Pushing the artistic boundaries of skating
(I apologize in advance if I come across as overzealous in using adjectives and verbs and then just sounding nonsensical. I had the idea of writing this post for a while now, but never actually put it into motion.)
Much has been said over the years of skaters' pushing both technical and artistic boundaries, one such case being Torvill & Dean with their unforgettable Bolero program. While newer skating fans like me might scratch their heads and be puzzled as to why people still use that program as a standard of perfection, it's easy to see why if one looks at other programs of the same period.
These days, there are two ice-dancing couples that are compared to T/D from time to time, those being Virtue & Moir and Davis & White. While I don't usually watch ice dancing, I've noticed lately that when speaking of these two pairs, fans always make the case that V/M push the envelope more than D/W do, an example being V/M's "Carmen" FD. This is a program that has been successful in making people actually (strongly) care about it, with opinions from two distinct sides. One side says that it is a glittering artistic gem as they have invigorated a tired ol' piece of music, while the other insistently dismisses it as a shock-value program in an attempt for V/M to shed their "puppy love" image.
But what about Davis & White's "Indian/Bollywood Medley"; did that program not push artistic boundaries as well? If V/M's "Carmen" did not exist, would the pair still be considered pushing artistic boundaries with their sweet love stories (Symphony No. 5) and implied kisses on ice (As the Waltz Goes On)?
And then there are the veterans of the Japanese national team, Daisuke Takahashi and Akiko Suzuki. Daisuke has been touted as an artistic genius, and many of his programs have been considered as masterpieces (e.g. "La Strada", "Blues for Klook", and "Garden of Souls"). The audience seems to get the feeling that while he is counting points, that aspect is merely secondary to the fact that he is putting the audiences first. His programs, if given to a lesser artistic skater, would still have been gems, but the way he performs with both subtle nuances and with his whole body takes them to a whole 'nother level. But while he is a truly gifted artist, is he pushing artistic boundaries too?
Lacking transitions in a program does not mean that the choreography of a program suffers, like in Akiko Suzuki's "O". That program, even with its "lack of transitions" exudes a strong feeling of flight that no other skaters have done for me since one particular skater left the sport behind. Does this masterpiece push artistic boundaries or it is just a brief flicker of light among various bird-themed programs?
Of course, there is also Yuna; her programs always bring such passion out in skating fans. While "Kiss of the Vampire" wasn't spectacular compared to some of her previous programs, it was a program skated to a piece of music that was never really used before in ladies' figure skating. Her renditions of "Scheherazade" and "Piano Concerto in F" were regarded as two of the greatest long programs in the history of the sport and were performed in such classy ways. On the other hand, I've heard fans say that she pushed artistic boundaries simply by wearing her hair in cornrows, as in her "Bulletproof" exhibition.
And what about Carolina Kostner? Her Bolero program had been earning raves all throughout the season because of the way she would perform it. The Italian diva did it in a passionate way with such careless abandon that no other skaters or teams have performed to that music in the years after T/D--like a woman among girls.
Anyway, the whole point of this long-winded post was to ask: which of the skaters today are pushing the envelope artistically? What constitutes as "pushing artistic boundaries"? Do such programs have to be considered as "masterpieces" or can they just be lukewarm programs with fans acknowledging that there is something there that hasn't been previously seen?
D/W's Indian Medley is still my favorite program from them.
Skating is art, if you let it be.
Nobody is pushing the artistic boundaries of skating anymore.
IMO I really do not like any of D/W programs........sorry not sorry
Same with Daisuke, I have never really thought I was an "artistic" skater, let alone a innovator!
However I loved V/M and Carmen, Akikos "O".
I think the thing with Yuna and the Kiss of a Vampire was that it is so different to anything that she or any lady has done before, so some people may reject it but after you watch it a few times I would definitely say it is innovative and pushes her and the viewers boundaries!
I wish more skaters would follow Yuna's example. She doesn't pack her program with pointless MIFs and transitions; she skates fast and gets high transition marks by having a cohesive, well-skated program. Fast skating and a good program is always going to get high PCS, which will buoy the transition mark. To contrast, Kaetlyn Osmond is someone who I think deserves high transition marks because of the quantity and difficulty of her transitions, but for me they detract from the program itself because they are sometimes sloppy and make the program seem too "busy". I think if someone like Kaetlyn did fewer transitions but had more thoughtful choreography and skated faster throughout the program, she'd actually get higher PCS including higher TR scores.
By coincidence, today I showed two workmates the video of D/W skating Die Fledermaus. I guess in some ways it's the opposite of pushing the envelope. I mean, it harks back to the golden age of Vienna. But there was nothing safe about the actual skating, which transcended the possibilities of ice movement. You should have seen my friends' reaction. They'd never seen anything like this before. So it did what good art is supposed to do: it made my friends see movement and this music in a new way.
Snsd, you're entitled to your opinion, but I definitely disagree with you about Daisuke and Davis/White. Since I also love V/M and YuNa, I'm glad you brought them up. (Does this mean I am greedy?)
