Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ice Dancing

The compulsory dance in ice dancing might appear to be the most boring event in Olympic figure-skating competition — now that school figures are ancient history. After all, you're watching each couple skate the same complex pattern, twice around the rink, often to the exact same music.

Word is that this may be the last time the compulsory dance is part of Olympic competition. I suspect it's because there are very few chances for injury in ice dancing. Perhaps they will add a new event where the couple has to pass a live grenade back and forth as they waltz around the rink. When I watched everyone dance the "tango romantica" last night, I didn't know that it might be the last compulsory dance, but I was riveted anyway. You can see measurable differences in the quality of the skaters, which can't be masked by differing choreography. You can also see who has taste, creativity, and style from the few moments of free movement they are allowed at the beginning and end of the dance.

With ice dancing, there are no big, risky jumps or throws, but in the free programs, at least, there is plenty of opportunity for dramatic choreography, emotional expression, complex footwork, and intertwining limbs. I think it is the only figure skating event that has the potential to move one to tears (the unforgettable Klimova and Ponomarenko long program, 1992) — except for Ekaterina Gordeeva skating without her Sergei, of course.

Last night, there were no fireworks but I saw a lot of excellent skating. I think the rankings were accurate. I'm not 100% sure because I was so distracted by what Oksana Domnina, of the top-ranked couple, was wearing. She chose a little red suit, a great idea in theory. But hers consisted of an ill-fitting miniskirt that bunched up around her hips, topped by a red blazer worn backwards, held together at the neck by some kind of big, glittery necklace. You can get an idea of her costume's bunchy-ness and chokey-ness from the NYT photo:

Note the lapels sticking out behind her arms...

You might think that it was a top designed to look like a blazer worn backwards, but if it was, why did it still fit so badly? It bunched up at the neck exactly the way a normal blazer would. I spent most of their dance observing not only their very crisp, big line and almost exaggeratedly stylized tango movements, but wondering why in the world she'd wear that. I know this couple has a penchant for weird costumes, but this was just goofy. Maybe she meant to wear the jacket with the lapels, buttons, and pockets in front, but accidentally left her sequined tube top home in Russia.

I still think they deserved first place although, again, I hesitated — perhaps a few tenths of a point should be deducted if the couple appears about to bite each other as they finish and take their bows. I watch a lot of cat posturing and hostility around here, and that's what I saw on the ice.

The American couples were very good, but the Canadian couple danced their hearts out and always looked fresh, despite the relentlessness of the tango choreography, so I hope they win the gold. They also win extra points from me for looking like they were having a fabulous time during every moment of their dance — and for choosing elegant costumes that made most of their competition look like refugees from Dancing With the Stars. Tessa's romantic, full skirt moved as gracefully as she did. It's a pleasure to see anything that isn't blinding from spangles, pseudo-revealing (i.e., mostly made of horrible, skin-toned mesh), and slit to the hipbone.

Anything that isn't a suit worn backwards, that is.

I can't wait to see what transpires on Sunday night.

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