May 1, 2012
Of Scylla and Charybdis
There are some things in life that would be much easier to judge if everything operated along a Manichean sort of duality. The sport of figure skating would certainly be included among that number--imagine, after all, how much easier it would be if all skaters with good expression had good choreography and transitions, etc., and all skaters with mediocre expression had mediocre choreography and transitions, and so on. True, there are indeed examples of such (e.g. Daisuke Takahashi on one end of the spectrum with, say, Kevin van der Perren on the other), but despite what the ISU's judges try to tell us with their persistent habit of clumping together the different categories of the Program Components Scores (i.e. SS, PE, IN, CH all within the same narrow range and TR almost always the lowest), things are not always so easy or unambiguous in this world of tears. Instead, we often are witness to skaters with varying levels of proficiency among the categories of the PCS....even if their official scores don't exactly reflect this sad reality.
We need to look no further than the long programs of Takahiko Kozuka and Florent Amodio this season for an example of such disparities in the different categories of PCS. Today, we will focus on the more flaky components that can somewhat be construed as 'artistic': PE, IN and CH.
On one hand, Mr. Kozuka has a good, thoughtful program that is decently constructed with choreography that makes great use of the music's nuances, particularly during the step sequences and some of the spins. On the other hand, Mr. Kozuka's performance of his program is somewhat lacking: the choreography, though of high quality, looks rather applied, his movements somehow removed and sitting on top of the music instead of coming from within. Everything is skated and performed at the same smooth level, but there is little sense that Mr. Kozuka captures the highs and lows of the music, the varying shifts in mood and tempo.
The judges' scores for the above performance:
SS 7.93, TR 7.57, PE 7.61, CH 7.86, IN 7.75
Mr. Amodio, however, is almost exactly the opposite. His empty long program is distinguished by its conspicuously ham-fisted choreography that possesses little sense of the unity, purpose, proportion, etc., demanded by the official guidelines of PCS. Purposeful threading of all movements? Phrasing and form? All that appears to be jettisoned in favor of obvious rest points and some heavy back-loading of jumping passes to gain that second-half bonus. However, Mr. Amodio is an engaging performer who skates with excellent energy and attack, expressing the music's style, character, and rhythm fairly well (as cheesy as it may be), and based on various crowd reactions, he certainly is more than competent at that whole "radiates energy resulting in an invisible connection with the audience" business.
The judges' score for the above performance:
SS 8.18, TR 7.75, PE 8.36, CH 8.11, IN 8.43
Well, it's rather clear what the judges prefer. But what do you think? Please vote below and feel free to justify your opinions in the comments.
Note: for the purposes of this poll, 'performance' refers not to the execution of the program's elements, but how the skater translates the intent of the music and choreography.