Saturday, January 26, 2013

Start making the case

So, Davis & White were awarded a score of 118+ at their nationals. If Virtue Moir had received all level fours and not gotten two deductions for time at Canadians, they'd still be about five points in back of Davis & White's utter skating perfection where they do everything perfectly and the only reason they are 1.something shy of 120 (and the 200 points Marina Zoueva once forecast for Carmen) is they can be even more perfect.

There are fans on the web declaring it's impossible for Virtue Moir to win Worlds no matter how they skate - the gold belongs to D/W. It won't even be close. D/W will blow them out of the water on the scoreboard.

Some thoughts - despite Davis & White launching their season with cringe-inducing hype about their chemistry and connection, and throwing in a super embarrassing post-program moment of Charlie sweeping Meryl up in his arms, that shit's been dropped in favor of the impression that Davis & White are unstoppable, they take the ice like a hurricane, and if there are any imperfections in their performance, the judges are disinclined to notice. We never hear anything about anything that needs improvement. The story of D/W is that they're the best best best.

At Canadians the judges read all the fine print when Virtue and Moir skate, while at the the US championships, the judges only read the headlines when D/W skate.

Which is a courtesy only Gilles & Poirier receive at Canadians.

Some of this feels to me like just not wanting to annoint VM - that some resist giving VM this treatment for fear of being accused of the inability to view such exquisite skaters/dancers/on-ice personalities critically - for being in the tank. And also pure contrariness.

There are no such fears with D/W. Hell, scoring D/W higher might resonate as more objective, unswayed by chemistry or reputation. It's also easy. There's so much difficulty in what VM do while making it look natural.  D/W telegraph the Herculean effort their program takes out of them. It's easy and safe for the judges. D/W might also be easier for judges to relate to - D/W are self-made, a product of will as much as talent. With them it's not so much of Tessa and Scott's near supernatural gifts.

IOW, I think there's some bullshit afoot with the D/W hype and their hyped up scores, BUT at least people are talking about their score and their skating and D/W are talking about their training and their competition prep.

What are Scott and Tessa talking about? What did they start gabbing about when Canadians started - after sticking some sham bait on facebook of course?

Sex. Stripper poles and thongs (Sorry P.J. but that made it in there). How there's been some fan backlash against the program cause it's sensual and sexy. How fans haven't a clue who they are.

At least they refrained from repeating how much they hate the polka and how they're gonna skate that part with gritted teeth. This time.

Going by the facebooks of VM's connections, they definitely believe there are politics in figure skating and politics in judging even now. But why worry about that? Let's get on with the politics of fandom.

Let's not talk about why the Carmen program is extraordinary, and extraordinarily difficult. Let's not talk about the kind of skating you need to lay down to pull that program off. Let's not remind the world with specificity that Virtue and Moir are spectacular athletes who have challenged themselves with a program no other skaters in the world could pull off and they're skating it brilliantly. Let's take all their breathtaking elements for granted, the stunning lifts, the spectacular twizzles, the gorgeous, flowing footwork sequences, while down south, it's a green light to pass out in rapture at every move D/W make, as if it's unbelieveable it can be done by humans. The shit Tessa has to do in Carmen? Eh. I need more.

The spin is going like that. It's never quite good enough with VM but D/W are hardly scrutinized at all, and so it's them that are the best in the world - they have an insurmountable edge.

But as far as VM are concerned - who cares about skating? Let's keep the personality shit alive. That's what everyone wants to read about - sour grapes about fans that is also lies, and how despite the fact that the Russian team of Volosozhar and Trankov are groping butts and swimsuit areas in their Godfather pairs short, nobody else has ever sexed it up on the ice before Virtue and Moir.

Let's also just roll over that they got 108 at their Canadians - that once again the panel called them on everything while for the second year running rewarded Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles for skating they did not do (they beat VM in TES - yes, a team featuring Piper Gilles). G&P got nearly as many 9's as VM - because they're nearly as good.

