of removing Women's Ice Hockey, because there were two dominant teams worldwide, but then the Swedes won the day by beating the US team.) Ballroom dancing has been proposed, because it does have the history and infrastructure, but also a history of judging that is not disinterested. What would the criteria be? In sport the judging is immediate: no panel juries, no discussion, no criteria such as usefulness to the profession, etc. How would the dancers be selected? It has to be a competitive process, not just nominations by a committee.

Competitors for the non-sanctioned World Professional Figure Skating Championships were invited, and its founder, Dick Button, had financial interest in at least some of the skaters who were chosen. I believe that this was a major weakness to professional skating, and why it was vulnerable to the International Skating Union's successful attempt to keep its skaters from "defecting". It would be as if Stars on Ice got to pick the field for US Nationals based on who they wanted to hire in skating shows.

#3 Krystin

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 10:10 AM

I don't know exactly how dancers would be chosen to compete...it was just a thought. Although, I do believe ballet is gaining a stronger competitive background. Many current ABT and NYCB dancers (and dancers in other companies across the US) have participated in the Youth American Grand Prix. With awards that include contracts to second companies at a high calibur like ABT, I'm can see why some young dancers are attracted to the competitions. I don't know how they judge the dancers (hopefully it is a healthy combination of technique and artistry).

#4 EvilNinjaX

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 11:50 AM

I wouldn't watch. Were they willing to showcase dancers in Exhibition, that would be fine. Competition? Do I really want to see Murphy, Bouder, Somova, et. al. in a fouette contest? (Hell, no!) What would the basis of judging be: whoever did the most tricks? If it's the one who did the finest technically -- and how to compare difficulty? -- or the ones the judges felt were the greatest artists? And how to explain that to an audience.

That's just a "Would I watch?"

The IOC only allows in sports that have national federations, established rules of competition, a history of competition, worldwide viewership, and relatively recently, a competitive playing field. (There was talk of removing Women's Ice Hockey, because there were two dominant teams worldwide, but then the Swedes won the day by beating the US team.) Ballroom dancing has been proposed, because it does have the history and infrastructure, but also a history of judging that is not disinterested. What would the criteria be? In sport the judging is immediate: no panel juries, no discussion, no criteria such as usefulness to the profession, etc. How would the dancers be selected? It has to be a competitive process, not just nominations by a committee.

Competitors for the non-sanctioned World Professional Figure Skating Championships were invited, and its founder, Dick Button, had financial interest in at least some of the skaters who were chosen. I believe that this was a major weakness to professional skating, and why it was vulnerable to the International Skating Union's successful attempt to keep its skaters from "defecting". It would be as if Stars on Ice got to pick the field for US Nationals based on who they wanted to hire in skating shows.


If they televised a Ballet Competition with commentary akin to those in Figure Skating, my head would certainly explode. I enjoy watching figure skating on tv but those announcers just won't ever shut up and you can't MUTE the tv b/c of the music... *argh*

/rant mode

-goro-

#5 volcanohunter

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 04:25 PM

If they televised a Ballet Competition with commentary akin to those in Figure Skating, my head would certainly explode. I enjoy watching figure skating on tv but those announcers just won't ever shut up and you can't MUTE the tv b/c of the music... *argh*

Years ago, when A&E still did arts programming, they broadcast highlights from the 1982 International Ballet Competition from Jackson. Commentary during the variations was provided by Dick Button and Jacques d'Amboise, who, along with Marge Champion, also did backstage interviews.

Much like figure skating coverage, the program was edited to emphasize a "rivalry" between juniors Gigi Hyatt and Katherine Healy, who fell at one point, leading to lots of speculation about whether this had "cost" her the gold. There were also the obligatory parent reaction shots from Healy's mother. Quite a bit of film was dedicated to senior gold medalist Janie Parker, and both Button and d'Amboise were clearly taken with silver medalist Alexi Zubiria.

A&E never did it again, so I'm guessing the program didn't go over all that well.

#6 bart

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 05:09 PM

Thanks for that memory, volcanohunter. Given the limited range of what is usually performed in these competitions, and the repetition of set pieces, it might not actually be all that bad. The question is: who would be the audience for it? And would that audience be large enough? I'd actually like to hear what Button and d'Amboise had to say -- though not perhaps for hours on end. :(

A&E never did it again, so I'm guessing the program didn't go over all that well.

Hmmm.

