Irrelevant Information

Jan 8, 2013

What I'm Watching.....

Currently suffering from huge, crippling writer's block. I can only offer short, incoherent posts on the things I am fixated on right now:

Who cares about brackets and counters when you can move like this on the ice? Oksana Baiul is INCREDIBLE here. One of my favorite exhibition skates ever.

Evgeni Plushenko may be one of this blog's whipping boys, but there was a time when I found his skating to be more than tolerable. Exhibit A: his Carmen LP at the 2002 Olympics. Although Carmen was performed only once in competition and was hastily choreographed prior to the Olympics with some blatant recycling of Alexei Yagudin's old music cuts from 1997, it is still my favorite Evgeni Plushenko program. Killer jumping passes in the beginning (especially that very cool 3A-half Lo-3F), no horrible seizure-induced arm flailing, the choreography actually tried to reflect the music's phrasing from time to time and there was a real fire and spark to his skating that wasn't always there after Alexei Yagudin retired.

I still remember the first time I watched Yu-Na Kim's Danse Macabre almost five years ago. Wary of the rather...temperamental Internet connection at home, I camped out at my school's library to watch the bootleg Turkish feed of 2008 Skate America I had access to at the time. By the time Ms. Kim finished her closing pose, I had to physically restrain myself from disturbing the monastic silence of the library with some cheering. It was that glorious.

To me, this program is the most iconic of Ms. Kim's illustrious career. Though El Tango de Roxanne is choreographically the better program, Danse Macabre was no slouch in that category and was above all skated with a sensational command over the ice from day one of its debut that was hitherto unforeseen in Ms. Kim's skating at the time. The packaging by Brian Orser & co. was just pitch-perfect in Danse Macabre: the exquisite dress, makeup, music and of course Ms. Kim's skating all coalesced together to firmly establish Ms. Kim as the Queen of ladies' skating for the next couple of seasons.

Classical skating at its finest. The spread eagle at the beginning makes me feel rather emotionally vulnerable. Jeffrey Buttle is clearly trying to mold Patrick Chan in his own image with Elegie but it's apparent after watching the original that Mr. Chan has quite a ways to go still.

I've previously criticized Takahiko Kozuka for not projecting enough, for not having more of a personality out on the ice...but after watching this superb exhibition program of his, I'm beginning to think that I was wrong. Mr. Kozuka is never going to be a Daisuke Takahashi or a Yuzuru Hanyu on the ice...but you know what? That's cool. The purity of Mr. Kozuka's skating speaks for itself; he doesn't need to gild the lily. Instead, I think that the real problem with Mr. Kozuka is that during his competitive programs, his movement is so reserved, kept so close to his core, there's a hesitancy and applied quality that probably stems from competitive nerves. But in the exhibition setting of the Sound of Silence, there's a far greater fluidity and finesse to his movements that allows him to express emotion and the nuances of the music in a way that I have never seen him do so in his competitive programs. If he can bring these qualities to his skating when he's competing, he will be a force to reckoned with.

It's been over a decade since they've retired from competitive skating, but I've yet to find a pairs team that takes my breath away the way Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze effortlessly can. But perhaps the ravages of CoP on pairs skating is partly responsible for that....


  1. Re Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, don't you think that some of their programs wre essentially IJS programs - only much prettier than most of what we see these days? certainly their final SP/LP could have been easily converted into IJS-friendly programs.

    Takahiko Kozuka is an underrated performer. I'm so sad we won't see him again this season...

    And I agree about Chan and Buttle. Elegie would be a far superior program if Buttle performed it (though then it would have included the traditional quad fall, or a 3-3).

    1. I agree with what you said about B/S and IJS, but I am sort of glad that they weren't IJS skaters because they are spared the indignity of cramming fugly positions for levels in their lifts/death spirals/etc. That said, B/S could probably have been even more successful under IJS. If Patrick Chan is able to win competitions on the strength of his SS and TR despite making obvious errors, B/S should be able too. B/S crushed their competitors in those two categories when they were skating under 6.0, but who knows...

