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Jun 28, 2015

Adios Nonino

Saying that Ástor Piazzolla's Adios Nonino is your favorite tango composition is like saying that the Mona Lisa is your favorite painting, but Adios Nonino is indeed my favorite tango composition despite the fierce competition for that honor (for the record, however, the Mona Lisa is not my favorite painting).

Anyway, I adore Piazzolla, and can often be found listening to various iterations of Adios Nonino on repeat. If I were a competitive figure skater, I would definitely choose to skate to an Adios Nonino long program, perhaps even during an all-important Olympic year when the general public suddenly becomes aware of the existence of figure skating. Many figure skaters (or their choreographers) seem to have similar sentiments regarding Adios Nonino, as it is a relatively common choice for competitive figure skating programs. Without further ado, let's scrutinize a (somewhat random) list of Adios Nonino programs below:

Lu Chen, 1997-1998
Lu Chen's Adios Nonino is deliciously sensual, and definitely THE most sensual Adios Nonino skating program I've ever seen. Choreographed by Sandra Bezic, Adios Nonino was clearly designed to show the judges that Ms. Chen was a Woman with all its associated implications as opposed to those snub-nosed adolescents who were dominating the ladies' ranks at the time (i.e. Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski). Though Ms. Chen's Adios Nonino is objectively a short program that reflects Ms. Chen's technical twilight years with the relatively simple choreography, mediocre spins, and borderline jumps, it nonetheless features what is undeniably one of my favorite spiral sequences of all time: a simple spiral sequence that fails at most conventional interpretations of what constitutes a 'good' spiral sequence, but one choreographed to beckon seductively, effortlessly, and completely.

Jeffrey Buttle, 2006-2008
In many ways, Jeffrey Buttle's Adios Nonino is very Canadian: it's wholesome, pleasant, polite, and full of transitions. It's not quite a conventional tango program, but it's nonetheless very well choreographed by David Wilson--I particularly like how it builds towards the climax. However, re-watching this program in 2015 reminds me of how thankful we should be to the ISU for cutting down the number of men's step sequences to one per SP in 2010.

Laura Lepisto, 2009-2010
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the twinkly, muzak Adios Nonino/Fuga y Misterio LP Laura Lepisto used during the 2009-2010 season. It's quite twee with all that vibraphone stuff, but I like it . . . though I can't quite articulate why. Unfortunately, the best version of Ms. Lepisto's Adios Nonino program is her performance at the Olympics, which has been removed by the copyright police over at Youtube.

Kanako Murakami, 2012-2013
Kanako Murakami's LP from the 2012-2013 season was actually a selection of Piazzolla tangos with Adios Nonino as the final third of the program, but Pasquale Camerlengo wisely saves the best for last: the Adios Nonino part is the strongest part of the whole program. With the difficult jumps out of the way, Ms. Murakami shines when Adios Nonino comes to fore, helped with with some excellent choreography by Mr. Camerlengo that harnesses Ms. Murakami's passion and energetic style in the best way possible. The choreographic spiral sequence that concludes the program is particularly delightful here, and this tango medley stills stands as Ms. Murakami's best long program to date.

Yu-Na Kim, 2013-2014
I was not particularly impressed with Yu-Na Kim's Adios Nonino during the 2013-2014 season, but hindsight humbles. Yes, there are sections in the program which could have been improved choreographically--that anemic little spiral, for instance, and the ending in general--but despite these concerns, Yu-Na Kim's Adios Nonino stands out among the many, many skating Adios Noninos I've seen by virtue of the way it truly captures the elegiac side of Adios Nonino. Adios Nonino, after all, was written as an elegy for Piazzolla's father, and so many interpretations--skating and otherwise--seem to miss this aspect of the piece. But Ms. Kim's Adios Nonino, flaws and all, manages to capture the quiet tenderness of letting go and saying goodbye. Perhaps Adios Nonino was not the best choice to rouse an audience to their feet in the flag-waving, rah-rah atmosphere of the Olympics, but it was nonetheless a fitting choice as a farewell by a skater beloved by many.


  1. Wonderful post! Especially the part regarding Yu-Na: I had mixed feelings about her Adios Nonino program as well, probably because it is more subtle than what she usually does, but rewatching it now it was very fitting for her last season (I particularly appreciate the bittersweetness of it).
    P.s. Sorry for my English (not my first language)

  2. @Anonymous at 1:53PM

    Your English is excellent! As for Ms. Kim's Adios Nonino, I definitely think it improves upon further viewings. Too bad the judges only get one shot at the program before scoring . . .

    And also, thank you for your comment! :)

  3. Chen's is the one I remember the most, even without technical content, it suited her so well. Kim's LP is a good one to say farewell but I think it's kind of empty for Olympic season.

  4. @Hakkai

    I don't think Ms. Kim's LP is THAT bad in terms of transitions--it certainly has more than Carolina Kostner's LP. And as Maxim Trankov has said, it doesn't really matter how many transitions you objectively have, as long as the judges THINK you have them . . . ;)

    And as always, thank you for commenting!

  5. For once I think Miss Kim's LP is an elegant program but from technical point of view I do think her team didn't do the math well, but yes, it is a good program to say farewell indeed.
    Among all of these programs I'd watch Jeff and Chen over and over again,

  6. Oooh I'm glad you listed Laura Lepisto! People tend leave her version out of the conversation and I really enjoy her choice in arrangement as well. The lightness suits her skating.

    Lu Chen's Adios Nonino really withstood the test of time. Her performance should feel dated to me and yet, I still find it the most captivating tango done by any lady. "Objectively" I'd say her rendition was the best of all the ladies but Yuna is a sentimental favorite. I found her program too somber and melancholy for the Olympics until Sochi came and went. Then, for all the reasons you listed, Adios Nonino became the perfect, bittersweet swan song. It's almost like she knew...

  7. @Hakkai at 10:21AM

    Personally, I feel that Ms. Kim's team fell into the same 'trap' Patrick Chan's team did leading up to the Sochi Olympics: they relied on their high PCS while allowing their TES to stagnate. So much of scoring is about certain narratives, and the perception of resting on one's laurels is not the best to have, particularly as other competitors were loading up on their TES. It was only a matter of time before a competitor pumped up their TES and managed to get enough PCS to close the gap . . .

  8. @Anonymous at 7:31AM

    It's not my favorite, but Ms. Lepisto's Adios Nonino has definitely stuck in my mind--which is why I'm so sad that the Olympics version of the LP has been removed from Youtube. :(

    I think Lu Chen's Adios Nonino is so captivating because she's one of the few skaters who have successfully pulled off a genuinely sensual tango in the sea of sexless tangos we have out there . . .

    Thank you for commenting! :)