Irrelevant Information

Jun 21, 2012

Pick your poison

With the ubiquity of the recycling logo and the proliferation of recycling bins everywhere, recycling has long been in vogue for many people.....including the denizens that populate the world of figure skating, it appears! Instead of paper and aluminum cans, however, what is often recycled in figure skating are music cuts, program concepts and even choreography in some particularly sad cases.

So what are we to do as bewildered spectators? Vote in frivolous polls to compare the programs, of course!  Today we will focus on the environmentally-friendly works of noted skating choreographer Lori Nichol. Under the cut is a nowhere-near-exhaustive list of programs all choreographed by Ms. Nichol. Please vote and feel free to justify your choices, etc., in the comments. I will also write a follow-up post next week with my opinions of the programs.....

Concierto de Aranjuez: Takeshi Honda, 2002 vs. Joanne Rochette, 2009 vs. Patrick Chan, 2012 

Ms. Nichol is obviously getting her money's worth out of those music cuts! At least she has the sense not to use the screechy violin version of Aranjuez.....

Which Nichol Aranjuez was the best?

Scheherazade: Totmianina/Marinin, 2005 vs. Pang/Tong, 2012 vs. Evan Lysacek, 2009

Note: was Zhang/Zhang's 2009-2010 Scheherazade LP a Lori Nichol program? I can't remember, and I couldn't find any sources confirming/denying it...

Which Nichol Schez was the best?

Carmen: Michelle Kwan, 1999 vs. Evan Lysacek, 2006 vs. Mirai Nagasu, 2010

Note: I didn't include the Carmen LP Ms. Nichol choreographed for Fumie Suguri in 2004-5 as the music cuts (and seemingly the concept) were much, much more different than the ones above.....

Which Nichol Carmen was the best?

East of Eden: Michelle Kwan, 2001 vs. Rachael Flatt, 2011 

Which Nichol East of Eden was better?

Firebird: Evan Lysacek, 2010 vs. Rachael Flatt, 2012

As an irrelevant aside, those hairy/feathery things on Mr. Lysacek's Firebird costume terrify the fuck out of me. It's like his chest hair gone amok or something....

Which Nichol Firebird was better?

Spartacus: Christopher Mabee, 2007 vs. Mirai Nagasu, 2011

Which Nichol Spartacus was better?

Memoirs of a Geisha: Carolina Kostner, 2007 vs. Mirai Nagasu, 2011

Note: was Bebe Liang's Memoirs of a Geisha LP a Lori Nichol creation? I couldn't remember, which is why I omitted it.....

Which Nichol Memoirs of a Geisha was better?

Liebestraum: Jennifer Robinson, 2002 vs. Mao Asada 2011 

Which Nichol Liebestraum was better?

Galicia Flamenca: Kimmie Meissner, 2007 vs. Carolina Kostner, 2011

Which Nichol Galicia Flamenca was better?


  1. Needs a none of the above option.

  2. Another AnonymousJune 22, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    I didn't vote much, but I have to say that your choice of picture to illustrate your point was brilliant.

    Oh god, what if Nichol tries to get someone else to skate to Shostakovich? I can't imagine any lady but Kostner could have managed to make it work.

    1. Maybe she'll give the piece to a pairs team instead in a few years...

  3. "Sing Sing Sing" is her favorite, too.

    Mao 2008

    Rachael 2010

    1. Daisuke Takahashi has published some his essays. In his essay, he says, "I try to skate with choreography of a different genre every year. I haven't sketed in genre of 'jazz'. I'm interested in choreography of "Sing Sing Sing".
      So I thought he wanted to work with Loli Nichol.

    2. Lori Nichol has also choreographed "Sing Sing Sing" programs for Tomas Verner, Christopher Mabee, and probably some other skaters I've forgotten....

