Tuesday, May 31, 2016

David Wilson

I’ve become addicted to David Wilson video interviews. I'm the furthest thing from a The Skating Lesson fan, but was still riveted when he shared parts of his life his life story with TSL. As a choreographer, Wilson is freelance (and, until recently, not on social media), so he's not on any Federation, parental, or training center p.r. list. We have to get him where we find him.  (More David Wilson interviews, these done with Goldenskate, are at the bottom of this post.)

He is SO rare – you never get soundbites when he's talking. He's a natural empath, astute, observant, and a committed professional (the latter, to me, means trustworthy) but what comes out of his mouth isn't predictable or canned. He'll offer something, and because he's intelligent, and he's made his experiences count, his opinion is worth hearing, and delightfully entertaining without coming close to catty or bitchy. There will always be something both particular and specific*, a fresh perspective - or at least a refreshing perspective, and he comes out with stuff most people around skating don't. (I.e. - “Basically, I did nothing except chat with her mother.”)**

I regret making fun of him during Dube Davison’s decline; the same program over and over and over. I just knew him then as the guy who got paid for showing the cast of Yuna Kim's summer shows how to point while shaking their shoulders, and for annually pasting Dube Davison's unchanging long program onto some new dirge. It's obvious, looking back, that with D&D, he was in a Sasha Cohen situation.

Sasha was inflexible.

(Set in her ways. Did everything
the same way, same order. Not open
to change. Wilson chose music, then
hung out for a day while Sasha skated
around deciding if she could fit her trick
(element) pattern into it comfortably.
Then Wilson added choreographic detail.
But layout and execution were set in
stone, year after year.)
Credit: Goldenskate
The first Wilson interview I watched, he caught me up short when describing his early career and how gossip at the Cricket Club had it that a skater Wilson was close to and choreographed for was his boyfriend (he wasn't).  Who airs that stuff out in public? Then Wilson described a romantic involvement/professional choreographic partnership with a different guy, and how - as modestly as Wilson put it, you know he's not bragging - after awhile the junior partner (Wilson) surpassed the senior partner, and so Wilson decided to relocate rather than deal with the personal and professional politics of that situation.

And I loved that he talked money, even a little bit. He doesn't say "Things were tight." or "It was a fraction of what I charge now - I should have charged more." Nah. He's not generic (cause what does "tight" mean to him? And what is a fraction of what he charges now? Everybody would have a different idea.)

Like a lot of people, most skaters would tell you who they hooked up with last week before getting specific about money.  Because he told us, we know that when Wilson was starting out, he charged $30.00/hour, had 10 hours of choreography a week, and his rent was $450.00/month. ("So I was fine.") This is the stuff I love about him.

Which brings me to Virtue and Moir. As described in the Goldenskate video below, Wilson is  "collaborating" with Dubreuil Lauzon on Virtue and Moir's 2016-17 season choreography. This means Wilson is the one creating it, and his collaborators are only Virtue and Moir themselves. The collaboration with DL part is for keeping up the fiction that Dubreuil Lauzon know what the hell they're doing, and that their training center's ascendancy isn't just (another) massive scam foisted upon the sport.

After watching more of Wilson's work where he has real talent and musicality to work with, for my money -  and knowing they couldn’t officially work with Marina Zoueva - Virtue and Moir are working with the only other truly musically astute choreographer in figure skating who is also versatile. He’s unlike Lori Nichol, who has a characteristic style, particularly with women, that is more or less imposed upon the skater. If it's a good fit, terrific. If it's not, the skater is in trouble, because the skater has to adapt to her. David Wilson is able to see the natural rhythm and movement of a skater and build or stretch the skater starting from that point. So he produces musically intelligent movement, and, like Zoueva, understands momentum, extending it, building tension, releasing it, he knows how to use fast (not quick, not busy) skating to propel a program through slow music. And he understands a skater's personality and temperament, how to showcase both attributes comfortably and naturally (for the skaters) and advantageously (for the judges), so nobody's stuck competing with an ill-fitting persona.

Should we, in the upcoming months, learn nothing interesting ("interesting", not "personal") from David Wilson about Virtue and Moir - as people, as skaters, about their process, maybe, about any adjustments after two years away, about any opinions they may have, about any program or music choices considered and abandoned  - if there's no illuminating reference to any of their family, their input into the programs, their personalities - it will because Virtue and Moir are control freaks capable of shutting Wilson down, and have no desire to pollute the bullshit they diffuse daily into the atmosphere with even the most innocuous variety of candor.

