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Thread: Skating as art

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    Skating as art

    I thought we might want to move the theoretical discussion out of the Worlds thread into one of its own where it's easier to find.

    I don't have time to offer any answers right now, but here are some questions to ponder:

    Are beauty and artistry synonymous when it comes to skating, or can you have one without the other?

    Can skating with no music be art? Does the presence of music demand evaluation as art even if the skater does a bad job of reflecting the music or uses it only for counting?

    Is show skating all about art and not a sport at all? Do cheesy shows count as art or only hoity-toity ones?

    What about professional competitions, or the "interpretive" programs in pro-am or "open" competitions of the late 1990s?

    What about interpretive, artistic, showcase, and Theatre on Ice competitions at amateur levels? (Club competitions, National Showcase in the US, etc.)

    Senior-level competitive short and free programs (and short/original and free ice dances): Always art? Never art? Sometimes? What would be the definitive criteria?

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Great topic. I'm not sure how it arose from the worlds thread as I've been out of it for a bit so sorry if I start making points people have already made or am writing out of context.

    Are beauty and artistry synonymous when it comes to skating, or can you have one without the other?
    That's difficult but I would venture to say yes on both counts. There are definitely "pretty skates" out there that may not rise to the level of art. Korpi's Over the Rainbow program is very pretty but is it really a work of art? I guess it's pretty subjective and people could disagree on this. Also, you can have disturbing paintings for instance that aren't pretty but are art so I don't see why you couldn't have the same thing in figure skating. I can't think of any examples. I think disturbing isn't really something figure skating has really explored. But theoretically, it could happen.

    Can skating with no music be art? Does the presence of music demand evaluation as art even if the skater does a bad job of reflecting the music or uses it only for counting?

    On the first question, definitely. I once watched Baryshnikov improvise to his heart beat. It was breathtaking and to my mind definitely art. I also once was in a modern dance performance where we all danced to our own clapping and stomping. Actually, I hated that choreo... but the idea was interesting. I don't see why figure skating couldn't do something similar ... maybe another poster can think of a show where something like that has already been done.
    On the second question, I'm not sure I really understand it.

    Is show skating all about art and not a sport at all? Do cheesy shows count as art or only hoity-toity ones?

    I think show skating _ just like ballet and modern and other types of dance _ is (or should be) very much both about art and athleticism. It's great when show skating pushes the limit of both. Sport is a different thing all together because it involves competition. So show skating is not sport. But that doesn't mean it is not an athletic endeavor.


    maybe i'll take a shot at the other questions later...

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    I thought we might want to move the theoretical discussion out of the Worlds thread into one of its own where it's easier to find.

    I don't have time to offer any answers right now, but here are some questions to ponder:

    Are beauty and artistry synonymous when it comes to skating, or can you have one without the other?

    Can skating with no music be art? Does the presence of music demand evaluation as art even if the skater does a bad job of reflecting the music or uses it only for counting?

    Is show skating all about art and not a sport at all? Do cheesy shows count as art or only hoity-toity ones?

    ?
    Good idea and what interesting questions. If Bill Clinton was a skating fan I think his answers would be real doozies.

    About "beauty and art" it depends on our definition and the circumstances.
    Certainly some of the judges back in the late 80's/early 90's had big problems with the Duchesnays.

    I think the biggest part of it was that the Duchesnays were DIFFERENT.
    Their idea of beauty along with their choreographer Robin Dean was much different than that of the stodgy European Ice Dancing establishment.

    I thought the Duchesnays presented beautiful and very innovative programs. Many times the judges did not agree and I never saw such discrepencies with scores ranging from 4.9 to 5.8 at the same event.

    The uproar over Mao's LP last season showed the skating establishment and majority of fans still prefer the status quo in skating, atleast from the Ladies. It felt like Mao is so cute and graceful, how dare she try something different

    The second question feels easier and I would say of course skating or dance can be considered art without music. In the case of skating or Dance music is there to enhance, to inspire or help tell a story. But music is not necessary IMO but awfully convenient.

    Music by itself needs no other artform or any type of visual stimulation to be considered art and I feel the same about skating and Dance.

    As to shows I see skating there being mostly about entertaining.
    We see funny routines and too many weak attempts at sentimentality accompanied by a vanila Pop ballad.

    As far as singles skating goes in this era I believe competitive skating on the whole is more artistic than show skating.

    I must bring up Mao again as she seems miles ahead of any of the current Ladies or Men when it comes to artistic show skating. I might give a nod to Akiko and Laura as well.

