Friday, April 5, 2013


I've just finished reading a portion of FSU's virtue moir thread. As ever with figure skating discussion they're focused on positions.

Unlike what fsu seems to believe, screen caps of what Meryl looks like in lifts versus what Tessa looks like in lifts isn't a case of "pretty versus sloppy" or "but Virtue and Moir's lift is different than that lift!"

The screen caps aren't showing posing. They're a freeze frame of an athlete in action and they help reveal how well the athlete is executing the element, not how pretty they look during it.

One fan in particular is "defending" how Meryl looks because she apparently believes there is no connection between how Meryl looks in a lift and how well she is executing the lift, and she also seems to think that if Meryl looks strained during something it must mean it's pretty darn hard. It looks hard!

The screen cap in question shows that Charlie is hanging onto Meryl's hand with his hand and she's clutching onto his arm/shoulder with the hand that is closest to his body, and her legs are bent and sloppy. That's not just an unpretty position. That's sloppy execution. Do fans even know the difference?

Tessa isn't better than Meryl because she points her freaking toes. She's better because she's doing more difficult elements and her mechanics are better, her technique is better. Tessa's "toe point", alignment and the extension she carries through her entire body is a consequence of quantifiable things like her ability to balance herself in an element and then get out of the element. It's her mastery of dissociative movement. It is far far more difficult - in ways pointedly relevant to the sport they're in - to execute as Tessa does than to execute as Meryl does.

Meryl doesn't look sloppy in lifts because they're "hard". In fact, the lifts she and Charlie do are not as hard as Virtue Moir's, for reasons illustrated below and that will be illustrated further. She looks sloppy in lifts because she is not using good technique even though the element itself is easier. She's clutching onto Charlie. She is not controlling her extremities in space.

"Position" is not synonymous with fucking "ornament" or "pose".* Combined with the mechanics of your movement, your position is the outcome of your freaking TECHNIQUE.

And yet the discussion there is - well that's really tricky to do so of course Meryl is going to look a little rough because she's doing something super hard!


1 - what she's doing isn't as difficult as what Tessa's doing.

2 - she looks rough because she's not doing it well or properly. She doesn't have the truncal control, the dissociative mechanics (mastery of dissociative movement is all about core stability),  the balance, the ability to orient her body with her core - i.e., her head, shoulders, arms and hands.

3 - do fans know that doing something badly is easier than doing it well? That doing it well with good alignment, good control - i.e., "prettier" is harder than doing it with an unstable core so you end up clutching onto your partner somehow and you can't maintain core stability AND extend your legs so you are just "screw it" with extending your legs? That doing something badly is a symptom of less good figure skating?

4 - that if you have extraordinary core stability you can not only execute the move itself but you can do so with all of your limbs extended and aligned so that when you exit out of the move your body is in optimal position to get onto a balanced edge, which is what you want to do cause, you know - figure skating?

But that most of all, acquiring and then working with that degree of core stability is very very very very DIFFICULT?

Because going by the stuff a lot of fans say, they don't.

5 - why don't people ever check to see how hard something is before jumping into the fray. Why is it always "that LOOKS hard". Yes, making a conspicuous show of apparent difficulty is what DW are all about, but if someone is a fan of the sport as a sport, and not a simply a fan of ice dancing despite it being a sport, then why not find out if something IS actually hard, relative not to whether you can do it, but whether it should be hard for a world championship calibre ice dancer to execute - verus what the main competition is demonstrating.

Position isn't ornament. Position isn't posing. Position is form follows function. Tessa's body is functioning properly in the lift, she's moving efficiently, she's executing optimally, and that's why her form is good.

Meryl doing it sloppily and out of alignment is actually much much easier than what Tessa is doing. What Tessa does isn't down to her doing a different lift. It's down to her being a better ice dancer. Every time Meryl's body goes out of alignment, every time she's clinging to Charlie with both hands to keep herself balanced or in order to transition, she is making the movement EASIER.*

*Unless we're talking about one of the very very many "pose lifts" Davis White indulge in to get themselves from point a to point b, which ARE all about the pose, because that's all Meryl is doing in them - a static pose while Charlie is behind her in a squat, lifting her a short distance off the ice. Pose lifts are ornamental. So naturally Davis White do tons.

