Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Ice Dancing Finals

by Izzy Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 01:53:31 PM EST

As you are by now well aware, my beloved Belbin and Agosto have been competing in the Olympic ice-dancing competition.  The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster.  From the giddy highs of Tanith Belbin's last-minute citizenship, to the deep despair of the team placing sixth in the Compulsory Dance, you've all been right here with me.

And it hasn't always been easy.  I know.  We were all so happy back during the Opening Ceremonies.  We were younger then.  And naive.  No one could have predicted the dark days that followed.  

I don't think anyone anticipated me turning all philosophical, pondering the deeper meaning of the games and the very nature of competition.  Not to mention the unpleasant turn my last thread took with it's vaguely threatening tone.

But you know what?  I never promised you people a rose garden.  The ONLY promise I made was that I'd bring you along for the ride, and that MAYBE I'd tell you who won and who lost, who "didn't ooze Latin" and who "reeked of seduction," who plunged to abject failure and who ascended to glorious victory.  

Oh, and I may have... not promised exactly, but stated rather definitely that there'd be no grievous bodily injury.  But what is the exact definition of "grievous" anyway?  I can't be right all the time.  I'm the first to admit I'm not perfect.

So follow me over the jump or don't.  It's your choice...


Things couldn't have been more tense after Friday's Compulsory dance.  The top six teams had a point difference of only 1.42.  Any of the top eight teams could've been in contention for a medal.  My beloved Belbin and Agosto were wallowing around in sixth place.

The gold medal favorites, Navka and Kostomarov of Russia had come in second after a surprise comeback by Italy's retired Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio.  Despite their disastrous choice of moss green for their costumes in the compulsory Waltz, Bulgaria's Denkova and Staviski were in third.

The Original dance would be done to Latin rhythms.  The first group of five skaters all did pretty well.  I was pleased to see Scottish siblings, Kerr and Kerr, deliver a charismatic performance.   Sinead Kerr was wearing a skirt made of fringe, which turned out to be the fashion this season.  Everyone was wearing fringe.  The other trends were men with their shirts open to the waist and, for some unfathomable reason, wearing little gauzy skirts over their pants.

The venerable Dick Button was our commentator for the evening, and he was pretty much irritated by every performance.  Each team in turn "did NOT ooze Latin!"  It really got to him.  As the evening wore on, he got more and more pissy about it.  Not only were the Ukrainians NOT oozing Latin, according to Dick, but their twizzles were UNattractive and UNgraceful.

Finally the top skaters.  Israel's Chait and Sakhonovsky came on the ice and they did well, but her skirt was a giant poof of white feathers.  

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Photo from the European Championships, but it's the same dress.

Now, as far as I know, feathers in costumes have been banned from Olympic ice since Oksana Baiul skated to Swan Lake and shed pink feathers everywhere, so  I was worried.  Sure enough, right at the end, feathers started flying off her skirt and blowing all over the place.

Next, the top team from France started oozing Latin and Dick went crazy!  Not only did it ooze, he said "It REEKS of Latin music!  It REEKS of dance!!  It REEKS of... just... you know, the quality of seduction.  Oh god -- I LIKE THIS!"  He got a bit carried away.  The skaters actually fell right afterwards at the end of their program.  Was it the stray feathers?  Or did they hear Dick and get freaked out?

Only six teams left with the Russians next to last and Belbin and Agosto at the end.  These are all top skaters and the competition will be vicious.  THE NEXT THREE TEAMS FALL!  I mean literally!  One of the teams, Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon actually have an injury when she crashes to the ice, landing on her hip, and can't walk.  He has to carry her to the Kiss and Cry area.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Next up is the Italians, currently in first place.  Her dress is HIDEOUS!  It's a green skirt with a PINK flounce in the back and it has big, gaudy flowers down the front.  I can't believe what I'm seeing, but the crowd goes wild and they look confident.  They skate a wonderful program and THEY FALL!  That's five teams in a row now!  

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

When the Italians get up, she just gives him a look that would kill him dead on the spot if it could.  She glares at him.  She fumes at him through the scores.  I worry about him when they leave the building.

Before the Russians skate, I see Navka tucking something into her duffle bag.  I wonder if it's voodoo dolls, but I don't see any fringe.  They go out and skate a perfect program.  Now it's up to my beloved Belbin and Agosto -- they were in sixth, but I must say with all of their competitors falling, there's definitely an opening for them.  

