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Thread: Musical Selection

  1. #16
    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Whatever the music, just bring me some freshness to it, and not the tired old triiple lutzes double toes at the beginning of a routine. Whatever the tune, use your choreographic imagination, if you have one.

    Joe

  2. #17
    Custom Title Ogre Mage's Avatar
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    The warhorses can certainly be great programs if they are done right. Consider, for instance, Michelle's 1999 "Fate of Carmen" SP and Sasha's 2006 R&J LP. Both pieces are overused, but Nichol for Kwan and Wilson for Cohen crafted a great package of choreography. Michelle and Sasha found the nuances and pattern in the music (such as when Sasha landed her 3sal and then did a leg-lift to a crescendo in the music) and they made the warhorse look good. Because we have seen the warhorses so many times, however, it is easy to lose patience when the program is bland, boring and bad. Plushenko's movements in his 2006 Carmen SP didn't seem to have anything to do with the character of the music. It was just annoying background music which I had heard 1000 times. Another bad offender was Ann Patrice McDonough's dreadful 2004 Swan Lake LP. I have to hit the fast forward button every time she makes that stupid flap-flap motion with her arms. With the warhorses, it is very easy to fall into cliches.

    Lest we forget that the experimental doesn't always work either, I would point to Michelle's 2002 GPF "Miraculous Mandarin" LP as an example. The music was alien and jarring and as I watched MK's movements across the ice, the performance just seemed remote and opaque. Perhaps with further work this program might have had potential. But when she finished I was like
    Last edited by Ogre Mage; 03-07-2006 at 11:15 PM.

  3. #18
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    music/skating/dance

    There are very few true dancers in figure skating.
    Is it necessary to be a dancer? Well, movement to
    music IS dance. If the movement doesn't relate to
    the music then the music is mere background. One
    has only to attend a competition to see that this
    is the rule rather than the exception.

    There are even fewer dance choreographers...in figure
    skating.

    Up until a little over a decade ago, most choreography
    was done by skating coaches who are undeniable
    technicians but whose creative expertise is limited.

    Sadly, figure skating is still paying the artistic price
    for this.

    There is very little education re: music & choreography
    out there. I think COP will exacerbate this - it already has.

    If figure skating begins to take itself seriously as an
    art as well as a sport then we may see more experimentation
    and varied musical selections...and not the same old, same old.

    George Balanchine, the great ballet choreographer was trained as a pianist as well as a dancer at the ballet academy in Russia.
    His knowledge of music was astonishing. He said it was essential
    for the dancer/choreographer to have musical training.
    Who else could choreograph to Hindemith's Four Temperaments
    (decades ago) with such verve and surprise?
    And for an audience who may not be familiar with the musical
    selection, he was able to translate the music into movement and
    make it not only comprehensible but thrilling.

    He was a genius...but skaters and figure skating choreographers should
    learn from such a genius if music isn't to be mere background cliché
    for the majority of programs.

  4. #19
    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Excellent post, Kaesie. Problem is figure skating is a very limited attempt at being an art form. There are 8 box crayolas and their a 24 box crayolas. Easy to see which box has the advangtage of producing better art forms.

    Mr. B created neoclassical dance using composers that no one would dream of using because it was against the traditional made-for-ballet works. Yet he didn't discard the classics; he just enlarged on them. There is much argument among the Russian choreographers who want to maintain the formula created by Petipa and those who want to branch out as Mr. B did. IMO, they both can exist, but the warhorses get tiring after a while.

    I think with the talents of Dave Wilson, Lori Nichols,and the gal who does the Chinese skaters, we may be moving into a new era in figure skating art form. Of course, the competitive routines are geared to tricks and we have to put up with that.

    Ogre Mage - Your point is well taken. The skating world was not ready for Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin, but that doesn't mean it should never be used. I thought Michelle flew across the ice with that but didn't quite get to the character of the music. I would have loved to see her work on that and make it special away from all the Carmens, R&Js, Don Q's, Nessum Dorme's, etc. I think competition precludes this extension of music to its 'art' form.

