Irrelevant Information

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.

What would you rather watch?


  1. Dear Mr. Morozombie, as a devoted fan of yours and a connoisseur of your posts most extraordinaire, I very much appreciate you enlightening us even in this most tedious time of the year, the off-season. However, how can my poor and tortured soul make an unbiased choice between these two options, exemplified by those two skaters. Do you now by how many points my IQ dropped this year due to watching Tigerman's Between these two, I'm left with no choice. I have to go for good choreo and poor performance. My answer would mostly certainly have been different, if you had not chosen this LP as an example for A good performance. I want to favour the good performance, believe me I do, I prefer it vastly over... over anything but that LP.

    1. You really know how to stroke my ego, Anon! ;)

      But I'm sorry for making you contemplate Mr. Amodio's abomination of a LP again. But consider it necessary for the sake, science.

      To be honest, I'd usually choose good performance/mediocre choreo too (I can be a sucker for charisma sometimes)as I usually find skaters like Mr. Kozuka duller than a bag of hammers, but....

  2. Another AnonymousMay 2, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    Amodio's 2010-11 LP would make a better example, I think, because it was about as empty choreographically without being painful to watch. If we want to venture into other disciplines, I would put up Alena Leonova's programs as an example of crap choreo with a committed performance.

    As it is, I vote for Kozuka. And I'll add that I respect him for trying different things musically, even if this doesn't always work out.

    1. I considered Mr. Amodio's 2010-2011, but I decided the choreography wasn't mediocre enough. True, it lacked transitions, etc., but at least the program was somewhat more coherent and the movements more related to the music (and less tacky) than the mess he had this season.

      As for using Alena Leonova, I was going to do a separate post with ladies skaters as examples if the results of this poll turned out to be ambiguous, but I guess that won't be necessary....

  3. Just curious - who would be your ladies analog of Takahiko? I assume Leonova would play the role of Amodio in the ladies poll :)

  4. Hi morozombie, let me analyse Mr. Kozuka's performance by each item of PE, CH, and IN. I may continue Mr. Amodio's if I have time in the future.

    1. Performance
    Performance is the involvement of the skater/couple/teams physically, emotionally, and intellectually as they translate the intent of the music and choreography. Execution is the quality of movement and precision in delivery. Includes:

    1-1) Physical, emotional, and intellectual involvement: In all skating disciplines each skater must be physically committed, sincere in emotion, and equal in comprehension of the music and in execution of all movement.

    Having heard that he chose his music himself, rearranged it, and even hired an orchestra to record it for him, I suppose that his involvement was high, but his performance doesn't show it.

    1-2) Carriage (A trained inner strength of the body that makes possible ease of movement from the center of the body. Alignment is the fluid change from one movement to the next):

    His face/head, arms, and legs stay close to the center of the body. I don't think he has solid training in dancing.

    1-3) Style and individuality/personality (Style is the distinctive use of line and movement as inspired by the music. Individuality/personality is a combination of personal and artistic preferences that a skater/pair/couple brings to the concept, manner, and content of the program)

    I don't see much consciousness in the use of line and movement inspired by the music.

    1-4) Clarity of movement (Is characterized by the refined lines of the body and limbs, as well as the precise execution of any movement)

    Many of his lines and moves look unfinished and sloppy. Again, he needs more dance training.

    1-5) Variety and contrast (Varied use of tempo, rhythm, force, size, level, movement shapes, angles, and, body parts as well as the use of contrast)

    This, a lack of thereof, is one of the weaknesses that stand out in his performances.

    1-6) Projection (The skater radiates energy resulting in an invisible connection with the audience):

    I find this performance introverted.

    2. Choreography/Composition
    An intentional, developed, and/or original arrangement of all movements according to the principles of proportion, unity, space, pattern, structure, and phrasing. Includes:

    2-1) Purpose - (Idea, concept, vision, mood) (To reward the intentional and quality design of a program).

    I don't think he succeeded in telling a story.

    2-2) Proportion (equal weight of all parts) (Each part and section has equal weight in achieving the aesthetic pursuit of the composition)

    The program is well-choreographed throughout the program.

    2-3) Unity (Purposeful threading of all movements: A program achieves unity when: every step, movement, and element is motivated by the music. As well, all its parts, big or small, seem necessary to the whole, and there is an underlying vision or symbolic meaning that threads together the entire composition.)

    I find choreos cohesive throughout the entire program.

    2-4) Pattern and Ice Coverage (Movement phrases are designed using an interesting and meaningful variety of patterns and directions of travel)

    Seems good to me.

  5. Continued.

    2-5) Phrasing and Form (movement and parts are structured to match the phrasing of the music): A phrase is a unit of movement marked by an impulse of energy that grows, builds to a conclusion, and then flows easily and naturally into the next movement phrase. Form is the presentation of an idea, the development of the idea, and its conclusion presented in a specific number of parts and a specific order for design.

    I could see little phrasings or forms.

    2-6) Originality of Purpose, Movement, and Design: An individual perspective of movement and design in pursuit of a creative composition as inspired by the music and the underlying vision.

    There are some interesting moves, but I wonder these should be credited to the choreographer or the performer himself. I am saying this because the choreos look applied, rather coming from within himself.

    2-7) Utilization of Personal and Public Space: Movement phrases are distributed in such a way they communicate from every angle in a 360 degree skater-viewer relationship.

    Seems good to me.

    3. Interpretation
    The personal and creative translation of the music to movement on ice. To reward the skater who through movement creates a personal and creative translation of the music. As the tempo binds all notes in time, the ability to use the tempos and rhythms of the music in a variety of ways, along with the subtle use of finesse to reflect the nuances of all the fundamentals of music: melody, rhythm, harmony, color, texture, and form creates a mastery of interpretation. Includes:

    3-3) Effortless Movements in Time to the Music (Timing): The ability to translate music through sureness of rhythm, tempo, effective movement, and effortless flow over the ice surface by: rhythmic continuity, awareness of all tempo/rhythm changes in a variety of ways.

    He doesn't delay to the music, but doesn't seem to be well aware of all tempo/rhythm changes, either.

    3-4) Expression of the music's style, character, and rhythm: Maintaining the character and style of the music throughout the entire program by use of body and skating techniques to depict a mood, style, shape, or thematic idea as motivated by the structure of the music: melody, harmony, rhythm, color, texture, and form. The total involvement of the body should express the intent of the music.

    I find this performance colorless.

    3-5) Use of finesse to reflect the nuances of music: The skater's refined, artful manipulation of nuances. Nuances are the personal, artistic ways of bringing subtle variations to the intensity, tempo, and dynamics of the music made by the composer and/or the musician.

    I don't see it.

    Based on my analysis, I think Mr. Kozuka should be rated low on PE and IN, and a little higher on CH than he should on PE or IN. But most of the CH items I rated positively should be credited to the choreographer than himself.

    Please pardon me for a long post.