    Just my two cents and I look forward to reading other members thoughts on this.

    ETA: I don't get to see much Pro skating these days but I did not mean to slight Stephane, Jeffrey or Shizuka who all show some wonderfully artistic show skating. I am sure there are more and I was mostly considering the eligible skaters.
    Last edited by janetfan; 03-28-2011 at 11:11 PM.

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    Vanilla pop ballad: great description and great pun with "pop."

    To me, skating has a lot of art in it, though it doesn't show up in every program. I don't have problems with that ambiguity. I watched Katia Gordeyeva skate the Mahler Adagietto from his fifth symphony, and I can't pretend that skating is just a sport. And then there are Torvill and Dean. And, as you point out, Mao. She's one of those people who has found the door into the music, and she's managed to get inside. Michelle too, of course, especially during the years when she was Lori Nichol's muse.

    It's fun trying to pin down exactly what makes it art. I'm not sure of the exact elements, but maybe the whole is more than the sum of its parts anyway. Maybe a good parallel is film. It's certainly an art form, especially if you consider worldwide cinema, with wonderful narratives from China, France, Iran, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. It's been an art form since before it could speak: take a look the silent movie Sunrise, by F.W. Murnau (made in Hollywood, mind you). But there are also all those inane movies cranked out by Pauly Shore or Adam Sandler. So do they make movies less of an art form? Do they take away a single frame of beauty from Sunrise? Of course not.

    Maybe we can't call skating an art form. But it is something more than sport, and within that "something," you can often find art.

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I think Kurt Browning is a highlight of what professional skating can be. It can be corny/cheesey, yet athletic, sexy, and artistic (I assume he's not high art, because I like what he does, and if I like it - and I being so stupid in my youth to not appreciate it - then it isn't high art.)

    I think Nyah is brilliant in so many ways - especially without the jumps... it's like watching, IMO, modern dance (which I enjoy far more than that classical stuff on PBS ) but it's on a sheet of ice. Who knew?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0Izl1CA1uA

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    I think Kurt Browning is a highlight of what professional skating can be. It can be corny/cheesey, yet athletic, sexy, and artistic (I assume he's not high art, because I like what he does, and if I like it - and I being so stupid in my youth to not appreciate it - then it isn't high art.)

    I think Nyah is brilliant in so many ways - especially without the jumps... it's like watching, IMO, modern dance (which I enjoy far more than that classical stuff on PBS ) but it's on a sheet of ice. Who knew?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0Izl1CA1uA
    Thanks so much Tonichelle! Who can watch that and deny that figure skating is an art form? Or John Curry's Afternoon of a Fawn:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3wewU5xcXY

    figure skating is so individualistic and sometimes there is brilliant choreo done for a certain skater or team but after that skater or team retires that's the end of the choreo, at least live. But I've always thought, wouldn't it be great if some skating show dared to say, you know, let's find someone to perform John Curry's Afternoon of a Fawn, that was a classic and should be revived.

    Obviously, not all skating is art and performances are even more rarely masterpieces but you can say the same thing for dance, painting, music, books and movies.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    There is an art to Teaching, and it may lead to a great politician or scientist.

    There is an art to hanging drapes, and it may make your windows look better.

    There is an art to diagnosing a malady if it doesn't kill you.

    There is an art to figure skating when planning a winning program.

    But do any of these arts compare with Pavorati? Ulanova? Chopin? Cervantes, DaVinci, etc.? Well, they could if that's the story of one's life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    I thought we might want to move the theoretical discussion out of the Worlds thread into one of its own where it's easier to find.

    I don't have time to offer any answers right now, but here are some questions to ponder:
    Thanks for starting the thread, gkelly. Some of the answers necessarily involve a bit of repetition of comments on the previous thread, but I'll try to minimize that. For those who prefer short and sweet, I'll start each response mono-syllabically :

    Are beauty and artistry synonymous when it comes to skating, or can you have one without the other?
    Yes. If one agrees, at least on some level, as Keats does ("Beauty is truth, truth, beauty..."), with the classical concept of the underlying unity of the virtues, the identification of beauty and artistry becomes at least intelligible to a modern reader. My own personally held critique of the ancients (which is in fact the Modernist critique) is that, while the idea is philosophically sound, they refused to follow it to its ultimate conclusions in many of their arts, particularly in the visual arts.