Besides Belbin's dress, which makes her look a little bit like a sausage that's burst out of its casing, they skate a marvelous program and, yes, they ooze Latin.  The Original dance ends with the Russians in first, Belbin and Agosto in second, and the Bulgarians in third.

The next night is the Free dance.  Things go smoothly for most of the teams until it's the Italian's turn to skate.  They show clips from last night's fall and long shots of The Glare.  They inform us that the Italians haven't spoken to each other since, that they arrived separately, and that they also did their warm-ups separately.  

Sure enough, they show them and they won't even look at each other.  Oh, this couple has some amazing chemistry and we are feeling the hate.  I'm really worried about them on the ice -- what if they hurt each other?  But they skate a clean program and it's actually... passionate!  The audience goes nuts and they complete the drama by reconciling right there on the ice and kissing each other to several standing ovations.  We see them backstage later, and he's bawling his eyes out while she calmly drinks water.

The Ukrainians skate well, but they are dead slow and seem very cautious.  This seems odd given the fact that he's wearing what appears to be genie pants and a gauzy skirt and she's wearing a fringe bra.  You'd think they'd be going nuts out there.  

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The Russians skate next and she's actually trembling and praying before they go on the ice.  They skate perfectly but, again, without the oomph you usually see.  Still, they get huge scores.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Belbin and Agosto are next and they are amazing!  They skate to flamenco music and they really give a performance.  They have the audience right there with them.  They do make a couple of small errors, like Tanith briefly touching her foot down on a twizzle, but it doesn't seem to spoil the look or feel of the program.  The audience goes crazy!  It's the performance of a lifetime!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

We wait for the scores.  The Russians are way ahead in first place.  Next are Ukraine and Bulgaria.  The scores come in and Belbin and Agosto take the silver!  They get better scores on the technical than artistic and the audience boos the hell out of the judges.  It also bumps Bulgaria off the podium and I think they were robbed.  

What a night.  I can't wait for the grudge match at the World Championships!

Display:
Izzy, you really deserve a gold medal for your coverage of the Winter Olympics and the effort put into keeping us posted with all your diaries on the subject.
And the pictures in that one, they are just fantastic. The definition is sooo good.  
Thanks to you,  I am less sad to have missed the whole of it on TV.  
We had that debate the other day over religion  and all that stuff, but if there is a Goddess of Arts (obviously a she:)) may she bless you.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 02:00:40 PM EST
Thank you, Agnes, now stop -- you've got me blushing!  I'm glad you enjoyed seeing the photos.  Some of the outfits were really nuts this year.

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 02:02:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Natural blush enhances the complexion.

Don't worry, my nickname is not "Agnes from the popular fiction section" yet.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 02:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Belbin and Agosto won our first silver medal ever in dance.  Our only other medal was a bronze thirty years ago.  

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

When they were interviewed afterwards, they first sent warmest wishes to Canada's injured Marie-France whose team had to drop out of competition.  Next, they thanked Senator Levin and Congressman Conyers for their help with the citizenship problem.  A Dem victory!

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 02:01:00 PM EST
I was very upset that NBC didn't show Scottish siblings, Sinead and John Kerr.  For the first time in Olympic history, skaters would take to the ice with the skirl o' the bagpipes resounding through the stadium.  I read that the performance went well and they came in 10th, which was great for a new team.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

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 02:08:33 PM EST
Awesome...just awesome.

Speechless....

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 Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 02:13:04 PM EST
You?  Speechless?  Don't threaten that!  I'll be scared to write!  (or is it the photos what done it?)... :-)

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 02:15:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I still know how to say thanks.

Thanks

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 Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 02:37:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, let me preface this by saying I know nothing about this ice-dancing business.

But I watched it for the first time in my life last night and was simultaneously entertained by the competitors and apalled, I mean apalled by them.  

I don't want to dismiss your Belbin and Agosto.  I have no horses in this race.

But I thought the Russians were Amazing.  I was standing up cheering when they were done.  All the commentators could say was that they were ok, a little boring, had nothing holding the program together.  Uhm, were we watching the same thing?  They begrudgingly admitted maybe they had some nice moves.  But they were pretty dismissive.

