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.