Archive for the ‘sasha cohen’ Tag

Cohen & Czisny’s Opera on Ice Duet

When I originally read the “Stars On Ice” program lineup, the highlight, hands-down, was the prospect of a Cohen/Czisny performance of Delibes’ Flower Duet,” from Lakmé. It was the only number that came close to the inventiveness of my GAY Stars on Ice… lineup! (Yuka Sato’s “Clair de Lune” was also enticing.) Well, since I don’t plan to attend the show live, thankfully a youtube video of it has surfaced, however janky and incomplete it may be.

Unfortunately, it feels quite underrehearsed, which is odd for the two perfection queens of the ice. But, it’s still quite pleasing, considering their peerless, but comparable spiral positions. Hello Charlottes…I’ve missed you so! It’s quite the “Anything you can do, I can do better” routine. Good thing they don’t attempt any of those pesky jumps.

Also, my hopes for some hint at the implied (or projected?) lesbian subtext of the duet were dashed. No surprise there. Although, I’m still tempted to bill this the “Spiral Bump” routine (ala Donut Bump).

The full name of the scene is: Viens, Mallika, les liens en fleurs…Sous le dôme épais. In the context of the opera, “Lakmé and her servant Mallika are left behind and go down to the river to gather flowers…As they approach the water at the river bank, Lakmé removes her jewelry and places it on a bench (while they bathe)” (Wikipedia). It is one of the examples of grand opera’s and mainstream culture’s obsessions at the time with eastern exoticism and orientalism (also evident in Madama Butterfly).

The duet was also famously used to set the tone in the beautiful, overtly lesbian scene with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, in “The Hunger.” It uses it to full effect.

Below is the libretti excerpt. What do you think? Is the lesbian subtext intended, or projected by the viewer or culture of the time?

Under a dome of white jasmine
With the roses entwined together
On a river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning

Gently floating on it’s charming risings
On the river’s current
On the shining waves
One hand reaches
Reaches for the bank
Where the spring sleeps and
The birds, the birds sing.

Under a dome of white jasmine
Ah! calling us
Together!

Vancouver Games: Week 1 Supersized Recap

I’m battling a terrible cold and sore throat. Staying up past midnight nightly watching these Games likely hasn’t helped. Why, oh why is the left coast on such a delay? More advertising dollars for NBC? Pathetic! I’m sure a lot of potential viewers drifted away because of this poor decision.

Opening Ceremonie$


When I sat down to watch the opening, all I could think of was how unlucky Vancouver was to have to follow Beijing. Beijing spent over $300+ million, and have a culture that is already primed to partake in such a large-scale, perfect orchestration of the masses. However, I respected Canada’s aim to keep it less expensive (even if that still meant a walloping $30+ million). After all, the Olympics are important for national pride, and international athletic competition and camaraderie, but it shouldn’t replace feeding mouths and rebuilding cities.

We Are the World…again, REALLY? At least J-Hud was in the mix, making it a bit more legit. In the initial, historic portion of the ceremony, I really appreciated the strong presence of the indigenous native nations, particularly the aboriginal people, and the nod to their cultural impact.

The greeter minions (see photo, in background), decked out head to toe in snowy white, looked like rather vacuous members of an Eskimo cult, or life-sized “It’s a Small World…” mascots, courtesy of Disney. One in particular caught my eye on multiple close-ups. He was highly entertaining, and had the infectious enthusiasm and gloriously bad dance moves of one of The Wiggles. I was reminded that believing you’re really good is half the battle in convincing others that you actually are. The female greeters also called to mind the great ole winter icon Suzy Chapstick.

In the parade of athletes, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many figure skaters bearing their flags: Kevin van der Perren (Belgium), Julia Sebestyen (Hungary), Alexandra Zaretsky (Israel), Song Chol Ri (N. Korea), and medal contender Stéphane Lambiel (Switzerland)! NOONE waved their flag with more fey elegance than Stéphane. I was struck by some of the more memorable athlete names: Hubert von Hohenlohe (sounds like a drunk ‘n merry Austrian prince), and Bjoergvin Bjoergvinsson (what were his parents thinking?)!

