Sunday, January 31, 2016

Better five years late than never


I was pretty sure I knew how both the Canadian Championships and the U.S. Championships would play out, so I decided to sit them out and take a look after both were finished.

I am shocked the Shibs were allowed to win. Chock & Bates were clean. The Shibs won by almost 4 points. I believe that figure skating doesn't care about public appeal, nor attendance revenue, not weighted against the stuff it really cares about, so the fact that the Shibs have crowd appeal by virtue of being the best, most honest, most musical ice dancers currently competing isn't something I'd have guessed would be factored into a decision to actually let the skating determine the outcome. I'm beyond happy for them. Maybe now that they're National Champions they'll be allowed to win worlds. Weaver & Poje - seriously? Cappellini & Lanotte don't have the same edge quality and speed.

You know she's been thinking that for years.
Marina is some kind of zen master,
but most people would have gone
over the edge a long time ago.
Bitchy resting face.
I'm not current with Madison Chock, but I read that when she was in high school, she was class president. (Or similar.)  I don't think she's the glacial, ice queen sex goddess her programs have her portray. I miss the cheeky Madison who skated with Greg Zuerlin. It's obvious Madison's current on ice persona is part of a formula her training center understands will get the right scores, so never EVER deviate, and if you alienate the crowd, everyone will just pretend you got them excited, just as when Davis White were winning.

For Hubbell Donohue fans.
There was a lot of this.
Tanith Belbin is the new Scott Hamilton. She never shuts up. She mashes up informed observations with bullshit, and perpetuates disinformation.  I'm still looking for a Shibs video without her commentary.

All right, schadenfreude.
Enough already.
I'm surprised their new training center hasn't revamped Marinaro's alignment, and drilled his edges until he fell over. Also, get him to stop racing ahead of his body and his blades. In this maneuver, when he pivoted, he got on his flat and bounced a little, then his ankle fell over. I'm sure he has a strong core, and I'm equally sure he doesn't work from it when he skates. He skates from the neck up, and then God help the rest of him. I am not a skating expert, and it was obvious to me, looking at his skating with his previous partner, that the height of his previous partner wasn't the problem. He's not over his skates, he's not skating within himself, he's always in his head, and his skating isn't secure because of it. I just don't know how you do a try out with somebody and not see that. Or ascribe it to newness, or his other partner was too tall, or you have to get used to each other. How does an elite skater, and her TEAM, not perceive fundamental technical issues with a prospective partner?

***
I feel better about Ilyushechkina Moscovitch. In the start of the season, I was about to write her off as someone who did her utmost to lower expectations as the stakes got higher, and then met those lowered expectations. I had her pegged as one of a long, long roster of skating's underachievers, somebody who hedged their bets at crunch time. Simultaneously, I still hoped that skating at Katia Gordeeva's "From the Heart" event would rub off in some way, give her a bit of the champion's ruthlessness (Gordeeva and Tessa Virtue are both the sort who would blast through their program even if the rink collapsed. Even if they fell six times.) I consider their skates at this championship a step up, because they skated as if they were comfortable in the environment.

****
Random observations: For the past little while, at least on twitter, Virtue and Moir have been doing what they always should have been doing on social media. Sharing shared experiences. How hard is that? It's never been zero sum. Oh geez, my options are a) Mindfucking and exploitation, OR b) spilling, explaining every intimate detail of our lives.

and,

I read a few tweets from Barb McDonald. When did she decide to become human?


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Grand Prix Final Short Dance

Have some Level 4 twizzles
(First set)
Apart from Anna finishing the first set of a twizzles a rotation ahead of Luca, in the slow mo (and even not in the slow mo) it's apparent Anna pre-rotates the first twizzle with her upper body.

Still higher than the Shibs.
Talk about sticking the saber in your gut and moving it around (sorry for the analogy, it was in a young adult novel I had to read - long story). There you go, Shibs. Apparently the "as long as they're not seen to stumble" theory was giving ice dance too much credit.

As usual the press acts as if it's poor form to question even an outcome like this. Let's look at the protocols to justify the protocols. What's on the ice may as well not take place.

****



Above is Virtue and Moir's show program, Good Kisser, which, although a show program, is embedded just for the complete control they have over their bodies, their absolute unison, how it's a lot of staccato, isolation movement but is still driven from their blades, and even a show program is a level above everybody currently competing, but they'll be told to stay retired, and this gif of the rotational move in the program


is what high GOE actually looks like, since in eligible ice dance high GOE looks like anything.