What is the story for VM after nationals? 108 and lift deductions? Virtue and Moir are closer in ability to Gilles & Poirier than they are to Davis White (108 versus 102 and 108 versus 118)? The rivalry with the Americans now looks like everyone's just being polite. Davis & White have left Virtue & Moir in the dust.

Skate Canada spends its second Canadians running trying to build up Gilles & Poirier as the second coming while throwing VM under the bus - otherwise why did the same tech panel put VM through the ringer while pretending Piper Gilles is at Tessa Virtue's heels in ability? Why did the judges see such small differences between the skating skills of these two teams?

What's the argument the Canadian side (Kurt Browning and PJ Kwong) attempts to mount against D/W? Their chemistry isn't convincing?

That's helpful. How much of a deduction do you get for chemistry that is clearly faked? What's the base value? Keep on talking about emotion-based elements in a program, because that will help the cause, guys.

Skaters as commentators are the worst.

(This is like when PJ's argument for Tessa in the Latin free dance is Tessa had real latin action in her hips and Meryl didn't. Yes, because the judges are clearly experts in latin action and care so so much about hips.)

What's the story for D/W? They are uncriticizable, they're the innovators, they have the legacy and Virtue and Moir may as well not even show up for the 4CCs or Worlds?

Good job, VM and Skate Canada.


  1. Wouldn't have TS only been a bit less than a point behind with all level4s and no deductions? 3 for the spin, 1.5 for the lift, 1.5x2 for step sequences and 2 for the deductions = 117.69. But I completely agree that DW scores were ridiculous.

    1. ...and the fact that they were .38 higher in the PCS is particularly nauseating.

    2. last year they gave them 116 it not a big deal

    3. No, last year DW got 114.65. I don't think it necessarily is a big deal going forward for Worlds, but it still makes one's eyes roll and is a bit concerning for the sport overall.

    4. You also have to wonder if Zoueva was disappointed that D/W lost with her Die Flaudermaus program at Worlds and basically Carmen is being labelled a Swan program...whereas Notre-Dame is a Zoueva program...also in the SD I believe that V/M got help from Swan in tickering the program...Personally I am glad that Swan is working with V/M and I am hoping that they continue to work with her. Is there politicking going on? For sure and god knows from which camp...I will try to remain optimistic but really it's obvious that the USFSA's only chance at a guaranteed medal is D/W (at Sochi)...

    5. they over score everyone Chock and Bates 105.11 Shibutani 104.58 Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue 100.11

    6. I was hasty with the math, so that is a relief.

      If the tech panel wants to be rigorous at Canadians, fine, but what the fuck with applying a completely different set of standards to Gilles & Poirier. They are sending the message that VM and G&P are close in quality in the estimation of the Canadian figure skating PTB and that is absolutely disgusting. And how satisfying can it be that the judges gave VM high scores in skating skills when they turned around and gave G&P nines????? In pcs G&P should be an automatic two points below anything VM put on that ice - the judging panel made themselves ridiculous.

      I am not big on the Zoueva politics that some on other message boards indulge in. I think she's brilliant and gives both her dance teams brilliant programs every year. The problem IMO, seems to be that in some quarters people bend over backwards to find fault with VM in order to prove that they're not simply annointing VM as the best ice dancers in a generation - that they're actually judging, but then they turn around and hype up D/W for what often feels to me, at least to be the same reason.


    7. I was casual with the math, 10:14, so that is a relief.

      If the tech panel wants to be rigorous at Canadians, fine, but what the fuck with applying a completely different set of standards to Gilles & Poirier?

      They are sending the message that VM and G&P are close in quality in the estimation of the Canadian figure skating PTB and that is disgusting. It's downright offensive and an insult to skaters and public alike.

      How satisfying can it be that the judges gave VM high scores in skating skills when they turned around and gave G&P nines????? In pcs G&P should be an automatic two points below anything VM put on that ice skating their absolute best vis a vis a mediocre skate from VM. And considering Piper Gilles, that is generous and allowing for home cooking.

    8. I am not big on the Zoueva politics that some on other message boards indulge in. She's not an artist using ice dancers as her medium. She's a championship coach who happens to be cultural omnivore who is able to brilliantly synthasize a gazillion influences into wonderful choreography for her champion level figure skaters, and she never hesitates to bring in outside experts for their contribution, whether it's the creator of the Argentine tango cd, Indian dance specialists, flamenco dance specialists or modern dance choreographers.