I don't watch a lot of ice dance, but I couldn't understand the fuss about V/M's Carmen.
I think where the artistic boundaries are depends heavily on the skaters. For example, "Liebestraume" certainly wasn't pushing any of Jason Brown's artistic boundaries, but if you gave that same piece to someone like Max Aaron, it would be pushing them. Likewise, if you switched it around, and gave Jason "Tron", that would be pushing his boundaries in a much different way. Does that make sense?
I do understand what that means, but I meant pushing figure skating artistically as a whole. T/D's Bolero program was kind of like interpretive dance, while that of their competitors were like ballroom dance--that changed after the '84 Olympics. Something like Michelle's "Salome" hadn't really been seen before in amateur skating, where she portrayed a character rather than just skating along to random cuts of music and a slew of other programs from other skaters followed. I hope that makes sense.
Originally Posted by karne
SNSD: yeah, I get it. I'm the opposite of you. I don't really like V/M's programs (with the exception of the ones I listed--sorry, "Funny Face" bored me to tears), and I like D/W's programs much more. I think that there's more to artistry in pairs' or ice dancing than just a strong "love" connection.
karne: I think the "fuss" about V/M's "Carmen" was the not-so-subtle innuendo, which was a big difference to their past programs. (And going back to your point, it makes sense that it could be considered pushing boundaries for them.) Personally, the program did grow on me in a way that Yuna's "Kiss of the Vampire" didn't, but both were "new" for figure skating.
I think there are several different things that "pushing the artistic boundaries" might mean. E.g.,
-introducing new themes, approaches to program construction, and/or new moves that haven't been used in figure skating before
-raising the bar on the use of difficult technical content to serve artistic purposes
-executing familiar themes, moves, etc., with a higher degree of aesthetic success
Chances are the same skater isn't going to succeed in advancing the medium all these areas at the same time.
Here's one I especially like (Abbott Exogenesis) because of the way the elements and the in-between skating blend together almost seamlessly with continuous calm, fluid movement.
The only complete stop is a choreographed moment during the choreo sequence. Otherwise there's always continuous glide and something going on in the rest of the body, sometimes difficult steps or other moves, sometimes simple skating with subtle uses of the arms and torso to express the music, using some unusual body shapes and good commitment of the whole body.
I like the use of the flying upright spin because it's an unusual type of move that was rarely performed before the men's short program rules requiring the change-foot and flying spins to use different basic positions. Abbott was one of a handful of guys who started doing flying upright because it was easier for them to earn higher levels and/or higher GOE that way than by the more obvious choice of one spin in sit position and the other in camel. So it's a creative solution to the challenge of maximizing points under that ruling, and Abbott really made it into a signature move, used in the free program as well, with slight variations appropriate to the style of the program.
Akiko Suzuki , Carolina Kostner, Yu-Na Kim and Mao Asada are pushing the artistic boundaries for me for the ladies. Akiko's body is an incredible instrument of how the human body can transform to the music. Her musicality is one of the greatest ever in the sport of Figure Skating. Carolina is also incredible. Lori has done wonders with her.
For the men, Daisuke Takahashi is pushing the artistic boundaries. Jeremy Abbott is also phenomenal.
For Ice Dancing - Davis and White are just sublime! V&M are equally exquisite.
In the pairs- S&S are really phenomenal. No pair has equalled the artistic achievement of S&Z for me.
Akiko Suzuki has been the skater for me since Michelle Kwan left. She is just magical on the ice! To all the skating fans, this girl is so under appreciated but she is the real deal. Simply sublime. I will see her again next season (I am just thrilled ). You must in your lifetime, see the genius that is Akiko Suzuki and Daisuke Takahashi.
Wicked Yankee Girl
I dunno. I think all the skaters mentioned are fine, artistic skaters, but pushing the boundaries in an artistic sense is not something that happens every season. It is possible to be a fine, artistic skater or team, and never push the boundaries of anything. For a "pushing the artistic boundaries" skater or team, I want to see something that I look at and say OOO that's new, I've never seen that before :swoon:
And even boundary-pushing skaters don't push the boundaries with every program.
Boundary pushing skaters are not necessarily winning skaters, either.
Toller Cranston pushed the artistic boundaries of skating, both as an amateur, and as a professional (his ice shows were like nothing done previously )
Gary Beacom was a boundary pushing skating (check out his "I'm Your Man" as a pro, but his amateur stuff showed the promise as well)
John Curry really did push artistic boundaries both as a pro & an amateur in a classically arty sense for men (something that was not encouraged)
Cecilia Colledge changed the entire look of ladies skating. It hasn't changed all that much since. If you wanted a despised innovator, the answer in ladies skating is maybe Tonya Harding, skating to Jurassic Park and People Are Still Having Sex, and perhaps Stephanie Rosenthal's Robot. Ladies has never been a hotbed of artistic innovation. Many lovely artistic skaters, including those mentioned, but darn little innovation, except in the professional ranks from time to time. They suffer from too many "princessy" requirements in the eyes of the judges and the rules. Of current skaters, perhaps Kostner is the closest IMO. And she wasn't earlier in her career.