***

I'm putting together a new blog cover, which, while basic, has a lot of images to pull together.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Things that make me go hmm

I'm more skating-focused than sham-focused at the moment, after not being either-focused for some time, but, this post is a throwback to the days of sham analysis/explication. After more than a year of the same blog cover image, I've finally started pulling together some ideas about a new blog cover. In that pursuit, I went through some old social media stomping grounds to search out new images of the old sham cast of characters.

I will never, ever, understand the skaters who went through Skate Canada in the mid-00s.

Here's what I mean. One sham alumni is Cynthia Phaneuf. Cynthia, to me, appears to be a straightforward case of that was then, this is now:
Up top is when she was hot and heavy with with the ubiquitous
Jay Chappelle. At bottom she's with her baby daddy,
and now-husband, Max Talbot.

Cynthia's sort of how we'd expect it to play. "Okay, I'm retired, can't be bothered with any more bullshit. Here's my real boyfriend. And my real facial expressions when I'm actually interested in the guy."

Then we have Bryce Davison:


and his lovely fiancee, on Bryce's facebook, an instant after getting engaged. I'm not saying they're not in love and engaged. Who'd fake an engagement? I'm fully expecting Ashley Schmidt (nee Davison) to bridesmaid it up the aisle (or grass, or sand) at her brother's nuptials. I'm just saying maybe, like so many other Skate Canada alumni, they're SO in love they don't need to put on a show. Look at the hands there.

Maybe Bryce was warped from the years of pretending Jessica was closer to Scott than to him, and hasn't yet learned it's okay to actually touch his future wife in front of the camera. Nothing major Bryce. Just uncurl your fingers. It's okay to touch the middle of her back through her bra, golf shirt, and warm-up jacket. You just got engaged for God's sake.

Here he is on fiancee' Michelle's facebook doing the actual proposing (photo apparently by Dylan Moscovitch):

Proposal. Only one point of contact.
High level of difficulty.
I don't know where I'm going with this. Just saying these are the only public photos on either of their facebooks, and who doesn't propose to his beloved twenty-five feet from a golf course parking lot, in front of his best guy friend who takes the picture for posterity? People propose via jumbotron in front of thousands of strangers all the time. He's got the ring in his right hand, but his left hand isn't doing anything. What's he supposed to do, touch her? It's the proposal, not the wedding night!

Cassandra:

A basic image from her starlet days with Scott.

Crazy for him. Can't miss it.

Now, below, here's the guy she's currently with, per her instagram and facebook. She's part of yet another couple so hot, so perfect, none of their friends need to be in relationships of their own.


Then there's the time in the way back that she briefly put up a profile shot of herself with what appeared to the public to be a random (to us) dude, whom she hashtagged as #justlikefamily:

#likeabrother
Going by her eyes and her smile, guess which is the platonic dude? You'd be wrong, according to CH.

I'm not being coy. Bryce's deal looks weird. Posing at an empty table in an empty restaurant weird, including the meh body language. I have no idea whom he might be with instead, if anyone, but if you're gonna put your engagement picture on social media why not do it up right like Charlie and Tanith did when they were "papped" getting engaged totally without their knowledge at some resort, in the company of the entire cast of Dancing with the Stars. They kissed and everything.

They actually are together, but actually full of shit
at the same time. This is for the "paps". (If they're
invited, aren't they not "paps", but venue photographers?
Particularly if money changed hands.)
Bryce and Michelle seem underwhelmed. Yet one comment adjacent to the photo of the ring is "You look so happy!!!!!" I've never seen Michelle before, but what is she usually, a chronic case of bitchy resting face? That's "SO" happy? Maybe Bryce likes them morose.

Cassandra's apparent boyfriend is a hockey player, so, I'm assuming super famous in his own world, and of course, since Cassandra's time with Scott and Tessa, her own star has - coincidentally, no doubt - ascended. (Cassandra's restaurant photo with her current SO also features unfilled glasses and empty plates.)

The sham has always ended up quid pro quo. Jessica and her family got travel perks, Jessica and her partners got assignment perks, Jessica got other perks, such as being one of Hello Canada's most beautiful. Cassandra was with an amateur modeling agency, not getting anywhere despite her family's money, and once she's discharged her sham obligations with Scott, she's in a totally different category - Miss Universe Canada London (there's a Miss Universe pageant every year - only post-Scott did she get in the loop), and she's a local luminary, the face of London Operation Smile.

