In honor of Darren Aronofsky's movie Black Swan starring Natalie Portman as a ballerina toeing the line of sanity (watch it, it's great), here is a short post on figure skating's own black swans, albeit perhaps in a more literal sense--that is, skaters who have skated to Tchaikovsky's famous Black Swan Pas de deux from that beloved old warhorse, Swan Lake.
The Black Swan Pas de deux is a very famous pas de deux from the third act of Swan Lake, wherein the villainous Odile fools brainless twit Prince Siegfried into believing that she is the saintly Odette. In ballet, the pas de deux looks like this:
Some figure skating versions:
Miss Sotnikova has nice lines and that classical 'look,' but the choreography her of Black Swan exhibition is rather uninspired. Additionally, Miss Sotnikova lacks the maturity and musicality needed to really bring the music to life--but these qualities generally come with age, and Miss Sotnikova is still very young. Miss Sotnikova is commended, however, for managing to skate and jump wearing that giant tutu.
Miss Kostner's Black Swan LP from the early part of her 2008 season is little-known and was only performed in competition a handful of times. This is rather unsurprising, as the program was a Lori Nichol fail, from the abrupt music cuts to the blah choreography. Moreover, Miss Kostner can be elegant, but she is essentially a rangy colt (perhaps even to the point of gawkiness at times), whizzing around the rink at great speeds. In other words, Miss Kostner is most definitely not an Odile, lacking the touch of mystery required to adequately portray the role. Miss Kostner was clearly not comfortable with her Black Swan program and openly admitted it in her interviews, eventually reverting back to her old Dumky Trio LP halfway through the season.
With figure skating as with human physical attractiveness, the difference between bland and alluring often comes down to differences you perceive but never quite understand. Of the three programs in this post, Ms. Baiul's program at first glance is arguably the most faithful interpretation of Petipa's choreography transplanted onto the rink. It is, however, rather lacking as a short program, with liberal amounts of posing, toepicking and overly simplistic steps. But just as you decide to lose interest with your cursor drifting towards the pause button, Ms. Baiul's performance irrevocably draws you in with the very same je ne sais quoi that had the judges at Lillehammer throwing themselves at her feet despite some very glaring technical deficiencies.