Krystin

Olympics: dancers' takes on figure skating

30 posts in this topic

http://www.salon.com/life/winter_olympics_..._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.

Share this post


Link to post

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.

Share this post


Link to post

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).

Share this post


Link to post
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-

Share this post


Link to post
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.

Share this post


Link to post

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.

Share this post


Link to post

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).

Share this post


Link to post

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

Share this post


Link to post

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.

Share this post


Link to post

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

Share this post


Link to post
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.

Share this post


Link to post

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.

Share this post


Link to post
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

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for posting this article, Krystin. I can’t 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 it’s 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 he’s getting worse, although it might be fun to have him comment on a ballet competition, just once (“And she NAILED it!”). 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.

Share this post


Link to post

I'm an Olympics junky, but this is the first time I've had a TV during the Olympics since summer 2000, so....I've missed a lot in terms of how the sports and coverage of them have evolved. However, this:

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:

BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!

:(

I find the commentary disturbing, but I'm also overall disturbed by NBC's coverage, so that's another story. I did, however, prefer Takahashi, Lambiel, and Lysacek to Plushenko. They were much more musical, impassioned, etc. And how, how, how I wish that Lambiel's footwork and spins could be rewarded more. (Okay, I realize the spins border 'tricks', but his are amazing... and I'm in awe of anyone who has that natural sense...).

Like I said, I didn't follow the changes in scoring, but what happened with the pairs? I found some of the required turns/poses/spiral sequences a bit yawn-worthy... there seemed to be somewhat of a lack of excitement....

I think this is all off-topic... I do like streaming the Prix de Laussane and think I'd watch an IBC, but please, without the commentary!

Share this post


Link to post

Marga, thanks so much for those Healy clips. It's good to hear Jacques's voice again. His comments seem to be directed to things that viewers could possibly miss, like "phrasing." He doesn't belabor the obvious. And he knows how to keep quiet. I WOULD like to see more dance competitions with someone like him doing the commentary.

I almost fell over when I heard that Healy was 13 years old ( !!! ) when this was filmed. :sweatingbullets::lightbulb:

Share this post


Link to post
I'm an Olympics junky
so am I! And I ain't never going to rehab!

Regarding today's newsmedia controversy over Plushenko's disappointment with silver, I am linking the breakdown of the long program scores. What is most interesting to me is that Plushenko and Lysacek tied in artistic merit (82.8), but Lysacek won on the technical score (84.57) over Plushenko's (82.71).

What I really like about the current judging system in skating is that it rewards skaters who TRY, who don't give up after flubbing one jump - because you can still medal if your total content scores enough to overcome one flub. It also rewards the complete skater, who can skate well, spin, transition, and stamina to jump in the second half of the program. This is why, despite mistakes, so many skaters are above Jonny Weir's clean proram (though I felt he was underscored on his grade of execution).

http://www.vancouver2010.com/olympic-figur...sm010101eh.html

Click on the "plus" symbol on the right side, and you can compare and contrast the scores for each skater.

Plushenko received some very good scores on footwork (surprise!) but Lysacek received better scores on many of his jumps (surprise!) and his faster, longer, better centered spins. I was really shocked when I read through the scores. I think the old mentality of skating clean = win, or skating big jumps = win no longer applies. The sport is ice skating, not ice jumping.

I'm surprised Plushenko did not use Tatiana Tarasova as his choreographer. She is the master of creating programs that take the best advantage of the code of points system. She designed Shizuka Arakawa's gold winning program in 2006 and Lysacek's world championship winning program in 2009.

I adore figure skating, but ballet dancers deal with competition every single day at work to get roles! I only like ballet competitions to receive scholarship money. I would enjoy watching that on TV far more than watching a Miss America talent competition to win scholarship money.

Share this post


Link to post

I just imagined someone grand-jete-ing into the wings accompanied by John Sterling screaming "It is high.....it is far.......it......is.......GONE!" :):o

Share this post


Link to post

Floor reporter to Male Contestant after his finals performance of the slave solo in Le Corsair,

"You really got the crowd on their feet! How do you feel about your performance?"