#7 Hans

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 06:41 PM

I can't stand watching ballet competitions. The same variations, over and over, performed with stuck-on grins and an emphasis on flashy pirouettes and jumps--no thank you. Maybe it would be better with professionals, but even then it would probably still be less interesting than your average gala (since even galas tend to vary the rep with different styles of choreography every now and then).

#8 printscess

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 09:12 AM

I don't want to hear someone in the vain of Scott Hamilton whose voice goes up many octives say, "wow - look at the quard tour he just did that is dance history in the making"...ugh

#9 bart

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 01:17 PM

You could have specialty competitions.

How about a "Dying Swan" :( evening for the ladies? That might possibly eliminate the 'stuck-on grins" which Hans correctly complains about.

And for the men, something really original: how about ... :lightbulb: ... a shirtless variation from Corsaire pas de deux? To please the neophytes, this should contain choreographic revision by Evgeny Plushenko, eliminating all transitions and retaining only the jumps and turns. :sweatingbullets:

The commentary would of course be non-stop.

#10 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 01:20 PM

i think they should dance and speak recitatives at the same time.... :sweatingbullets:

#11 Hans

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 01:22 PM

How about a competition consisting only of mime scenes? :sweatingbullets:

#12 bart

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 01:27 PM

i think they should dance and speak recitatives at the same time.... :lightbulb:

Why not have them do their OWN commentary while they are dancing? For example: "The extension I am now performing is a full 35% higher than the original Petipa choreography. The split in my grand jete is 190 degrees, creating a lovely airborne tea-saucer effect, which some call the "inverted flying saucer," first performed by Maladroitova at the Beijing Olympics. Here come the challenging 32 fouettes. My plan in the last eight is to whip BOTH legs in the air at the same time while spinning seated on my rump."


How about a competition consisting only of mime scenes? :sweatingbullets:

Dick Button or his ballet equivalent could mime the commentary, appearing in a little box at the bottom of the screen. It would be lovely to watch him explain how he got turned into a swan.

#13 carbro

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 01:50 PM

I like Mark Morris' comment:

The tricks are too hard to be beautiful. I used to love school figures [the original set of mandatory shapes skaters did in competition]: the endless figure-eights and edges and concentration. But that old-style skill is not interesting enough for today's television consumers.

While I didn't share Morris' enthusiasm for watching the figure-8s, I wonder how much finesse has been lost since they were eliminated from the competition. Does anyone even do them anymore?

I honor Dick Button (whom I used to see at NYCB regularly) as a model commentator for figure skating. He aimed to educate his audience as unobtrusively as possible. Hamilton has made an effort to modulate his shrieking (which was pretty much non-stop when he first started calling competitions), but still gets shrill from time to time, and he has yet to inject anything like Button's discerning taste into his commentary. He does have an engaging personality, which is important for television, but I don't think he does much to enhance our appreciation of the sport.

#14 Marga

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 03:51 PM

I'd actually like to hear what Button and d'Amboise had to say -- though not perhaps for hours on end.


Here are a couple of links, Bart. The Buttons/d'Amboise commentary is very figure skating-ish!

Katherine Healy - Jackson 1982

The end of the clip made me laugh. Katherine has just come offstage to face d'Amboise and his microphone. He asks her, "Katherine, what happened?!". She looks at him not comprehending, then replies, "Oh, I just slipped!" D'Amboise, attempting to instill the interview with some excitement, valiantly pursues the cause of the misstep which Katherine continues to shrug off. Funny stuff.

Katherine Healy - Jackson 1982

#15 dirac

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 04:27 PM

Thank you for posting this article, Krystin. I canít say I found all the comments terribly illuminating and I wish the writer had collared a pure ballet choreographer or dancer, but I enjoyed reading it.

While I didn't share Morris' enthusiasm for watching the figure-8s, I wonder how much finesse has been lost since they were eliminated from the competition.


There are well informed skating people with very different views. Some think the loss hurts the quality of the skating and and others don't think so at all.

If they televised competitions like the IBC regularly I would certainly watch and itís possible casual viewers might be attracted by curiosity and the idea of competition and stay to watch some good dancing. I would think good commentators who could discuss the dancing appropriately could be found, or commentary could be dispensed with for the most part.

I don't want to hear someone in the vain of Scott Hamilton whose voice goes up many octives say, "wow - look at the quard tour he just did that is dance history in the making"...ugh


Off topic - he was always awful and heís getting worse, although it might be fun to have him comment on a ballet competition, just once (ďAnd she NAILED it!Ē). I sure miss Button. He's not what he used to be but on the worst day he's ever had he's better than Hamilton.


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