Tuesday, March 11, 2014


This picture does not thrill me. This team does not thrill me. It's Meryl Davis and Charlie White. I certainly remember their names -- they are Americans, and the two-time (2011, 2013) World champions, who were, according to the announcers, sure to win again at the Sochi Olympics.  

And they did win.

Why don't they thrill me?

I think it's their choreography. The coaches who create the choreography (the sequence of steps that Figure Skaters and Ice Dancing Couples perform), utilize what the Coaches have learned from years of watching who, and what, wins. And the coaches, like the performers, are in competition with other famous coaches. 

Just for the moment, borrow my sense of what's wonderful about dancing, which is, according to Webster's, "to move one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music -- to leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion."

Wonderful dancing, thrilling dancing, has to do with the physical beauty of the performer -- proportions, legs, flexibility -- the ability of the performer to express what he's feeling in gestures, hands, arms, head, and focus.

Our most famous choreographers are known for what they did differently from one another. Agnes de Mille was great at romance -- telling a story, using lifts, and meaningful, but non-literal gestures. Jack Cole, who's known as the "father of theatrical jazz," is remembered for tour de force, exciting "floor work." Bob Fosse, who was endlessly creative, choreographed fantastically sexual scenes -- his passion for women, especially his lovers, (Joan McCracken, Liz Minnelli, Gwen Verdon, and Ann Reinking), enabled him to invent stunning, incredibly exciting moments of bodies intermingling.

Of course, the coach-choreographers who created the routines for Davis and White use steps and sequences that won medals for other ice dancers, but I think it's hurting the Ice Dancing Couples as well as solo skaters.

Figure Skaters -- golly, it's getting to be tiresome -- that typical suspenseful build into the first lutzes,  the triples, the axels, and all the other requisite jumps and turns that get us  cheering and tell the judges how good the dancers are. And Ice Dancing Couples -- their jam-packed routines have no time for a tilted head, or a breath -- not even a slightest pause that expresses feeling -- but without it, it's hard to sense what the dancers are feeling.

Charlie White, every so often, seemed to be a man who loved the girl he was dancing with, while Meryl Davis, a marvelous instrument, never pauses, or adds reaction other than an occasional smile. Yes, this team did more steps and did them faster, better, super neatly, but there was no dramatic, suspenseful build, till the music got louder and the dancers swirled into their final pose.  

Take a look at Charlie and Meryl using my dancer eyes. The actual video of the winning performance isn't available, but here's their "Scherherazade." Yes, they are amazing -- but they have left me with no thrilling visions of real dancing that I want to replay in my mind. 

Anyhow, hurray for them, they WON the Gold for Ice Dancing in the 2014 Olympics -- they are the first American  team to win it. 


Dustspeck said...

I like figure skating but have never been a fan of the ice dancing programs. It's incredibly hard for me to skate at all; so, I appreciate what they are doing out there. Hey, I like international hockey best; Stanley Cup competition next, then pond skatin', sez Dustspeck.

Linda Phillips said...

I just watched the video. You are so right. Their performance was flawless, but totally lacked any kind of emotion.
I am a huge fan of figure skating, although I have not been following it for the last few years. I love it, because I love dance and know how difficult both are.
My very favorite couple, long retired from competition now, are Torvill and Dean. Now that was a figure skating couple. They were such a delight to watch and wreaked of personality and emotion.