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Thread: Programs with the best Choreography?

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    I'm out. aftertherain's Avatar
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    What makes a program aesthetically well-constructed?

    I recently came across this article from 1996:

    Michelle Kwan: World Champion Skates to Azerbaijani Symphonic Music
    http://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories...hellekwan.html
    Finally after much searching, Nichol found a quote describing the memorial: "Both inside and out, the marble reflects the light and mood of the changing day. Dazzling at noon. Warm and glowing at dusk. Soft and ethereal in the moonlight like the varying moods of a beautiful woman."

    And based upon that description, Nichol and Carroll created the choreography-the imagery of the sun as it shines against the white marble of the building casting various shadows and creating different moods. The artistic movement climaxes in the evening when the story reveals the spirit of Mumtaj rising out of the crypt, searching through the halls of the mausoleum for her husband and then dancing with him. Then, just before the sun rises for a new day, she disappears in despair back into her grave.

    According to Nichol, so many details have gone into choreographing this piece, even down to the smallest rippling movements of the body and facial expressions. The performance is filled with such subtleties.

    "Part of what I'm trying to do in the choreography is to touch the hearts and imagination of people," Nichol confides. "That's what Michelle is trying to do, too. We're trying to give a gift to the people who are watching. And if, in the process, we're able to attract attention and focus upon a culture such as Azerbaijan's that is relatively unknown, because of our choice of music, well, then, that's an added bonus!
    And it got me thinking about programs (both competitive and exhibitions) that are meant to be artistically well-constructed, tell a story, etc.

    Now, I don't necessarily mean programs that have scored the most 6.0s or highest scores (MK got a 6.0 for presentation at 2003 Worlds for her long program, but let's face it; "Aranjuez" wasn't exactly brilliant in terms of choreography)-- but "what makes a well-constructed program, in terms of aesthetic principles".

    Some of my favorites:
    ~ Michelle Kwan - 1995-1996 LP - Salome (Lori Nichol)
    ~ Lu Chen - 1995-1996 SP - Spring Breeze (Sandra Bezic)
    ~ Sasha Cohen - 2005-2006 LP - Romeo & Juliet (David Wilson)
    ~ Phillipe Candeloro - 1997-1998 LP - D'Artagnan (Natacha Dabadie?)
    ~ Mao Asada - 2010-2011 EX - Ballade No. 1 (Tatiana Tarasova)
    ~ Alissa Czisny - 2011-2012 SP - La vie en rose (Yuka Sato, Pasquale Camerlengo)

    ~Bonus: The beginnings of a flirtatious Daisuke Takahashi
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcAr91dhaD4
    (2003-2004 SP - Nyah - Tatiana Tarasova)

    What do you guys think? What do you think makes a balanced and well-constructed program and who are some of the best choreographers in the world?
    Last edited by aftertherain; 12-25-2012 at 11:28 PM. Reason: Re-worded a few things.

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    I remember that article! I was so excited to realize that Nichol had made such an audacious choice for music. Most of the Nichol-Kwan collaborations would be on my list, but at the top would doubtless be Lyra Angelica and song of the Black Swan, closely followed by the 1998 exhibition incarnation of East of Eden (the one without the incongruous footwork that had to go in to make it a competitive program). These pieces all contain small moments that are like starbursts, though they probably wouldn't garner any extra points from a CoP judge. An example is the way Lyra starts, with several rapid steps backward.

    Here's the East of Eden:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ0reeUnAmE

    I agree that Michelle's Aranjuez didn't have all those little hidden choreographic treasures in it.

    Another Nichol skate I'd add is Love Story, the long program she choreographed for Sale and Pelletier.

    I agree about the Czisny and Asada programs you cited. I'd add Asada's exhibition program Por Una Cabeza, that tango she skated in 2008. It shows her sinuous movement, her beautiful upper-body carriage and arm use, her ability to drift across the ice, her nimble footwork, and her sparkly personality. I can't follow all the commentary of the French site I found--I have to listen several times--but when one of the announcers said "C'est une merveille" (a marvel), I got that loud and clear.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG4pvrexGIY

    And finally, at or near the top of my list, the magical Die Fledermaus of Davis and White from last year. Every step, every lift, even their costumes, just phenomenal. Even her hair ornament, in the shape of a mask, is perfect for the occasion.

    Special mention goes to Casi Un Bolero, the duet that Katia Gordeeva and Ilia Kulik melted the ice with together in SOI in about 2000.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpDZf82KYhA
    Last edited by Olympia; 12-25-2012 at 03:29 PM.