Cynthia's how you'd think it would go. Okay, back to real life. A GREAT real life it looks like, but her facial expressions look real to me.

The other two are a little weird. In the celebrity world, there's sometimes the case of the has been who shows up with an entourage, acting paranoid about fans and security, going all cloak and dagger, when the reality is nobody cares - the fuss is all ego, vanity and front.

If there's post-sham new sham going on anywhere, my guess is that accounts for it.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30

I've watched more skating this past weekend and the weekend before than the previous eight months combined, caught up with everything pairs and ice dance in the Grand Prix series, and enjoyed some of it, because of

Alex Shibutani's hair,
Skate Canada 2015

which takes its place alongside

Tessa Virtue's 2007-2008 
Skate Canada CD skirt
as a non-skating facet of a skating program that, to me, is worth at least an extra level of GOE in the element in which it occurs.

(Re-watch that cd, performed a few years before VM got close to their prime, and see the hair's-breadth's distance between their skate blades in hold and changing hold. In that screen cap above, Scott has stepped BACK from Tessa. That distance is now the conventional separation between teams skating "closely" in hold. There are teams competing whose feet and bodies are markedly closer together compared to the the rest - Hubbell Donohue, the Shibs - but nobody approaches VM. They're extraordinary, but even if you're not them, it's not impossible to skate your patterns and your steps and be in hold with your feet decently close together, so you look like ice dancers and not middle-schoolers being put through an introductory Canskate drill. The ISU doesn't give a shit, though. Skaters that work on that aspect anyway, and skate well, will probably be rewarded with higher TES, while the team that can fit a picnic table between them will get bloated pcs.).

*****


Shibutanis. I love this. It's not a program highlight. It's part of a
small series of directional changes. It's just a grace note.


I don't know why the ISU abruptly decided to green light scores for the Shibutanis that almost reflect how much better they skate than almost anybody else, after the ISU spent four straight years punishing them for something - I think it's the TES mark they got over DW that time - with the stench of futility.

I'd like to imagine the parental Shibutanis, from whom the public never ever hears a peep, parents whom I fantasize were at least partially responsible for telling Maia and Alex: "No way are either of you appearing in that W Network Tessa and Scott tire fire," finally took their bank account and slugged a few ISU people around the head with it, without letting any actual $$ fall into the pockets of any officials.

Because it's the Shibs, and I love their skating, I can be happy that their actual skating was recognized, instead of my remaining uncaring because giving good scores to good skating has become as meaningless as giving good scores to crap. It's arbitrary, and always will register that way, because of Sochi.

Skate Canada juiced the scores for Weaver & Poje at Skate Canada, although probably not as much as they'd have preferred. I like Weaver & Poje compared to Gilles & Poirier, Chock & Bates, and last year's "World Champions", but not in comparison to evenly matched ice dancers with fluid power and speed who move with their entire bodies, who have wonderful unison, and matchless musicality.

I'm still curious as to how Skate Canada was brought on board to sell out Virtue and Moir in the post-Vancouver quad, and were convinced to set DW up for Sochi even before that. I don't know if it's a good or bad sign for their Worlds prospects that, OTOH, nobody thinks throwing Weaver & Poje under a bus is worth anything in trade. Kaitlyn Weaver is notably stiff-backed and short-stepped in comparison to the Shibs, she and Andrew Poje were creaky with their new program. The Shibs outskated Weaver & Poje, using more of the rink than anyone else, with the longest, most powerful run of blade anywhere this season, so of course they received higher TES, but lower pcs than a clunky W&P. Figure skating loves to make sense.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

(Very) Small Mercies. The Shibutanis at Skate Canada

 The only upside to the Shibs coming in second at Skate Canada was at least it wasn't: "Did you hear something?" "Nope, I didn't hear anything."

They're in the runner-up mix now. Oh joy. Leaps and bounds for the ice dance team that I, for one, now consider the best in the world. If only ice dance could become a sport.

For me, Skate America was a huge what else is new, although a poster on Goldenskate had a belated observation, which will be cited later.

