Friday, August 29, 2008

If Only Simon Cowell Were a Skating Judge...

Thanks so much for the “war horse” commentary thus far… and keep it coming! Even if you don’t have a clue who’s-using-what this season, I’d love to hear which classic pieces of skating music you strain to hear every year… and which ones leave you reaching for the earplugs faster than a day at a NASCAR race. And also—I’m not nearly as good with properly ID’ing classical pieces as I am with pop music, so any titles you mention are likely to serve a valuable purpose!

As for me, here are a few more not-so-random thoughts to share on the subject:

+ Skating to tried-and-true skating “hits”, particularly on the elite circuit, is like singing on American Idol. Think of Nessum Dorma as Unchained Melody… or The Mission as Proud Mary (the Ike and Tina version)… or Chopin’s Impromptu #4 in C Sharp Minor (used most recently in Shizuka Arakawa’s OGM performance and in part of Belbin & Agosto’s free dance last season, if memory serves) as, oh, gosh, one of any number of Whitney Houston vehicles. Skaters/singers alike choose them because of their mass appeal, but also (I hope) because they like the idea of putting their own stamp on the piece of music. The problem with doing this on Idol is that comparisons to the original artist (or sometimes, even past Idol performers!) are inevitable, and they’re hardly ever of the favorable kind. The problem with doing this in the skating world is almost the opposite-- definitive versions are tough to create, and the non-definitives sort of melt together as a result. But if a skater DOES stand out with a standard, it becomes all the more impressive. When it comes to Carmen, don’t we still think of Katarina in all her red and black tragic glory before any of the ladies (or men, or couples) that have donned the red and black after her? And though it’s not used quite as often, wasn’t it strange when other people started skating to Bolero? As much as I enjoyed Michelle Kwan’s take on it, for instance, I couldn’t quite get a certain couple in deep purple out of my mind’s eye.

+ Speaking of Kwan—I’m not positive about this, but it seems that up to a certain point in her career (maybe 2002?), she avoided war horses like a dieter avoids Ding-Dongs. Not that she ever truly turned to the likes of Moonlight Sonata or West Side Story (though she did use The Feeling Begins, and that number’s starting to grow a “hoof” or two), but I have to admit feeling a trifle let down when I heard a few of her latter-year choices. In her case (to return to the American Idol analogy), maybe that’s because her “original songs” were so exceedingly lovely.

+ And speaking of West Side Story… isn’t it interesting that the music both from that show and the “show” on which it is based (Romeo & Juliet) is powerful enough to be re-interpreted by someone of note just about every season? I'd like it to be a sign of love conquering all, but knowing how that particular story ends...

Enough of my thoughts for now. Let’s hear more of yours!

For the
Clip of the Day : When I fed West Side into the You Tube browser, this 2004 Worlds performance from Belbin & Agosto was what popped up first. Do with that what you will…

But for added fun, compare and contrast it to
this clip of The Duchesnays’ West Side spin from 1992.

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