      She and Swan are well-matched because Swan, while contemporary, also uses a lot of influences in her choreo - ballet and modern, and also seems to be a bit of a cultural omnivore, and if you want to create a contemporary/classic fusion free dance you bring in a contemporary dancer to work with your figure skaters. The idea of using warhorse music with contemporary vocabulary expressing a timeless male female dynamic was a fantastic choice. Swan is not a figure skater. Carmen is obviously a collaboration among the skaters, Marina, their tech coaches and Swan.

      Marina is a brilliant problem solver. Die Fleudermaus was a masterpiece *for Davis White*. It capitalized on their drive and athleticism, while supporting the team with a big, powerful, simple dance rhythm - the easiest dance rhythm on the planet, the waltz. Because of that music, D/W didn't need to actually dance themselves - the music was constantly dancing, the choreographic highlights were timed to the musical highlights. As the season wore on it seemed to me as if the program lost impact mostly because DW started letting the music do all the dancing while they just powered through the elements and skated through the music - they stopped doing any phrasing of their own. Die Fleudermaus is nothing BUT dance phrasing as music.

      D/W began ignoring the highs and lows and just skated through it on one note and at times exhausted themselves and got too wild. They never breathe in their programs. But it was a brilliant, brilliant choice for DW. DW looked as if they were dancing, especially in the program's early outings.

      Funny Face basically showed off that VM could dance to anything on the ice. A program that switched styles, tempos, rhythms. They have a conversation with the rhythm and the music - they can work in counterpoint to the rhythm, they can create a secondary rhythm of their own that relates to the primary rhythm of the music - they're limitless. They're not just relentlessly on the primary beat. There's a sophistication and level of difficulty in that alone that I wonder if judges even appreciate because how many judges are musical enough to understand how impressive it is to do that while executing difficult ice dance elements?

      While creating these showcases for her star skaters, Marina also makes sure the programs are technically loaded enough to get maximum points. Then it's up to the skaters.

      I think she's brilliant and gives both her top dance teams brilliant programs every year. The problem IMO, seems to be that in some quarters people bend over backwards to find fault with VM in order to prove that they're not simply annointing VM as the best ice dancers in a generation - that they're actually judging, but then they turn around and hype up D/W for what often feels to me, at least to be the same reason.

    9. I think when it comes to G/P's marks and the different standard, it's yet another case of Skate Canada just didn't think. It's not so much that they were trying to make V/M look bad. They were trying to make G/P look better than they actually are. I think in their haste to prop up G/P, they just didn't think about what the implication would be regarding V/M.

      I know there are a lot of different opinions on this, but I think the overhyping of D/W largely comes out of the need/want of particularly the North American skating "media" to have some sort of rivalry. Watch how skating was covered 20 years ago and now. Not that there wasn't national bias to some extent in the commentary back then, but it's gotten worse over time. Heck, look at the difference in what the same commentators say and how the act when they're on a US network instead of a Canadian one. Not just in sports media, but all media, there seems to be a movement away from just covering an event towards scripting the event and giving it a narrative. They want to shape how people think and feel. The ice dance field is really not all that deep this quadrennial. V/M are the best dancers of a generation and they should be winning almost everytime they go out on the ice. There should be no question which team is the better team-the better skaters and the better true dancers. But, the media has decided they have a script to adhere to and that script calls for their to be a rivalry between V/M and D/W. Skating is a sport to those who particpate in it, but it's also entertainment when it comes to the networks. The ISU needs that revenue... more viewers mean more money and the networks think they need a rivalry to keep people watching. So, what you end up with is a bit of a double-standard in the judging and hyping to try to create a rivalry where there really probably shouldn't be one.

    10. The media aren't the only ones following a script - the judges in the GPS appear to be doing so as well. Every glitch in a VM skate is recorded and marked accordingly while glitches with DW are ignored. The media narrative is one thing; results are something else.

