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Sep 4, 2017

Moulin Rouge Fest

Is the music of Moulin Rouge this season's Carmen? With big names such as Virtue/Moir, Karen Chen, Vincent Zhou, and supposedly Ashley Wagner all slated to skate to the music of Baz Luhrmann's maximalist melodrama, it certainly looks like it.

One of the upsides of skating to Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge is that one has a lot of music selections to potentially choose from--in addition to the background music, the film features a good deal of musical numbers, most--if not all--of them opulent covers of well-known songs done at a manic pitch. Despite the dizzying variety of songs to choose from, however, the majority of skaters skating to the music of Moulin Rouge somehow all end up skating to El Tango de Roxanne, Moulin Rouge's cover of The Police's Roxanne with generous dollops of melodrama, sex, and operatic excess added in.  Coincidence? Or creative bankruptcy? Take your pick.

Anyway, in honor of Moulin Rouge seemingly being the musical flavor of the season, let's take a stroll down memory lane and re-watch some Moulin Rouge programs of years past . . .

Evgeni Plushenko, 2001-2002 long program
Even by Evgeni Plushenko's admittedly low standards of questionable choreography, this long program is total rubbish. Between the slapdash music cuts, the laughably bad "choreography" (see, e.g., 2:35 - 3:00 of the above video), unsightly arm flailing, and the truly dreadful electric guitar muzak version of El Tango de Roxanne, it takes a heroic effort to get through this dreck. I would say that this is a long program even Alexei Mishin would be ashamed of, but clearly that wasn't quite the case . . .

Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje, 2010-2011 free dance
With all those music cuts, sudden changes of pace, and in-your-face choreography that shouts, it's difficult to say that Weaver/Poje's Moulin Rouge is a great free dance, but it's also difficult to deny that in its own way, Weaver/Poje's Moulin Rouge is true to the spirit of Baz Luhrmann's deliriously chaotic, stuffed-to-the-gills style of more sound, more dance, more noise, more color, more motion, more, More, MORE . . .

Daisuke Takahashi, 2005-2006 short program
A relic from the bad old days before Daisuke Takahashi fully developed his own (phenomenal) style, Mr. Takahashi's screams MOROZOVIAN MEDIOCRITY, from the questionable ear-splitting muzak version of El Tango de Roxanne to the frenetic straightline step sequence at the end of the program that goes on and on and on at the same fever pitch of Christian bellowing out his passion for the beauteous Satine in Moulin Rouge. 

Sergei Voronov, 2009-2010 short program
A blatant carbon copy of Daisuke Takahashi's El Tango de Roxanne short program above (Nikolai Morozov strikes again!), except with the elements shuffled around a bit to account for the IJS rule changes between 2006 and 2010.

Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov, 2014-2015 short program
An El Tango de Roxanne pairs program as distinctive as a pebble in a quarry, with the sex and sizzle of the same pebble.

Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim, 2014-2015 short program
Another pebble, same quarry. That triple twist was very nicely timed to the music, however.

Pang Qing/Tong Jian, 2008-2009 long program
A confused, somewhat disjointed mishmash of Gotan Project + Concierto de Aranjuez + El Tango de Roxanne . . . what were Sarah Kawahara and Nikolai Morozov smoking when they choreographed this long program? It's sad, because while there are some individual good moments in the program (for example, the timing of the triple twist), the overall impression is one of disparate elements failing to cohere.

Ashley Wagner, 2014 - 2016 long program(s)
Ashley Wagner deserves credit for managing the apparently herculean task of skating to a program without succumbing to music cuts from El Tango de Roxanne. What makes Ms. Wagner's Moulin Rouge program stand out from the others, however, is not only the music cuts, but it's also how personal the program seems, like the story of her career as a skater writ large. Although Ms. Wagner does not quite have the skating skills or ice coverage to fill out the rink as the music demands, her passion and projection make up for it, as does her intensely personal interpretation of the music. I wasn't exactly a fan of this Moulin Rouge program when Ms. Wagner first debuted it in 2014 as I found the choreography much too on-the-nose, but the re-worked version--though with less transitions than (loudly) advertised--won me over in Boston.

Yu-Na Kim, 2005 - 2007 long program(s)
Yet another example of Tom Dickson's brilliance as a choreographer, Yu-Na Kim's El Tango de Roxanne is (choreographically) the best short program of her career.  It's easy to underestimate how good the program is--notice, for example, how evenly distributed the elements are throughout the program even before the second-half bonus rules were in effect (with the second jump, the solo 3Lz, happening over a minute after the opening 3F-3T and the 2A placed as the second-last element), the way every jump and spin is perfectly timed to the music (look at the timing of the 3Lz, how the spin position changes reflect the changes in the music), lovely transitions that seamlessly blend in well with the choreography, the incredible height and distance of the jumps, the great music cuts, the exquisite attention to detail throughout . . . put simply, this is one of the best ladies figure skating programs of all time (yes, even with those spirals!).

The only way Ms. Kim's El Tango de Roxane could be improved is if Ms. Kim performed this program in competition at the height of her career around 2008-2010--while Ms. Kim was (all things considered) a great performer for her age in 2007, her sheer command of the ice and charisma had increased to a stratospheric level during 2008-2010 seasons, and would have made her El Tango de Roxanne even more perfect.


  1. I agree that Tango de Roxanne is Yuna's best SP choreographically. However, I also have to agree with Button's criticism of her relatively weaker positions and extensions, especially in her spins and spirals. I know these are "minor" details to most viewers but it does distract from the overall enjoyment. Compare this to Michelle's Romanza, for example, the latter's greater attention to these details adds to the overall refinement and sophistication. Nonetheless, she had such raw intensity, unique charisma and presence at the time. Kinda like Eun Soo Lim now :) Though less polished and confident than she later became, she was never as fascinating as she was in 2007, in my opinion.

  2. @ Sana

    "Though less polished and confident than she later became, she was never as fascinating as she was in 2007, in my opinion." --I see what you mean, 2007 Yu-Na Kim had a fascinating, open vulnerability in her skating that post-2008 Yu-Na Kim never showed . . . I think that's when the "Queen" image fully took over Ms. Kim's persona.