    The Greeks knew very well (as shown in their plays) that truth is often the opposite of "cutesy-wootzy" (as Mathman would put it). A more modern, very profound example that is very much in their tragic spirit, IMO, is this comment by the Confederate general Robert E. Lee: "It is well that war is so terrible-otherwise we would grow too fond of it." It is an old, paradoxical human reality that some of the things we find to be most truthful, and hence, beautiful, are often displayed in their most distilled form when we try to kill one another (courage, sacrifice, idealism, even love), but which can only be obtained at almost unbearably high cost.

    This explains the appeal, it seems to me, of artists such as Kandinsky and Francis Bacon, who are, particularly when first seen, visually shocking in their presentation of the darker side of emotional and human truth. Unlike the Greeks, their technique is to demand that visual euphemisms that shield the viewer from what we find disturbing be cast aside. The unspoken manifesto and challenge: if beauty is truth, then be prepared to throw away emotional complacency. Now, I personally wouldn't hang them in my bedroom (they don't exactly help in getting to sleep). But it's a bit like how I feel when watching tarantulas on Animal Planet; it looks creepy and repulsive at first, but I find myself fascinated, and then begin to recognize how beautifully its features are adapted to its own needs.

    So, yes, by analogy, the artistic in skating is always beautiful, but in principle can be unsettling, and doesn't always have to be "pretty", in accordance with the needs of its themes.

    Can skating with no music be art? Does the presence of music demand evaluation as art even if the skater does a bad job of reflecting the music or uses it only for counting?
    Theoretically, Yes (but with overwhelming practical qualifications, so actually my answer would be No. OK, I cheated with the monosyllabic answer ). Quite a while ago, I gave the example of a hypothetical program set to (if that's the right way to put it) John Cage's four minutes, and change, of silence (officially named 4'33", but rumor has it that Cage said so to his agent in sign language, so who really knows? Of course, it may not be completely silent if you count crickets chirping and the shuffle of heels creeping for the door). It can be done. It might even be done with intent. It is likely to be done as a daring experiment, in the avant garde spirit. It also likely, IMHO, to be an interesting, if daring, failure (the way that most mutations in the scheme of evolution are failures).

    I view musical accompaniment as one of the most important tools in helping the skaters do their aesthetic jobs. The practical advantages in executing many aspects (particularly choreography and interpretation, as well as overall expressiveness) are so obvious that I won't elaborate further. The precision that can be achieved with the aid of music is not easy, perhaps impossible, to replace.

    Layfan gave the example of Baryshnikov performing to his own heartbeat. While I imagine that must have been the definition of bravura, I also think that an intellectual curiosity to push the envelope, and perhaps even the prideful desire of a supreme performer to demonstrate that bravura, may have been the primary motivations. Was it a fascinating experiment and worth trying? Probably it was. Would Baryshnikov, and audiences, have said that this was among the richest and most emotionally meaningful of his performances, that they'd regularly pick if given only one choice? I would guess not (though I'd be interested in Layfan's views, having actually seen it).

    Unless you have a very compelling reason and purpose, the last tool you'd want to leave out of your kit is the one whose uses are so ubiquitous and malleable, the monkey wrench of figure skating artistry. You can try to build things without it, but why would you want to?

    Is show skating all about art and not a sport at all? Do cheesy shows count as art or only hoity-toity ones?
    Yes, at least in its ideal, if the answer has to be one or the other. It isn't sport unless there is the competitive pursuit of an explicit, physically measurable physical goal (this definition is deliberately designed to exclude not only ballet performances but also things like chess, contract bridge, and e-games like Halo).

    The caveat is that the artistry of a show very much depends on the skater's attitude. Some will see it as a way of simply performing at a more relaxed and less stringent level after a long season, while picking up some cash in the process. It might still be art if one really stretches the point, but of, shall we say, dubious quality.

    The opposite attitude can produce startlingly different results. My favorite Mao performance to date is her Por una Cabeza ex. There was a delicate naivete that was at the same time alluring, a freedom of expression with an insouciance of technique, that was captivating, not least because it was emotionally true to herself. By way of contrast, the Bells program, while a brave attempt to stretch her boundaries, was ultimately unsuccessful artistically IMO, not through lack of ambition, but because it lacked that ring of emotional self-awareness and truth. I'm not sure exactly why Mao's ex programs of late have often been artistically more compelling than her competitive ones, but there it is.

