What marks an "artistic" skater?
Long time lurker, first time poster. I've been a skating fan since fourth grade, but to this day I still don't understand why some people insist on labeling their favorite skaters "artistic." In great skates, I see a superb rendition of an artistic program, a product of excellent tutelage, an exceptional performer and a mastermind choreographer, but rarely a skater who himself is artistic. For me, art is an act of creation, not something that is taught and reproduced - which is why I believe that almost every skater no matter how breathtaking or tear-wrenching, is a performer, not an artist, since the skater is simply repeating memorized and rehearsed choreography, the brainchild of an actual artist. The great skater may render a skate magical now and then by adding special ingredients such as the "it" factor/charisma, exuberance, pure emotion, but I still consider those elements of a good performance (all part of recreating the original artwork, each performance a reincarnation of the original piece of art). The way I see it, the skater's simply adding spice to an already cooked meal. One may argue that the skater is an artist in that he brings to life the envisioned world of the choreographer, much like commissioned artists brought to life the dreamed worlds of their patrons, but by my definition of art, that person is a skilled painter, not an artist (analogous to performer vs. artist) because that world is not his own. I believe that an artist must give birth to his own original work. One could argue that every skater will skate to the same performance differently, each leaving his own artistic calling card, but again I don't believe skaters push the predetermined boundaries of the choreographer insofar as to create originality.
Of course, I'm not here to force my opinion of what "art" is on everyone. I just wanted to first share my opinion of "art" and "artistry" before hearing what other posters have to say. I've always wondered why some skating fans thought certain skaters were artistic and others not. I'd be very grateful if posters could provide actual examples of skates and skaters who fall into their definitions of artistic - just to elucidate
Stephane Lambiel is perhaps the most obvious example of an artistic skater, but I haven't reached this conclusion by watching his choreographed competitive programs. I see his artistry in his improvisation (esp. in his gorgeous gala programs) and in his self-choreographed performances. But what about skaters who simply skate to choreographed programs? Why do you think some of them should be considered "artistic" while others not?
Something interesting I picked up while reading those nasty Yu-na vs. Mao vs. Carolina threads is that some people believe that artistry is synonymous with "comprehension". I feel uneasy about bringing these three skaters up (b/c of the possible bot fight that may ensue), but some poster claimed that Yu-na was not artistic, while Mao and Carolina were because these two understood their programs, from the subtle nuances to the overarching theme, and brought their pieces together, like a masterful storyteller... but I don't know, still seems as though all three were giving me what David and Lori produced, and performance-wise, I thought Yu-na was heads and shoulders above the other two because I tack on seamless technical perfection and charismatic delivery to the criteria of superb performance list as well. I thought this appraisal was extremely confusing, to boot.. How can you tell the difference between Carolina fully understanding the meaning of brushing her left hand against her cheek and Carolina doing it because Lori told her to do so, as sadly as possible? Not trying to defend Yu-na and bash Mao + Carolina, but this kind of opinion popped up quite frequently and I was really lost because I see all three as great performers, sometimes gaining the edge over each other, but not as artists, at least by my definition.
Artistry is in the eye of the beholder.
For me, I view artistry as programs that lift the spirit and allow the spectator to get lost in the moment. I want to feel some sort of emotion when I watch a skater. It can be joy, or sorrow, or loss, or redemption... but I need to feel something. Competition programs need technical content, but I want the technical content to be incorporated into the arc of the program, rather than dominate it.
I want the music to be meaningful, not just background noise.
For me, artistic also means "clean." A ballerina may be exquisite, but if she splats on the stage, it ruins the moment. Same with a skater. The performance aspect of the program suffers.
An artistic program has "small moments," and that might be something as simple as an unexpected edge change, a well-placed little spiral, a flourish of some sort during a spin or footwork. Small moments don't appear on the list of elements... but they can lift a program from "good" to "great."
None of the current crop of skaters, including the Big 3, are exceptionally artistic on the level of John Curry or Michelle Kwan. I suppose Mao comes the closest on occasion.
For the men, I think Jeremy Abbott has the most artistic potential, and I've seen exceptional programs from him... but I also don't want to be scared to death waiting for a skater to collapse under the technical strain... so I'm not a huge fan.
In dance, K/P's Olympic Bach program is the benchmark of artistry, although it couldn't withstand the technical scrutiny of today's programs. D/W Giselle short dance is the most artistic I've seen under CoP.
G/G are the most artistic pair ever; second place to Protopopovs.
I find Yuna Kim and Carolina Kostner more multi-dimensional and interesting to watch than any Michelle Kwan performance.
Mao is pleasant, but always style over substance.
Thank you for creating this interesting thread!
Well, I don't really agree with you: as a skater, I have seen many times good programs (with "programs" I mean "choreographies") just "executed", with the skaters doing all the movements well, using his/her body the way the choreographer taught him/her etc. but you could see that they were just acting, that they weren't "living" what they were doing, it was just like doing an exercise; it was an emotional perception, most of all. I tried to find some good examples, and I brought up these:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fexLmuu4mlI Surya Bonaly, 1994: forget SS and transitions and focus on the posing and aacting sections, you can really see that she's really trying to do those movements well, but there is no emotion, if you change the music in the background, the program works the same
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW4LqC33TiU Debi Thomas, 1988
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ge-tVrdauE Bazarova/Larionov 2012 (GPF)
When a skater adds something to the choreography (the use of the eyes, when you can see changes from one performance to the other in the arms, the hands, the facial expressions that are determined just by the inspiration of the moment) and "talks" to the audience, when everybody is able to do nothing but keeping his/her eyes on the skater that it's skating and, when the music stops, you feel that you have just seen something new and different, even if you have already watched that program before, that's an "artistic performance". It obviously depends on the emotion of the performer in that moment, on the outcome of the technical elements and on the emotions of who's watching, but that's how I see it...
