What is "heart?"
This question is prompted by the following exchange from another thread.
Originally Posted by Olympia
Is there really a difference between having heart and doing choreography really well? Between drawing in the audience and merely performing the program that you practiced? Is “emotional involvement” something that the audience supplies out of its imagination, rather than anything the skater does?
Originally Posted by Tonichelle
In Sophie’s Choice the actress Meryl Streep did not actually have to choose between her two children – she just had to act like she did. Does Streep have "heart" or merely technique?
Skaters show true emotion when they land that triple Lutz, just like a pole vaulter is jubilant when he clears the bar. On the other hand, making passionate faces and acting out characters usually does not move figure skating audiences. So what does?
to me, it's a matter of perceived sincerity. when MK skated, i used to feel i could see to the bottom of her very soul, that's how out there she was with her emotions.
Originally Posted by Mathman
this didn't apply to her beatles program, and a number of programs that i felt didn't resonate--maybe she felt it but i didn't. for the magic to be there she has to feel it, and then i have to sense that she feels it. ^___^
i just wanted to get my low brow answer in early because i have a feeling this thread is going to have a high HT quotient. thanks mathman, for helping me to put off working.
example of program that resonated: debut of red violin (exhibition program is much preferred to competition program), debut of dante's prayer at 1998 worlds ('please remember me...' even tho i didn't win LOL i'm allowed to make this joke since i love her to pieces in my mind she still should have won, speed and speedy be damned)
now, not referring to MK in particular but skaters in general...
when the jumps aren't there, the skater is going to be a bit out of sorts--if it's just a tiny trip up they may still be able to keep the thing going, but too many trip ups rupture the spell. and i'm sorry rachel flatt no matter how many O faces she makes has not (so far) sold me on the sincerity of anything except her (absolutely appropriate) desire to kick butt and win when she skates to her lori nichol program to east of eden.
hey, she still can at worlds--i hope she will--i name her specifically not because i have a grudge but because she's skating to something MK skated to, with the same choreographer, even.
Last edited by skfan; 04-20-2011 at 07:26 PM.
I couldn't believe my eyes when Michelle came out for the debut of that program at the 1999 Worlds exhibition. Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said...whoa!
Originally Posted by skfan
But what I am curious about is this. What exactly does Michelle do that makes us believe in the sincerity of her performances?
what is heart? what's truly sincere?
didn't a politician once say, to paraphrase, i know porn when i see it? ^__^
i know sincerity when i see it. rather, i know what strikes me as sincere.
maybe it's the look in the eye, the 'i'm going to take you on my journey of emotions' glance as she strikes her opening pose.... roughly translated to mean, you can trust me, i won't splat, so just relax and prepare to be amazed. maybe she had the confidence in her technique and the charisma and forceful personality to broadcast that to the entire arena.
i credit nicole bobek for showing michelle the way, in many ways--it's because of nicole that michelle worked so hard on her spiral. she only has to watch nicole to know what vibe an audience gives off when it's truly absorbed in a skater's performance.
maybe when michelle herself feels the doubt--that maybe she can't quite pull off this deviation from the norm, this slightly off the beaten path program--she broadcasts that too, involuntarily--and the audience rather than flinging its lot in with her sits on hands, biting lips, feeling reserved, un-sold on the performance.
or maybe it's strategic placement of sequins ^_^
Last edited by skfan; 04-20-2011 at 08:59 PM.
Obviously, since mine was one of the quotes that started this thread, I think Michelle exemplifies heart. What does she do exactly that pulls so many of us in? Who knows! There's some magic X factor, like what Judy Garland had when she sang. Now, this doesn't mean that either Michelle or Judy will draw everyone in. Tonichelle is an example of someone who doesn't resonate to Michelle's particular magnetism. But MK has that effect on enough people that I'm willing to cite her as a prime model of heart.
Originally Posted by Mathman
I know it when I see it: for me, Mao Asada has it. And Daisuke. Paul Wylie had it. It is not for me to decide whether any specific skater lacks heart. Skaters work their hearts out, and I feel it's uncharitable to be specific about anyone lacking intensity. The only ones I can say specifically (but I refrain from naming them) are several of the "businesslike" Soviet pairs skaters. They were technically superior and never changed expression. It was their turn to win. They won. Then it was someone else's turn. I'm not referring to Rodnina/Zaitsev or (perish the thought!) Gordeyeva/Grinkov, of course.
Last edited by Olympia; 04-20-2011 at 11:16 PM.
and... World Peace!
for me heart = "passion"
when I see Michelle - or Evan - skate I see their passion - for the win. They are into the competition more than, IMO, the music. That doesn't mean they phone in the performance, but, for me, they do the same program in every program, because they can do it well and they know it wins.
