The shortlist would probably include Suzuki, Asada, and Kostner.
The shortlist would probably include Suzuki, Asada, and Kostner.
Again, I don't want to make this this thread YuNa-Mao discussion.
"She is such a musical skater" is codespeak for "she is pretty and one of her competitive programs included soft, gentle music."
For me musicality has two parts in terms of skating:
The skater must realize the tempo, the phrasing, the dynamics and the punctuation of the music through movement. While both Akiko and Michelle Kwan were very good at this, I wouldn't say they are mind-blowingly awesome in this area. Singles and pairs skating simply has too many other considerations, such as jumps, at the elite level to delve fully into every nuance of the music. Ice dance is much better in this regard.
The other part is that the skater must communicate the mood and feel of the music to the audience. Now this is where Akiko and Michelle are exceptional. Michelle is a master of mood. She always understands the feel of the music, and exuded it with utter honesty. Like Michelle, Akiko is capable of radiating mature, comprehensive and open joy to the audience. It's an exceptional and rare ability. The first time I saw Akiko skate, it did occur to me, after the euphoria wore off a bit, that it was reminiscent of Michelle.
That's not to say there haven't been single ladies skaters since Michelle who are great at weaving a mood. Yuna Kim absolutely did that repeatedly, culminating, of course, in her masterful Olympics FS that was full of weightless bliss (and a dash of flirtatiousness). And Mao Asada always commits full heart and soul into her performances, although I am particularly affected by her exhibition skates, especially her gala number this season, I Vow to Thee, My Country. Mao always, always leaves her heart out there on the gala ice. Alena Leonova is a committed and enthusiastic ham, injecting unabashed comedy into skating in a way that Michelle never did.
In my opinion, Michelle is the epitome of the actor on ice. She has something like the versatility of Meryl Streep and the fervent honesty of Hilary Swank combined. Kwan has portrayed a variety of complex roles in her programs and made them powerfully straightforward. I don't think any other skater surpasses her in this.
Last edited by Serious Business; 04-06-2012 at 01:42 AM.
Is Michelle Kwan even the most musical skater? I certainly don't feel that way. She had many interesting music choices throughout her career, but for the most part (especially in the later part of her career), I felt she never fully took advantage of what her music had to offer. Yuna Kim was good at presentating programs - she was so technically sound that she didn't have to worry about her technique and could just concentrate on presentation, but I never found her "artistry" convincing. Her expression always seemed kind of put on to me. She had good sweeping, whole body movement, but it didn't feel like they came from within her. She made her acting very obvious and it was all about doing the choreography. I also find Asada kind of bland after you get past the light and graceful movement, which she mostly rely one IMO. There's not a lot of interpretation of music or performing in her skating. She's a pleasant for me, but doesn't really grab me emotionally.
Personally I find Akiko's skating much more musical and engaging. She has a very spontaneous response to music that I love, because it is similar to how I respond to music. She interprets music with beautiful dynamics, heart-felt phrasing, wonderful organic movement and occasional flourishes that just make your heart sing. Stephane Lambiel also has that similar quality.
And I agree with whoever that mentioned Yukina Ota. For me, she still remains one of the most musically sensitive female skaters I have ever seen. I'll never forget how she literally took my breath away the first time I saw her.
Also LOVED Stephanie Rosenthal. Her LP from 2006 US Nationals is one of the best competitive programs I have seen and she was an incredible interpreter of music.
Last edited by shine; 04-06-2012 at 02:52 AM.
To illustrate with a humbler example, I might prefer Green Day over AC-DC, but I can recognize when a particular AC-DC performance kicks butt over one by Green Day, and when that AC-DC set is better than an AC-DC performance on another occasion.
More directly on topic: Akiko is certainly one my favorites in this aspect of skating. She's like a brilliant journeyman band that was always under the radar, who couldn't afford to play with the best equipment and in the most acoustically sound venues (roughly equivalent to TES in this very loose metaphor). Then, one day, they get to show their chops in a really good recording studio, and suddenly the wider public starts to perk up and take notice, buzzing: "Who are these guys?"