  4. Well, Kimmie and Carolina's programs are pretty much the same...

    1. I wonder if Carolina Kostner noticed, actually.

  5. Phew, you've set us quite a task there, dear Morozombie. Not only are we to compare programmes, no, we also have to compare programmes from the 6.0 era to programmes from the cop era and across diciplines to boot! But, as your wish is my command, I will do as you asked and try to rank these and do a few comments.

    Mr. Honda's is a pre COP programme, probably the emptiest in terms of transitions, which fits the music rather well in this case. I don't mind Mr. Honda covering ice and doing crossovers most of the time. The less is more is the overall strength of this programme, still Mr. Honda's choreography is not the best Aranjuez ever imaginable, He's mostly using his hands and arms to accentuate the pacing of the music, that he does rather well, considering he might be relying on the fist/hand/imaginary-grasp/reach-thingy a bit too much. Of the three he has easily the best ending though. He is ranked first by me on the virtue of his slower sections and the overall non-business of the programme Which reflects the pacing and the music in general very well.

    Aranjuez: Mr. Honda/Ms. Rochette/Mr. Chan

    Between the cop programmes Ms. Rochette takes the 1st place. Her elements and transitions match the music better than the choreography given to Mr. Chan. My biggest complaint in his case would be the later half or even later third of Mr. Chans programme which feels especially hurried and not well matched to the music, here especially around and including the choreography step sequence. Although he has some very good choreography in the first half, leading up to his first steps and the sequence itself. Ms. Rochette wins on overall coherence of the programme and on her nice middle section, choreo steps and her spiral on the crescendo, an old Nichol specialty often that can often be observed in her programmes for Ms. Kwan. I acknowledge the spiral sequence, was a required element at that time, so it was choreographed more carefully than just a transition. Still, the overall impression is better in Rochette's case. Truth telling, I had a hard time deciding between her and Mr. Honda, but as I like some slower moments and movements (and maybe due to a little bias in Mr. Honda's favour) I have him first by a hair.

    1. Thanks for the very detailed response, The Pink Tulip!

      Well, I'm sure you know which Aranjuez I would have voted for (Takeshi Honda's), and I agree with many of the things you wrote here. I also gave credit to the fact that though Mr. Honda's LP may not be as choreographically dense as Mr. Chan's rendition, Mr. Honda's nonetheless was quite impressive according to the standards of his own time. I do especially agree with what you said about the overall non-business of the program--I felt the simpler, sweeping choreography especially in the earlier half of the program fit the sustained notes and slow-ish melodic line of the music very well. I also felt that Mr. Honda's LP had the best arrangement of music cuts. Plus, that reverse walley into a spread eagle to the plucking of the guitar is literally one of my favorite moments of choreography ever. A great example of a unique and beautifully interpretative connecting move/transition!

      For me, I had a much harder time deciding between Ms. Rochette's and Mr. Chan's LPs. I admire the complexity of Mr. Chan's LP and recognize why it scores lots of points, but there are moments, as you pointed out, where the choreography could have reflected the music better--e.g. the ugly spread eagle, the second half of the choreo step sequence. That said, I think Aranjuez is a big step up from PotO.

      As for Ms. Rochette's LP, I really liked the use of her upper body and arms. I find Ms. Rochette can be a bit stiff in the upper body at times (it's probably the limited flexibility, I think) but the choreography was quite clever at minimizing it. Agree with you about the spiral sequence, disagree (somewhat) about the step sequence. Good use of transitions/connecting movements throughout, though I found the back-arch move she did a bit repetitive after the first couple of times. I would probably rank Ms. Rochette's LP a hair above Mr. Chan's personally, but I do recognize that reasons not necessarily having to do with choreography may have played a role here (e.g. musicality, performance quality, etc).

      That said, I think all three programs were actually very strong programs for different reasons. Very good work by Lori Nichol.

