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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A change of direction for Florent Amodio

Florent Amodio has parted ways (French-language article) with Nikolai Morozov and is training temporarily with Katia Krier until he can find a more permanent coaching arrangement (or maybe he can just stay with Krier?). While this sort of upheaval going into an Olympic season is far from ideal, the Amodio-Morozov collaboration had little to recommend it, so this should be considered a positive development. I am hopeful that Amodio will be as successful as he was under Morozov - only with vastly more appealing programs.

Like this:

As per the article, Amodio's new free skate will be to the Louis Armstrong version of La Vie En Rose - presumably without lyrics, though who knows what he might do?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Has the IJS improved ice dance?

No.

That's the short answer to this bit of conventional wisdom. While discussing this with my (currently MIA) SFT co-bloggers, we wondered if it might have become conventional wisdom because the adoption of the IJS has coincided with the rise of North American ice dance, which constitutes proof, for some, that it is a wonderful invention. But is it really? As I see it, ice dance has been hurt the most by the current system - yes, worse than pairs.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Finnstep love

The short dance pattern for the coming season is the Finnstep, which was the last compulsory dance added to the rotation prior to the ISU's switch to the SD/FD format in 2010-11. The Finnstep is based on one of my favorite original dances of all time, Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko's Quickstep to the Borsalino score in the 1994-95 season.

If watching this doesn't make you happier, something must be wrong with you.

Kokko (who went on to work for Google) has described the Finnstep as a dance that should bring to mind "sparkling champagne and crystal clarity", noting that while the steps aren't particularly difficult to perform, their timing is crucial to the success of the dance. While there may indeed be trickier compulsory patterns to skate, the Finnstep certainly doesn't look easy on paper!

Several current ice dancers have trained and performed the Finnstep in one of the two competitions in which it was the CD back in the 2009 season - Europeans and Four Continents. But a short dance does require a different approach in order to hit the required key points, and of course, dancers will have more leeway in terms of music used: the ISU requires that the pattern part of the dance use a Quickstep rhythm, while the rest can also include a Charleston, Foxtrot, or Swing music.

Cappellini and Lanotte's Finnstep, 2009 Euros

Some of the music choices announced (or implied) so far have included 42nd Street (Weaver/Poje), Bob Fosse tribute including Sing Sing Sing (Péchalat/Bourzat), a Michael Bublé medley (the Shibutanis) and The Cotton Club (O'Brien/Merriman). Weaver and Poje's announcement was especially cute - great picture!

I loved the program on which the Finnstep is based, really liked it in its one season as a CD, and am hoping that at least some of the ice dance teams will be able to live up to its sparkling, joyful spirit and provide us with some memorable SDs in the coming season.

And the Finnstep at the Olympics = excellent!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Memory lane: a different top six

A little over five years ago, at the 2008 World Championships, these were the top six men going into the long program:

1. Jeffrey Buttle

2. Johnny Weir

3. Daisuke Takahashi

4. Tomáš Verner

5. Stephane Lambiel

6. Brian Joubert (stupid music deduction ^$%%#$).

Buttle would of course win his only world title later that week, Joubert skated an exciting long program to almost defend his world title, Weir managed to hang on to a podium spot for his lone world medal, Takahashi zayakked himself off the podium, Lambiel was off-form in the free, and Verner produced the first of many spectacular implosions to finish in 15th place (it was sad; sadder yet that he's since done even worse, at times).

What's striking to me is how different these skaters are: their style, their programs*, their approach to skating, and what they offered fans. Just five years later, the technical standard may be higher - certainly a 145.something free skate won't win anyone a small medal, as it did for Kevin van der Perren that year - but the men's programs and styles seem to me increasingly homogenized, and I am increasingly bored. For the most part, the other disciplines aren't much better, either.

Those of you who stop by SFT regularly may have noticed that Saffron is no longer posting and Tulip has cut down on the contributions as well. It's not just that this is the off-season; even during skating's off-season, there are always interesting stories. But it seems as though skating itself is no longer inspiring the same level of enthusiasm among many fans, the three of us included.

Clearly, this is not just a 6.0 vs. IJS thing; there are many fans who came along for the ride when the judging system was changed and who enjoyed at least the first half-decade of skating (or more) under the IJS. Indeed, 2008 Worlds was the fourth Worlds with the IJS in place, yet I have used it before as an example of an enjoyable competition. But as I noted in that post, it also marked a change of direction for skating, as the blueprint for success under the current system became clearer and skaters, coaches and choreographers began to plan and perform accordingly. And while some excel creatively despite the system's constraints, most don't.

In less than a year's time, all my favorite skaters will likely retire. Can any exciting new talents take their place and offer something more than "more of the same", even if that same is performed at the highest level?

* I'm not certain, but I believe the choreographers were David Wilson (Buttle), Faye Kitarieva (Weir), Nikolai Morozov (Takahashi), Lori Nichol (Verner), Salomé Bruner (Lambiel) and Kurt Browning (Joubert).