There are three Goldenskate interviews with David Wilson below. He talks Patrick Chan's comeback. Working with Virtue and Moir. Working with Sasha Cohen. Guess which one is boring. Yet incorporates a little DL talking point (and that's not even the dullest part).

Don't let them change you, David.

*Specific -Clearly defined or identified or a precise detail. Particular -An individual item, as contrasted with a universal quality.

**The ubiquitous skating parent is a hallmark of the sport, kept in the shadows in conventional figure skating media, unless controversy shoves them into the spotlight. We can't have a clear picture of a skater's career without a clear understanding of the type of parent they've got and that parent's level of involvement. Except when Wilson describes developing a program with a skater. Then we know.






Saturday, April 30, 2016

April


And screwed you out of a gold medal in Sochi. But ok, hang Marina Zoueva out to dry instead. She controls the entire ISU. What could Dore have done to set up Sochi. Am crying over Dore's passing sort of the way I did when Anton Scalia died. (Yes, I've bought my ticket to hell myself for that.)

I hope Virtue and Moir locked things up solidly with Dr. Faust before announcing their comeback. Although you'd think they'd be tapped out of things to bargain with at this point.

I see where Charlie White already expressed awe over Papadakis Cizeron, so next season will be fun.

Good to see Volozozhar Trankov smiling
despite Worlds 2016. I still have
nightmares.

The Artist Known as Hanyu.
I get what he's doing, but in terms of packaging,
Method Skating doesn't do it for me.

He's a skating version of The Red Shoes.
Plot Summary _ The Red Shoes movie
I watched a couple of Skating Lesson interviews with David Wilson. For years, in my eyes, David Wilson was just the guy who got paid to "choreograph" the same program year after year for Dube Davison. Actually, I often wondered if his last Dube Davison paycheck was 2008's Blowers Daughter, and for the rest of DD's career Annie Barabie just picked different music to skate it to. And then I saw his choreography for Yuna Kim's shows, when she did shows, and thought - that sure beats working. Fly around the world and demonstrate to champion skaters how to point to the ceiling in between arm rolls. Subsequently, I've become more familiar with his body of work, and I understand strongly how versatile and musical he is. However, in his Skating Lesson conversation, he mentioned that when Yuna won Worlds in 2013, choreographed by her new training team (no Canadians) - her "face" was missing (IOW, she was deadpan, and not facially expressive).  I don't give a fuck if the face was missing. I hate the pretense that that should matter. If the damn face matters, put it in the rulebook. Otherwise, quit this shit.

Catching up with Jessica Dube:


There was a point after her stint on The Navigator of the Seas where it appeared Jessica had not been signed by another cruise ship, and was all set to work at a gym. Happily, Liberty of the Seas has secured her services, so she's off for another six months as pretty much the highest ranking figure skater ever on the cruise ship circuit - I think most of them never competed internationally, and the previously highest ranked skaters got on the podium once at Nationals.

Abandoned again.
My heart goes out to her disillusioned dog.
He's aged ten years - in people years.

After three fake girlfriends, finally a genuine love connection.



What they should have done from the beginning, and what they've been semi-flirting with since the arrival of Baby Moir V.3, is just be all goes without saying about it. Take the question out of the interviews, and that's it. Every single fan will go along. VM could have had it exactly their own way from day 1. They chose to troll. They chose to bait and switch. They chose to gaslight. Let's see how grown-up they are in 2016-2017.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I can't stand it




I'm not shaking my fist at the sky; the Shibs are in striking distance, but these were feeble twizzles, some seriously shallow edges by Gabriella, slow, and a lot of taking turns skating. It's the skating I can't stand, and the pretense that this slow-mo soporific is any good. Yes, it's very limpid. Good for them, nothing to do with skating. I can't stand them. I'd rather see bad skating than this. The program is dire. And it just fills me with anticipation about the sort of sleep aid Dubreil Lauzon will produce for VM next season.

I read on Goldenskate that Tatiana Tarasova said Papadakis & Cizeron are nothing special when you see them practice, but in performance something else happens. What happens? How does that work? They're bleh skaters on practice ice, but suddenly acquire a tour de force technique when it's time to do their program for the judges? This is drivel. If Virtue and Moir have to fight them for the podium next year, it will be unbearable.

I've yet to see Weaver & Poje's program - I don't watch anything live - but following along on Goldenskate, several expected them to take the lead only to have them scored well behind.** Glad to see Angelika Krylova's burnt offering to the ISU - calling Tessa Virtue fat - paid such great dividends. I'm going to fill in with a gif of fat Tessa/Scott struggling to lift Fat Tessa* from 2013-14 as soon as the new computer is loaded with the apps from my on-life support old computer. I've been working with a chromebook for most of this past weekend and week and just got my real laptop back, or rather, new laptop as the old one was euthanized, or will be as soon as its contents are salvaged/transferred to this one.