    Joe

  5. #20
    what didn't kill me-made me stronger!
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    How important music is, you must decide yourself. It is VERY important because you can't skate and enjoy if you don't like your music for program

  6. #21
    Ballroom Baby
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    At risk of a ballet diversion, I'd say that figure skating should most closely look at ABT's philosophy, which could be simplified as "There's a place for Petipa's ethnic dances and variations in a story-structure ballet, and there's a place for Ballanchine and his plotless ballets that are about pure movement in space. Just because you dance one does not mean you can NEVER EVER dance the other." In figure skating, there's a place for technical demands and a place for artistry. The problem is not so much it's more limited in what's possible but that in ballet the only limits are what the public or sponsors will pay to see. In eligible skating, the limits are what the judges reward. If they insist on rewarding skaters who are apparently tone-deaf, or in my opinion worse, skaters who take a piece of music and "interpret" it in a way that makes absolutely no sense, then artistry and musicality will become increasingly less important until it really is just a trick contest.

    And note that, according to Farrell (who, despite the well-known rift over her marriage, has always been very devoted to Mr. B's dance philosophy) even Ballanchine said that there was some music that wasn't dancible, because it wasn't composed with any sort of movement in mind. So new/unusued isn't necessarily better.

    As you can probably tell, I am a bit of a fan of Mr. B myself, though really I don't always ENJOY his ballets. (Honestly, even the one most non-balletomanes are probably familiar with, his 'Nutcracker', is not a favorite of mine. I prefer the Royal Ballet's staging.) I think a certain degree of what he did could actually translate to the ice, not literally but philosophically--it's about making shapes in space with the human body. I wonder what he might have done, as while you can't do pointe work in skates, you can do other things that are impossible in dance shoes--like a smooth glide backwards in arabesque (ie a spiral.) The speed and smoothness in skating creates a new dimension you don't have in ballet.

  7. #22
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    Excellent responses! You folks are so brilliant. Couple thoughts:

    » I get the sense that a lot of folks conflate the concept of figure skating artistry/choreography with dance disciplines. It's easy to do so when there's amazing, unique organizations like the Ice Theatre of New York [I took many of their classes during my own skating career]. I'd like to keep this discussion from veering into ballet. While there are similarities between the two disciplines, I don't feel it makes for sound analysis. By exploiting the physics of steel blades, skating opens the potential for movement not found in other media.

    » However, it is interesting to consider Balanchine's study of music and how it enhanced his discipline. Looking back at my own career, I can say that dance classes were a supplement to my training, not music lessons. I am curious to know if this practice occurs within figure skating regularly. If it did, would perspectives on music selection change within the sport?

    » It's interesting to note that a lot of what's considered "challenging" (Yanni) here would be considered by music scholars as incredibly pedestrian. [ Actually, one of my colleagues commented, "How thoroughly middle-class!" Mind you, he's got a PhD in 16th century music, so I take his remarks with a grain of salt.] In my mind, if someone told me they were going to use challenging music, I'd think they were going to adapt a piece by an avant guarde composer like Glenn Branca. How does one choreograph a symphony for 100 guitars, anyway?

    And what of "Rockit"? In terms of hip-hop, it's a golden oldie, but it's seemingly the only piece of music from the genre that's acceptable for performance. Why is that? What are your feelings about it? Why is pop music seemingly unacceptable and/or cordoned to the realm of exhibition?

    » I feel this brings us back to the original questions I asked, about why musical selection is important. And so, I'm going to share with you the abstract to the paper I'm writing:

    http://www.emplive.org/visit/educati...=716&year=2006

    As always, your thoughts are appreciated.

  8. #23
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    Balanchine began his choreographic career as a student using non-traditional music for classical ballet, but when he joined the Ballets Russe with the troupe of four who left Russia together on a "European tour," Bronislava Nijinska had just stormed out, and Diaghilev hired him to choreograph the scores that SD commissioned from Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and other contempory composers. It was Diaghilev's taste and money (sparse as it was) that drove the artistic vision that was much to Balanchine's liking.

    Balanchine liked music he called "musique dansant." He was happy to use scores that weren't first rate in themselves, but that lent themselves to dance. He thought Beethoven undanceable, unlike Massine who did ballets to big classical scores -- Beethoven's Seventh Symphony was one of his longer lasting and most lauded works -- and that, in general, one could only mar Mozart and Bach by dancing to their music. (Although most people who've seen Divertimento No. 15 and Concerto Barocco would disagree. These ballets could be the exception to the rule.)

    He did not believe in cutting up movements in general, but he did drop off movements (first of Mendelssohn's Scotting Symphony, reordering Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 4 for Mozartiana, etc.)

    His collaboration with Stravinsky was most lauded, and he had a relationship with the composer that spanned nearly five decades.

  9. #24
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    What an outstanding thread this is working out to be!