      I agree SC displayed its usual assbackwards reasoning process with G&P's results.

      The USFSA managed to accomplish both things - score its silver through pewter medalists so as to make them look better than they are, while scoring its champions as a class apart.

      Canadians held down VM while hyping up G&P with the result that a casual fan of the sport can look at the scores and figure DW are in a class of their own while VM are struggling, and the casual fan might also imagine that G&P in their first international season are knocking at VM's door.

      So, great work, Skate Canada.

      I wonder about politics too. It's no secret that G&P are embedded with the most prominent members of the Skate Canada organization, particularly high profile directors, while VM have, at least by appearances, seemed to be maintaining more of a distance than they have in years past.

      Consequently, the Skate Canada officials are currently getting more personal publicity from their association with G&P than they are getting from VM.

      The international judging community has shown no inclination to reward G&P as G&P are rewarded at their own championship - how much did they beat their last international score by? 35 points? Yes, that's credible.

      Meantime, Canadians made sure that VM's score was no better than on par with their Grand Prix results, despite a stronger, smoother, faster, more powerful overall performance.

      Also, I don't quite understand why Skate Canada was so eager to give international experience to Dube Wolfe last year while letting MTM fend mostly for themselves, but are unwilling to give a team like Paul Islam the boost it needs to get out on the international scene. They are clearly talented skaters with beautiful, soft skating and they showed a lot of speed and flow in their difficult, intricate short. Still they were judged as more than two points inferior to G&P's short - a team that gets out there and skates like they're in a roller derby.

      It would be one thing if G&P's on ice commitment and attitude were rewarded on the international scene to a degree that benefits Skate Canada - if international panels were as prone to rewarding attack and ignoring actual skating as the judges were at this event. But it's not so.

      If P/I had been scored I think less than one point higher in the short, they would have made the podium despite a lamentable hole in their free dance, and gotten to Worlds. Canadian figure skaters who have made a splatfest of one of their programs have podiumed before.

      Clearly they've had issues - IMO mostly mental mostly focus - but they've made all the right moves. Which team has more potential - P/I or Oxford Williams? I don't begrudge Oxford Williams, but I do begrudge personal politics and double standards in judging criteria as well as the personal politics in the often non-skating related criteria Skate Canada uses to give figure skaters opportunities.

    11. "the networks think they need a rivalry to keep people watching. So, what you end up with is a bit of a double-standard in the judging and hyping to try to create a rivalry where there really probably shouldn't be one."

      I'm not really seeing this hyped rivalry on the Canadian side. It's coming mostly from US media and their USFS spokespeople; perhaps also from official ISU sources. In Canada however, it seems to be mostly about the "Canadian sweethearts" martyring themselves for the sake of their art in spite of the fans' backlash. Isn't that what all the articles related to Canadians were about? Not about skating against a rival team equal in talent and skill (the USFS official line). VM did say they had reworked some sections of their programs but anything about the skating was said mostly in passing. The gist of all the media was Tessa and Scott's brave artistry with a program the fans didn't want. And lest we forget, somewhere in there it was also necessary to mention lip-bumps and platonic passions. I blame VM and SC for that. Since before the Olympics that's all they wanted to talk about (the "relationship" that "wasn't a relationship") so now of course they've trained the skating media to bring this up every time, and Tessa and Scott are very happy to talk about that instead of the skating.

    12. If you're aware, as many people are, of the true status of VM's relationship - that it's a romantically intimate relationship, not a platonic passion, that they're committed to each other, and a family together, and most of all, that it's all very genuine, natural and heartfelt, their ability to play politics with their relationship and be both presumptuous and cynical about the impact their chemistry has on fans is really disgusting. Somehow, both things co-exist. A natural, genuine relationship between the two of them, and a willingness to exploit it as a commodity and use it as a manipulative tool.

      One would imagine that the latter would end up corrupting the former, but I don't think it happens with them. I think they're simply ridiculously compartmentalized. They've Orwelled themselves to where up is down, everything is inside out, and they at least at one point convinced themselves that exploiting their relationship was the best means of protecting it - and as long as they're protecting it, hell, let's profit from it.

