Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Special Delivery..

I don't know about you, but I think it's time to start talking about how to..
I continue to be astounded at the lack of musical acumen and choreographic creativity there is in our world of skating. I understand that the little ones need to use music they know, thusly lots and lots (and lots...) of Disney is "de riguer." Okay, I get it. I don't like it, but I get it.
But when skaters at the national and international levels continue to use pieces to DEATH, what's the point? Is anyone really going to do "Bolero" better than T&D? I don't even want to listen to "Les Miz" anymore. Actually, I can't listen to it now without thinking of way-too-many skates that should have died on the battle line. "Gypsy" for elementary school skaters? Has anyone seen the show? Let's scuttle "Pirates of the Caribbean" since no one (in my humble opinion) can match Braden Overett's 2007 self-choreographed and award-winning program. And run a sabre through the heart of Zorro! Nessun Dorma, again? Really? And can we put Tango de Roxanne out of its misery, please? More consumption than La Traviata and there is only so much we can swallow.
I suppose most coaches, skaters, parents and choreographers cling to the thought that just maybe they will create the definitive masterpiece - the one that will be remembered above all others. Emulated but never duplicated.
Or just maybe it is an easy way out.
While some decry the new system, saying that it doesn't allow for creativity, to an extent I disagree. The system can open the door to innovation if - and only if - one is brave and innovative enough to risk crossing the threshold. Look at some of the best programs of 2011. Look at the ones that took your breath away, not just for the flashy footwork or the endless string of triples and quads, but because a choreographer and a skater took a risk. They pushed the envelope.
I know. You are thinking, "Well, it's easy for you to say. Look at your skater."
Okay, that's fair. But think back on the others who dug deep and produced magic. Here is a short list of some of my standout favorites this season (and there are more):
  • Shawn Sawyer
  • Alissa Czisny
  • Adam Rippon
  • Daisuke Takahashi
  • Takahiko Kazuka
  • Alena Leonova
  • Just about all of the top ice dancers
(wish I could say the same for pairs, though there was some outstanding skating!)
These skaters not only addressed the envelope, they included a love letter inside. They took the system, added exciting music choices and worked it. Sometimes, the programs were technically flawed, but they almost always had their elements of magic.                                      Were there exciting programs to over-used music? Absolutely. No one can argue that Patrick's Canadian Nationals will go down in history as highlights. But they are the exceptions. Two true gems in a mire of musical mediocrity.
So, what's my point? It is simply this:
Listen to music - all kinds of music.
Watch dance - all kinds and styles of dance.
Take a risk.
Be the letter carrier that truly says,"Neither snow nor rain nor heat (nor ICE) nor gloom of night stays me from the swift completion of my appointed rounds (around the arena)."
In other words - Deliver.
Please deliver. Fans will gladly pay the freight if you push the envelope.


  1. I am soooo with you. Skaters need to take the time to listen to many kinds of music and find their own voice. If I never hear another Scheherazade, any version of Romeo and Juliet, Malaguena, or Carmen again on the ice it will be too soon.

  2. Tango de Roxanne needs to be officially banned! When you watch three girls use the same music (back to back to back) you KNOW it is overdone.

  3. THANK YOU!!

    This is the reason it takes me SO LONG to pick new freestyle or showcase music for myself; I want to do something new and interesting! :)

  4. Wouldn't you think the judges, who are subjected to so much repetition and cannot escape, would take that "irritation factor" into their awarding of PCS? I know when I hear Carmen, or any of the above mentioned done-to-death pieces, I grit my teeth. If I could spell "Requiem" I would also say "Requiem for a Dream".

    On the flip side, it would be wonderful if PCS really were used to reward unusual music choices brought to life by choreography. The judging system looks like it was designed to reward this, but it doesn't end up actually working that way, and that's a shame.

    Can't wait to see what your skater cooks up!

  5. Oh my gosh, you are so totally preaching to the choir here, Allison. "More consumption than La Traviata" indeed. If I had the power or authority at a rink, I would DEMAND that all skaters take a music appreciation course. You listen to tons of music--all genres--every week so that you are at least EXPOSED to lots of different stuff. Instead of recycling the stuff you heard in someone else's program. . .

  6. Great post! I'm going to get my skater to read this. His coach and choreographer really push for different music. Many of his choices were turned down when he was younger, numerous times. His choreographer always told him; that one is over used, so's that one...etc. LOL, this year we had to tell her that Slaughter on 10th Ave was being used by Rachel Flatt. I guess we've learned over the years.

    It's refreshing to hear something different. I just heard from an announcer's daughter today that her mom comes home with certain songs she hates because she has heard them so much. I can't imagine the poor judges who have to sit through many events with the same music...

    I totally agree with your sentiments. Oh, and ditto with the inappropriate music for the youngsters...Grease for a 7 year old?!

  7. I wasn't sure how people would react. I was starting to feel like the child in "The Emperor's New Clothes." Glad to read your posts.

  8. Lots of kids skating to music from All That Jazz....and Rhapsody in little ones don't understand. I only hope coaches will "push the envelope." Another great blog with thoughtful content and superb writing. Thanks


  9. Alan is currently skating to HALO. Music from a video game. Because of it's mature rating he does not own the game but has watched it on youtube & played a demo. The music is actually quite good & I doubt there are many judges who would recognize it.He really likes it & it shows. We log alot of miles on the road, thus we spend alot of time listening to a variety of music. I've always tried to pick music that Alan likes, is familiar with & would work well on the ice & hopefully not used by anyone else. Other than Alan's 1st artistic program, he has never skated to anything Disney! Thanks for the blog, Melisa

  10. I agree, to a point. I pick music that I feel something when i listen to it. If I don't feel anything instinctively then there's no way I'll be able to portray anything as I skate. But, if I listen to something and I am really moved by it should I not pick it just because it has been used too many times?

  11. As a judge I can't "ding" for music I've heard too much, but I can take points away in the PCs for music that is inappropriate, or for skaters who do not understand/connect with/express the music, or for poor choreography. And I do. And I do reward when someone does something creative or takes a musical risk *when it is done well.*

    Not all music is skateable, so the universe of music to choose from is somewhat limited. Also, the music must resonate for the skater, and just because something has been used a gazillion times doesn't mean the skater didn't just hear it for the first time when they fell in love with it. The important thing for me as a judge isn't how sick I might be of hearing it, but how well the skater skates to it. It would not be fair to punish skaters just because I don't like their music choice for any reason (overuse, not my taste, whatever). It's all about what they do with it.

  12. I do have to add one thing to what our judge said above: If you are going to use music that is "overused" but it speaks to you, find a new version. Rapsody in Blue has many good covers in different gendres by very talented musicians, as does Summertime - and, yes, even Disney. Look to jazz. Look to classical. Even look to blues and some rock. Google, iTunes and Amazon can truly be your best friends. Skatable music isn't limited. It just needs to be found and tested. It takes time - and patience - to find.

    My point was this: Don't take the easy way out. Listen to all kinds of music, even things that are outside your normal listening tastes. Certainly, there are pieces suited to modern dance and even classical ballet that are not suited to the ice, but there is a wealth of music out there.Once it starts to reveal itself, the door for creativity can swing wide open.

  13. This is why I started the #bannedforever hashtag on Twitter. Figure skating needs to retire music like Basketball retires Jerseys. Once a piece of music has medaled at Worlds or Olympics, it's off the list for 10 years. Put it in the rule book!