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Nov 14, 2012

Facta, non verba


Approximately two years ago, I wrote a sincerely gushy blog post about a young and promising dance team: Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.

However, I have since attributed that blog post to the vagaries of youthful indiscretion, something akin to past follies like wearing sweatpants out in public and getting into drinking contests with a bunch of frat boys twice my size.
Of course, this had slowly but surely become inevitable since Ilinykh/Katsalapov announced that Nikolai Morozov was to be their new coach. Nikolai Morozov’s dance choreography has generally tended to run the gamut from polarizing hot mess (Bourne/Kraatz’s Adagio) to absolute and utter crap (Grushina/Goncharov’s The Feeling Begins), and his work for for Ilinykh and Katsalapov sadly has not been an exception.

Last year’s Ave Maria free dance was basically a pile of overcooked melodrama that seemed oddly old-fashioned on such a young team:

 
….but this year’s Ghost free dance really takes the proverbial cake:


I cannot describe this program (or watch it without cringing, for that matter) in a way that does justice to how I feel about it, but I do credit Ilinykh/Katsalapov’s Ghost for helping me realize why I've never fully supported the introduction of lyrics into competitive elite skating outside of ice dance. Here we see Miss Ilinykh and Mr. Katsalapov literally acting out parts of the lyrics/dialogue that have somehow been placed in this program in an immense lapse of judgment on Mr. Morozov’s part—this, to me,  goes against everything that represents ‘interpretation’ in figure skating: the personal and creative translation of the music to movement on ice. I suppose I don’t mind hearing dialogue and/or lyrics in a figure skating program per se, but literally acting the words seems like a lazy shortcut, using the words as a crutch to tell a story on the ice. Plus, when the dialogue is that cheesy….
ALSO—what is with this team and their apparent fixation on getting shot in their free dances? It was ok when they first did it in Schindler’s List, but by now it’s getting ridiculous….

As a palate cleanser, here are good examples of how lyrics should be used in figure skating programs. The difference here is that these programs skate to the lyrics without acting them out. The human voice, after all, can be viewed as simply one instrument among many in a musical composiion. One can (and should) interpret the melody, rhythm, color, harmony and texture of the human voice as if it were any other instrument:

13 comments:

  1. Dear old Morozov. I find it cringe worthy enough if skaters sing along/mouth lyrics in exhibitions.

    If only there was a couple out there who would answer this by doing a programme to dialogue only, with constant gunshot fire as basic rhythm; oh, and also a section with rubber duck squeacking, oh, and thinking of rubber ducks, there should also be a part of acting out Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. To any dance couples out there who are interested: Post here, I choreograph this absolutely free of charge, perfectly suited as an Olympic free dance.

    Btw. our Eurosport commentator absolutely loved it, it seemed very avantgarde to him.

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  2. Hahahahah, I wanna see Bert and Ernie too! And the Cookie monster with that chewing sound would be awesome! :D:D
    COming back to the earlier discussion, while I agree absolutely with everything in this post, I will add smth that will probably horrify our dear blogger. I think this FD has more flow, more speed and more aesthetically pleasing lifts than Carmen. While it is atrocious as a concept and its execution, it does have a unity and coherence as a dance. OTOH, I think Carmen, while techinically very difficuly indeed, is a slapstick of acrobatics pasted together along with some leg kicking, crotch grabbing and a weird sexual innuendo lift. I think both are a shame..

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    1. You mean the lift where his face is buried in her crotch? Yeah. It's terrible.

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    2. To Anonymous and you - Yes, anything sexual on ice/stage is a shame and "terrible". Definitely. Or not - if only you don't think that sexuality itself is a sin and a shame. It's strange how many people haven't noticed that 'Carmen' is very much about sexuality. It's not a beautiful and romantic love story. Even what Hose feels towards Carmen is more of an obsession, than love. But Carmen doesn't love him at all, although in some versions there is a moment were she comes close to it - as close as she is able. In truth, she just uses Hose and plays with him, and obviously gets her pleasure from having such (mostly sexual) power over him. So, what's so wrong about a program that actually shows that?

      Plus, as modern dance elements are used in Virtue/Moir's 'Carmen', it's much more ice "dance", than Ilinykh/Katsalapov's FD that has no any dance choreography in it.

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    3. Sorry, I forgot that it's 'Jose', not 'Hose' in english (it's 'Hose' in latvian - my native language).

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  3. I have to agree with the above comment. Carmen just astonishes me. Perhaps this is why I never liked Tessa and Scott as much as Meryl and Charlie.

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  4. I haven't watched all the Rostelecom coverage yet, so I'd missed the Ghost program. That was so bad. That was SO BAD. I don't understand how that program was put together and performed without anyone pointing out that it's flat embarrassing.

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  5. It's not worse than B/S autistic dance but I guess that one is Zhulin and everything he does is avant garde and forgiven by his middle aged fan girls and boys.

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    1. ...

      You're entitled to your opinion w/r/t B/S's FD (which isn't about autism and it's not like I think it's perfect either) but I'm not middle aged (and how is that relevant anyway?), and I've hardly been a fan of everything Mr. Zhulin's done....

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    2. To the previous 'Anonymous' - probably to you 31 is middle aged, so in this case I can't say that I am not middle aged. But, as 'morozombie' wrote, Bobrova/Soloviev's FD is not about autism. Apparently you prefer programs where everything is clear at the first view even for the dumbest. Yes, sometimes such programs are good, but I like also the ones where not everything is easily understandable, programs with some mistery, those that can be explained/translated in different ways - if only they look interesting to me. Those programs have an added value for me. You can call them avant-garde if you want, but actually 'avant-garde' is not an expletive. I don't know how it came to be that for some people it is (an expletive). In truth, not all programs that you might want to call 'avant-garde' (the ones that you don't understand and find "weird") are such, because generally "avant-garde" means "ahead of it's time".

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  6. Sorry for responding to your post so late, but I only just found your blog. And it's great - I really love your writing. I am also very glad to find one more Stephane Lambiel fan :).

    Also sorry for replying to other posters first (I am the last 'Anonymous') - I simply couldn't stop myself from writing what I did.

    Back to the topic - I agree with you in general. At the same time, I don't think it can be said that in the examples given by you skaters are skating with no regard to the lyrics - they are just showing their own stories based on those lyrics, interpreting them in their own ways. Also, despite agreeing with you about the literal use of lyrics, I must say that there have been cases where I have enjoyed programs in which words are acted in a more literal way. It depends on each program - and it's too difficult to explain what makes one different from another.

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  7. My shame - I forgot to congratulate you with the New Year. So, a great New Year to you! And don't stop writing this blog ;).

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