Whereas someone like Kurt Browning's passion is skating itself. Yeah, he likes to win, but there's the skates like Casablanca in the Olympics where winning wasn't an option, and he just went out and skated for himself and those that were supporting him through the years. He has a joy of skating that doesn't just happen in the 4 minutes that he's on the ice... it continues through to just about everything he says and does.
Is this partially a fan's perspective, absolutely, but that's where I come off with the "they do choreography extremely well." But I don't see it oozing out of them.
The only difference I have with you, Toni, is that I'd put Michelle with Kurt, not with Evan. But everything you say about Kurt works for me! I think we're applying the word heart differently, but that's possible with such a subjective word. Both Kurt and Michelle bring everything out of the music and make it live; their movements are more than technique. To me that's more than "doing choreography extremely well," but then that's because I'm a fan of both Kurt and Michelle, while you're a fan of Kurt and not Michelle. And therein lies a tale.
Originally Posted by Tonichelle
By this point we also see that Kurt pretty much lives for skating; he's continued through a twenty-year career, well into his forties, and though certain jumping strength has left him, he magically still brings something new and fresh to skating. I'd say that qualifies as heart in any way you want to define the word. No contest with anyone else except maybe Scott. Kurt also has that playful streak that endears him to fans and strangers alike, which forms a tremendous emotional bond with his fans (among whom I'm proud to be included along with you.)
Michelle has left skating and seems not to miss it. She's on to something else that she's devoting herself to. So did she love it as much as we loved it while she skated? Well, I think so, but you don't. Vive la difference! To me she was and remains magic, but I understand that you don't feel that. There are people who get that from Oksana Baiul; they adore her skating. I like some of her programs but that's as far as it goes for me. Again, vive la difference.
"Heart", while a wonderfully earthy word, is so frequently used and in so many disparate ways in everyday life that I find it hard to say something meaningfully precise with it in the context of performance.
Originally Posted by Mathman
Firstly, a performance is a performance, not be be confused (as you allude in your example of the goddess Streep's Solomonic dilemma) with an equivalent situation in "real" life. Although most people understand this, from time to time there are viewers whose comments seem to demonstrate something less than complete clarity on this point. For the performers, too, even zealously "Method" ones, a line is recognized (if they know what's good for them ).
The implication to be drawn is that there is no such thing as real-life "sincerity" in an artistic performance to be earnestly searched for by the audience; praising a performance for "not being acting", is almost a contradiction in terms. Art being an act of communication, what, then, is the performer trying to convey? IMO, the artist is utilizing his/her imagination, experience and empathy to represent, in the particular language of the discipline, the fundamental characteristics, the topography, of the emotions or ideas that are the themes of the program. The performer is demonstrating her understanding and self-awareness of the emotional theme, not the putative emotion itself. This is "expressiveness", which I prefer to "heart" as a more aesthetically precise way of defining what we're talking about.
Similarly, on the receiving end, if the performer's representation is successful, then the viewer will be able to feel an emotion, which is the product of the viewer's own imagination, experience, and empathy working on the affective topography that the performer lays out. To the extent that we feel that this topography is not representative of the intended theme, we say that the performance is only partially successful, or failed.
I'm of the view that, broadly speaking, the human psychological constitution is innate and hardwired and therefore there is critical overlap among individuals (which is what allows any form of communication among humans to be possible in the first place). In conjunction with the idea that the "grammar and vocabulary" of an artistic discipline is a learned facility, the basis for commonality in emotional response to a program is established.
Of course, there will be differences of opinions. Given the practically infinite nuance available in artistic language to represent a map of an emotion, and the variation in traits of imagination/experience/empathy among individuals. My speculation, though, is that there is enough basic psychological commonality among audiences that the concept of an expressively good performance vs. a not-so-good performance is meaningful, although in some cases it may take time for its qualities to be appreciated and recognized. That being said, I will venture that, where there are stark differences from the overall audience "geist", in many cases this can be attributable to factors other than the utilization of aesthetic faculties in good faith (e.g. unexamined prejudice, pre-existing loyalties or bias, lack of understanding of the "language" employed, etc).
The reason that I'm such a huge fan of Yuna (aside from her crystalline jumps and skating skills) is that her best performances (especially since 2009) more vividly demonstrate the necessary artistic understanding and self-awareness than any ladies skater today, IMHO. This is why even a stick-figure animation of one of her performances is so recognizable in terms of her individual style of movement. Glenn Gould, perhaps my favorite pianist (and a Canadian to boot, for all the Northern homers out there ), once said that the point of playing music is to elucidate difference, and the difference from the world. I would point to Yuna's ATSS Meditation de Thais, her Olympic Gershwin and Bond, and her Worlds Danse Macabre, as Exhibits A, B, C and D, respectively, in making my case.