  10. #25
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    I think "Rockit" worked for a few reasons. First, it's good, upbeat, and energetic music. The energy really grabs your attention, but unlike a lot of what you hear on the radio, there's nothing sexual about it. The robot dance movements are fun without being seductive. I think that makes it safer to use. On the other hand, most popular forms of music are produced in the hopes of getting a hit. Sex sells. Anything with a "nasty groove" would probably not be well received in figure skating competitions.
    Last edited by SusanBeth; 03-30-2006 at 10:02 AM.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by theoreticalgirl
    And what of "Rockit"? In terms of hip-hop, it's a golden oldie, but it's seemingly the only piece of music from the genre that's acceptable for performance. Why is that? What are your feelings about it? Why is pop music seemingly unacceptable and/or cordoned to the realm of exhibition?
    How about Elvis Stojko's "Frogs in Space"?

    Only interested in women? What was Debi Thomas's SP music in 1988? Not actually hiphop, but related. (I note that you alluded to one of Tonya Harding's selections in your abstract.)

    Music with lyrics is prohibited in competition (except ice dance in the last few years), so that limits the choices for pop music. Many of the songs that skaters choose for exhibitions are chosen for the lyrics as much as the musical value and would make very boring competitive programs without the words, or with the same song used for a whole long program.

    Sweeping melodic lines are good complements to sweeping flow across the ice, which is why so many skaters choose classical or movie music with that characteristic.

    Recognizable melodies are also easy for judges and spectators to latch onto.

    Melodic jazz, especially big band swing style, is almost as popular among skaters when they aim more for perky than lyrical presentation.

    Rock, hiphop, techno, etc. are less common for competition, but they're not exactly unknown either. More popular with male skaters than female, because so many of the girls are trying to be beautiful to beautiful music, or else trying to be flirtatious or sexy to flirtatious/sexy music. But there are enough exceptions that it's untrue to say that pop music is unacceptable.

  12. #27
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    But there are enough exceptions that it's untrue to say that pop music is unacceptable.
    Denise Biellmann and Jill Trenary won a world title with pop music, with high marks for presentation.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by gio
    Denise Biellmann and Jill Trenary won a world title with pop music, with high marks for presentation.
    I remember when Biellman won with Samba Pa Ti by Santana. My Brother-in-law perked right up when he heard the music. He had been bored witless. He became an instant The-Girl-Who-Skated-to-Santana fan. The music definitely made all the difference. She won with him right then.

    That was a risk for Biellman. That music was older when she skated to it. It was considered a classic oldie at the time too. It's very sensual music, but she didn't stress that in her movements at all. I think that made it acceptable.

    Pair skaters and dancers can get away with very sexy music. I don't think single skaters, especially girls, can. Two skaters can play off each other. One skater being seductive for an audience would probably be thought of as tacky. Singles may look sexy, but they rarely move sexily in competition. If you remember Kwan in 1996, she may have looked older, but she performed a very chaste Salome.

  14. #29
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    I don't think there is such thing as the wrong music per se, but I think there is music that is wrong for particular skaters. So many times in movies, critics will say that while a movie is good, the lead actor was miscast and really couldn't pull the role off. I think the same type of thing happens in skating.

    I think in figure skating, each skater needs to work with music that will complement their style. In picking the old warhorses, skaters may think they're skating to what judges want to hear, but it really doesn't suit them. Skaters get frustrated, because they don't fit in that traditional mold, and it's like they try to be something they're not. The reason why people have picked different types of music and gotten high presentation marks is because they found something that works with thier style of skating. Having the music that will accentuate strengths can be a tremendous asset to any skater, whether it be classical, folk, pop new age, or whatever!

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by SusanBeth
    Pair skaters and dancers can get away with very sexy music. I don't think single skaters, especially girls, can. Two skaters can play off each other. One skater being seductive for an audience would probably be thought of as tacky. Singles may look sexy, but they rarely move sexily in competition. If you remember Kwan in 1996, she may have looked older, but she performed a very chaste Salome.
    Singles skaters who come to mind as having had success with seductive or flirtatious programs:

    Katarina Witt
    Jill Trenary
    Oksana Baiul
    Nicole Bobek
    Maria Butyrskaya

    I'd probably include Lu Chen's tango SP (and Take Five, but she didn't have competitive success with it)

    and others . . . including a few men, but they're usually less openly seductive about it

    YMMV as to which programs turned you on and which were tacky, pandering, or otherwise unsuccessful efforts.

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