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    Custom Title Cherryy's Avatar
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    Sasha Cohen definitely knew how to connect with the audience and I think the one program that showed this ability the best was her Malaguena from the 2003-4 season. When I look at it now it was certainly all carefuly planned, all these arm movements that underlined the rythm and her facial expressions were just magnificent.

    Another program that I can think of now is Michelle's exhibition from 2002 Olympics. This one on the other hand did not have many details but you could see Michelle was showing everything she was feeling at the moment, it's probably my all-time favourite gala along with her 1998 one you already mentioned .

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    Beliver in Sasha's Perfect Program Tinymavy15's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cherryy View Post
    Sasha Cohen definitely knew how to connect with the audience and I think the one program that showed this ability the best was her Malaguena from the 2003-4 season. When I look at it now it was certainly all carefuly planned, all these arm movements that underlined the rythm and her facial expressions were just magnificent.

    Another program that I can think of now is Michelle's exhibition from 2002 Olympics. This one on the other hand did not have many details but you could see Michelle was showing everything she was feeling at the moment, it's probably my all-time favourite gala along with her 1998 one you already mentioned .
    dido on both of those.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    In a 2010 interview Phil Hersh asked Michelle Kwan what performance inspired her the most. Michelle said this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfdfjIoGWw4#t=2m50s

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    Favourite Choreographer: Pasquale Camerlengo
    Also: Marina Zoueva, Tom Dickson, Kenji Miyamoto, David Wilson, Lori Nichol, Peter Tchernyshev

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    Custom Title Rachmaninoff's Avatar
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    Michelle Kwan's later programs are difficult to evaluate, because the choreography in many of them was relatively empty, but her performances of them were still stunning. Actually, I have a hard time with the question in general, since the programs that connect with the audience aren't necessarily the ones with the most intricate, creative, or original choreography. It has so much to do with the skater and the performance.

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    Some of my absolute favorites:

    Mao Asada's Liebestraum 2011:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_fHcE4uFg4

    Mao Asada's Clair de lune 2009:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=327n8Gue9Ic

    Mao Asada's Ballade 2010:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axvZgkmum7E

    Mao Asada Nocturne 2007:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axvZgkmum7E

    Mao Asada's Por Una Cabeza 2009:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axvZgkmum7E

    Mao Asada bells of Moscow 2010:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAIDUTDjBNc



    The programs are true Masterpieces, and Mao turns it into Art!
    Last edited by mary01; 12-25-2012 at 08:48 PM.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    We speak (deceiving ourselves) about our favorite modern skater "hitting every beat and nuance of the music."

    The choreography and its execution in this program has no peer or rival.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z79TMsYRnEc

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    Quote Originally Posted by aftertherain View Post
    Now, I don't necessarily mean programs that have scored the most 6.0s or highest scores ... but programs with a lot of potential [/b] to connect with the audience. Whether that potential was fulfilled depends on the skaters.
    ...
    What do you guys think? What makes a program stand out and who are some of the best choreographers in the world? And what are some of your favorites?
    I wouldn't measure the quality of the choreography based on the connection with the audience. I think those are two very separate aspects of a performance. Connection depends so much on the personal charisma of the performer, in general and in a specific performance, and on the predisposition of that particular audience to want to connect with that particular performer -- different audiences might have different reactions

    We all have different favorites. If many people agree that a performance was magical -- as evidenced through standing ovations discussions here, in person at the time, etc., we can consider it a general fan favorite. But so many fans choose favorites on bases other than quality of choreography that I don't think that's a good way to measure choreography. I think it's a good way to measure popularity and charisma of the skater, and good choreography could be a contributing factor, but I don't even think it's a necessary factor.

    I'm actually more interested in the question of what makes a well-constructed program, in terms of aesthetic principles, and was thinking of starting a thread about choreography myself from that point of view. Is this thread an appropriate place to discuss that topic, or do you want to keep this thread for discussing audience connection and move the theoretical design discussion to a separate thread?

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    I'm out. aftertherain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    I wouldn't measure the quality of the choreography based on the connection with the audience.

    ...

    I'm actually more interested in the question of what makes a well-constructed program, in terms of aesthetic principles, and was thinking of starting a thread about choreography myself from that point of view. Is this thread an appropriate place to discuss that topic, or do you want to keep this thread for discussing audience connection and move the theoretical design discussion to a separate thread?
    Re-read my post and you are definitely right. I wasn't sure how to correctly word what I wanted to convey and I think it definitely changed the meaning of the entire post. (Thanks!)