I do not agree with the original poster either. That way a conductor, a pianist or a singer cannot be perceived as an artist and only composers can...? I so think "performers" can actively engage with the already written piece (or choreography, in figure skating) with their own interpretation. No musical piece or choreography is complete without being actually performed, and no same choreography will make the same performance with different skaters performing or even different occasions with the same skater performing.
Just my thoughts.
Artistry means engaging the public in the performance, no matter the skater's style.
It does not mean to deliver a complicate choreography, this is for collecting points, not for impressing the audience. Daisuke Takahashi, Jeremy Abbott, Mao Asada impress me very much and to me they are artistic skaters.
Welcome, sk_pizzaz. Thanks for joining us and thanks for the interesting thread.
The analogy of a musical composition is an interesting one, I think.
Beethoven composes a symphony. A thousand famous conductors present their interpretations of Beethoven’s work. A million musicians bring the conductors’ conceptions to life.
Artists, one and all. Still…Beethoven’s the guy.
I think one difference in skating is that at the elite level the choreographer works one-on-one with the performer. Just as the performer presents the choreography, so the choreographer works within the parameters of the skater’s technical and performance talents.
There is a famous story about Janet Lynn, a skater always regarded as more “artistic” than her rivals. She worked for six months with her coach and choreographer, Slavka Kohout, to master a particular hand gesture that they believed captured the essence of a particular bar of music. Lynn and Kohout were mad as all get-out when U.S. Nationals arrived and they found that this exact gesture had been stolen by rival skater Julie Ann Holmes.
Worse, Holmes skated first so everyone thought that Lynn had copied it from Holmes.
Originally Posted by Moment
To me, modern-day Johnnies-come-lately are all very well, but Michelle spiraled her way into my heart 15 years ago, and has been happily nestled there ever since.
For sure about Lambiel. I would put Kurt Browning in the same category -- his cretative genius blossomed as a pro.
Originally Posted by sk_pizzaz
I enjoyed your comment, especially the part I emphasized above. A perfect example of this is Midori Ito's 1988 Olympic Long Program. She was no "baby ballerina" in this program, and she never would be. Sure... one can point to the poor extensions on her spiral, and split leaps, and some of the spins... but the program was an absolute triumph.
Originally Posted by ciocio
She skated this program with such joy and excitement. How could the spectator fail to be mesmerized? Although not hailed as an artistic performance... try telling that to the public who sprang to their feet for a prolonged full-house standing ovation at the Olympics of all places.
Mathman said, I would put Kurt Browning in the same category -- his cretative genius blossomed as a pro."
Boitano, as well. His "amateur" programs were fine, competitive for the day. He did make massive improvements leading to 1988 Olympic season. But, his real artistic genius showed itself once he turned pro.
By the way, speaking of Lambiel, for me this is his best program as an amateur. Lots of little mistakes, but the overall performance has such a "here I come, are you ready for this?" vibe!
He didn't make the podium. The next year the CoP came in and, in my humble opinion, Stefan was never quite as thrilling as an amateur ever again.
Are opera singers not artists? Are ballet dancers not artists? Are musicians in a classical symphony not artists?
I see fans of a lot of singer-songwriters trying to demean people who are simply singers as not "true artists". But if a singer is a skilled musician, their interpretation of a song someone else wrote is in its own way their creation.
Skating, beyond being a sport, also features elements of dance and drama. Those are the artistic aspects. Depending upon the individual viewer's personal tastes and perception, some skaters perform the dance-drama aspects better than others, thus developing reputations as "artistic skaters". By the way, some skaters, even if they hire choreographers, sometimes contribute choreographic flourishes to a program themselves alongside their team. It's sometimes a grey area not well defined.
Long time Golden Skate stalwart Joesitz always used to insert into these discussions about "what is art?" the following.
What about the art of plumbing? My plumber is a master of this art. My faucet doesn't leak any more. The audience gave him a standing ovation.
Six Point Zero
Originally Posted by Mathman
Mathman and pointyourtoe were going in the right direction in regards to who is an "artist". The primary creator of an artistic vision isn't the only one who can claim to be an "artist." The boundary is not so clearly defined, but in the case of art which must be performed, the art is in the performance and not only the idea of it, so the performer herself is an artist in that respect. Musicians who perform the works of a composer, actors who perform the vision of director, dancers who perform the work of a choreographer, etc. all are artists to a degree. They are not merely instruments of the "original" artist.
Originally Posted by pointyourtoe
Skating is art, if you let it be.
I think he was WAY better than this in future competitions. His LP at 2005 Worlds was quite poor artistically, but after that he really came into his own. His performance at 2007 Worlds is simply legendary.
Originally Posted by Mathman