Oct 14, 2014
Daisuke Takahashi announced his official retirement from competitive figure skating today. This is no surprise to any sentient being who has been keeping tabs on the skating world (except, perhaps, for some mild surprise upon hearing that a skater is actually explicitly announcing his retirement instead of taking an indefinite "break" from competitive figure skating), but inevitability is no panacea for the attendant peculiarities of loss. Instead of moping, however, let's look back at some of Mr. Takahashi's best performances, and drink a toast--to Daisuke Takahashi, for the exceptional skater he has become, and for all the pleasure and joy he has given his fans and the skating world.
To me, In the Garden of Souls is the best men's program of the 2010-2014 Olympic cycle, and Mr. Takahashi's astonishing performance at the 2011 NHK Trophy was his best rendition of this remarkable program. I could discuss the intricate choreography that perfectly matched the music, the difficult transitions, the power and sensitivity of Mr. Takahashi's skating, but all that is mere dust compared to (to paraphrase Leonard Bernstein) the breath-taking rightness of this performance: the feeling that whatever movement succeeds the last is the only possibility that can rightly happen at that instant and in that context. One of the all-time great programs, and precious proof that figure skating can be art.
For a disparate variety of reasons, sensuality is extremely difficult for singles skaters to successfully pull off in the competitive context. Ice dancers and pairs skaters have a counterpart to caress and smolder at, but singles skaters are out on the ice all on their own: one mis-step and the whole enterprise plunges into the realm of the laughable. Mr. Takahashi's Blues for Klook, however, deftly bypasses all these concerns and effortlessly exudes the slinky, seductive come-hither charm of an unrepentant heartbreaker.
Introspective, impressionistic, and tremendously affecting for reasons both objective (beautiful flow and glide, subtle, nuanced choreography) and subjective (given the specific context in which Mr. Takahashi performed this piece). The Crisis is both a refutation of criticisms that Mr. Takahashi can only do dramatic/theatrical programs, as well as the final piece of the hat trick Mr. Takahashi scored during the 2011-2012 season: three perfect programs.
Mind-blowing step sequences that seemingly pass by in the blink of an eye despite their actual length. One thing I've always liked about Eye is how much fun Mr. Takahashi appears to be having despite executing such intricate step sequences--he vogues, flirts with the audience and just generally seems to be having a ball out there. Very fun to watch.
Confession: I have actually grown to love this long program despite endlessly criticizing its muzak-ness and shoehorned tango section all last season. Is it because I am in fact squarely in the target demographic that this program is aiming at? I don't know, but I just love the sincere, heart-on-sleeve quality he shows throughout the program, and even the cheesy literal heart choreography never fails to draw a smile out of me. Plus the choreography after the triple flip always makes the cold husk of my heart melt a little every single time.
I have been fortunate to watch Mr. Takahashi live just once, and the delightfully insouciant La Strada was the program I was able to witness. Just brilliant to watch live, even from the distance of my nosebleed seats.
A true dancer on the ice. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the last time singles skater I described as a "true dancer" was Stephane Lambiel...
Intense, dark, angular, and interestingly dissonant--given that Bachelorette was performed by Mr. Takahashi while he was still in the first Morozovian stage of his career, it was and is still extremely fascinating to see Mr. Takahashi move his body in entirely unfamiliar ways thanks to Kenji Miyamoto's excellent choreography.
I've said everything I've wanted to say about this program already, but no list featuring Daisuke Takahashi's greatest hits is complete without the famous Cyber Swan, the program that spawned 281758195183518 screaming fangirls.