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