*Caveat: if Meryl were in Tessa's condition, had Tessa's training, had Tessa's stable core, then it would be easier to do it well than to do it poorly, because doing something well always = the most efficient, "best" way to accomplish something, so that's always going to be "easier".  The hard part of that, though? Setting yourself up to be Tessa in the first place. Acquiring her conditioning, her spatial awareness, her equilibrium, her range of motion, her stability, her POOF. It's very very very very very hard work. Lots of training, because the human body isn't naturally set up to do what she does.

If you haven't set yourself up to be like Tessa, or if your body just won't cooperate/refuses to work like that no matter how you train, then if you try to extend yourself out on a perpendicular on one of Scott's shoulders during a rotational lift, you're going to roll right the fuck off. Or you're going to have to get your hands involved and help out your core by hanging on for dear life. Maybe not do the perpendicular, maybe go across his chest so there's not so much you and space. So if you're not Tessa, then yes, it is easier to do it like Meryl, because if you don't do it like Meryl, you're not going to be able to do it at all.

The hard part is becoming Tessa. If you can do that, it gets easier.


  1. Even though they're talking positions, I think a lot of the V/M fans who are long-time skating fans do get that the underlying reason for those lies in the execution. I would agree that there are some newer fans who know that Tessa's positions are pretty, but don't necessarily understand yet. They'll learn if we teach them though.

    I also understand the asthetic appeal--extremely well-done movement is beautiful to watch. The sport doesn't matter either-skating, gymnastics, running, swimming, even certain moments in basketball. An athlete moving stunningly is gorgeous.

    I don't think the one particular fan in question who's defending Meryl is getting it at all though.

    My take away from that series of pics is that all except one is pretty much the same moment in the same lift but from different events during the season. If an element is being well-executed, it's going to look the same each and everytime it's done. Meryl's form is never the same. She's not executing well.

    1. The biomechanics article from 1997 talks about runner Michael Johnson's near mastery of dissociative movement. His core was so still, so stable, that he was able to run in a near absolute straight line (IOW, maximum efficiencey, and "straight" is calibrated at micro levels in this type of study).

      I sometimes think that there are fans who believe that executing well = make it look pretty. It's really the other way around - it looks pretty because it's executed well.

      What might be good is to look at what else Meryl is doing. Don't look at her lines. Look at where her balance point is, look how and where her balance is distributed, and most of all with Meryl and Charlie - most most most most of all - look at where they're getting stability.

      Scott and Tessa get stability in lifts from Scott's rotational stability on the ice no matter where Tessa is in the lift (which will be balanced somewhere on Scott)because 1. Scott can maintain rotational stability with the added element of a partner who is balanced in some extraordinarily challenging positions off-center to Scott's axis and far from his center of mass and 2. Because Tessa has exquisite core stability, has mastered dissociative mechanics, and her stability is so perfect she can pay attention to the extension and stability of her extremities, and that's important because keeping her legs extended, still and controlled is critical to the pulling off the mechanics of the lift, and because it sets her up to continue skating when she's down from the lift. Her core stability is continuous. As long as it's continuous, she can be stable in the lift position, stable transitioning out of it, stable getting back to the ice. She never has to re-set her core stability, and because of this, fluid transitions are possible. Her limbs are free, her core is stable. She can fluidly transition from her limbs in lift position to her limbs in skating position. She's always POOFing (see acronym explanation in other post).

      Where's Meryl getting her stability? It's not from her core. Her core is strong, but not nearly as stable as Tessa's. She's got her arms/hands on Charlie. Her neck is tight. Her core stability needs to be supplemented by her arms, her chest and her shoulders. This takes her out of alignment and causes her to lose her equilibrium so that when she's down from the lift she can't flow out onto an edge, she has to reset back to her skating core. She has to restablize for skating, because when you skate, you're not clutching onto your partner with both hands. Tessa's stability is always from her core, and it's always sufficient to the action she's performing, and that makes her capable of transitioning into any other move - a transition move, a skating move, and do it fluidly, because her core is so stable, and your core is your center of balance. It's home base.

    2. Oh, you know how Meryl/Charlie said they hate ballet? I didn't read that myself, I read that they said it, so throw this out if I'm wrong.

      And Scott has said he regularly does ballet. That it's not from some big love of ballet but "it's important for skating."

