Irrelevant Information

Jan 12, 2013


One of the common criticisms of CoP is that the 'free' program isn't quite free enough. Admittedly, even under the 6.0 system, the free program wasn't entirely 'free' in the sense that skaters could do whatever they felt like doing, but under 6.0, it was much more easier to distinguish between the short program (where the focus was on the completion of the mandated required elements) and the free program (in which skaters, while still subject to the "well-balanced program" rules, had more freedom to perform whatever combination of elements best suited their individual skills). Indeed, under the various incarnations of CoP so far, the free program has more often than not looked rather like a longer version of the short program and (even worse) acquired a certain homogeneity in terms of program construction.* Of course, some of this was rather inevitable given the way CoP has been structured (when everything is evaluated in terms points, eventually everybody does those same things that earn the most points), but perhaps the dinosaurs at the uppermost echelons of the ISU have not been entirely deaf to the protestations of the trilobites down below as there has been a slow but steady shift towards how a free program is structured under CoP. The most important development in this regard has been the implementation of the level-free element in the free program, one of the most positive CoP developments as of late.

For the ladies, the newest development in terms of level-free elements has been the introduction of the choreographic sequence this season. With no explicit rewards for more difficulty and even looser technical requirements than the choreographic spiral sequence of yesteryear, the choreographic sequence has clearly been implemented with an eye towards encouraging greater creativity and freedom in choreography within the context of the long program. In fact, the only real technical requirements for the ladies choreographic sequence is that there must be at least one spiral of any length, and the sequence must fully utilize the ice surface. All very well and nice, but one further improvement on the choreographic sequence would be to get rid of the requirement that the choreographic sequence must be performed after the step sequence. As of now, all skaters tend to perform their choreographic sequences near/at the very end of the program, which is of course not in itself a bad thing, but surely in the context of some programs it would make sense to have the choreographic sequence with the spirals in a middle or even the beginning section? At the very least, if the purpose of the choreographic sequence is to encourage creativity and variety, it would behoove the ISU to allow for the option of having the choreographic sequence before the levelled sequence.

Anyway, let's evaluate some of the choreographic sequences from this season:

Kanako Murakami 
Surprisingly, Kanako Murakami has one of my favorite choreographic sequences of the season. Who would've thought that Kanako "Jumping Jack" Murakami would be able to pull off a decent tango? The steps she does during the sequence are energetic, crisp and capture the nuances of the music wonderfully. That bit of choreography Miss Murakami does in between the steps and spiral portion of her choreographic sequence punctuates the beats in that dramatic part of the music so well and is also an example of effective posing that makes good use of the music. And when she hits her spiral at the climax of Adios Nonino--what a moment! A smashing way to end an underrated tango.

Julia Lipnitskaya
Nothing particularly special here apart from the mind-boggling flexibility; the choreographic sequence is mostly a very brief ina bauer into a highlight spiral that covers the rest of the ice surface.

Ashley Wagner
Serviceable enough but a bit too preeny for my taste. I do think the charlotte goes well enough with the dip in the music as does the spread eagle to the accents of the cymbals, and the updated sequence is an improvement on the one initially seen at Japan Open, though.....

Akiko Suzuki
I love how the choreographic sequence here is set to the program's climax, as if the entire program has been building towards the element. The speed and flow of the sequence is not only fantastic to watch but there's a wonderful sense of flight to it (very fitting considering the program's theme) and as Ms. Suzuki hits that spiral position, it really does seem like she's soaring like a formerly-earthbound peacock after she has discovered her wings for the very first time.

Mao Asada
Unlike many of the other ladies, Mao Asada chains her levelled step sequence and choreographic sequence together to form a giant sequence at the climax of her Swan Lake long program this season. Choreographically, this sequence is fine and the two sequences together do provide a nice rousing conclusion to Ms. Asada'a long program. At first, I wondered if chaining the two sequences was a misstep as some may find the whole thing over-long, but ultimately I think it was a good idea on Tatiana Tarasova's part to choreograph the program this way. Ms. Asada has looked rather stoic in some of her performances of Swan Lake, only really showing some of her old spark with the quick movements and energetic music of the final two sequences. As the judges tend to punch in their Program Components Scores right after the program has ended, it is important for a skater to make a good last impression, and this choreography does exactly that.

Christina Gao
Pales greatly in comparison to Kanako Murakami's far superior tango choreographic sequence. What's notable is that Miss Gao's second leap in the sequence consistently misses the sharp percussion staccato notes it presumably is meant to highlight. Is this intentional? The first split leap generally hits the staccato, but the second leap has been too early at Skate America, TEB and the GPF (the entire choreographic sequence was pretty much off the music at the GPF, though). As such, Miss Gao's choreographic sequence ends up looking rather applied and unthoughtful.

Mirai Nagasu
The arabesque spiral is positioned within the music well enough but the choreography of the rest of the sequence feels very uninspired. A waste of what could have been great highlights.

Yu-Na Kim
My original comments about Yu-Na Kim's choreographic sequence in Les Mis when I first wrote this post in mid-December were as follows: The spiral here is choreographed like a throwaway element, and this primarily steps-driven sequence feels rather like yet another draggy generic CoP step sequence. That said, however, my impressions of this choreographic sequence have somewhat improved over time, particularly after watching Ms. Kim's much more committed and energetic performance at Korean Nationals recently.

Kiira Korpi
The choreographic sequence here is bland but gets the job done....a microcosm of this particular LP as a whole.

Carolina Kostner
A friend and I once had a discussion on what sort of classical music we would prefer to listen to whilst being engaged in the activity of throwing one's arms around a side of beef.** His answer was Ravel's Bolero. At the time, I scoffed at him for his plebeian tastes, but upon watching Carolina Kostner's Bolero, I have since realized that I was wrong. Very, very wrong. I am rather ambivalent on the first half of Ms. Kostner's program, but I can't tear my eyes away from the program's ending, including that choreographic sequence. The way Ms. Kostner arches her back, flings her arms about and does those leaps with such sensual abandon into the final climax of the 3S is just indescribably...oof.

*Which, of course, inevitably raises the question of why we even bother having two programs in the first place....

**That is to say, CARNAL EMBRACE. See Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.


  1. I completely agree with Kanako's choregraphic sequence. It truly does capture the essence of what a tango is, especially in comparison to Christina Gao's.

    Also, are you going to do something similar for the Men's choregraphic sequences? Would love to hear your thoughts on it, particularly for Takahito Mura, Patrick Chan, and (of course) Daisuke Takahashi.

  2. RE: Which, of course, inevitably raises the question of why we even bother having two programs in the first place....

    Because you also get insight in athletes endurance. It might not come through at senior level always (there are exceptions, e.g. Yuzuru Hanyu was visibly tired at the end of his Romeo programme and if anywhere had problems with the last Salchow), but for younger skaters...

  3. Having discovered your blog through furious Googling of any and all figure skating related things during Olympics season, I've been slowly working through your old posts and enjoying myself immensely. Even though it seems you are no longer updating, I still have to tell you I love you for referencing Arcadia! While talking about Carolina's Bolero! Two of my recent favorite things! And also your undying devotion to Stephane Lambiel is a joy to behold. I really really hope you keep blogging.