*Sarcasm.
**Not too early to start in with the conspiracy theories. Here's a hopeful one: two Canadian teams - Weaver & Poje and, one suspects, Duhamel & Radford, have been thrown under the bus. Both have been overrated, overscored, but they're not skating any worse than they've skated in the past. Has Skate Canada struck a bargain - decided its podium allotment will be Virtue and Moir, and cleared the decks for skaters from other countries in the other disciplines? That would be nice.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Look Back in Anger

Worlds is up next week, and with it, the last non-Virtue and Moir season until the Olympics. I haven't watched Vritue and Moir's competitive programs in a long time, because when I watch them skate, the anger over the travesty of their 2012-2013/2013-2014 season has just intensified, instead of dissipated with time. The more one looks back, the worse it becomes.

Not long ago, reading one of the skating boards, one of the geniuses over there mentioned how VM's "Carmen" is no longer that impressive two years out, demonstrating again that the most skating-ignorant fans are found on skating forums.

I'm second to none in my adoration of the Shibutanis. Everyone recognizes that their Coldplay free dance is, finally, their career maker*, and I'm rooting madly for them to win Worlds. Yet, put it up against Carmen - not the PROGRAM - the skating - and Virtue and Moir remain in a different universe. Look at what won Worlds last year, and ice dance is farcical. Like everyone else, I hope the powers that be have signaled to Virtue and Moir that they're welcome back and will not get ratfucked this time around. The idea of listening to Tanith Belbin explaining how Virtue and Moir's short program is not quite clicking, while Papadakis and Cizeron have once again found the magic formula will finish me off. Her insufferable inanities during the Shibutanis winning skate at U.S. Nationals prompted at least three fans to create no-commentary videos on youtube, and that's with a team she praised.

Here is Carmen from the 2013 Canadian Championships - and remember how it was scored by their own judges:



Shibutanis, 2016 National Championships (Tanith-free).




and finally, the World Championship gold-medal awarded skate of 2015:




*The Shibs have been the best pretty much since 2014, but Fix You was the program that, I believe, made it evident to the public, got them excited, and pissed them off when it was underscored. Carmen was the same way, but there's not the same massive machine promoting any of the Shibutanis' competitors that promoted Davis and White, making fans think maybe they're missing something or ice dance is too nuanced for anyone but judges to understand.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

I

12:58AM, in the comments to the previous post, left this link, so I thought I'd embed the video here. Thanks 12:58.

The skating is sublime. As to the music, thank GOD their competitive program choices don't resemble anything they do in shows. Enough already with this quasi-acoustical wispy shit.

*****

Periodically I follow Jessica Dube's social media, and of course encounter her inspirational quotes or her "this is me" memes - we know the kind. "Your faults are beautiful and compelling, they're like patina on a painting, it's how you know you're alive, etc." Came across this article:

If you share deep quotes on social media odds are you have a low IQ

The linked article addresses a study out of the University of Waterloo called: "On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit."

(It's actually a decent paper. Here's the pdf: On the reception and detection of pseudo profound bullshit. The researchers used this website: New Age Bullshit Generator)

I believe the study bears out my own impressions of the relative intelligence of Scott's fake girlfriends. In descending order: Kaitlyn Lawes, Cassandra Hilborn, Jessica Dube.

Don't know if Hilborn is closer to Lawes or Dube in the brainpower spectrum. I suspect she might have used her pseudo profound quotes about love and life as a lazy fake girlfriend's formula for keeping up appearances.

What if her face freezes like that?
Most people with this facial expression 
HAVE frozen their faces like that. 
Jessica just uses filters on the brow furrows 
to get that desired bad plastic surgery effect.






Monday, February 22, 2016

Aieeeeeeee!



"The Olympic champions, two-time world champions, six times Canadian champions, and parents of three..."

I missed this completely this weekend. I'd planned to celebrate the Shibs at the 4CCs, put it off until today, then saw this on youtube.

I will fill this out later with the 4CCs, which seems a little irrelevant now that these two are returning. Does the sport have the gall to pretend Papadakis/Cizeron or Chock/Bates are remotely competitive with them? Did awareness of this decision impact Weaver & Poje's performance at the 4CCs?

Edited from earlier:

I hope to God Virtue and Moir have received a clear green light from the ISU and an absolute promise they will not be ratfucked in 2018. Watching the sport pretend anybody else is in the same universe would be unbearable.

