I think a lot of skaters who choose non-princessy styles do so because they know they don't have the right kind of talent or the right body type to do well in the classic style. E.g., those who don't excel at glide and stretch. One could think of the choices as covering up or making the best of deficiencies. So it's also interesting to look for examples of skaters who can do classicism well but sometimes choose to something else.
At the rink. Again.
If everyone had the same body type and talent and skated in the classic style it would be a snoozer which is why other styles such as what Tara, Irina, Tonya, and Midori have put forth should be embraced. I think that's one of the complaints a lot of people have about the Ladies' discipline right now - cookie cutter.
On the contrary, the princess style is the default, easiest style to pull off.
Expression: can be the same throughout the program, a gentle smile, an occasional big smile, an occasional smaller smile, a serene smile, etc.
Speed: can be slow, after all you're a princess.
Costume: generic pastel, anything cute will do
Arm movements: keep them in the ballet positions, no need to deviate from the norm
Wicked Yankee Girl
Which is why I don't watch the ladies very often
Well, it does take skating skill to pull it off well, in the sense of maintaining a fluid gliding motion while performing steps with (we hope) some difficulty/complexity and achieving good alignment, extension, etc. That's why it's encouraged and rewarded in the first place -- to show off those basic skills.
And subtle nuanced response to the music takes more interpretive skill than than interpreting whole phrases as monolithic chunks. So the artistic princesses are more musical than the less artistic skaters who just choose that style as a default.
But what it doesn't take, especially at the superficial default level, is creativity.
But the skaters we remember forever aren't skating at the default level. Just because there are a lot of insipid artistic skaters doesn't make artistic skating insipid as a variety. Don't mistake the stereotype for the archetype.
As an example, there used to be a genre of novels popular with girls and women known as romantic suspense. Generally, a young woman was caught up in an adventure that took her to an exotic and dangerous setting, and a heroic man was usually involved, though the woman pulled her weight in the adventure. This was a goodly time ago, so she didn't have the martial arts or weapons skills possessed by today's action heroines. There were trite examples of this genre by the dozens. But if you dismissed the genre as trite, you would be missing out on the work of at least one incomparable writer, Mary Stewart. (She later wrote Arthurian novels, but her first books were romantic suspense.) Her tense plots and evocative descriptive powers made her a memorable writer who elevated the genre. The difference between other writers' books and hers was, as Mark Twain would say, like the difference between a lightning bug and lightning. There are skaters like that, too. Some of them might come across as princesses. But really, they're queens. Possibly empresses.
I'm a little late to this discussion, but I'm so glad it's here. Thanks, gkelly! And thanks to everyone for the interesting discussion and links. I've watched several terrific programs I'd not seen before or in a long time.
The first person that came to my mind (also mentioned earlier in the thread) is Alena Leonova. I don't always love her choices, but she's certainly an original. I can't recall her ever doing a traditional "princess" program. And I do really like her Pirates of the Caribbean SP this year.
One other thought, though maybe this deserves its own thread: I don't think current and recent past female skaters lag so far behind the male skaters in terms of originality/creativity as this discussion might suggest at points. With a handful of exceptions (recent people who come to mind right now are Takahashi, Abbott, and Weir), I think most male skaters fall into one of four categories: (1) the stoic warrior, (2) the (heterosexual) suitor, (3) the clown, and (4) those with no character or interpretation at all.
I think (4) may be as common among the men as "the princess" is among the women. In both cases, I think we're seeing--not so surprisingly--the effect of traditional gender socialization and norms. (For women, gender norms encourage being delicate, passive, receptive, etc., whereas for men, gender norms discourage expressiveness and displays of most kinds of emotion.)
That's an interesting point, Pepe. I think one of the reasons the Russians (and before them the Soviets) have historically been so great at pairs skating and ice dancing (and then later also men's singles) is that in Russia, dance is considered manly. A lot of that comes from the folk dance tradition, which is very ancient but also very popular today. Didn't Gordeyeva's father (maybe also her mother) belong to a folk troupe? So you got a wider spectrum of boys going into skating, and you also got them expressing more emotion when they did skate. Look at someone like Yagudin, or Artur Dmitriev? (I mean Artur Senior, the pairs skater.) This is a stereotype, I know, but a lot of boys in North America probably stay away from skating (or have to learn how to defend themselves in a fight if they become skaters) because of how it's popularly perceived.