Before touching on the Shibs at Skate Canada, let's check in with life along the Milk and Honey Route, where Tessa plays model, hawks her jewelry line, and fiddles with filters and photoshop on instagram, while Scott's menage a trois continues strong:

I've followed this crap enough to be
pretty sure those are Kaitlyn's feet.
Nothing to brag about, not saying it is.
 What a life. It's almost a sister wives arrangement he's got going here. Scott Moir, who knew. Still, it's a bit odd to me that this is a guy whose primary influences in his career have been women (no matter what he pretends, it ain't Mike Babcock), and yet it's the women who appear to have more insecurity about the perception of Scott's traditional masculinity than I imagine any man could possibly have. Maybe some feminist consciousness raising is in order in Ilderton.

So, Skate America. These remarks from Goldenskate, I think, cover everything:

From "Moon" at Goldenskate. About Gilles & Poirier, but could easily be about Chock & Bates:
 I think that this is the point many people are trying to make. They are fun to watch but ice dance is a sport and is and should be marked predominantly on technique and quality of the blades knees and hips. This is the quality that makes good icedance versus pairs without lifts.
 I think sloppy feet and poor extension is a quality that any dancer is trying to show no matter what style they choose. This is not just a G/P problem. So many teams are trying to emulate SYTYCD programs and it has turned into messy show dancing. If you cant control your body movements and are constantly clutching and grabbing your partner for balance then scale back on the OTT moves and concentrate on partnering properly and blade work.

Oh come on now Moon, that horse left the barn after 2012. Why would anyone scale back when every deficit you're highlighting put an Olympic gold medal in Davis and White's possession vis a vis a team that not just did everything better than they did, but did it better than anybody in the world to that point. More accurate to say the "silver medalists" did everything, and the ones wearing gold didn't do anything that the rules, standards and critieria tell us are needed to get the highest protocols. Not to mention Virtue and Moir weren’t the only ones who beat Davis White on the actual ice.

****
Okay, Skate Canada. Duhamel Radford won pairs:



My problem with their skating is that Megan's run of blade is miniscule, and she is so stiff, so tight, so cautious, so pitched forward, she seems not to be breathing, let alone breathing through her movements, and, strikingly so compared to Radford's fluidity. The poverty of her range of motion makes Meryl Davis look like Misty Copeland (okay, not really. They both suck). This is another team scored on the stronger partner, contrary to what the rules proscribe. Duhamel used to be a demolition derby. I guess everybody's decided clenched is an enormous improvement. There's also this:

Lutz entry to the split triple twist, without the actual lutz part. Look at the protocols. Let's not get the outside edge, and just say she did.

*****

Skate Canada and the Shibs:

Their two magnificently skated programs came in second to a couple of polished (but not as polished as the Shibs themselves) journeyman efforts by the home team. Naturally and as ever, the team that crushed their competition in pcs, on paper, LOST the competition in pcs.

Quote from Sun Dae on Goldenskate:

Free dance practice was also very convincing for The Shibutani's. Hard to put my finger on it but they are skating with a lot of "moxie" and confidence. New music section works well with footwork which had emotion and expression throughout. Maia looks completely different this year. Not a little girl any more at all.

 I'll put my finger on it, Sun Dae. They're skating their programs, and at the highest level. Clean feet, speed, power, unison, fluidity, musicality, run of blade, tremendous ice coverage, seamless transitions, using the entire rink. Remember that? Weaver and Poje were pedestrian compared to the Shibs.
 
Love this from the Shibs short program:


In terms of gifs, it was between this and the stunning rotational in the long. Compare either of this programs with - forget Weaver and Poje - anything the current World Champions have ever tried.

If I were scoring this, the Shibs would have run away with the competition, Brobrova and Soloviev about six points back in second, but neck and neck with Weaver and Poje for third.

I'm only slagging off on Weaver and Poje vis a vis the Shibs. Weaver and Poje are Virtue and Moir compared to Chock/Bates and Gilles Poirier, yet the Grand Prix final and Worlds set up to score ice dance in inverse relation to what any team delivers on the ice so that God forbid a Marina Zoueva team win a major title in a third Olympic cycle. That's all we're looking at here. Paul/Islam, unfortunately, are elbowing a bunch of other teams for consideration up in Montreal, and the fact that they're Canadian probably works against them there.

Maia and Alex Shibutani after the free at Skate Canada.
Considering how they've been fucked over, their
passion and their skill are extraordinary. Even NOT
considering that, they're extraordinary.
  
 






Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm sure they've got a lot to say.

