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A Viewer's Guide to Ice-dance

by Izzy Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 01:42:20 AM EST

I confess I've been feeling a bit guilty ever since DoDo told me that he watched figure skating for the very first time and tuned in to the disasterous men's final program.  I feel somewhat responsible.

In case anybody else is somehow lured into this madness and decides to watch any of the dance over the next two days, I feel I owe you some sort of explanation.  This is my favorite of the figure skating disciplines and it's almost certain I will post about it on Tuesday, but you can't just dive into this sort of thing without some context.  


I mean, you'll probably be expecting the excitement of the singles or the daring of the pairs.  You might be anticipating the spectacle of jumps and people being hurled great distances through the air.  I'll tell you right now that is not going to happen.

To make an informed decision on whether to view or not to view, the first thing you should know is that there are no jumps.  None.  Put that right out of your head.  There are also no throws, no spins, and no overhead lifts.  

In other words, it is very, very unlikely that anyone will suffer grievous bodily injury during the course of the competition.  If that's what you barbarians are after, look elsewhere.

But for those of us with more refined tastes -- we few, we educated and cultured viewers -- no other discipline provides the subtle satisfactions of the dance.  Dance is the sport of beauty and grace, speed and skill, artistry and passion.  

No other skating has stricter rules, requires more training and endurance, or has twizzles, a spin done while moving across the ice, shown here by Pechalat and Bourzat of France.

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It can take years of practice before a dance team is even ready to enter into competition.  Once there, the politics of the judging can condemn teams to decades of heartbreak.  Do not let the beauty and the costumes fool you -- there is no sport more brutal than the dance.

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There are three stages of competition.  The first is the Compulsory dance which took place Friday.  Every team had to perform to the same steps and music, which was a Waltz this year.  Tonight is the Original dance where all the teams need to fulfill certain elements, performed to a pre-selected type of music.  This year it is Latin rhythms and includes the cha-cha, rumba, mambo, samba and salsa.

It ends on Monday with the Free dance where teams dance as they choose.  I will, of course, be rooting for my beloved Belbin and Agosto.  

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Should something terrible happen during the course of these next two days, I advise you now that mocking of my beloved Belbin and Agosto will not be tolerated.  The US has only ever won one medal in the dance -- a bronze 30 years ago.  As the world silver medalists, this team is our first real chance in decades.  I am not taking this lightly.

The skaters will be judged not only on certain elements and criteria, but on overall performance, artistry, coverage of the ice, the completion of certain patterns on the ice, and their positions during the elements.

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They'll be judged on the complexity of footwork while facing each other.  It's important that they do not move far apart and are only allowed to skate side-by-side for short periods.

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Synchronicity and good lines are vital:

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Deep edges, or how far out the leg extensions go and at what angle, are also very important:

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Now you know what to look for if you watch, and please pray we don't have another disaster such as this case of hideous foot placement, which put us in sixth place on Thursday:

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The current team favored to win the gold are Russians, Navka and Kostomarov, who came in second in the compulsory dance.  The team from Italy shocked the world by returning from retirement and taking first place.  In 3rd  place are Albena Dendova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria.

I will also be keeping an eye on Scottish team, twins Sinead and John Kerr.  They have no hope of a medal, but they will be the first Olympic figure skaters to skate to bagpipes.

If you'd like to watch, here's the TV schedule.  If you don't watch and don't see a post from me on Tuesday, assume the worst...

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No mention of ice dancing would be complete without including the all-time greats, Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean:

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and my personal favorites, Marina Annisina and Gwendal Peizerat of France:

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Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 02:01:43 AM EST
Torvill and Dean are quite literally the only thing I know about ice dancing.  My mother was so impressed by them in the '84 Olympics, it was all she talked about.  She just thought they were magical together.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 03:00:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your mom was right -- they were magic.  I don't know how they did it, but they were unbelievable to watch.  A lot of times if you see old routines on film, they look incredibly dated and simple.  Their's still look great.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 03:03:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great outline Izzy.

Perhaps you should explain what was so wrong with the foot placement in the picture...

Unfortunately, I am going on a course this week, so I basically will have no ET access (and much reduced TV access) so I will rely on your diaries to explain what happened when I get back.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 04:39:54 AM EST
What was so wrong?!?  Um, okay... not much.  But there ARE only 1.42 points between first and sixth place.  I apologize for being misleading -- late last night I was a little punchy and thought that whole thing was really funny.  Ah, well.  Live and learn.  I really should examine my "humor" in the cold light of day before I post.

But what's this about you leaving?  What can they possibly have to teach you in a place with no computers or tv?  This is a terrible development, Metatone!  I don't know if I'll have the will to write more diaries after this.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 01:03:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My favourite too... by far!!!!

Pity I will not see it....

great diary and pictures!!!!

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 03:08:38 PM EST
My favourite too... by far!!!!

Really?!?  I've never actually met another fan before!  I seem to have developed this obsession all on my own, somehow.

Well, this is just terrible that you can't see it.  Assuming I'm not wallowing around in the Slough of Despond on Tuesday, I'll get that diary up.  Are there any teams in particular that you're interested in?

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 03:27:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no. I just sit and watc..a ctually the only thing I watch of the Olmpics normally. No idea of the countries or anything else. i just watch.. I like it.

I do not care at all about who wins... he hehehe  jejejejjjee

But thanks indeed for the offer!!!

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 03:33:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That the one I love best too. Well, I love everything that has to do with dance. The one I remember from the time (long ago) when I still had a tv, was the couple (I think they were french) who danced to the Music of the Bolero from Ravel. That was stunning or maybe mesmerizing is the better word.

I am looking forward to you comment on this competition.

by Fran on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 12:01:44 AM EST
Well, the most famous routine to Bolero was when Torvill and Dean performed it at Sarajevo in 1984.  It was groundbreaking and got scores of all perfect sixes.

Many skaters have skated to the music since then.  The French team I mentioned also had an amazing routine to it, somewhere around the late-90s, iirc.  They were always memorable.  Besides their wonderful skating, she had really long red hair and he had long, wavy blonde hair.

I'm looking forward to writing up the current one, too!!  I'm just now watching the Original dance (last night your time).  Some of the outfits!  I'll need to get busy on the image search!  Are you going to be able to watch any of it?  The final is Monday evening, 7 pm Italian time (I think).

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 01:08:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, unfortunately I can not watch it tonight. This is one of the few moments when I would appreciate a tv. But most of the time I am happy to have none.

Now, I am not sure which Bolero I remember. It might be actually the one from Sarajewo. Well, which ever it was fantastic.

by Fran on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 01:22:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it must have been.  I was just looking to refresh my memory, and the French team didn't skate to it.  Looks like Torvill and Dean's is the only really famous version.  The photo I posted above is from that routine.  I just saw it replayed again today on a show I was watching and it's still mesmerizing!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 01:29:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't followed the dance since the days of Rahkamo and Kokko. Somehow lost interest and started wanting to see jumps and throws. Guess I'm not cultured. :-)

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 06:55:42 PM EST
Now do not be hasty or judge yourself too harshly.  We dance fans are far too benevolent and refined to be looking down our noses at others, although we shall attempt it once our retinas are healed.  ;-)

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Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 07:44:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Blah, blah, style; blah, blah, technique; blah, blah, skill.

It's actually all about pretty girls wearing practically nothing.

by asdf on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 10:53:32 PM EST
You're such a philistine, asdf, and you couldn't be more wrong.  There are just as many scantily-clad boys on that ice.  Jeesh.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 12:15:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was distracted, that's all...
by asdf on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 07:59:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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