    2. Thanks for your long response and your take on these three. I have to admit, I was surprised at how good each of the programmes actually are, when I watched them over and over one after another. I probably harbor a certain bias towards or rather against Nichol choreography and choreographers in general, I have to work on that :D. Agree about Mr. Honda having the best music cut. As you say, both Cop programmes were very close too, I tried to consider that when comparing them to Mr. Hondas. Leaving all that aside, he'd be a bit further ahead.

      If I pull myself together, I might do Romeo and Juliet this evening. I'm not sure about some others like Firebird. Can I force myself to choose in those cases? Exercises like these remind me of the impossibilty of really assessing a programme in just a couple of minutes.

    3. Carmen:

      I try not to be too biased in Ms. Nagasu's favour by virtue of her good performance level at this competition and the recency effect. This one is clearly between the Ladies. And both their approaches to the Carmen theme are actually quite different.

      Ms. Nagasu's chorepgraphy seems to be the best to me. 2A+3T into choreo transition is very nice. Back to back spins really work well with the quickening of the music. Change of music with the spiral sequence. Somewhat random Ina Bauer but the held spread eagle into 2A can serve as a nice example of a jump and it's transition matching the music very well, that can't happen often enough. All in all very playful, lively, energetic choreography that matches the music, places elements well and fits the skater throughout. Into 1st place.

      Ms. Kwan is given a sterner, more somber approach towards Carmen and tasked to embody a darker vamp-like persona. Nice features are the ending spin rising from the sit position with the music into the ending pose, spiral on the dramatic section and step sequence then steps into solo jump, the music cut is interesting and well reflected in the choreography througout the programme but for a short programme it tries to jam 4 different music parts into very little time, the first two sections are clearly ended by audible pauses in the music reflected by the skater's movements, that allows to highlight certain sections of elements very well, think of the step-seq and the following solo jump, but might hurt the overall unity of the piece. Quite a good programme that still leaves me as a viewer somewhat unsatisfied and lost, maybe it tries to cram to many different approaches and choreographic ideas into one skate.

      Mr. Lysacek's programme starts with reeling off too many jumps onte after another to be called well balanced and doing some hand-grasp-fist choreography. This is what the commentators deem very intense and dramatic, for me it rather describes the music than the choreography. Still, although the jumps don't seem to be perfectly placed in accordance with the music, somehow I can see the formula and idea behind it. Suspense of jumping and this music, powerful opening and all, black dressed hero etc. Shortly thereafter changes of the music reflected with back to back spins( note back to back spins as in Ms. Nagasu's programme). Now, the 1st spin actually was perfect there as it was, the 2nd one not so much but still ok. Nice slow section followed by jumps and, unfortunately, a totally disconnected and meaningless step sequence. Although I'm not a proponent of excessive flailing, the 2nd sequence was way better than the first one, in relation to the music and relatively speaking I must add. The first one as it is just has no reason to exist. All in all above average, considering the so-so placement and order of elements and the 1st steps. Still, it works for Mr. Lysacek.

    4. Hello, The Pink Tulip! Thanks for another very interesting comment.

      For me, Carmen was a very difficult choice to choose. I have my own problems with each of the programs, though I also agree with many of the things you wrote above.

      Mirai Nagasu: Personally, I love this performance, love Ms. Nagasu's skating, have watched it countless times....but for me, there is a fundamental mismatch here between the music and the skater. Yes, I know Ms. Nichol chose the 'lighter' Carmen Fantasie here for the most part instead of Bizet's full-bodied original, but Ms. Nagasu's program doesn't really say 'Carmen' to me--instead, it's kinder-Carmen. Although normally I place the emphasis on skating to the music more than playing/portraying a character when it comes to skating, the character of Carmen is so famously full of certain associations and Bizet's music is so suggestive/evocative of the same associations that I cannot say Ms. Nagasu's program is a good program to the music of Carmen. It really makes me wonder why Ms. Nichol/Frank Carroll/whoever chose the music of Carmen in the first place--surely some other piece of music could harness Ms. Nagasu's spirit in the same way without the cognitive dissonance?

