Monday, February 11, 2013

The Heart of the Matter: Part Two-The Evolution of a Revolution

Music is to skating what Paris is to art. It is the mentor and the muse. It is the wellspring of creativity. 

However, neither comes to life and light without those visionaries who interpret their ebbs and flows, highs and lows; their pitch and form - their  movement. These people are a rare and talented lot. They see the brushes, paints and palates. They overflow with occasionally mad genius. They are the choreographers. 

I've talked before about the choreographic process being my favorite part of the season. I miss going to the rink and watching an idea take shape. I miss seeing the collaboration, the concentration and the innovation that goes with capturing a story on ice. Now, I am relegated to viewing its premiere along with the rest of the public. I'm never in the studio when the canvas is clean, the paint is pristine and the ideas are fresh and flowing. These days, I stand at the door, ticket in hand, waiting with great anticipation for the grand unveiling. 

I am an observer and admirer. I am not an artist, so to me the most unfathomable thing about those who freely and fearlessly create in this  crystalline medium is what drives them to do so. Certainly, with only a few notable exceptions, skating choreographers go unheralded. The great ones we know by name. Their signatures are forever found in the footnote of the programs they helped bring to light. They are the Maestros of Ice. Their disciples hang on their every turn, every move, with the hope of following in their tracings. That's how we all learn.

Today, what's most exciting is those who are using their fledgling skills to make their own mark. They are the New School of design. They are what I call "The Impressionists."  
These are the skaters-turned-choreographers who have competed under the ever-shifting weight of the IJS. They have first-hand knowledge of the challenges it presents and they realize that in order to create within it, everything must be deconstructed and re-imagined in the contest of their creative design. 

The system is math, but so is the art of choreography. Dancers count, "Five, Six, Seven, Eight.."; they waltz to, "One, Two Three...Four, Five, Six.." Dancers move to the rhythms of math. 

Innately, The Impressionists understand. They hear the music and they count. They take what they've learned from the past 10+ years of being schooled in the New System and they create. Their challenge is finding the proper subject who can breathe life into their design. Sometimes it is landscape; occasionally  it is an introspective self-portrait. Always, it is a partnership of the mind, body and soul.

Enter Young Artists Showcase, the Left Bank of choreography where innovation is developed and displayed like street artists sketching multiple landscapes and countless pastel portraits, honing their skills with the hope of being discovered. 

If you haven't seen any of The Impressionists, take time to look at their work. I have. I've watched nearly all of them over the past three seasons. From pieces choreographed by and for themselves to ones done for other skaters, The Impressionists are creating a new way of speaking to their audience; a new way of exploring and exhibiting their craft. Here is a sample from YAS3 "Tribute to the Masters." It's just a small glimpse that offers so much promise. It is the prologue to what I passionately hope will be the future.

A Historic Foundation for Artistic Revolution:
In the late 19th century, a group of rebel artists in Paris bucked the traditional system. Their independent exhibitions brought them to prominence, in spite of the harsh opposition of of the conventional art community in France. The Impressionists arranged their compositions so that the main subject commanded the viewer's attention, relaxing the boundary between subject and background so that the effect of their painting often resembled a snapshot, a part of a larger reality captured as if by chance. Photography inspired The Impressionists to represent momentary action, not only in the fleeting lights of a landscape, but in the day-to-day lives of people.

The development of Impressionism can be considered partly as a reaction by artists to the challenge presented by photography, which seemed to devalue the artist's skill in reproducing reality. In spite of this, photography actually inspired artists to pursue other means of artistic expression, and rather than compete with photography to emulate reality - further developing it into an art form, producing the very subjectivity that photography eliminated. (annotated source: Wikipedia)

(photo by Dee
And so it goes. The Impressionists now are creating art filled with color while working in the confines of a black and white system more often than not infused with varying shades of gray. The Impressionists are not allowing themselves to be devalued by the harsh and at times constricting realities of IJS. Instead, they are using it as a platform to find new and exciting forms of expression. To that I stand, applaud and say...



  1. Bravo =
    A great analysis of the current cusp of change in the Olympic Figure Skating World !!

  2. From your lips to someone's ears! I certainly hope so!

  3. Double BRAVO! I would consider myself an impressionist choreographer myself. I like to take risks with movement and expression. But like many great choreographers, I came from a traditional skating and dance (off-ice) background. Such works of art like the dance called 'Les Biches' by legend Bronislava Nijinska (sister of legendary dancer Vaslav Nijinsky)was totally against everything that Balanchine created. Nijinska's ballet was somewhat of a modern day "madanna" concert when it was performed at the Pacific Northwest Ballet- the costumes and era was inspired by the avante garde designer- Erte'. However, in figure skating, we will always have those skaters who will go against the grain of what is so predictable in the sport. I'm tired of the many skating programs to don quixote, carlos santana, or Bond music. I particularly like the choreographical works of Brian Wright- an old friend of mine and inspiration to many. He encouraged me to study modern movement at a local dance company called "Spectrum Dance". I'm forever greatful for that advice because modern dance movement off ice has made me the choreographer today.

  4. I had the great honor of meeting Brian Wright years ago in Aspen.