K.D. Lang was channeling Wayne Newton. She sounded fantastic singing Leonard Cohen’s (unfortunately overdone) “Hallelujah.” Her voice is very well-preserved, after 25+ years as a recording artist. The digital video images projected on the floor were stunning, especially when a simulated school of orcas (spouting out their air holes) passed across the ocean surface. The artistic highlight of the ceremony was the aerial dance “Who Has Seen the Wind”, performed by Montreal’s Thomas Saulgrain, to Joni Mitchell’s acoustic recording of “Both Sides Now.” It was spiritually transcendent, filled with sincere wonder, and his journey reminded me a bit of Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.”

The most compelling moment was the minute of silence, for Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili (Team Georgia in photo, above right). How rare it is for a group of that enormity to share in silence, and what a reminder it was that modern society works far to hard to fill up all the still or quiet moments in life. Silent meditation is so rife with meaning…as much or more so than activity. Near the end, Measha Brueggergosman did her best Jessye Norman impersonation, complete with protruding neck veins, unhinged jaw, and mother nature/goddess delivery. I enjoy her art, and appreciated her inclusion, but this presented her as an operatic caricature.

Overall, the host country did a great job of milking their budget, as it didn’t feel cheap at all, and the silly mishaps were easily forgiven.

Continue reading recap —>

jcm’s USFS Nationals’ Podium Predictions

Chime in with your own predictions! If you wish to take part in my Olympics’ Podium Predictions Contest, click here.

Ladies

(2 berths)

1. Rachael Flatt
2. Sasha Cohen
3. Ashley Wagner

IF Sasha withdraws:

1. Rachael Flatt
2. Ashley Wagner
3. Alissa Czisny

Although Sasha has confirmed her attendance as recently as last week, I’m providing a backup plan, as I’m still suspicious. If she competes, I predict her jumps will be sketchy as always, but her artistry and spirals will elevate her past Ashley. I love Alissa, and über-rooted for her at ’09 Worlds in LA. But, since she effectively lost our third spot there, I feel she had her shot (as well as her moment as Nationals’ Champion), and will karmically sit this one out.

Men’s

(3 berths)

1. Evan Lysacek
2. Johnny Weir
3. Jeremy Abbott

I think Evan has just been too consistent and confident to rule out, despite my biases (see below). Although Jeremy has more scoring potential than Johnny, I give Johnny the edge because of his season thus far. With Ryan Bradley & Brandon Mroz threatening to unleash a gauntlet of quads (ie: planning 3 quads each!) they could really shake things up, but I’m not betting on it. I don’t think Adam Rippon will get control of his 3A enough this time, but he will easily reign in the next Olympic season. And, Stephen Carriere has seemingly faded as a real threat.

Pairs

(2 berths)

1. McLaughlin & Brubaker (McBru”)
2. Denney & Barrett
3. Inoue & Baldwin

McBru will get on top of their programs enough to eek out another Nationals’ title. Denney & Barrett will play second fiddle this one LAST time. And, Inoue & Baldwin will just miss making the Olympic team. Although I salute their staying power and persistence, I don’t root for them this time, whether they land their throw 3A, or not. I just don’t think they have Olympic podium potential anymore, even on their best day.

Ice Dance

(3 berths)

1. Davis & White (Marlie”)
2. Belbin & Agosto
3. Samuelson & Bates

It’s becoming clearer and clearer, this may be Marlie’s first time to wrestle the Nationals’ crown from Belbin & Agosto in a head-to-head. Samuelson & Bates technical skating (ie: twizzles and speed) will land them bronze, a rung down from last season’s result. Fresh from Juniors, the Shibutanis and Chock & Zuerlein could shake things up for the bronze medal!

Wish List

These are my personal favs, and special requests.:

Flatt: to become a first-time Nationals’ Champion, and make the Olympic team
Weir: to become a four-time Nationals’ Champion, or at least get to Olympics
Abbott: to skate his best this season, and make the Olympic team
Jonathan Cassar: to get some tv air time, and be introduced to skating viewers
Denney & Barrett: to become first-time Nationals’ Champions
Navarro & Bommetre: to make the Olympic team (fingers crossed!)

Artistry: Innate vs. Cultivated

In any discipline with a creative facet there are practitioners that emerge on the scene as quite fully formed “artists”. There is still certainly room for growth, but their expression of themselves and their “art” is well on its way. On the flip side, there are those that arrive a mere figment of their later greatness. This certainly holds true for skaters, especially since there is a strong duality of artistry versus (or, with) athleticism.