    2. Elena Berezhnaya could never hit a fugly position. How dare you even suggest it!

      Watching Kavaguti and Smirnov always reminds me of the difference between a Moskvina pair and a great Moskvina pair. I think she'd have found a way to make it work for B/S, and certainly they would have been unbeatable on SS/TR, which as we all know are the only components that matter :-p

    3. When I watch K/S's programs, my mind often wanders to wondering how much better they would be if B/S were skating to them. Can you imagine B/S skating to Clair de Lune? Just sublime...

  2. *NODDING VIGOROUSLY* That Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze program was just sublime. And also I agree with Anon @ 6:52. Their programs do look very IJS- friendly. Sadly current pairs just haven't channeled any of the magic the great pairs have exhibited.

    Maybe Taka was just a little bit more comfortable during performances for THE ICE. It wasn't a competition and there was no pressure for him to beat Daisuke/Yuzu/Nobu (argh! damn the really deep Japanese men's field!). Here he was able to do what he does best, and that is to skate :)

    Comparing Buttle and Chan is such a moot issue. Patrick does have his good points but JButt has the sensibilities to back up his athletic prowess and in turn create so much more.

    Let me shed a tear for the skating trifecta that is YunaxBrianxDavid.

    Oh Plushy... No matter how craptastic his programs get I still root for him. And I do agree that the craptasticness started when Alexei retired. Because when you watch his programs from way back it's always a WOW program. But mad props for him for staying on because he must LOVE skating a lot to still be competing and actually not looking like a wash up compared to the youngins'.

    Okay bonus question for you Morozombie. Have seen any of the nats lately? Caro and Yuna looked in great form.

    1. I was surprised about Takahiko Kozuka because I had previously assumed that he was a soulless husk incapable/not yet capable of true expression on basis of his competitive skating. But his Sound of Silence shows us otherwise, so I hope he will be able to manage his competition nerves one day and show us the type of skating he is capable of in the competitive context. If he skates with the freedom he has during the Sound of Silence, I have little doubt his PCS will go up.

      I have watched all the relevant performances from the various national championships that have been going on in the past month, but I've had horrible writer's block lately so I haven't really been capable of writing a respectable blog post about them. But here is an abbreviated account of my thoughts:

      Carolina Kostner: love love love her Bolero LP, it's very cleverly constructed to allow her to land her upgraded jumping passes (spare choreo especially in the first half + lots of posing but I think it generally works with the music on the whole), but I'm fascinated by the step sequence and the choreo sequence above all.

      Yu-na Kim: not really a fan of her programs this year on a choreographic/performance level, but her Les Mis LP was very, very strong at Nationals, probably the best performance of a ladies program all season. If she skates a LP like that at Worlds, she will win. Her SP was a bit of a mess but the fall (and the pop on the lutz it arguably caused) looked very flukish so I doubt it will happen again.

  3. I make no bones about finding Plushy's skating virtually unwatchable, but in a way I do feel bad for him because I think a lot of his problems stem from having to skate in Yagudin's shadow.

    After going to Tarasova, Yagudin's artistry skyrocketed so much that I got the feeling that Plushy was intimidated to the point that instead of trying to compete, he went in the opposite direction and put (and puts on) a show of contempt for artistry - in a way it seemed/seems like a form of psychological warfare ("I'm too much of a MAN for that sissy dancing"). There is an element of defensive posturing to Plushy's arrogance.

    In a way, if it hadn't been for Yagudin, I wonder if Plushy wouldn't have felt more freedom to explore artistry - maybe he even have been more likely to escape from Mishin's questionable influence.

    In other words, Plushy trapped himself into the role of the 'anti-Yagudin'. I do see recent programs where Plushy makes attempts at 'artistry' but after a certain point it probably became too late for him to change his spots and IMO he just comes off as looking ridiculous.

    In this regard I do give credit for Patrick Chan to improve his artistry now, the longer one waits, the harder it probably becomes to change.

