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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Connections, chemistry and on-ice relationships

In pairs and ice dance, there should be a connection and a relationship between the two partners. What kind of connection? Many fans expect to see a romantic or passionate connection, and indeed, there have been some wonderful programs that have showcased this sort of chemistry and relationship (whether real or fake) between the partners.

 Chemistry: when it works, it can be a beautiful thing

But what about other types of on-ice relationships?

Here is what the IJS requires of pairs and dance teams within the PCS that can be construed as connection or chemistry:
  • Unison and “oneness’ (performance and execution)
  • Relationship between the partners reflecting the character of the music (interpretation).

If we consider these points, it is obvious that neither one necessarily requires a romantic or a passionate connection/relationship between the partners. Unison and oneness can be achieved in more than way, and the character of the music being reflected in the relationship could be any number of things. Indeed, this was illustrated well in the free dance at the 2010 Olympics, where Virtue/Moir opted for the soft, romantic Mahler program; Davis/White played to their strengths with a dramatic, powerful piece of music in The Phantom of the Opera; Faiella/Scali elected to portray two people undertaking a journey together (The Immigrant theme from The Godfather trilogy), while Delobel/Schoenfelder reflected on their career in skating (La Quête by Jacques Brel and Karl Hugo), and other teams also portrayed different types of relationships (e.g the Kerrs and the Zaretskis come to mind).

Turning to pairs, Savchenko and Szolkowy are an excellent example of a pair who has eschewed the romantic approach and relating to one another in a more diverse variety of ways in their programs. Some fans have complained about them not doing more programs like Out of Africa, but in noting that Savchenko and Szolkowy are capable of doing romantic stuff, these critics miss the point; of course they can do romantic programs, but they want to do more than that.

Sibling teams, meanwhile, are forced to turn away from the romantic in favor of other types of connection. For some, such as the Shibutanis and their choreographer Marina Zoueva, this seems to be limiting. In other cases, the skaters and their choreographers appear to cherish the challenge of coming up with interesting concepts and portraying different types of relationships. Programs such as the Kerrs' Ruled by Secrecy, Krawlng and Exogenesis come to mind; there is no doubt that we are seeing a relationship between the skaters and that it reflects the music, but this relationship is clearly not romantic.

No romance, no problem: the Kerrs perform their Exogenesis FD

Somewhat perversely, I am now inclined to turn against teams who do mostly romantic/passionate work; even when it’s good, it can seem like a cliché, and when it’s not good, well, it's just unfortunate - so let's not talk about the horror that is Ilinykh/Katsalapov's Ghost. But if you want to be survivors in a post-apocalyptic world, a drug addict and his drug (or was it his dealer? I forget), an unmotivated circus performer and the girl who inspires him, or merely members of the Addams family - now these are things I can get excited about.

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