Irrelevant Information

May 12, 2013

A memory of the smell of smoke


Allow me to indulge in a personal digression (trust me, it's sort of relevant). Every child has thought about its future nuptials in one form or another, and I was certainly no exception. My dream was to get married in Givenchy haute couture after eloping to Cagnes-sur-Mer in France. Possibly more than a little inebriated, my partner and I will stumble into a small chapel, dragging along with us a random witness pulled off the street. After the kindly French priest officially pronounces us Spouse and Spouse, I will hold back the partner’s hair while he discreetly throws up behind the altar, a sign of True Love indeed. Dinner will be comprised of two bottles of Château d’Yquem (each bottle a vintage from our birth years), fresh seafood and a tarte au citron. After frolicking around the Côte d'Azur, we will return home, happy and bronzed. One month later, we will probably get divorced.

What was I trying to say there in that overlong, possibly TMI, digression? Simply put, I think I am prone to strongly responding to what is colloquially known as the "honeymoon stage" in multiple areas of life, not least of all figure skating. Exhibit A: Yuzuru Hanyu.

Last season, upon watching an exhibition version of his Romeo and Juliet long program at THE ICE, I became immediately infatuated with Yuzuru Hanyu's skating. I wrote multiple flowery paeans dedicated to his utter perfection on this very blog (here, here, and here). I resolved to construct for Mr. Hanyu an altar in the plum location right between my Stephane Lambiel and Michelle Kwan altars for convenient daily worship. I was ready to happily crown him a World, Olympic and Life champion. I still think his long program at the 2012 World Championships is one of the greatest performances of the current Olympic cycle. It was a heady experience not unlike spinning around in the Côte d'Azur in utter rapture like a character from a Terrence Malick movie.

But this season was different. To use the whole marriage analogy, it's now one week after returning home from the Côte d'Azur and I'm already thinking of raiding my offshore bank account(s) to hire a tough-as-nails attorney for the acrimonious legal battle ahead. Alas, for I did find Mr. Hanyu's skating....really, really dull this season. His short program was tolerable in a certain way (I could at least approve of its balance between complexity and attention to the music, even if it gave a certain 'trying too hard' vibe at times) but the long program was utterly forgettable--er, I meant, unforgiveable. Well, both, really:




Is it the fact that the program itself appears to be a clothesline for elements with some random-ass Important Transitions thrown in so that the judges will mistakenly construe them as good choreography or interpretation*? Or is it the straining music itself, which seems like a giant grindstone that Mr. Hanyu is fumbling around with instead of skating to? Or perhaps it's the fact that what I most loved about Mr. Hanyu last season--the incredible, impetuous abandon--seems to be somehow smothered and consequently the annoying wet noodle tendencies are now out in full force? May it's the strain of having asthma and doing two different types of quads and sticking both triple axels in combination in the back half of the program. Or it perhaps it's the shock of having to adjust to the frozen wasteland that is Canada. But whatever it is, I wish it were otherwise.

Don't get me wrong, I still think Yuzuru Hanyu is an incredibly talented skater and future World and Olympic champion material. But the honeymoon period is now officially OVER.



*in other words, CoP mediocrity writ large

17 comments:

  1. This post will be legendary one day. That first paragraph, along with a Ritz and a $5 box wine, is the exact kind of writing that gets me lonely Saturday nights. Bravo.

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  2. Ok...those typos were not there in the original message I wrote, but whatever. I still loved this post!

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  3. are you me

    sometimes i feel like your dark voodoo powers are peering directly into my deepest darkest fears and regrets

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    1. That's what dark voodoo powers are for, presumably....

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  4. Another AnonymousMay 13, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    The importance of good programs cannot be overstated. Unless you've reached the point where you like a skater so much that it doesn't even matter what they do anymore, it's just too hard appreciate someone when confronted with subpar programs.

    Case in point for me: Shen and Zhao, V/T, and my opinion of Daisuke is entirely dependent on his programs - so I really hope he'll be skating non-Morozov ones.