I don't even know if my answer will make sense but thinking about performances of dance or performance art, I think skating/performing with "heart" is skating/performing in a way that shows the audience the emotion in a way that transcends the movements you are making on the ice/with your body. I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to choreography, or what type of movements highlight what type of musical phrasing etc. I suppose I know more about this sort of thing in skating, being more familiar with the technical aspects, but in general dance or performance art I'm clueless.
Technique and choreography are used and put in place to "tell the story", but for a heathen like me, a 90minute dance piece with only instrumental musical and no spoken words can leave me scartching my head as to what on earth is going on. I don't often pick up on subtleties of movement and why they are there. Performers who do so with "heart", at least to my mind, are the ones who manage to connect with me as a heathen audience member, and actually get the message of what they are doing across.
For me, "heart" is the intangible aspects of a performance. It's not something that could be adequately explained in words. It is something that is felt. Michelle Kwan skated with her heart most of the time because I felt she really believed in her performances. Even in her exhibitions (where there was no medal at stake), she gave it her all.
Another prime example of skating with heart is Janet Lynn's memorable Olympic moment where she fell down, smiled, and then got up. These are moments that transcend the sport from mere competition to displays of human courage.
Showing feelings on the ice in a competitive setting is extremely difficult for skaters, particularly Lady skaters. They have been sheltered in life and have been exluded from the growing-up in other social environments. They can, and do, mimic what they have seen in TV, Films and maybe Theatre, but it's just mimicing. It is not heartfelt. Meryl Streep gets into the character which she is playing, and acts how that character would behave, and not as the real Steep would.
Lady figure skaters and some Men with their 'toreadors' have 4 minutes to display a character be it Tosca, Odette, Carmen, Ciociosan while in the original stories of those mentioned perform the characters for hours on end. What's a skater to do in 4 minutes? Look perplexed as Tosca? Frightened as Odette? Sexy as Carmen? Suicide as Ciociosan? That's for little girls in Pagaents. It's impossible to display a particular character throughout the time allowed, when the goal of competition is to win it with difficult tricks.
However, performing those tricks to music is very possible. That is all that is expected in figure skating anyway. However, once music enters the picture, a skater must follow the rules of music, and for some extraordinary skaters that music will take them to a higher level of performance. Kwan is a good example of that. Stars on Ice are character infused and that's what show skating is all about.
The Men, on the other hand also have the goals of winning a championship. They will show happiness and sorrow because of their execution of the tricks just as the pole vaulter heads over a new height. It's Sport for them first and foremost - not pretension.
Pairs have gotten so acrobatic, it's hard to think about any rapport between the skaters. Pang and Tong have the most I've seen since the days of 2002.
Ice Dancers come out best of combining sensibilities and technique to their competitions. I just hope they do not get overly acrobatic which is what is happening to all the divisions of figure skating over the years. It used to be called "Ballet on Ice" but nowadays "Acrobatics on Ice" would be more fitting.
Are we interchanging or even confusing heart as it is referred to in sports with expressive or even soulful performances?
Is there a difference?
When I think of heart in sports I think of overcoming the odds, and even if you don't win you never gave up and showed indomitable spirit.
This song describes it quite well:
The US Hockey team from 1980 is a great example of heart as the sheer determination and grit they displayed helped them beat a vastly superior team.
"This is your moment" said coach Herb Brooks as his team took the ice for the final period.
"Do you believe in miracles" are words that forever identify the achievement of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team.
Of course in baseball there was the 1969 "Miracle Mets."
The term miracle has been used to describe both of these teams that showed hearts so huge they literally shook up the sports world.
Last edited by janetfan; 04-21-2011 at 08:29 AM.
Super post but both examples are all about the heart of winning (belief in) a game. It is not, as some fans see it, as the performance of figure skating which have moved them emotionally. That is so personal one can agree with or disagree from.
I don't know the answer to the question.
But I think If a skater shows his/her heart, the viewers can feel it. I think Toni's "heart = passion" is a close explanation. If the performer themselves soaked into the performance, feel the music, feel the passion, and totally, 100% into it, it'll show their "heart", and pass it onto the audience. The audiences are not just see it, but feel it and moved. Showing "heart" cannot be imitated. It has to come from the inside of a performer. Maybe there is a magic sixth sense to have it spread out and reach others?