    1. Hmm....I don't agree at all, I think having Alexei Yagudin around actually pushed Evgeni Plushenko to try harder in all aspects, including choreography and performance ability. Some of Mr. Plushenko's programs seemed so incredibly...complacent after Mr. Yagudin retired. But then again, part of the unwatchability of Mr. Plushenko's programs can probably be blamed on the horrors of the mid-2000s CoP requirements.

      Also, I don't think Mr. Plushenko ever showed a contempt for artistry at all--when he was skating to Tribute to Nijinski, for instance, he emphasized how hard he worked to make it some sort of an artistic masterpiece...

  4. I'm sure a lot of young skaters lives are tragically undermined by the puberty monster, but for us viewers it was especially painful in regards to Oksana Baiul (I'm likely to think her problems with alcohol and such were more likely a RESULT Of depression over her growing pains then they were the primary cause of her decline as a skater).

    When I look at her skating now, the thing that strikes me most is her genius at using her arms - it is something she never lost even as a lot of her other skills fell by the wayside.

    Just as there are jump coaches, I like to think that Oksana could become an 'arms' coach - in this era of flailing arms I think there is so much that could be learned from her.

    1. I view Oksana Baiul in her prime as some sort of a savant when it comes to performance ability and musicality, especially because she was so young at the time. Although I heartily disapprove of her OGM in 1994, I completely understand why the judges gave it to her. Just amazing to watch despite that crap Broadway showtunezz choreography.

      I love her arms too...she could fill the upper body requirements of CoP footwork so beautifully, I think.

  5. I was just thinking that Takahashi skating on Danse Macabre would be magic!
    I like Buttle's program very much.
    Thank you for the Kozuka-video. I never saw him skating like that. It would be great if he could be able to do that in competition.

    1. You know....I never thought about Daisuke Takahashi + Danse Macabre, but I totally think it could work! I would love to see an edgy version with some Kenji Miyamoto choreography.

    2. Would there be a way to inform Mr Takahashi of our nice idea?

  6. Hi Mr. Morozombie, I have enjoyed reading your analyses. Being in Japan, I have had many opportunities to watch Mr. Kozuka's performances aired on TV and have also found him a likable person in interviews who appears to be calm, shy, and humble. But his performances have barely left me any impressions. Having learned that he's been working on his presentation, I've spent quite some time analyzing what's missing in his presentation. A lot of people point out that he often looks down on the ice and barely projects himself or reaches out to the audience and judges. I also agree with your analysis of his Romeo: he doesn't pick up changes of the moods and tones of the music. He moves in the same way from the beginning to the end, regardless of Ms. Yuka Sato's nice choreos. I agree that the music choice was wrong: he is never a passionate Romeo. I don't understand why she picked this particular piece for him.
    His music choices for the current SP and Ex are good because he doesn't have to be someone else, but just be himself. Yet, I still don't see him pick up changes of moods and tones in the music. It's okay because these pieces don't have many ups and downs, to begin with, just like himself. They are also short performances. It was not until I heard many of his fans repeatedly praise his SP and Ex that I have really come to watch his SP and Ex. When I watched them for the first time, they didn't leave me any impressions and it took me some time to really come to appreciate them. I have paid more attention because I am a semi-fan of his, but I doubt if I did if I was not.
    Then it gets really boring when it comes to FS. I think his team was right in picking a violin piece that underscores the beauty of his edges. But he himself performs the same from the beginning to the end regardless of all the beautiful changes in moods and tones or nice steps and chores to help him interpret these. I appreciate that he has now come to pick music pieces that suit him better and has improved in his dancing ability. But I still don't think he interprets music well.

  7. Pardon me for the above big post last time. Despite his limitations, I totally agree with your point that he performs much better in this ex and than in his comp programs. This ex and another best ex programs of his, the Cello Song, were choreographed by Ms. Yuka Sato. She uses pauses effectively to create variations in his usually constant, restless movements. These ex programs are also much less packed and less demanding than the competitive programs so that he can afford to more focus on his choreos than in his comp programs. Even an already expressive Yuzuru Hanyu presents far better positions and lines and picks up nuances far more sensitively in his Hananinare Ex than he did in his Romeo program or in his White Legend program. Many thanks again for your great entries.