I still somewhat prefer Yuna's "sound" and overall body of work, but she's gotten so big that, unfortunately, her very success has generated a kind of backlash within some quarters. With any luck, this will, as often happens in music, mellow with time and distance, whenever it is that she officially retires. Akiko has been one of my very favorites in terms of artistry for a while now (one of those cases where her fans happily brag: I knew about her before she made it big ). Michelle is like the Beatles. Not my skating generation, but here, there and everywhere, the seminal presence who hovers in the background of all modern skating, who I've come to really appreciate in retrospect. They are my personal Big Three.
Mao is someone like Roxy Music. Either by choice or by temperament, her successful performances are within a narrower range of aesthetic vision, and has suffered at times from uneven production values (e.g. Bells of Moscow). But when she's in her comfort zone and is on (Por Una Cabeza), she is without doubt among the absolute best of her era.
Carolina is, metaphorically (and IMO), like a late-blooming experimental band that has frequently sounded awkward and clunky in the past, though the pieces were there, and the effect did not please me. As this season has progressed, however, she's found the right groove/choreography that matches her strengths, and she's learned how to make it her own, and the result was a World Championship LP performance that made me say to myself: that style of movement will never be among my personal favorites, but I can understand, admire and respect the heck out of it, and why her scores were top of the competition.
Alena is rough-hewn and she achieves her effects through sheer energy. At her best, I can see why the infectiousness can overwhelm aesthetic qualms, if you allow it. She's kind of like the Go-Go's; yeah, the material is mindless, the vocal range is only part of an octave, and the musicianship is crude, but when it's sunny and you're driving with the top down and don't want to work too hard with what you're listening to, doesn't it sometimes bring a smile to your face?
Mao's body is a very glorious interpreter of music but her facial expressions and feel don't synch with the danceability of her body that it sometimes send an incongruent message to the viewer. I have to agree that her exhibition programs really showcase her true musicality and in that aspect she does belong to the musical skaters. It is when she skates to the light piano classics that she really shines for me in competition. She proved to me her versatility with her "Bells of Moscow" performance during the 2010 Worlds.
Yu-Na is very artistic and musical but I have to agree that the feel is not there. There is a certain coldness left, a certain missing piece in a seemingly perfect picture. Her "Scheherazade", "Danse Macabre" and "Gershwin-LP" though showcased the artistry I wanted to see from her as well as her "The Lark Ascending" program.
Carolina has truly reinvented herself from being the skater with the big jumps to the artist thanks to Lori's touch. She was awkward before and aesthetically was not as pleasing to watch, but she has evolved and conquered her demons and has pushed her own artistic and musical boundaries especially with her sublime "Prelude to an Afternoon Faun", which was her LP at last years worlds.
Miki is very theatric and is a good interpreter of music. She has the tendency to overdo it and sometimes goes through the motions and facial expressions but leaves an emptiness and disconnectedness in some of her performances. When she connects though with the music it does become a different ballgame. Her 2009 Worlds LP was something to behold and her "Mission" SP showcased an artistic and musical side I have not seen before.
Alena is the pantomime actress in figure skating. She does not know how to intrinsically interpret complex musical pieces but is effective in her theatrical form of skating. She is over the top and entertaining. I guess this type of skating will never be my cup of tea. I admire her though for her resilience, competitive spirit and growth through the years.
Last edited by christinaskater; 04-06-2012 at 06:43 AM.
Laura Lepisto was one who could connect with the music, she did remind me of MK in some aspects but has not been able to deliver consistent programs through the years.
Joannie Rochette was also a very good and musical skater. She does seem more athletic than artist through the years but has been able to really bridge or level the artistry through the years.
Akiko is truly an incredible performer of music. Her body really dances with the music with lightness and effortlessness. Brilliant interpreter. I am one of her biggest fans in the world and I am proud how she was able to strengthen all the areas of her skating especially this year.
I always felt that she had it all but I particularly did not love her spin positions. She has the capacity to be a supreme musical artiste on ice. She can still improve on her facial expressions and add a little more polish in movement.
I am just happy she finally has an ISU World medal and a small silver medal for her LP from Worlds! I am so proud of her! I think she can only improve much further for next year. With her triple-triple intact, stunning musicality , beautiful jumps and spins- I reckon she will be one of the favorites to win Worlds next year. Given the right music, costumes , etc- she could take it to the next big step.
Last edited by christinaskater; 04-06-2012 at 07:13 AM.