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May 8, 2011

Alexei Yagudin, Revolutionary Etude

 Alexei Yagudin, Revolutionary Etude SP (2001 World Championships)
***** - Transcendent

It's interesting how some of the greatest programs are programs that never quite manage to win a major championship. Michelle Kwan's Dream of Desdemona and Taj Mahal, for example, are criminally underrated, and Stephane Lambiel never won anything major with Poeta (with the exclusion of the 2007 Grand Prix Final, which was debateable anyways). For Alexei Yagudin, his programs during the 2000-2001 season--Revolutionary Etude and Gladiator--are a perfect case in point. The 2000-2001 season was quite the lost season for Mr. Yagudin, as it was the season in which he lost every tête-à-tête with his up-and-coming rival Evgeni Plushenko and suffered a foot injury to boot. Yet his programs this season were absolutely superb, arguably surpassing even the famous Winter and The Man in the Iron Mask, both excellent programs that were cemented into iconic status with his victory at the 2002 Olympics.

Take Revolutionary Etude for example. This short program is the perfect polygamous marriage between skater, music, choreographer and circumstance. Normally orchestral arrangements of solo piano pieces tend to be overblown and superfluous, but this particular arrangement of Chopin's Revolutionary Etude suits the power and passion of Mr. Yagudin's skating splendidly and lends a certain gravitas to the program that may not have been quite possible with the original piano arrangement.

Revolutionary Etude starts off with a certain expectant tension with the big guns--quad toe-triple toe, (giant) triple axel--relentlessly building up to what is choreographically the highlight of the program, the footwork sequences. And what a highlight they are. The footwork is relatively simple and repetitive but it's executed superbly, done with such flow and speed (something that is sadly lacking in much of the ungainly CoP footwork we see today, but that's a tale for another day). More importantly, it's also incredibly well-matched to the drive of the music, the steps coming rapid and sure like the punishing rhythm of a heartbeat electrified by sheer emotion and energy, exactly what the music demands. And as Mr. Yagudin lands that triple lutz, racing onto the homestretch, one realizes that the ABC commentary after the program is completely and utterly right. This program isn't just about the elements, or the choreography, or the music, or even about winning the competition at all, really. Revolutionary Etude somehow, by sheer force of will, transcends all that and instead achieves a higher purpose. It's about Mr. Yagudin sending a message to that mulletted upstart nipping at his heels, to the judges, to former coach Alexei Mishin, to all the doubters and naysayers who watched him struggle all season, to even the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune--the message being of course, I'm Alexei Motherfucking Yagudin and I am the greatest skater in the world! 

And after watching this program, I cannot help but believe him.


  1. Lol, Morozombie, I love that line in bold—that seems to be EXACTLY what he was saying, particularly at the end!

    You are so right about Yagudin’s Revolutionary Etude and Gladiator; both were gorgeous programs which showcased his strength and passion, and it’s a shame they coincided with Yag’s pre-Olympic slump. I agree with you about the footwork in R. Etude—simple by CoP standards, but it has not only musicality, but fantastic energy and flow! That’s something many CoP step sequences have lost, IMO. I sometimes wonder how Yags would have fared under this system, but then I realize I probably don’t want to know.

    I have to say, Gladiator was a particular favorite of mine, so perfectly suited for Yagudin’s passionate style. I did like both of his Olympic year programs as well, though.

    And I agree that Lambiel’s Poeta was another example of a fabulous program that never quite reached its potential technically. A real shame that he was so plagued by injuries (and that danged triple Axel)...

  2. This is a great post. Alexei Yagudin's "Gladiator" LP is my favourite program of any male figure skater. He had a breathtaking combination of passion, artistry, athletic talent, and competitive heart that I can't find in any other skater (not even in the splendid Stephane Lambiel, although he is, in my opinion, a better show skater).

    I miss Yagudin terribly.

  3. I miss Yagudin and I miss Lambiel, this program is one of my personal favourite and I love the fact that they both could risk and stake for the love of skating (something that the fabulous Plushenko never tried: he only risks when he feels sure enough. It's easy, therefore, to be successful when you compete, if you compete just when at 100%).
    I don't think that Lambiel is more a show skater, I think it's one of the best skaters ever, we are talking about different kinds of skating: there's the more athletic one, and the one with more artistry and musicality in it. Lambiel had everything: fludity, elegance, jumps, musicality, power, spins, footworks. His jumps were awesome, high, with perfect landings, and it's a shame that at some point (too soon!) injuries weighted down on his quads and his axels (damn triple axel, I've suffered for years everytime he tried it, but I loved to notice how much commentators were also struggling with him) because he wasn't just a "show skater", just because he is also fun to watch.
    I'm sorry I talked a lot about Lambiel, I just thought that you said everything about Yag. Beautiful post, actually.

  4. I watched this. Thank you! Yagudin is fantastic.