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Feb 7, 2011

Tango a-go-go

As discussed in a previous post, ice dance is perhaps the best vehicle for sensual expression among the four figure skating disciplines. After all, the presence of two relatively similar-sized and aged people on the ice tends to avoid the rather less amorous connotations that more easily arise in the other disciplines.

But with the rise of teams typified by Virtue/Moir and Davis/White, both of Team Zoueva/Shpilband, ice dance as of late appears to have been struck in its highest echelons by Ravel's other disease--that is, by elegantly crafted pieces that determinedly radiate the spotlessness of their intentions, whether sweetly (Virtue/Moir) or with a bit more added drama (Davis/White). This style has its considerable charms, but prurient pleasures are not among them: virgins simply don't have sex.

That being said, whether this is truly a drawback of course depends on one's personal preferences. However, the point nonetheless is still relevant, especially given the choice of Davis/White's free dance this season. In a significant departure from their usual dramatic thematically-driven programs, Davis/White have instead chosen to skate a tango free dance this season. As the ubiquitous slinky red dresses and oft-suggestive beats indicate, the tango is all about the smoky tension of desire, a sort of animalic hunger writ large. Obviously, a certain heat between the two dancers is absolutely necessary. Yet even though Davis/White are fine performers, portraying the raw sensuality between lovers is clearly a challenge for this team. Still, to dare--even if not quite successfully--is admirable nonetheless.

As such, it is worthwhile to see the evolution of Davis/White's tango throughout the season so far. At the beginning of the Grand Prix season at NHK and Skate America, the work-in-progress label was firmly affixed onto the program:

The first impression imparted from watching their free dance here is that the program is chock-full of very, very difficult elements--the lifts, of course, but also things like the spin in which Miss Davis is facing upwards. Yet for all the technical intricacy, the performance aspect is conspiciously lacking. This is a curiously bloodless tango, lacking the intensity needed for the tango throughout the dance. Davis/White have been criticized for being frantic at times, and unfortunately the lack of the usual grand sweeping music to disguise the busy nature of this dance validates such criticism somewhat.

Compare then, the NHK performance with the latest iteration of their tango from US Nationals: 

The newly-tweaked tango shows much greater promise. Not surprisingly, the lifts are smoother, the music has been changed for the better, the bobbles that plagued the team earlier in the season have been mostly exorcised (doubtlessly through the usual ritual of relentless full-program runthroughs) and most importantly, there is some actual palpable chemistry between Miss Davis and Mr. White at Nationals that wasn't quite there before. Of course, there is still some room for improvement, but with how the tango is progressing both technically and performance-wise so far, Davis/White should be in fine form by Worlds in March.

Yet--watching Davis/White's muted reactions to their performance (so different from their past exuberance!), the relatively dampened attack, etc--one cannot quite escape the feeling that something is still amiss. There is such goodwill surrounding this team (one gets the sense that even non-fans somehow wish them a world title after the dubious results of 2009 and 2010 Worlds) that it was only after watching their tango several times before I could even attempt to take a stab at what was wrong--simply put, the problem is perhaps that Davis/White's tango is more convincing as an expression of their hunger for a world title than for each other.


  1. I love the last sentence....I see what you mean:)
    You know I really like this couple, they're great technicians and their lifts are amazing to watch (and also Meryl's face is so interesting and fascinating^^), but it's a pity that Charlie doesn't really respond to Meryl's looks...I have the feeling she's desperately trying to create a connection with him, on the ice, but he just looks like he doesn't care about her. I like Charlie, but he seems like he isn't looking at Meryl even when he's looking at her....oh it's so hard to explain....Anyway, that is, in my opinion, what makes them look like there's something missing.
    On a more superficial note, I absolutely adore Meryl's unusual face and her expressions, she really gives me lots of inspiration for drawings^^

  2. Great observations.
    Watching the free dance from NHK, the music cuts did not flow well with the Il Postino soundtrack in there. It brought a more playful approach to the tango, which made the changes of music and the more dramatic sections a bit jarring. I think the new music cuts at Nationals allowed the theatrics of the tango to heighten as the program moves on, which really brings the viewer to a climax. Meryl has visibly grown in her expression and command. Unfortunately, Charlie still looks like he would rather be with Tanith...

  3. I wish I liked this program more. It's so commendable that they're willing to stretch and challenge themselves even when they're at the top. I actually think they might have done better with a flamenco, since it's easier for an audience to respond to and connect with. Still, good for them for trying something new and doing such a difficult program. Great post.

  4. come back, morozombie!!

  5. Yes,we need your post.Please come back.Morozombie!!