Dec 13, 2012
Let's not delude ourselves here: Mr. Takahashi's Pagliacci is a relatively mundane program that is clearly calibrated to score points, points, and more points above all. Two quads, two triple axels, busywork transitions in and out out of a bunch of his jumping passes, etc., etc. Of course, all competitive programs in figure skating on some level or another are choreographed to be point-maximisation machines by design, but what I've felt distinguished Mr. Takahashi from most skaters was that many of his programs since the 2009-2010 season seemed to treat scoring points as somehow merely incidental to their true purpose of being coherent, dazzling artistic statements. Whether this is indeed true or not, it is undeniable that La Strada, In the Garden of Souls, Eye, and Blues for Klook were special programs. Even in the hands of a lesser performer, their quality still would have shone through. In Mr. Takahashi's capable hands, however, watching them was an Experience.
But Pagliacci is different. My ambivalence towards the program at the Japan Open had already soured into active dislike by the time the NHK Trophy had ended. The main problem with Pagliacci, I feel, is the very same one that many argue lies at the heart of CoP as a whole: that the sum of the parts is less than the whole. In Pagliacci, there are some good choreographic highlights in there--the lunge transition before the 3S works well with that bit of musical phrasing, for instance, and both step sequences are agreeable enough--but they don't seem to add up to anything too coherent as a whole. Throw in some rather strange music cuts, meaningless transitions and all that face stroking and angsty hand motions....no. I can see how Pagliacci racks up the points and ticks the PCS boxes, but Mr. Takahashi is too good for this sort of program.
And yet, and yet...upon watching Mr. Takahashi's urgent, passionate performance at Sochi, inexorably pouring his heart out on the ice, something unexpected happened. As Mr. Takahashi smiled at the close of his performance, I found my own facial muscles somehow involuntarily rearranging themselves in a like fashion for the very first time.
Keeping standards high is a daily struggle.