Bona Fide Member
Are Belbin and Agosto better than...
Lang and Tchernyshev? Punsalen and Swallow? Roca and Sur?
U.S. ice dancers of the recent past have been the unwanted step-children of ice dance internationally. But Tanith and Ben shot up to the top. Is this a matter of ISU politics, or are they really that much more talented than their predecessors?
I think they shot up to the top because their style is very Russian. I think they are a very good team but I don't consider them American dancers, and can not get on their bandwagon. I prefer Punsalen and Swallow.
In my heart, I'm actually Canadian....
Interesting question. I'm not sure how to answer it, or if I even will -- directly -- but I would like to make a few observations.
First off, I do think Tanith & Ben have the "IT" factor more than P/S or L/T. Some may disagree, but I personally think they have it. As to whether they are a "better couple", technique-wise, etc, etc, than the other two -- well --
It IS interesting that the rise of B/A internationally does come at a time when USFS just happens to have a few butt-kissers in key ISU positions, or at least did (I didn't check the complete latest election results). This might have helped
"the process along".
Of the 3 couples mentioned, however, I do think that from a pure dance technique perspective, Punsalan & Swallow were/are the best of the 3. Why didn't they then rise as high as B & A have? A few reasons, all of them falling seriously under the "IMHO" category:
1. The US judges did them no favors by leaving them off the Olympic and World teams following their very impressive 11th-place debut in 1991. Instead of sending them to subsequent Worlds and Olys and allowing them to BUILD on that 11th place (and "move up and take their turn", as was standard Ice Dance protocol at the time, fair or not), they weren't sent to another major international till Lillehammer 3 years later THEN had to wait ANOTHER 2 years to get on the World team AGAIN. By that time, from the view of the judges, they pretty much had to start all over and work through the ranks again. Yes, they fell in the free dance in the 92 Nats. So?? The judges could have held them up for the #2 spot on the Oly team instead of giving it to Mayer & Breen; it's not like they'd never held anyone up before! Especially in an Olympic year! So why drop the ball this time around?? Then along came Roca & Sur. A very talented couple, yes. But first, I think the judges got a little carried away with "Ooooh, we have a former Russian Junior champion skating for us", and furthermore, there were 2 spots available for the 93 Worlds and instead of giving the 2nd spot to P & S, they gave it to Wynne & Witherby, to which I can only say, ARE YOU KIDDING ME??
2. On the other hand, once P & S did get back on the World scene, they did THEMSELVES no favors with 3 seasons of schlocky hyperactive Latin free dances which were simply (a) beneath them and (b) not in the same league as what other couples internationally were doing. With this, too, I lay part of the blame on the US judges. It wasn't until the last few years that US dance judges finally got a CLUE that the more European style of free dance was what was winning competitions and placing high so they finally figured it was time to ENCOURAGE instead of DISCOURAGE US couples to do this type of thing. Up until that realization, the US judges seemed to want as much of the Same Old Schlock as they could possibly see, and if a couple tried to skate along the lines of what the Europeans were doing, it got them nowhere at Nationals, Roca & Sur notwithstanding. Once P & S finally dropped the Latin and went in another direction, which they finally did with their free dance in Nagano -- WOW. Their Nagano free dance still remains one of the most beautiful examples of PURE ice dancing I have ever seen -- no frills, no miscellaneous drama, no ripped costumes, just beautiful technique and a dazzling display of skills unique to Dance. I often wonder how they would have done in Nagano had they presented this type of thing a couple of seasons earlier, assuming the US judges would have let them. (I do find it interesting that they debuted this dance at the Olys and NOT at the Nats)
3. Punsalan & Swallow also skated during the Gritshuk/Platov era. The reason why I feel this is significant is because of the fact that I have always believed that the domination of Gritshuk & Platov involved a LOT of skullduggery and dirty dealings on the part of the international judges. So in an atmosphere like that, it would really be hard to move up in the rankings unless you had the right politics on your side -- especially if you're doing schlocky hyperactive Latin free dances every year.
As to Lang & Tchernyshev -- they were, IMO, very frequently undermarked and definitely underrated internationally. They, too, may have gotten caught up on being on the wrong side of the political tracks.
So I guess, in summary, B & A might be the first US dance couple in many years to be on the right side of the political tracks, which certainly helps their standings. However, they have also shown a LOT of versatility in their free dances; every year they have come up with something completely different and Dance judges really like that. P & S, as mentioned earlier, didn't really do that in their later career and I don't think L & T really did either.
What L&T did, they did extremely well, but they did not have the speed and difficulty in their OD and FD that the top teams did, so they did not rise. Navka/Kostomarov in their early years didn't have the difficulty either, but then they were Russian and didn't have to have that to rise in the rankings.
Russian winnings were always based on 'we are the greatest' not unlike Hitler's 1935 Olympics and the Triumph of the Will was to win anywhich way it takes. I truly believe the skulldugery which existed in that period which included so much of collusions, toe tapping and paying off judges took its toll on honest dancing. I hope China doesn't go that route.
Originally Posted by JonnyCoop
And yes, their latin dancing a la Persian sirens just don't go over in Latin and N.Amercias. There's more to Afro cuban dancing that shaking the booty and Russia had a sphere of influence there for a while. I guess they couldn't get it.