And now, "skating":


Weaver and Poje
Finlandia 2015 short dance

The skating got rough with the music change, but then they actually do skate their programs while remaining engaged with each other.

And here's Bratislava:



Oh  hey. Power and speed.
Let's ignore it.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Senior B

I was just catching up with Nebelhorn and

The generation of ice dancers (the group who went for it in 2010) immediately previous to the cluster of meh currently competing, seemed to be having a good time when they competed, at least most of the time. There was adrenalin on the ice and in the audience. There was enthusiasm among the skaters skating their programs, warming up, or in practice. There was a rush when stakes were high, even more when everything clicked, that made it easy to understand why so many figure skaters are addicted to the sport.

Since - and with the majority help of the North American officials in both the USA and Canada -  it was agreed in the last Olympic cycle that neither skating nor dance should be important in competitive ice dance, all vitality is gone from what was once almost a sport. Sport goes when the measurable, defined athletic and technical skills that make it sport (in this instance, the skating and dancing parts of ice dance) are no longer relevant. But, in ice dance, sport wasn't replaced with anything. It's not like the having legit wrestling supplanted by the circus of the WWW. Nothing's come through the grapevine telling the skaters/coaches to develop performance value or build particular entertainment attributes in their programs. There's been no edict to pump ice dance full of romance, drama, personality, musicality - nothing. The sport part's been supplanted by a void. We've got futility on ice, and unsurprisingly, it's turned ice dance into a big swamp of meh. Many skaters execute like they're pumped full of benzodiazepines.* Forget excitement. The skaters are missing affect.

Even if you decide accept that it's all fixed, and set out to enjoy the skating in ice dance for its own sake, regardless of outcome, that option has gone to crap as well. The stasis in ice dance has made the pre-determined winners overly deliberate, executing programs built around a caution and self-protection that's masquerading as choreography. It’s created anxiety among those who deserve to improve their placement. It’s had an overall adverse impact on speed, glide, power, and ice coverage, and its accompanying momentum, and so everything is dull, on camera and in person. Teams appear to be watching themselves skate, to be outside themselves, and from my perspective, it's also suppressing any organic connection the skaters have with the music, their choreography, and each other. Skaters are skating as if they’re oppressed; they're skating with the wrong kind of tension.

 I think even for those at the top, the futility of ice dance has had a quelling effect. It’s about getting their hardware, their placement, that the organization is already planning to give them, and not fucking it up. For those lower down, it’s about hoping whatever they achieve in performance on the ice isn’t futile, but worrying it is.

I don’t think it’s a whole lot of fun for skating fans either. With one or two exceptions, none of whom made the world podium or appear likely to do so this season, the field is populated by the mediocre – mediocre skaters, mediocre dancers, mediocre partnerships. For these, the proscribed work around is to put something together that can be executed cleanly, meaning without a perceptible fall or obvious stumble, right out of the gate at the start of the season, skate at a pedestrian pace with unexceptional ice coverage, and signal the importance of a moment and the security of your skills with your face and arms. It’s about posing your skills, instead of actually having them, and we can all see there's an obvious aversion to actually skating out there. Too risky, too much exposure. The season starts like that and remains a flatline through Worlds. The ISU is rewarding stasis. Ice dance has all the joy of a Stalinist era military exercise.

This is just from watching ice dance at Nebelhorn. That was depressing. I like Paul and Islam’s free dance, and their skating, and they did stumble (as did Madison Chock), but even when a team like that skates their very considerable best, there’s a sense that they can’t permit themselves to show conviction that they are skating their best, or maybe it’s that they can’t muster up any conviction that it matters, or would matter if they did. Of course it's even more so when there are any glitches.


Chock and Bates are skating to maintain where they are, maintain all the way to the top of the World Podium, what with Papadakis and Cizeran, and possibly Weaver Poje, out right now. Their prospects for a gold medal at the Grand Prix Final and another at worlds are bright - with the absence of the other two teams, a certainty even. Look how excited they are, how much fun they're having, just as it should be at a low pressure Senior B without terribly much at stake.Just enjoying themselves.



It’s almost as as much fun as watching Davis White’s glacial, strained, gasp across the finish line effort in Sochi, which was an exercise in not falling down and nothing else, and it showed. Now the whole sport looks like that, even among the real skaters. I wonder if the Shibs were so demoralized last season it will affect them as well.

*Class of tranquilizers.