The Ukrainians were condemned for being scantily dressed and slow.  I don't have the expertise to comment on the slowness, but to be frank, when we ask these atheletes show us their crotches all night in the name of sport, we can't turn around and criticize them for dressing too revealingly...

One couple (Israeli?) danced to Bolero and the commenters spent the whole time comparing them to another team from the 80's who skated to it.  And said something like, "If you are gonna dance to Bolero you better be Toville and Dean (?) like if you are gonna sing the national anthem you better be Whitney Houston and not Rosanne Barrrrrrr. Grrrrr!"  Seriously, this guy has anger management problems!

I don't know what it all means.  Maybe the ice-dancing commentors didn't get the message the cold war is over.  Maybe it's easy to like Tanith because she's so utterly immersed herself in the persona of  sweet girl-next-door.  Maybe it's easy to go with the oversexed Russian (or Ukrainian) girl meme.  Maybe our biases simply cloud what we see.  I don't know.

But screw the idiot who tells me who is and who isn't qualified to sing the national anthem.

And go Russia!!! You rocked!!!!

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 02:28:43 PM EST
Yup -- you were watching the same show all right.  The guy who pissed you off was Dick Button, and that's most people's first reaction to him.  But he's been a skating champion himself and has been doing commentary for, like, 50 years or something.  He actually gives more accurate critiques than some of their coaches, so the skaters themselves often review the tapes while listening to him.

One of the things that happens is that you're not only comparing what you're seeing on the ice that day, but you're also comparing the skaters to how well you know they can do from having seen them skate the whole perfomance throughout the season.

The critique of the Russians had nothing to do with the cold war.  They're a team that Dick usually loves.  Last night, their positions were gorgeous and their speed was pretty good, but there was a cautiousness that came through and the oomph they usually have just wasn't there.  I've watched them too much to be dazzled by their technical abilities, which are indeed amazing, but after seeing them work magic so often, last night's performance looked really stiff.

All that said, of course they deserved the gold and the points they got.  Their level of technical difficulty is far greater than anyone else.  Belbin and Agosto had a difficult program, but not as much as the others and they didn't hit every element perfectly.  What they did have was the performance aspect.  They had the audience right there with them, clapping in time to the music and even applauding during the build-up just to release some of the tension.  I think they deserved the silver, but was shocked that their technical marks were higher than the artistic.  I think it should've been reversed.

As to the Ukrainians, I just didn't see what you saw at all.  They were so slow they almost came to a full stop after many of the elements.  I thought the Bulgarians did much better and should've gotten the bronze.  And Dick complains about the outfits every year.  He's the resident curmudgeon.

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 02:43:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, as to the Bolero thing, I admit it's not entirely fair.  The problem with it is that it's just not a "good" program from some past  team.  It's legendary.  Historical.  Iconic.  People in skating circles practically say it in hushed and reverent whispers.  So it's not the sort of music you should just pick willy-nilly.  

By picking it in this field, you're automatically building expectations that no one has yet to fulfill.  Unless a pair has some really groundbreaking, awe-inspiring, new take on it, it just dooms them to failure.  I've seen a couple of the other top teams skate to it through the years, but not until they're the best in the world.  Even then, it risks becoming an homage rather than an original.

Torvill and Dean skated to it in 1984 at Sarajevo.  It completely changed the sport.  They were the first to use a dramatic story arc set to music, rather than performing an actual dance.  It was something no one had ever seen before and the lifts and moves were all original and have been endlessly copied.  It was the only skate in Olympic history to get an artistic score of all perfect 6.0s.

I thought the Israelis did well, but they set themselves up with that music.

I also really liked the Lithuanians who skated to Phantom of the Opera.  The last routine by the French team was interesting as well -- the carnival one.  I liked how the backs of their gloves looked like masks when they held their hands in front of their faces.

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 03:07:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess you have to be an insider to get all this stuff... :)

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 04:26:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks again, wonderful commentary! But what the heck was it with all the falling down? Bumpy ice? Nerves? Feathers? Bad karma? Dunno, but it was strange.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 05:43:38 PM EST
I'm still suspicious about the feathers!  The announcers blamed it, once again, on the new scoring system, saying the skaters were trying to pack too much in to get the highest possible scores, but no one fell BEFORE the feathers and no one fell the next night!