    Also: "the program itself appears to be a clothesline for elements with some random-ass Important Transitions thrown in so that the judges will mistakenly construe them as good choreography or interpretation" sums up what I dislike about the IJS and its effects rather nicely. We knew it was coming when Hanyu went to Orser, because why else does one go to Canada if not to become an IJS skater?

    Transitions are ruining skating. Won't someone please put a relevant bullet point in the CH mark and then make them go away?

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    1. Only a very, very, very few skaters are able to transcend having mediocre/bad programs for me.

      I agree that TR should definitely be subsumed under the CH component as well, given that they are already being awarded in GOE. I love seeing cool transitions as much as anyone, but it would be nice if they accentuated the music and arc of the program as a whole more.

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  5. He seems o.k. for an 18 y.o. Maybe one shouldn't have through-the-roof expectations when they marry a teenager?

    Never had Stephane Lambiel and Michelle Kwan altars though. Are these 2 the Château d’Yquems of figure skating to you?

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    1. You should try getting Lambiel and Kwan altars, they definitely liven up the décor.



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  6. Yes, I really loved Ms. Nanami Abe's choreographic works. The programs she did for Yuzuru was excellent not only because of her brilliant talent, but also perhaps because of her long relationship with Yuzuru as a coach and a choreographer, she could always choose the best packages for him.

    This past season's FS was David's first program for Yuzuru. I'm still hopeful that David will create a masterpiece next season.

    As I read Yuzuru's interviews, it sounds that he can analyze his performances very objectively. In his analysis, he sounds like an artist as well as an athlete/competitor.

    Canon World Figure Skate Web Interviews (Japanese only)
    http://web.canon.jp/event/skating/interview/int_hanyu1.html

    He'll shine next season.

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    1. Didn't Yuzuru Hanyu also work with Natalia Bestemianova and Igor Bobrin on his LP last year, in addition to Nanami Abe?

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    2. According to this article (in Japanese), he went to Russia twice to brush up on his LP right before the season started.
      http://sportsnavi.yahoo.co.jp/sports/figureskate/all/1112/columndtl/201111070001-spnavi?page=2

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  7. Completely agree. Completely. I'm not sure what on earth David Wilson was thinking, but his treacly-sweet brand of choreography does not fit with Yuzuru's rashness. I'd wish he'd done as he'd done when Adam was still around Toronto and ask Yuzuru to check out another choreographer.

    (...did you just reference Thomas Harris?)

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    1. Yes I did! I'm pleased somebody spotted that. Can you spot any random references (literary or otherwise)?

      I think David Wilson is kind of hit-and-miss for me. When he's working with a fully mature, artistically-realized skater, his work can be simply genius (e.g. Daisuke Takahashi's In the Garden of Souls, a lot of his work with Jeffrey Buttle). Otherwise, his choreography can be rather bland.

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  8. Wilson‘s choreography for Yuzuru FS was good.
    For me, Yuzuru seemed not to understand the music & choreograhy (including program‘s structure).

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  9. I'm sure he really wanted to improve his artistry in his LP, but my guess is that the season ended before he could reach that point. The program was very difficult, with the new 4S, 4T, and five jumping passes in the latter half including two 3A combinations in row. He either ran out of the stamina or skated cautiously to save his energy. The choreographic sequence would have looked splendid if he had been able to skate big. But he did not look healthy throughout this past season. Probably with better stamina and/or a easier layout, he would have been able to better work on his artistry.

    In contrast, his SP and Hana Ni Nare Ex were truly brilliant. In SP, he had great attention to details and seemed to enjoy every moment. I really loved the 3A out of the counter and the nice choreo right after the landing. He held the landing edge very long while raising the free leg high with a triumphant look. Each of his jumps, spins, and steps had such choreographic details. In his EX, he interpreted every note of the music and had significantly better postures and lines than before.

    I think that improved health and stamina will help his artistry in his LP. It's concerning that he has a knee injury and probably will have an upgraded layout that may make it even more demanding. I wish him good health.

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  10. They asked him to subdue his wild side unfortunately. I agree David Wilson's choreographery might not be super suited to Hanyu :( I loved his skating a lot more with nanami Abe :'(

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