This:


took me aback when I saw it. It may be down to thin-slicing, but the way they moved even in this tiny instagram clip is not how show skaters move. The condition they're in is not show skater condition. At the time, I thought maybe they were doing it for themselves, but we all know show skating and tour skating is no real format to sustain, let alone develop, an athletic/technical peak. They weren't moving like retired skaters, but who knew if it was leading to a comeback, or if they couldn't help themselves.

I wonder if Virtue and Moir's comeback has any bearing on what happened with the Shibutanis on the back half of this season. Their fortunes completely reversed themselves even though they have always been the best of the post-Sochi competitive ice dancers. What happened? Is the sport preparing the way for VM's return by creating a new climate in which the authentically best ice dancers get the best scores?

During the Grand Prix series, I was pleased that the Shibutanis were suddenly being scored on par with the A team instead of the bench, but after the Grand Prix final I was sure that any impulse towards fairness had been squelched. I never anticipated everything would flip at the US Championships, that the Shibs would outscore the same basic Chock & Bates effort that had defeated them over and over in the past.

Virtue and Moir should be competing. Of the show programs I've seen, Tessa Virtue is even better than when she left. I am not looking forward to protocols claiming Gabrielle Papadakis got her key points and levels while Tessa Virtue did not.

P.S. - while maintaining every impression of amicability, Kaitlyn Lawes has appeared to vanish from the Virtue Moir narrative. I'm wondering if a new Olympic-cycle girlfriend has been chosen, or if the entire post-Sochi extension of the sham was intended to last only as long as it took Tessa to have two kids. The woman is a machine.

I'm very excited, but also unsettled. I don't want to see ice dance re-buried and Virtue and Moir humiliated, which is exactly what we'll have if they don't win everything from now til 2018 as soon as they step foot on competitive ice.

P.S. Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon? They suck. Maybe it was part of the deal Skate Canada hammered out when allowing Virtue Moir back. Train with Canadians at a Canadian training center and we won't screw you over at Canadians. Maybe they'll secretly pay Marina to choreograph. A whole lot of bullshit has always fueled Virtue and Moir's public persona; perhaps "training in Montreal" is the Jessica Dube/Cassandra Hilborn/Kaitlyn Lawes of this new phase of their competitive career.

****

Random from the skating season to date:

I still can't fathom WTF with Chock and Bates. They're on par with Davis White in sucking the oxygen out of an arena. The extreme artificiality of their performance personas, the rote execution of skating skill workarounds, and the same slowing down before and after elements that we saw with DW. The Shibs do not skate a great deal in close hold either, but they're skating, not taking turns skating a la Chock & Bates, and, before C&B, Davis White. The Shibs' unison is wonderful, they have "the same rhythm and knee action" in them (quoting Peggy Fleming) and they have tremendous speed, flow and ice coverage. Chock and Bates skate as if they're underwater. Not as if they live underwater - as if they've been forced to do a program underwater.

Duhamel Radford aren't really world champion calibre now? I agree, but when was that decided? I guess Trankov can move onto something else to critique - his work there is done. I'd read that DR had revamped their program so they didn't telegraph the quads as much, but I saw little improvement there. I also don't know when Megan's range of motion became so small and so tight.

I think Illyushechkina and Moscovitch need to go to a pairs coach, even for a clinic, even if it means asking the group at Gauthier's make room. She has her jumps. Their skating skills are strong. They just continue to have weird problems skaters at their level shouldn't be having, problems which make them more cautious than they should be when exiting lifts, for example. It's stupid.

Kirsten Moore Towers: What strikes me about her is she seldom talks about figure skating the way the best skaters do. I never read or hear her talking about the skating side, the athletic side. Never squeezing more points out of a program or growing GOE. It's always Moore Towers and her personal experience/gratification working with somebody, it's always the program, it's the packaging. She'd fit right in at the skating forums with where she puts her emphasis. It's just mystifying to me that she's as ambitious as she represents herself to be, that she changed coaching centers, but getting herself into the same fitness and strength level as other podium-contending pairs girls isn't an avenue she considers. Even when she's in reasonable/decent shape, as she was at Canadians, she's not remotely at the same strength and fitness level as those on the podium. When I look back at Sochi or Worlds, she and Dylan could have easily made the podium if it weren't for the incremental accumulation throughout the programs of small sloppiness-es, unnecessary wobbliness (down to not having the same core strength and full body stretch of podium skaters) and lack of finish. That, also, seems stupid. 

P.S. I hope someone had words with Tanith Belbin White after her US National Championship commentating effort and told her to put a lid on it. I can't watch the Shibutanis winning performance because she's squawking all through it, taking two paragraphs to make a point that contains less than a sentence's worth of observation or perspective.

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?