    Whether you want to start a new thread is up to you, but I quoted you in the original post.

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    Thanks, aftertherain.


    I don't have time to go into detail tonight, but here's one favorite of mine that I think does a great job of telling a story/creating a character through the use of skating moves: Kurt - Casablanca

    And here are a handful of less iconic ladies' programs that I happened to rewatch recently and was impressed by their construction:

    Kadavy 1987
    Kerrigan 1991
    Kim 2007
    Kostner 2011

    More later...
    Last edited by gkelly; 12-26-2012 at 11:50 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    We speak (deceiving ourselves) about our favorite modern skater "hitting every beat and nuance of the music."

    The choreography and its execution in this program has no peer or rival.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z79TMsYRnEc
    I can't imagine a worthier entry for our list, Math. Curry translated ballet onto the ice in a way that did honor to both dance and skating. Man, the guy could do sit-spins in both directions!

    And gkelly, I agree with you about Kurt's Casablanca and also about programs with Caryn Kadavy. She had a splendid "touch" on the ice and was always satisfying to watch.

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    It seems hard to tell a story through a figure skating program because it's hard to focus on that, or even have enough time for it, when there are so many athletic elements required. I think Michelle Kwan's Salome succeeded pretty well, though (and I'm interested to see other programs that people think succeed at telling a story), and at the least, it showed a character very well. To focus on a specific part of the choreography, I always found this part particularly striking and powerful. She's not only using her arms to express the music, but her whole body and her face, and the choreography throughout doesn't only match the music, but also the character she's portraying.

    I also agree with Olympia that Michelle's East of Eden (the one she posted at the 1998 World Pro Championship is my favorite) is a masterpiece of choreography in its own way, I've been watching it lots lately. It appears simple, but suits the flowing, flying, soaring nature of the music brilliantly, and there are actually beautiful details scattered throughout. A lot of the highlight parts of the choreography for me are actually skating elements and moves, I guess, like the spirals, the flying leaf into a spread eagle across the rink, Ina Bauer, etc.

    And I agree with this; later Michelle programs, like Tosca, might not be choreographic masterpieces when performed by someone else, but she performed with them with such passion, attack, and charisma, that they became memorable:

    Quote Originally Posted by Rachmaninoff View Post
    Michelle Kwan's later programs are difficult to evaluate, because the choreography in many of them was relatively empty, but her performances of them were still stunning. Actually, I have a hard time with the question in general, since the programs that connect with the audience aren't necessarily the ones with the most intricate, creative, or original choreography. It has so much to do with the skater and the performance.
    I don't necessarily have a preference of extreme passion and emotion showed by a skater over intricate, detailed choreography matched well to the music and/or story. I don't have to be moved to tears every time I watch skating, I also appreciate the dazzling effect of good choreography executed perfectly in time to music. I think many programs by Yukina Ota are good examples of this.

    I also find the choreography for Ilia Kulik's Revolutions SP really interesting, it appeals to my taste at least. I actually think the choreography could have been executed better by him, the movements could have been sharper at times to suit the music better, but I still like to watch it.

    El Tango de Roxanne by Yuna Kim is an example of great choreography executed well with charisma/fire and spread out elements.

    Well, there are many more examples to link, but I'll try to list some aspects of good choreography in figure skating programs (though I'm no expert):
    - Elements that are balanced and spread out well, not jump, jump, jump.
    - Elements that are correctly timed to the music, like a spiral or jump at just the right moment, can work wonders for the choreography.
    - If the program is trying to tell a story or show a character, there should be enough choreography throughout the entire program in order to do so, and the skater should be in character throughout the entire performance, not just in short spurts at the beginning and end. I think this is a common problem in modern problems, getting the difficult stuff out of the way and then performing.
    - Everything should match the mood and pace of the music, ie. no frantic footwork and wild arm waving during calm music.
    - Aiming for unique movements that match the music, mood, story/character, etc. as much as possible -- rather than simply extending an arm or leg to a certain note. Using the whole body to express the music, not just stroking around and extending the arms.
    - Edited to add this: The individual choreographic parts and elements should all contribute to the "whole," and the goal/purpose of the program, whether it's to tell a story, create a mood, show the journey of a character/the skater, dazzlingly 'draw' the music using skates and the body, etc. And hopefully the program does have such a purpose and artistic value other than earning points.
    Last edited by avalyn; 12-26-2012 at 10:42 AM.

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