Male Contestant: "Well you know Coach and I have really been working hard to stick the landings! (Fist pump to Coach) All you can do is try to stay focused on the prize and give 110 % all the time."

Floor Reporter: "Now that you've won the gold what are you going to do?"

Male Contestant: "I'm going to DisneyWorld!"

:)

Share this post


Link to post

:) Why doesn't NBC hire US to do the commentary. :o:wink:

Today's paper quotes Plushenko as follows: "Now it's not figure skating. Now it's dancing." Has "dancing" become a perjorative term? Can't you do a quadruple jump AND dance as well. Shouldn't that be the goal?

The quad may be the way of the future in figure skating, as Plushenko and many commentators insist, but should we give performance awards NOW to something that hasn't been developed fully and cannot as yet be integrated smoothly into other elements of the performance? Maybe the Olympics Committee should come up with a "Most Promising Innovation" Medal. That way you could allow time for training to change enough to make the quad a more plausible, controllable performance option.

Or do audiences actually feed off on the permanent possibity of failure?

Share this post


Link to post
Today's paper quotes Plushenko as follows: "Now it's not figure skating. Now it's dancing." Has "dancing" become a perjorative term? Can't you do a quadruple jump AND dance as well. Shouldn't that be the goal?

Personally I disregarded pretty much everything Plushenko has said. He DEFINES sour grapes and poor sportsmanship. He evidently felt he had won ahead of time and the results must have been quite a shock. Talk about having a sense of entitlement.

Share this post


Link to post
did you catch the sour puss on his face on the medal stand?? :)
Hard to miss.

Reminded me of Nancy Kerrigan after she took the silver to Oksana Baiul's gold, something to the effect of "No fair! I skated cleaner than she did." Ah, but Nancy, Oksana touched our hearts. :o

Share this post


Link to post
Personally I disregarded pretty much everything Plushenko has said. He DEFINES sour grapes and poor sportsmanship. He evidently felt he had won ahead of time and the results must have been quite a shock. Talk about having a sense of entitlement.

I have been watching 'The Queen' tonight on TV, and reminded of the emotional reaction to Princess Diana's death, and the media's hysterical willingness to demonize the royal family.

Right now the media is whipping up hysteria both in Russia and North America over this issue. Athleticism vs Artistry has been a debate in figure skating since it became an Olympic sport. I remember this discussion in 1988 during the "Battle of the Brians" and the "Battle of the Carmens".

If you are a diver, you must perform 4 dives in order to win an Olympic Gold Medal. If you perform one amazing 5-turn piked somersalt and hit the water with decent entry, but perform your other 3 dives with large splash entries and wonky mid-air positions, you are not "entitled" to an Olympic Gold Medal. Another competitor could perform a 4-turn piked somersalt with perfect mid-air positions and minimal splash, and do the same with the other 3 jumps - obviously that competitor will score higher on the total dive score.

Same thing for gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, half pipe snowboard, moguls skiing, dressage, ski jumping and all the other judged sports. You have to complete all your elements with great positions to get high scores.

I think if Plushenko and his coach had lobbied the ISU a year ago to give the Quad higher points values, that would be ok. He could even say now "I disagree with the points value given, I think a quad should be worth more, to motivate the skaters to do them'. And yet, he knew what the Code of Points was all about, he won under that system in 2006. He chose not construct a program that took the most advantage of bonus points, or perform spins with higher point values. He has only himself to blame for the result.

To criticize the other competitor as "not a true champion" to the Russian media - not even to Lysacek's face, that shows poor sportsmanship. However, Plushenko always thought he was the winner, even in 2002 at Salt Lake City, under the old 6.0 point system, he and his coach complained to the media that Yagudin and his coach Tarasova were lobbying the judges, and the fix was in....and that was his compatriot! He was also running his mouth off that a "fix" is in because the Americans lack any professional skating opportunities, so giving Lysacek the medal would create them.

If Yagudin was a NFL player, he could face serious fines for criticizing the officiating. But I don't think such censure exists in the ISU.

BTW, I didn't dislike either program, but didn't fall in love with either. Lots of arm flailing masquerading as choreography. Actually I thought Yagudin was one of the best I've seen, light on his feet, great musicality, good scratch spins.

Share this post


Link to post