Twizzle Talk


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Time to Grow

Sometimes I judge programs too harshly upon first viewing. I remember watching Ashley Wagner’s “Moulin Rouge” long program early in the 2014-2015 season and thinking it was kind of terrible. I thought the lyrics were overkill, used in too many of the cuts throughout the program. Fast forward to her stellar performance at 2015 U.S. Nationals, and she made me love it. I was thrilled she kept it around for another season, and was on my feet, screaming and cheering at 2016 Worlds in Boston when she brought the house down with an even better, more technically difficult and emotionally poignant rendition of this program.

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Image Source: USA Today

Today, I’d say that this program would be a great blueprint for how to use lyrics well in a skating program—Wagner and her choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne chose songs from the movie that captured the essence of that story, as well as the story of resilience that they wanted to portray.

This season, there have been a few programs that I didn’t enjoy upon first viewing, but have really grown on me as the skaters settled in to them, and made improvements as the season has progressed.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA), free dance “Under Pressure”

This song choice seemed more like noise than music to me, at first. They created quite a buzz by beating Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the free dance at Skate Canada with this program, but I still wasn’t convinced. But after seeing two excellent outings of this program, at 2016 U.S. Nationals and Four Continents this week, I’m enjoying it much more. I love how the arm movements and lifts subtly reference the lyrics without being too cheesy or showy. The sharpness of their movements and commitment to the choreography are also fantastic. The entries and exits to all of their lifts are so difficult, yet they pull them off without any disruption to their speed or smoothness.

 

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (France), free skate “Sound of Silence”

I saw this program live at Skate America this fall and was underwhelmed. Partially because I associate this song with Nyle DiMarco’s performance on “Dancing with the Stars” and how incredible and impressive it was to watch someone who is deaf perform a fantastic routine to this song, and partially because James and Cipres had a rough skate that day and seemed visibly annoyed with each other. When they were on the “Ice Talk” podcast, they talked with Jackie Wong about putting this program together, and the intentional way that it starts slow and soft and builds throughout. Between learning that, and then seeing them perform with so much heart and confidence at Europeans, I’ve totally come around to this program. If you don’t watch the whole thing, you’ve at least got to check out the incredible, difficult death spiral entrance at about the 4:01 minute mark in the video:

 

Maybe I wrote off these two programs too early in the season (I’m pretty sure it was October, after all). I’m excited to see how much farther they’ll go in the month or so that both of these teams have before the World Championships in Helsinki.

Which programs have grown on you this season?

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Flashback Friday: Program Repeats

Ashley Wagner skating to Moulin Rouge at the 2015 U.S. National…wait…just kidding. Ashley at the last week’s Japan Open, skating the same long program she used last season:

The red hair is new and there are also a bunch of new transitions, which I loved. But the program is the same one.

Typically, figure skaters have a brand new short program and long program each season. Sometimes skaters will keep a program for a second season if they were unable to perform it at many events, whether that was because of an injury, mid-season program change, or recovery in a post-Olympic season, etc. I hadn’t realized that Ashley was keeping last year’s long program until I checked out Jackie Wong’s Japan Open coverage, and it seems like I’m way behind the times. The Worlds 2016 Twitter account had this info in May:

And Jackie had it in his program music preview in July. Nobody seems to know any rationale behind the decision, besides some murmurings on this thread on the Golden Skate forum. I’ll definitely be interested to hear why she kept this program (Maybe in this month’s cover story of Skating magazine featuring Ashley and Adam Rippon? Which I am eagerly awaiting in my mailbox.).

I think it is a strong character and powerful music that clearly inspires her, so it’s a good decision from that perspective. And she has continued to develop and make changes to the program, so it is not as though it is totally stagnant. And we have seen before how much more calm and confident Ashley is when skating a program she loves: when she switched back to the fan favorite Samson and Delilah in the middle of the Olympic season when her Romeo and Juliet program wasn’t working. Say what you will about her not winning a medal at the Olympics or Worlds that year, but the skating itself was vastly improved when she switched back to the program she loved and, in particular, a strong and powerful piece of music. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is a good decision for her mental approach. Time will tell if the fans get bored by it.


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Favorite Musical Selections of the 2014-15 Season

The 2015 World Figure Skating Championships are a little over a month away and I’ve seen some fellow skating fans on Twitter bemoaning the long stretch of time until the event. What are we supposed to do without skating to keep us occupied for the next three-ish weeks?

I’ve pondered Jason Brown’s future with the quad and others are sizing up Ashley Wagner’s chances for a medal in Shanghai. But I think this lull is also a nice opportunity to take some time to enjoy the more unique, subtle aspects of skating that sometimes get overlooked in the scramble for points and medals. Let’s take music choice, for example.

Yes, people notice music choice, particularly if it is something outside the box (ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue using hip hop cuts from The Great Gatsby soundtrack in their free dance), or boring background music (commentator Johnny Weir’s analysis of Polina Edmunds’ Peter Pan long program), but they pay more attention to the technical elements. So let’s take a break from the math and focus on the artistic aspect of skating for a bit.

Here are my favorite musical selections from the 2014-15 season (in no particular order):

  • Ricky Dornbush, long program: “Yellow” and “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay

His footwork and connecting moves are all positioned perfectly within the music. I love how the vocals come in subtly at the end, mirroring how the choreography of the program builds to a big finish. Using the words throughout would have made it feel too much like an exhibition program; the familiar melodies are enough to draw the audience in—along with his smooth, edgy skating:

(This video is his long from 2014 Cup of China, where he made a number of small mistakes during the aforementioned “big finish”–it definitely would have been better if he nailed all those triples at the end, but the choreography is still fantastic).

  • Joshua Farris, short program: “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran

I know I’ve waxed on about the awesomeness of Farris’s skating here and here, but this is really one of the most spectacular programs of the season. I’ve known this Ed Sheeran song for a few years, and I’d even seen it performed live by Ed himself, and I didn’t fully appreciate all the intricacies of the music until I saw this short program (In defense of Ed, I was in one of the last rows of a giant stadium, in the pouring rain, and he was a relatively unknown opening act with only an acoustic guitar to back him up, so that may be why I didn’t fully appreciate it, ha). The attention to detail in the choreography and Farris’ commitment to delivering the moves are what make this music choice so fantastic. It has the intensity that a short program needs and doesn’t seem like a show program, despite the vocals. The section of the program where he does his footwork seems like it was composed especially for a footwork sequence, it works that well:

  • Elena Illinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin, free dance: “Appassionata” by Secret Garden and “Antony and Cleopatra Theme” by Ferrante and Teicher

Interestingly, my first two favorites took advantage of this year’s new rule allowing vocals in all disciplines, but my third favorite pick is a bit more traditional. I love the power and emotion in this music, and it highlights the passion in this team’s skating. Since this is their first year as a team, I think it was a wise choice to pick music that is strong and captivating, because they are relying on their presentation skills as they continue to develop technically as a pair. The violin in the slow section is my favorite part—the twizzle placement is great:

Who is skating to your favorite music this year?