Irrelevant Information

Apr 10, 2011

Furry wind-up toys, etc.

You know that the ladies' short programs this season have been disappointing when:
-watching them instantly cures insomnia
-you've seen fan-made montages that would make more interesting programs
-Rachael Flatt receives the highest scores so far.

Alissa Czisny, Romance from Violin Concerto in D SP (2011 US Nationals)
 *** - Meh
Miss Czisny is perhaps the canonical embodiment of wholesome American sex appeal:  well-scrubbed, healthy, depilated and exfoliated, and most of all, topped off with a charmingly toothsome smile. Her skating, rather fittingly, is also reminiscent of the American ice princess ideal with those picture-perfect spirals, elegant balletic positions and of course, the requisite Dick Button-approved layback. As such, Miss Czisny must be wonderful and much easier to to work with for choreographers than many other skaters: just find the prettiest music possible and have Miss Czisny glide across the ice in her charming way while the audience sits there utterly mesmerized by the inherent pleasures of pretty girls swanning about in white.

At least, that seems to be the general idea behind her Romance SP this year. And there's nothing wrong with it. The music is a bit slow and meanders slightly, but all the more better to appreciate the deliberate elegance of Miss Czisny's skating and the new zen-like calm she seems to have acquired this year. Thankfully, under a system where forays into rhythmic gymnastics and Cirque du Soleil are often used to up one's levels, Romance is also entirely devoid of any ugly contorted movements. The footwork goes along with the music very prettily, nothing forced about it, and the spins are superb. But taken as a whole aesthetically, Romance breaks as much new ground as next year's cashmere beige sweater, being at once very lovely and a touch dull. As Tyra Banks would say, this program "relies on the pretty" instead of actually being interesting. Indeed, this is the road that leads to Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini and all those other generic female ballads saving themselves for marriage.

Kanako Murakami, Jumping Jack SP (NHK Trophy 2010)
*** - Grudging ok
Jumping Jack is an unholy combination of everything cutesy/sugary/girly/bubbly, a sort of triple-distilled essence of furry wind-up toys. Fortunately, Miss Murakami throws herself into selling this program in a slightly manic manner, which, coupled with her speed across the ice, barely, just barely, allows the whole thing to take off. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to receive a root canal.

Rachael Flatt, East of Eden SP (2011 Four Continents Championships)
 *** 1/2 - Not bad
Let's face it, some skaters will never be a Kwan or a Yagudin. In fact, most skaters can only dream of aspiring to such heights, so that's OK. So what do you do if you're part of the unfortunate bunch mostly lacking in both charisma and musicality?

One fairly well-trod route is to use music that does the heavy lifting--that is, let the emotion of the music do all that projecting-to-the-audience business. After all, even if the skating is crap, the audience can always close their eyes and enjoy the music. In fact, this strategy is what Lori Nichol appears to used for Miss Flatt's East of Eden SP this season. The formula is as follows: (1) Choose the most sweeping, majestic, emotion-laden music a human can stand without fainting. (2) Insert typical figure skating program elements. (3) Round it off with some sweeping choreographic elements (i.e. spread eagles, etc) set to the crescendoes of the music. (4) Stand back and watch the whole thing lumber off into the hearts of the audience.

But who can blame Ms. Nichol? East of Eden works, it really does. Yes, the arms during the footwork are spastic and jarringly out of place considering the music, but as a whole, this short program is a welcome departure from the jazzy-peppy dreck that Ms. Nichol seems so fond of for Miss Flatt. The music of East of Eden seems to transport Miss Flatt's skating to a higher plane: the jumps seem to have more flow than usual, there's a smoothness to her elements that didn't previously seem to be there, and, dare I say, there seems to be some genuine heartfelt emoting somewhere there?

Some may protest that Michelle Kwan's programs to East of Eden were better (they were) but Miss Flatt is not going head-to-head with The Kwan and moreover, it's unlikely that anyone would ever be able to top Ms. Kwan's immortal East of Eden at the 1998 World ProAms anyways. This is a perfectly fine program in terms of construction and I have a feeling that it would have been much better received it it were not Miss Flatt skating to it. 

Mao Asada, Agony tango (2011 4CC)
** - What Tango? 
It constantly beggars belief how Tatiana Tarasova's exhibition programs for Miss Asada can be so superb, while their competitive counterparts consistently vacillate between 'blah' and 'dud.' Case in point: every Tarasova program for Miss Asada since the 2008-2009 season. Unfortunately, Agony Tango is more of the same old, same old: a flat, shapeless tango that is not only conspiciously front-loaded but also manages to be completely devoid of the insouciance that made her previous Por una cabeza such a delight to watch. In fact, there is little indication that this is supposed to be a tango aside from some token poses. Definitely more agony than tango here.

Fumie Suguri, Adagio SP (2010/2011 Japanese Championships)
** - Blah
Soporific and derivative enough to be saved for future reference as the Generic Lori Nichol Program for Female Skaters Not Named Michelle Kwan. 


  1. Where's Miki's SP (the second one) for this season?? :D

  2. I agree with you on Mao's tango. Her movements don't look like a tango's at all. On the other hand, I love Akiko's Jalousie SP choreographed by Kenji Miyamoto. Watching the Japan National last December, I couldn't understand why Mao could receive such higher marks in CH and IN than Akiko. Well, this IS figure skating....

  3. The Ladies SPs are so awful this season, sometimes I don't even watch and just wait for the results, and then MAYBE watch the top 3. It is pretty sad that Flatt probably has the best SP this season. That pretty much captures it all. Mao's tango is awful - I can't believe she is the same skater who delighted us with Por Una Cabeza a couple of years back. You could swap Czisny's with any generic slow, pretty music. Hopefully Yu-na can bring something interesting to the table at worlds, because honestly, I don't even know if I'll bother to watch the ladies SPs...although the men's are quite interesting this year.

  4. In terms of SPs this year, there was a shortage of any "WOW!" ones. I thought Kanako's SP fit her personality and the energy she poured into it made it one of the best of the year for me...minus the sugar shock you get afterwards.

    As much as I tend to detest Carolina Kostner b/c of the obvious cheating that goes on whenever she skates, I have to say she had a great SP package this year (minus the jumps). The choreography and costume were gorgeous and she performed it well a number of times.

    Akiko often gets passed over because Japans field is so damn deep, BUT she consistently has amazingly choreographed, musical and entertaining programs. She's never given her due though...

    I'm too enthralled with The Kwan to get swept up in Rachael's East of Eden...somehow she ends up somewhere South-West of Eden for me. I don't believe in letting a piece of music carry 90% of the load; it's cheap and a total cop-out but that's all she could do. Bless her heart, she's a boringly bland skater and that was the only way to wake people up when she skates.

    For her sake, I hope she goes to Stanford full-time and drops skating for a while. She's gone as far as she's gonna go...