      I do think there's something fundamentally unattractive about being in a deep, connected, natural, passionate relationship (not just romantically but on just about every level), but also being able to step outside the relationship and commodify it and deconstruct it. They want to play it every which way with fans. They know that chemistry is part of their appeal on the ice although they undervalue fan appreciation for their skating to an insulting degree as well.

      They also try to signal to fans that this very special relationship is for them alone, not fans, and so fans are served up this incredibly mawkish, insane, purely fake spin on reality version to play with instead.

      It makes no sense. Relationships belong to the people having them. What the hell have Scott and Tessa experienced in their lives prior to becoming famous that made them so bizarely fixated on making this point - an unnecessary point?

      In any event it's extremely unappealing. It comes across sort of like an interview with a starlet or young singer who unblinkingly declares something like: "I think my appeal lies in my fresh, unspoiled personality, my naivete, my small town values and my lack of cynicism about this industry."

      Of course the ability to say this about yourself immediately marks you as extremely cynical and belies everything you've just declared.

      And that's what's unsettling about Scott and Tessa. Yes their relationship is strong and for real. Their turning it into a marketing tool is alienating. They need to get over themselves and to crawl back out from up fans asses. It's the skating, stupid.


  2. Well know that we know the results from Euros and US Nationals - 4 CCs and Worlds will be interesting. I just want to see those PCS scores from judges come back down to reality. US Nationals dance - yes - overinflation of scores - my reasoning - to make up for the dismal pairs competition (just kidding or just a little, LOL). Oy Canada - you are right that G/P were once again overscored at Nationals. I can accept that G/P finished second but to be scored close enough to V/M is well - a slap to both V/M and to other skaters.
    About Zoueva - she definitely knows how to package D/W and display their strength and mask their weaknesses. It appears that D/W are getting a pass this year in terms of criticism from the media and commentators. I think the best thing for V/M to do is now is just concentrate on the skating and forget about doing interviews about the storylines of Carmen and the SD...let the skating speak for itself.
    It will be interesting to see what comments we get from either Zhulin, Krylova or even Shpilband come worlds...

    1. I suspect those coaches will target VM and backhand Tessa. I believe Oksana Domnina, after Vancouver, said she doubted Virtue Moir would change the sport of ice dancing because what they do is out of reach for most ice dancers. She didn't think it was realistic that other skaters would follow in their tracks - it's too difficult and dependent on that connection and a tremendous natural gift for both skating and dance.

      I could imagine all three coaches you mention seeing it as in their best interest to undervalue what VM do, simply because they could never coach their own skaters to compete with that. It's easier to envision another athletic team that relies on work ethic off ice and physical momentum on ice to achieve results.

      I think I read elsewhere some skepticism that speed can disguise inferior skating skills. I maintain that Davis White's skating skills are very much inferior to Virtue and Moir's, that they rely almost entirely on momentum to blaze through each move, and any time they've tried to demonstrate control, finesse, or to hold a difficult move or stretch a move, they wobble, particularly Charlie White and particularly in any move that is physically interdependent (their programs often work around that last feature). He even collapsed on a choreographic dance dip that was originally thrown into their tango choreography - the sort of dip Virtue Moir do in their sleep. He couldn't change pace with enough control.

      It's about momentum with them. That's also why they're so exhausted at the end of their programs. They don't pace themselves or breathe through their programs - their skating skills, IMO, don't allow it. There's a lot to admire about them, but pure skating, IMO, isn't what they're about.

      It's easier to deconstruct the mechanics of their programs and see how they get there. With Virtue and Moir you can deconstruct it all you like but skating like that with another person - and that is the point of ice dance - will be beyond the reach of almost everyone.


  3. Good post - anon at 10:48 and the one point that stood out for me is yes overall - this quadrennial for ice dance is as strong as pre-Olympics 2010. Then you start looking at the Olympics in 2010 and specifically the CD - tango romantica - well V/M and Domina/Shabalin just nailed it. I also think there are many skating fans who prefer cute, Disney-esue programs to mature, well choreographed pieces. I also think that the ISU is not doing anyone any favours by some of the decisions. I mean really the juniors got the blues this year and the seniors got the yankee polka? Then you wonder why figure skating is not gaining in popularity?