      No surprise the team that hates it and the team that does it, because it shows in their skating, and I don't mean Virtue and Moir's turn out and pointed toes.

      If you look at any ballet, the continuous stable core is key to all balletic movement. Obviously every athletic endeavor, not to mention basic physical health, calls for a strong core, BUT - in ballet, it's not just the stable core, but how the stable core permits isolated movements of the limbs/extremities - and in ballet these isolated movements are performed with an extraordinary, near-ridiculous, nonhuman range of motion (flexbility, amplitude, etc.) without disrupting the beautiful still stability of the dancer's balance center (core) and therefore, without disturbing the dancer's balance.

      That's what Tessa and Scott are practicing when they're doing ballet. Continuous stable core, graceful, isolated motion/movement in the limbs, wide range or motion with still, stable balance. Just look at Tessa's core some time - not her legs, her face, her dress - just her core - when she's doing an apparently complex transition in a program whether in a lift or on the ice. Look at that center. Look how still it is, how strong it is, how every single thing she does pivots around that core, how her limbs can work far far way from her center of gravity and she still has beautiful control and so does he. As long as that center holds, you're good, and you are also freed up to change your direction, your limb position, your torso position, your activity (now I'm balancing on Scott's shoulder - now I'm skating).

      If you're not working that way you have to use a lot of other things to get from point A to point b - like arms, hands, two-foots, blade flats, leaning, kneeling - anything to give yourself some type of stable platform because it's not in your core. NOt having that kind of core limits what you can do as a dancer and as a figure skater.

    3. "Oh, you know how Meryl/Charlie said they hate ballet? I didn't read that myself, I read that they said it, so throw this out if I'm wrong."

      I can't remember the when/where, but I do remember them saying that at some point in time.

      Even before you posted on biomechanics, I've been doing my own reading on biomechanics and movement to brush up on some things that were tucked away in the back of my mind somewhere. I really just want to quote everything you've said in the above two comments and say I absolutely agree.

      One of the things that drives me up the wall is that D/W ubers try to claim is that V/M's control of their movement, the biomechanics of the way the move individually and together, the resulting good lines, carriage, posture, unison, etc., etc., etc., are all just snobbery and stylistic choice. *headdesk* Well, it's either called snobbery or there's a proclamation that Meryl and Charlie are just as good because the Tanith Belbin and the score sheets say so. *headdesk*

    4. ETA:

      "Caveat: if Meryl were in Tessa's condition, had Tessa's training, had Tessa's stable core, then it would be easier to do it well than to do it poorly, because doing something well always = the most efficient, "best" way to accomplish something, so that's always going to be "easier"."

      Mentioning efficiency in this little piece of your post reminded me of the concept of effort economy. Effort economy is all about optimizing energy expenditure by only using the parts of the body needed for a certain move, leaving the other parts relaxed. You have to have fantastic control and balance to start to do that. It's something that V/M do in spades in everything they do on ice. D/W? Not so much. D/W are constantly exerting and that's not a good thing.

    5. The conspicuous exertion displayed by DW is not a sign of tremendous skating difficulty, rather of inefficiency - poor technique. To get to the stage where your body is capable of producing excellent technique takes talent and training in differing degrees depending, but training your body to perform these sorts of tasks efficiently means training it to perform way beyond its "natural" limits but excellent training (and talent) can condition your body to do it as organically as possible. The fact that it's beyond your body's natural limits means you have to do some work to maintain your body's ability to do these extraordinary tasks - train and retrain - your flexibility, your core strength, so many components of a move done properly. So it's a great deal of work. It's a full time job.

      But it's so you can almost forget your training when you out and compete, and let your body do what it's been trained to do. Relax into the adrenalin or the endorphins that the music gives you, you've trained your edges so you can get deep enough into the ice for the ice to help you; you focus and let muscle memory carry you through the program. You'll be breathing the way a runner breathes, the way a dancer breathes - the heart rate is elevated.

      You're not supposed to be absolutely wiped out and spent. But Meryl and Charlie always are.

  2. I really would like to know what DW think about themselves as skaters. Because, really, if they know they're not as good as VM, their behaviour it's not so much clean. I mean ok, they obviously want the gold and want to win, but if they know they are miles apart from Tessa and Scott, what the hell it's going into their minds? I would be ashamed of being awarded with two gold medals when I know that I'm the lesser team. Of course they work hard but...