      Michelle Kwan: Points for a more creative approach to Carmen which still nonetheless jives with the original character, but I do agree with what you said about the too many different approaches into one short program. I for one thought the music cut from 2:04-2:32 felt especially felt out of place for such a 'dark Carmen' program. I do like the straightline footwork set to the castanets, though.

      Evan Lysacek: Probably one of his better programs, but skated through too much of the music for me to really rate it well. And I totally agree about that dreadful first step sequence...HORRIBLE.

      So, I'm really not sure who I'd vote for. Probably Ms. Nagasu's as a personal favorite, but there is such a cognitive dissonance between 'Carmen' and 'cute, playful, spunky.'

  6. Hello Morozombie,
    Thank you for this interesting post. As a classical violinist (it's my profession) and enthousiast follower of the figure skating world I sometimes feel that I am looking from a different point of view. I am always looking for skaters who really feel the music and are able to translate the music into movements. Often I see skaters using music I know very well. Because I understand every sentence of the music it is than difficult to convince me.
    Especially in the new system I often see choreography with too much movements. For instance the Aranjuez; all the three examples start with a very beautiful, but simple melody. All three skaters are using too much movement and interpretation in their opening. I like the Honda-example the most because of the 'simple' choreography. The Rochette en Chan-versions are too much for me. It doesn't make sense and looks like to much focus on making movements as much as possible to get the corresponding points.
    Sheherezade displays another problem for a classical musican watching figure skating. The version of T/M has too many strange music cuts! The case also shows that performance is an important issue. The performance of the Russians is very clean and technical. P/T are able to show more seductiveness, which is an important theme in the music of Sheherezade. So they are the winners in this case.
    Concerning Carmen and Firebird I must say that I don't like to watch Lysacek, no matter what his choreography will be. He never succeeded in convincing me that he feels the music. In Holland we should call him a stick (stijve hark). So he has definitely no chance to win. In Carmen he and Mirai both use too much movements, so I prefer Kwan. Also in case of East of Eden I choose the most simple one, that is in my opinion the one with Flatt.
    In case of the Firebord choreography I don't like them both. I would like to see something very passionate and agitated, which neither of the two skaters are able to bring. Maybe you need a skater like Takahashi for an adequate performance.
    The other video's I will watch tomorrow...

    1. Hello, Willemijn! Thank you for your thought-provoking comment.

      I too played the violin, but only for a few years as I was rubbish at it. I do play the piano much better and for many more years (though not professionally), and I do agree that certainly influences the qualities I look for in a skater and my pet peeves in skating. For instance, you may notice that I sometimes have irrationally angry rants about skaters who use muzak arrangements of classical pieces, particularly classical piano pieces--as a pianist I suppose I feel angry and protective about beloved pieces in the pianists' canon being butchered horribly.

      Aranjuez: I do agree with what you said about the needless business in some parts of Mr. Honda's opening--especially the bits from 0:45-50ish...I wish Ms. Nichol pared down some of the movements/Mr. Honda held them out more. But I do not think Ms. Rochette's Aranjuez is a particularly egregious example of extraneous movement for the sake of points--yes, there are certainly moments in which I would like to tweak, but for a CoP competition program, I felt Ms. Nichol and Ms. Rochette struck a fairly skilful and pleasing balance between 'art' and 'sport.' I would even say the same thing for the first half of Mr. Chan's LP, but not the second half....

      Scheherazade: I did not like any of the programs to Scheherazade, to be honest. But I do know that Evan Lysacek's annoyed me the most. Speaking of Mr. Lyscacek, actually, I do not think that Stravinsky's Firebird was all too bad for him! It's certainly no masterpiece and although he does lack the passion, he does have a sort of neurotic agitation when he's flinging his arms! ;)

  7. Sorry for Lori. I found one, too. Maybe, for some other skaters. It'll be endless lists.


    Caroline Zhang 2009 SP

    Agnes Zawadzki 2010 LP