Torvill & Dean changed the look of ice dance, but they got a boost from the team of Moiseeva & Minenkov.
The artistic pushing thing about Bolero was it was all one piece of music-and it was more pushing the boundary of the rules than artistry. OTOH, their Olympic Paso Doble? That was unique. And their Mack & Mable FD was also sublime and new.
Ilia Klimkin and Stannich Jeannette both did some innovative stuff artistically, as did Rohene Ward, and his choreography client, Jason Brown.
As to Davis & White and Virtue & Moir, between them, those 2 teams and their coaches/choreographers have done one innovative thing: they have managed to make IJS ice dancing enjoyable to watch, and have consistently created interesting program that meet my requirement for an artistic success: Can you bring an audience to its feet for a standing ovation outside your home country or training country? Clearly, both teams can do that
Of the programs each has done, not all have been ground breaking. Some have been artistic duds in one way or another, IMO.
Davis & White's Bollywood I think qualifies as ground breaking-they managed to successfully translate Indian Bollywood dance movements to the ice in a way that was recognizable to Indians.And their Giselle polka was genius as well, managing to meld ballet & polka in a way that is enjoyable and yet recognizable, a real feat-especially for a team without a strong ballet background. Their biggest dud, artistically, was probably last year's Rhumba SD-because the rhumba did not convince as a rhumba.
Virtue and Moir's creativity most shows in their lifts, but I'm not sure this counts as pushing the artistic boundaries as much as the technical boundaries of the sport.
We have seen beautiful, smooth, artistic dancers before (Klimova & Ponomarenko).
We have seen graphically sexual Carmen's before (Bestemianova & Bukin) and angry, hostile Carmen's before (Krylova & Ovsiannakov). In fact, we have seen lots of every sort of Carmen before. V&M's Carmen extended their own artistic boundaries, but not really the boundaries of ice dancing. (It's a great program, but it's hard to do something really new with Carmen.)
If you wanted me to say what the program they had that most pushed artistic boundaries, I'd have to go with their Farrucas OD from Olympics (for their use of dancing to just the heel taps for a long space of time, convincing) and the fact that they skated to Mahler, an original choice, and there were wonderful, original parts in their Pink Floyd program.. V&M's biggest dud was this year's SD, IMO, because despite being a very good waltz, it never gelled as a polka, which was the requirement for the dance.
The Duchesnays (using Dean's choreo) would qualify as pushing artistic boundaries.
Some lesser teams that perhaps did so would be Blanc & Bouquet (of France), and this year's Zombie dance by Zhiganshina & Gaszi (I've never seen a team do character sketches any better.)
Last edited by dorispulaski; 05-28-2013 at 02:08 AM.
Continuing your thiought about the Duchesnays with Dean as choreographer, Doris, I would say that "Missing" is a good example of pushing the artistic boundaries for several reasons: using a new kind of music for skating (Andean music), the costumes (street clothes), many of the actual moves, and the kind of story it told. The tone is particularly a standout for me: several other skaters or couples have presented programs with some political or philosophical theme, for example Annissina/Piezerat's winning 2002 Olympic program. But often the program is very heavy-handed, with exaggerated costumes and over-the-top expressions as well as portentous music, often choral, that evokes Carmina Burana. By contrast, Missing was subtle and naturalistic, and for my money all the more intense.
And I agree with you about Torvill and Dean's paso doble being more innovative than Bolero. Her costume, the music (Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol), and the way she really did evoke the bullfighter's cape, captured my imagination the first time I saw it.
For ladies Carolina Kostner and Akiko Suzuki are absolutely pushing the boundaries. From Carolina's Bolero to her Allegretto from Trio No. 2. She has not just pushed the boundaries she has knocked the right down. Akiko also with her Hungarian rhapsody to her O program. Mao and Yuna also push the boundaries ( not as much as kostner and suzuki ). Mao's i got rhythm program was fantastic, and was a side of Mao we had never seen before.
I cant really think of any current men that push the boundaries. Some of them skate very nice like daisuke, jeremy even patrick. But none really push boundaries and i think it because there is such a high demand on jump difficulty.
Pairs is hard too. Savchenko and Szolkowy i guess push boundaries. Pink panther was absolutely pushing the boundaries. They tried again this past season with the bolero, but it didnt work for them. Sometimes pushing the boundaries cannot work. Sometimes its good to stick with what you know will be good instead of doing a mediocre flamenco bolero that got worse and worse.
V/M absolutely push boundaries this season with Carmen, but i personally didn't think it was good for them. They were to focused on trying to portray the story, didnt think about the rest. Their olympics program pushed boundaries for sure and it worked well, especially the OD
D/W sometimes push themselves but not as much as V/M
What new ground did they break artistically, beyond what had been done by couples like these?
Originally Posted by sk8ingcoach
Obviously the technical content is different and the specific choreography is their own, not a retread. But the general approach doesn't seem particularly boundary pushing.