    1. The ISU is also trying hard to make team figure skating happen. That simply goes against the nature of the sport and the mentality of these athletes. I get it from a money standpoint but their insistence that a gimmick like WTT - which takes place AFTER Worlds, yet - should be weighted in the standings is bananas.

    2. I am also not a fan of the WTT event or the team event at Sochi..for the team event in Sochi - there won't even be a test run and the WTT is just a cash grab for the Japanese federation - and really should not be weighted as an ISU event after worlds....
      For Sochi - the team event - Canada and Russia have decent chances of medalling. The US will be a toss-up and the Japanese don't have any dancers or pairs...but I digress...

  4. Hi it's me at 11:27 - I meant to say that overall this quadrennial in ice dance is not as deep as pre-Olympics 2010...

  5. How ironic is it that it's the FANS who are busy discussing V/M's skating, talking about scores, elements and choreography. They're also praising V/M's work ethic, the way they grow a program and tend to lay down fantastic, finished programs by 4CC and Worlds.

    Not a sign of any confusion with off-ice relationship stuff, or criticizing Carmen's sexiness, or trashing Tessa's character. Because you know what, the fans care about the SKATING.

    I like this comparison you did showing how the skating media, the teams themselves and their federations are approaching the narratives they put out. What I'm seeing from V/M, Skate Canada and the Canadian skating media is incomprehensible. How did they all end up in this place where they're yakking about feelings and relationships and forgot about the skills and athleticism of the skating? All the PR surrounding D/W looks and sounds professional. The PR around V/M is unprofessional and also makes them all look like some junior-high clique focused on bashing invisible enemies and whining about how no one understands them.
    They need to shut up and talk about the skating. The part of skating that actually gets scored by the judges. That's what the fans are talking about. It's time Skate Canada and these idiot journalists did also.

  6. Why would fans be horrified that Carmen is sensual? Is it projecting on the part of fans, that they know T/S are really together and engaging in adult relations, but they just want to pretend they're not, to protect T/S's privacy?

    1. T&S are lying about the fans - that has been the point of this post. As usual, they're lying about something.

  7. Anon 10:38

    It's clear you have not read nor understood the last few blog entries or the comments. Fans do not think Carmen is too sensual. You are the one projecting on fans. Tha fans are not doing any projecting.

    Are you one of those stupid journalists reporting on VM?

  8. "Skaters as commentators are the worst."

    You have to admit there are some very good ones, like Tracy. Tanith Belbin has also been an excellent commentator. They are few and far between though.

    1. I will always make an exception for Tracy Wilson.

      Tanith is a painless commentator but she can be self-serving, and she can also put the emphasis on performance values that aren't scored, leading viewers to believe these are things the judges score.

      For example, when she said how much she enjoyed Charlie's character relating to Meryl's character in Die Fleudermaus. That's great, but I think it would be helpful to emphasize that it isn't something factored into the protocols. Also at last year's 4CCs, when Meryl and Charlie bent over gasping at their program's end, Tanith fell over herself saying you certainly couldn't tell for one second that they were struggling during the program. When actually - you could. They were struggling - for them - in the last leg of the 4CC lp. And when Tanith was first commenting on Carmen the part she singled out was the romantic stuff in the middle - implying that that intimacy was Virtue and Moir's REAL wheelhouse. IMO it came off sour grapes about VM doing a dynamic, powerful, dramatic obviously athletic program.

      OTOH she's a fair sight better than Scott Hamilton, who has probably spread more misinformation about figure skating than anyone else in the sport, and Sandra Bezic, who is full of it.

      At least in the United States and Canada, there is too much bias, and those doing the commentating often have relationships with those being commented upon, either because they, too are part of the national skating community, or they're friends, have other history, or there's a connection that creates rooting value. In skating, unlike, say, hockey, that colors how the programs are called by other skaters.

  9. And don't forget Toller Cranston! At least he was authentic.