At the end of this season's Battle of the Blades, David Pelletier thanked the hockey players for treating skating with respect, and not making fun of it the way he was teased when he was younger. There are probably a lot of boys who wouldn't try, or stay in, figure skating for this reason...
Originally Posted by Olympia
When thinking about this topic I was wondering about the men too. I do think there is more variety there (4 general categories is better than 1!), but do they feel like they have to choose more masculine music and costumes? Is it safer this way? But, then, there are skaters who are very strong artistically and will probably be more comfortable exploring that (like Abbott, Weir, Takahashi), whereas other skaters might prefer not to push the limits in that way...
ETA: And those four styles Pepe describes for men explore more of a range of who a man is: he can be a warrior, a lover, a clown, an artist. A woman can just be a pretty princess.
Last edited by mmcdermott; 01-13-2012 at 10:36 PM.
Well, I think there are 3 main categories for women, or maybe 4 if you count those with no character and interpretation at all.
Originally Posted by mmcdermott
1) beautiful, lyrical, classical (and chaste)
With subsets of each.
And then there's everything else, as listed in this thread, of which there are too few examples of each to count as whole categories. Maybe female skaters taking on masculine hero-style characters (like Witt's Robin Hood or Leonova's pirate) would be a small category of its own.
For men, over the last 30+ years that I've seen videos from, I can come up with a few more categories. Shall I start a new thread?
There also might be a category called 'intense & dramatic' which would include Mao's Bells and Yuna's Danse Macabre amongst others.
Originally Posted by gkelly
Wicked Yankee Girl
For men, I'd add "The Villain" (sometimes the Charming Villain, not too common, but used by Rudy Galindo as Baron Rothbart, sometimes The Menacing Villain some of the more interesting versions of The Godfather (Candeloro's for example), and various Phantoms of the Opera.
We also have The Cowboy-Ryan Bradley, Samuel Contesti, Candeloro "Lucky Luke"
And the musical soldier - Ryan Bradley's Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Granted, the above 2 versions stray close to The Clown"
For the men, I would also add "The Patriot". Off the top of my head, I've only noticed this in U.S. skaters (Paul Wylie, Todd Eldredge come to mind). This is an observation, not a criticism! In Canada I simply can't imagine any skater performing to The Maple Leaf Forever! I'm trying to think of skaters from other countries who have done this and am drawing a blank.
I was reading a thread the other night which mentioned "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and I got excited, thinking it was this thread and that some female skater was actually going to interpret it! What a letdown when I realized my mistake.
With all this discussion re roles, I went to youtube and looked at some of Gary Beacom's old routines. How refreshing! I wanted to see "Please Clarify" which is not on there. Too bad! It was marvelous! I always saw it as a guy who thinks he's rather cool, gets out on the ice, realizes that maybe this is harder than it looks and then proceeds to discover how his body works on the ice, what he can do with his muscles, posture, movement, etc. It felt like dropping in on someone's private midnight session on a deserted rink. If anyone knows where this one is please share.
Scrufflet, I thought of another rendition that could go with "The Patriot"--Stephane Lambiel skating to Rossini's William Tell. These days, when all sorts of more recent heroes (and heroines) have crowded out the old favorites, a lot of people don't realize how popular William Tell's story was all across Europe. I suspect that it got revitalized in the beginning of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries when the concepts of non-royal governments and of individual rights were gaining popularity. You could find Tell's story in kids' books in England, the U.S., and I'm sure in other countries as well. I'm sure the Swiss have long been proud of being one of the forerunners of the non-hereditary, republic form of government.
Otherwise, I think you're probably on the money with that observation, Scrufflet. Skating to patriotic music seems to be more common among American skaters than skaters from other countries. Aside from the obvious conclusion that Americans are maybe more out-there about such sentiments, might it also be that Europeans, especially Russians, have a richer culture of folk music, and so they have more ways of expressing their love of country obliquely? I think of the many times Rodnina and Zaitsev, for example, skated to folk melodies.
Wicked Yankee Girl
Part of the American Patriot thing comes from the Civil War--we keep having skaters representing either The Blue or The Grey-including skating to Gone With The Wind-Michael Weiss did it, as did Todd, and for that matter Ryan Bradley skated a backwoods guy to Appalachian music & Dixie at US Nationals in Atlanta. It definitely is an American guy thing.