“Baby Ballerinas” (and Ballerinos)

Here I borrow a designation from Dick Button, which I despised at the time, but which perfectly defines this first category of skater. These skaters emerge as quite (or, at least more) complete artists: highly expressive, sophisticated, and individualized, seemingly from the beginning. Sasha Cohen, Caroline Zhang, Naomi Nari-Nam, Oksana Baiul, Adelina Sotnikova, Johnny Weir, Evgeni Plushenko, John Curry, and Gordeeva & Grinkov, come immediately to mind.

They were either born dancers, had easy extension, or were passionately connected to their choreography and music. And, they seemed to have that something special, the X (or “It”) Factor, since day one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe artistry ONLY comes in a classical balletic package. It just so happens that most “artistic” skaters at least initially lean heavily on this stylistic direction (excepting the rare few: Gary Beacom, the Duchesnays, etc.).

From Ugly Ducklings to Swans

Then, there are those skaters who hit the international scene, and although technically proficient, and holding great promise, didn’t strike us as having much artistry, or memorable expressive qualities. Or, they appeared to be more purely “athletic” skaters, but in hindsight we see that their artistry was more dormant at first. Sarah Hughes, Shizuka Arakawa, Angela Nikodinov, Ashley Wagner, Alexei Yagudin, Brian Boitano, Evan Lysacek, and Shen & Zhao come to mind.

They were either initially coltish, awkward, inexpressive, generic, or disconnected from their programs. You could chalk their more visible artistic trajectory and growth up to a later maturity (or peeking), to persistence and diligence, in nurturing skills that did not come as easily, or seem innate, OR to collaborating with a new coach or choreographer who helped them evolve.

Ice Dancers are more difficult to group into these two categories, since they are really nothing without artistry (as there are no jump requirements). So, that discipline does not breed or nurture purely “athletic” teams in the same way.

And, there are those skaters that remain primarily “athletic” skaters through the arc of at least their competitive careers (Ito, Meissner, Thomas, Bonaly, Goebel, Stojko, Joubert, Zhang & Zhang, and Brausseur & Eisler), but they are not the focus here.

Cases in Point

The Shizuka Arakawa we saw in Torino was an altogether different artist and skater than the one who won Japanese Nationals back in ’99 and ’00. Who could have guessed that the skater in the first video sample here could reach the artistic heights she did less than a decade later?

Before & After

Angela Nikodinov, in particular, seemed to literally be born again as a completely different skater, once under the tutelage of Elena Tcherkasskaia. She always had one of the best laybacks in the biz, but that was generally accompanied by a detached, going-through-the-motions approach.

Before (poor quality, sorry) & After

However, Sasha Cohen, in her Senior Nationals’ debut appeared with nearly all the extensions and expressivity she displayed nearly a decade later. Yes, there is certainly growth evident, but not in the same drastic way as with the previous skaters.

BeforeAfter

Legendary Gordeeva & Grinkov seemed to leap out of the womb with artistry and line, as in evidence here in both samples.

Before & After

A Very Early Snow: USOC Preview

…and, when it snows, it pours. Or, something like that.

These USOC Winter Portraits” were taken at Smashbox Studios, in LA (May 12 & 15th). They serve as a very exciting preview of all the US Olympic aspirations the upcoming season holds. I felt like a little boy who got a big peak into his biggest gift under the Christmas tree. See the entire photoshoot at Universal Sports’ photo gallery. But, trust me, these snow angels give the best face in these selects.

Evan sure appears to be sending a cold breeze up Johnny’s back:
“Brrrrrrr” (translated from Russian). Looks like Jeremy is hoping to summon up “may the force be with you”, in his Obi-Wan Kenobi look-alike portrait. And, Mirai’s on-ice exuberance seems to be MIA in her shoot…thankfully, she shines when the pressure is on. Speaking of MIA, no M.K.? The door is closing fast!

Now, enjoy our US hopefuls as the Brady Bunch (if you’re too young to get that, enjoy this morsel of ’70s cheese.):

Evan & JohnnySashaJeffrey & AlissaRachael & Belgosto

Zhang & McBruDavite & WagnerMroz & Nagasu

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