    Yuna's shows, on the other hand, have often been aesthetically a mixed bag for me (and I say this as a very great fan of hers), although her competitive programs have been artistically of the highest quality in recent years. In my view, her Meditation de Thais performance at the ATS Summer show (for which there is a gorgeous vid on Yuna's official youtube channel) was artistically the most hypnotically commanding, nuanced and assured performance of any ladies program of the past cycle, competitive or ex. On the other hand, I was very disappointed with Bulletproof; despite the anticipatory buzz, I thought it was an emotionally lazy program, perhaps a result of a too conscious attempt to appeal to a wider fan base. I have high hopes for her new competitive programs, though.

    Your last three comments are out of my bailiwick.

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    Mashimaro on Ice
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    I think skating should be viewed as a performance art. It shares more similarity with acting & dancing than paintings. Therefore, the artistic value of a program depends not only on the skater's vision but also has a lot to do with the visions of the choreographer and sometimes the coaches. When there's a meeting of minds among all parties involved, the program becomes a success. Like an actor, it's usually better to find programs that are more tailored to the skater's style, although some skaters are more versatile than others. So the understanding between a skater and the choreographer/coach is key to the success of any partnership.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joesitz View Post
    There is an art to Teaching, and it may lead to a great politician or scientist.

    There is an art to hanging drapes, and it may make your windows look better.

    There is an art to diagnosing a malady if it doesn't kill you.

    There is an art to figure skating when planning a winning program.

    But do any of these arts compare with Pavorati? Ulanova? Chopin? Cervantes, DaVinci, etc.? Well, they could if that's the story of one's life.
    True, Joe, but I don't think that argument completely holds water when it comes to saying what can be included in art. There are people who think that popular singers such as Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra wouldn't belong in the same realm as Pavarotti or Marian Anderson, but I think by now that opinion has been outvoted. Do they "compare"? I don't know if that's relevant, because art is by its nature incomparable. Does the haiku poet Basho compare with Milton? Seventeen syllables comparable with an epic poem like Paradise Lost? Yet both are revered poets in the high tradition of their culture. Does Cole Porter compare with Bach, or even with his fellow modernist Ravel? Do Lennon-McCartney at their best compare with Cole Porter?

    Here's another one: Among the greatest children's book illustrators of today are the collaborative couple Leo and Diane Dillon. I'd rather look at their work than at anything by Marcel Duchamp, but the former are considered commercial artists (though not by those of us who love book illustration), and the latter is considered an artist. Why?

    All I can say is that at its best, including Browning, Curry, and Kwan, skating can make me feel the way other art forms make me feel. They bring me to that moment where time stops and only beauty exists. This isn't the only function of art, but it sure is one of them, and I get this from the best skating.

    Man, this thread is fun to think about!

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    Artistic(?) skating without music . . . other than the sound of the skating itself:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKykrKh1mrk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCapfwISfAU

    R/Z were known as an athletic pair -- does what they did count as art? If so, did it stop counting as such once the music stopped?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7BLMcR2KmU



    Disturbing?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyzLc0lRq7A
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is04vxvp9xA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu3hKkAj8i0
    Last edited by gkelly; 03-29-2011 at 09:33 AM.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    ^^^^
    That's true, Olympia - and I am beginning to realize that art is very personal, and there is some truth in singling out some personalities in figure skating. And what Mikki88 says it's a performing art. It's not a creative art as what choreographers will do with it. There is a difference between the art of Pavlova and that of Tolstoy.

    btw, I happen to see last night a TV program showing a commerical ad for motorcycles circa 1920 worth $4,000.00.

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    Custom Title Kitt's Avatar
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    "including Browning, Curry, and Kwan, skating can make me feel the way other art forms make me feel. They bring me to that moment where time stops and only beauty exists. This isn't the only function of art, but it sure is one of them, and I get this from the best skating."

    Brava, Olympia! "where time stops and only beauty exists." That says it all, IMO. I can think of skating and dance programs where what is going on is so enthralling that you don't ever want it to be over. The other night I was fortunate enough to see a ballet version of Bolero where a single dancer started it, then adding dancers until there were about 25 on stage....dancing to that incredible music. The audience was just stunned. I'd love to see something like that on the ice.

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    Cool, it is on youtube: Something like this?

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Skating without music is as fascinating as championship Diving is, and both of which demand beautiful form. Skating with music is more fascinating if the contestants follow the rules of Music. There are a few who do, naming them is another topic. Oh yes, Esther Williams did dive to music. MGM picked up when Fox's Henie petered out.

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