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 06:03:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Izzy, because of your original series on this last week, you REALLY caught my curiosity, and my just happening to be around a TV this week (something that hasn't happened in years), I got to watch the last two nights. Your commentary is really quite accurate, in my opinion, so it is fun to re-visit...and I'll add my two cents worth too:

First, I just have to say it, the Bulgarians were ROBBED!!! They were fantastic...in fact, I thought they had won the bronze...I only discovered that it was the Ukranians this morning...very disappointing. Sorry, but the Uks were boring in comparison.

Second, I found Dick Button and the woman commentator tedious...they kept saying the same things about everyone, and my friend thought it was weird that quite often the judges ruled opposite to what Dick and the gal said. Interesting to learn that they are well regarded. Oh well. Gawd they got on my nerves...I liked it better when they let people skate, then talked later.

Third, I did learn a lot from the announcers, despite their tedium and obnoxiousness...its like watching American football or baseball...if you get a good announcer you can learn a lot about the "inside game". I did. Overall, a lot of the routines bored me, for the most part, but some really grabbed me. Belbin and Agosto were spot on perfect the second night...really great and impressive (I'm always impressed to see someone really perform well under pressure, when they really have to come through with a big performance). But the fact they did so well on the second night, really worried me for the last night...could they pull that off again? Not quite, but they almost did...and they were having fun! And the Russians were technically and artistically a shade better, overall, even though they seemed stifled the last night, despite their technical proficiency. So it made sense that Russians won and Belbin/Agosto were second...that seemed right to me, even though I did wonder if the judges were basing their decisions on something more than this series. And the Bulgarians really should have won the Bronze. Seriously, they wre robbed...they were full of life.

Then there was the whole Italian team drama. I felt bad for the guy, because he WAS the one who messed up and caused them to fall. But, wow, did she make him pay for it. So much for being a team. (In the news today, she actually denied giving him death looks...or even being aware that she did. That's scary! Wonder what she's like when she KNOWS she's pissed...) And I too was worried about what was going to happen on the ice...so it was pretty much a miracle that they did so well. Then to see him crying afterwards...that was hard...I don't know what went on, but I wondering if he was crucifying himself for costing them a shot at the medal. And I thought this would probably be the last time they would have anything to do with each other. Tough stuff, those big egos...

Anyway...izzy, thank you for drawing my attention to this...I love your writing on this (and it is accurate too!), and I enjoyed seeing a new sport (for me) with innocent eyes! Cheers!

Yes, the World Championships will be interesting...I hope the Bulgarians are there and win something this time! (Keep us informed, please!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 09:15:58 PM EST
I'm so glad you watched and enjoyed it!  (also that you agree with me!).

The worst part of that whole thing with the Ukranians is -- did you notice how odd the music was?  Well, it's not as iconic as Torvill and Dean's Bolero, but it's the exact music from a program by a Russian team, Krylova and Ovsiannikov.  It was an amazing program and Krylova OWNED the ice in it.  Plus, it wasn't even that long ago -- 98 or 99, iirc.

Are you going to watch the women's short program tonight?  I saw bits of it live on CBC earlier, and it's worth it!

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 10:06:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did watch the short program. The top too (Slutskaya and Cohen), were way better than the others, and also quite close to each other. The Russian gal has a nice grace to her that I liked. The American flat out nailed her performance...excellence under pressure...it will be interesting to see how the long program works out. See Izzy, now you have me all interested...you should apply to the international skating foundation and get paid as their "program development" person!! (developing audiences, that is)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 11:12:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Izzy, thanks again for your reporting - I really enjoy reading it. Are there any other scating competitions left this season? I sure hope so, this would mean more Izzy reports!!!!!!!!!! :-)
by Fran on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 01:50:17 AM EST
Only one left this Olympics -- the women's.  The short program was Tuesday evening and the long program is Thursday.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 02:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading Izzy's reports is enjoyable indeed. I for one would scream for more once the Winter Olympics are over. However I appreciate many of us (including myself) often lack the desired time to dedicate to writing diaries.
I could do it full time if given the choice.

But just to know you're there is good news per se Izzy.
If you get a chance to tell me what you thought of the Windmill chapter 4, I will be happy to take any suggestion for improvement on board ; am not touchy as to my soap fiction writing skills.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 06:05:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]