Friday, January 14, 2011

Flatt Heads "East of Eden" with her SP... But Will Fans Get on Board?

When Miki Ando changed her short program just before the GP Final to Ennio Morricone’s The Mission, it seemed to be happening for a very deliberate reason—something that I think is supposed to translate to See? I can be as artistically inclined as the best of ‘em.

As it turns out, a fellow GP Finalist has decided to follow her lead. If you check Rachael Flatt’s bio at, you’ll discover that she’s apparently scrapped her old SP (Summertime/Oh, But on the Third Day…) in favor of working with East of Eden. Yes, Michelle Kwan fans, THAT East of Eden. Sight unseen, folks seem to be alternately surprised, concerned, even downright appalled by this SP choice.

So in doing so—for better or worse—Flatt raises an interesting question: Are there certain pieces of music that have become so closely identified with a particular skater that it’s downright unwise for anyone else to skate to them?

Earlier in the season, I took note of the fact that Carolina Kostner’s current free skate is to Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun… which was also used, rather famously, by Janet Lynn back in the day. But I haven’t heard any complaints; no what-is-she-thinking comments. In fact, I’ve read that some are seeing Kostner’s artistry in a whole new light this year.

If anyone in this crazy skating world gets mentioned in the same breath as the iconic Ms. Lynn, it’s the iconic Ms. Kwan. So what’s the difference?

The easy answer is TIME. Lynn first skated to Faun in the 1970-71 season I believe, while Kwan last skated competitively to Eden in 2001 (she actually used it a few times prior to that). Ten years is a decade; 40 years is a generation or two. Maybe someone can make Eden their own by the time I’m applying for Social Security, but the prevailing thought seems to be NOT YET…

Unless you actually find the prevailing answer to be not Rachael, not ever. Unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of that too… perhaps a reaction that bears similarity to what would’ve happened if Elaine Zayak had chosen to skate to cuts of music first popularized by Peggy Fleming. It doesn’t seem fair, and yet I find myself skeptical as well— not just about the music, but the idea of unveiling a new short program at Nationals. Especially when you’re coming off of one of your worst-ever international performances.

In any case, I’m glad she’s keeping her Slaughter on 10th Avenue free skate… still a great fit for her, in my opinion.

Will East of Eden steer her in the right direction? Or completely take her off the map? We’ll know in about 2 weeks…

Until then, I’m including one of Michelle’s definitive Eden performances as the
Clip of the Day.


Elle said...

I think that Rachael is better suited to slightly more aggressive musical pieces, like the music that was in her olympic long program.
I also feel that Rachael + east of eden sounds like a bit of a yawn, to be honest.
Hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised, although I'm rooting for Alissa Czisny and Mirai Nagasu for the two world team spots.

Sharon said...

I love East of Eden but it will always be Michelle's to me. I agree with you that there hasn't been enough time since her iconic SP to that. Rachael just isn't suited for it, imo. I think she's making a mistake but we'll see, I'll guess. I could watch Alissa or even Mirai try EofE, but not Rachael, sorry to say.

Laura said...

I think time is the biggest deal - Lynn skated to Faun about forty years ago, while fans don't have to go too far back to remember Kwan's (various incarnations of) East of Eden and how successful they were.

I don't necessarily think that Rachael Flatt will do a bad job with this music, and I also think that if anyone else had chosen it, there would still be talk about the intelligence of the decision. But Flatt does get a bit more attention/criticism because she is weak in the areas that Kwan was so strong, and we'll involuntarily be comparing the two because our memories of Kwan are so recent (and aided by youtube).

The interesting thing is that we are considering how WE (as spectators and fans) feel about the choice of music, but the judges will be judging what they see, I assume, not how Flatt measures up to Kwan. So competitively speaking, this may have been a very smart move. I cannot wait to see the program.