    And it's not like they are staying neutral. They declare, with their statements (Press conferences), that they've clearly improved a lot, their connection is one of the best in the world and that they do really want that gold.

    I'm not against MC as people, I do think they are genuine, but sometimes I think they are too selfish in this whole situation, though I know it's not their fault but it's the judges.

    1. I can't even figure out if they have a skating problem or an athletic problem. They are able to show edges sufficient to get their levels in footwork, but that is a lot of turns and you are only required to do "x" number of turns before you're allowed to do something else in between the next set of turns (they tend to do the little scamper runs and skips or hops). They can do the patterns - same thing.

      The cross-overs and the stroking - I can't think of many occasions when we even get a good look at them doing that, and they can't use their skating to DO anything. They can't use it to get into or out of the twizzles, or to get into and out of the spins, or the lifts. They do other stuff instead. So is that a skating issue, or is that an equilibrium issue - deriving from WHAT kind of insufficient technique I don't know - that won't allow them to use their edges without their bodies getting out of alighnment and their balance, stability going wonky? And how could both of them have the same problem?

      Edges shouldn't be that difficult to "fix" for skaters like Davis White. Virtue and Moir had wonderful edges in Mahler but the power and depth have increased tremendously since, and the power and speed grow each season. Yeah, everybody needs talent but work/practice is a proven solution to shallow or poor running edges - plus when we DO get to see their edges, they're not shallow. Not the blade run of VM but fine.

      Why can't what they're showing there be employed to take them from element to element, be used to get them from point a to point b across the rink, be used so they can get out of elements on an edge instead of the nonsense they use now?

      They don't like ballet and ballet is all about that core stability that allows multiple transitions and positions in space. This stability isn't just important for a female to move in space in a lift, it's important for every type of transition in a program, even moving from showing the judges your pattern dance to turning into crossovers so as to build up speed for your twizzle entrance.

      Tessa has that nailed. Davis White can't begin to do it - they always have to employ an external stable platform - Charlie's two foot plant, Meryl's two feet, clutching and grabbing or knee sliding or something - they are always using something external to give them stability, and that means they have to stop skating. But if it's edges why does Meryl need stability assists in lifts?

      Even that hop thing - yes, it's easy to see it serves a bunch of purposes - it generates speed. It creates the appearance of activity and speed as well. It also channels rotational momentum and projectile momentum vertically - UP, relieving the amount you need to control with your own center of gravity/core. It's like they have to release that momentum before they can continue because they can't control it AND skate.

      It's confusing because if that's the problem - and I don't know if that's the root problem - it would be weird for such a thing to afflict BOTH skaters in the partnership.

      You don't even need to be Tessa Virtue to have some of it. Jessica Dube had a natural stability and was naturally balanced over her core. That wasn't the result of some killer work ethic or state of the art conditioning program. Her strength was concentrated at her center, and when that's the case it frees your body.

      When Davis and White are "skating with abandon" they're not actually skating, if you notice. They're hopping, skipping, pirouetting, pulling and doing a whole lot of waving, bending, smiling and head tossing. The skating part is hard to find.

    2. "It's confusing because if that's the problem - and I don't know if that's the root problem - it would be weird for such a thing to afflict BOTH skaters in the partnership."

      It is confusing. The only thing I can possibly think of with some of this is that it goes back to their very early training, before they made their own move to Marina and Igor. Were they both taught some bad technique along the way?

      Just sort of thinking outloud for a second. If you watch Andrew Poje, you can see the same Paul MacIntosh influences in his skating that you see in V/M's skating. Do we know of any other teams who did their early traning with Seth Chafetz? Do they have the same issues?

  3. Maybe one dragged the other down? It could be a CoP thing. You used to just be able to have the woman twizzle around the man or have the man drag the woman across the ice (ok, MC do that too). In the early days of CoP we still had some old-school couples with huge variations in basics. Today I think most teams are more evenly matched. CoP requires it. To get the levels, both partners must be on clean edges in the steps. Both partners in the lift need to do variations to get credited with a feature.

    In the best case, this means two great skaters, constantly able to push each other and rise to the occasion, always growing and improving. You decide to keep the goose lift because you used it in less than 5 competitions, but you're embarrassed to keep the same exit. You constantly add difficulty here and there.

    What if your partner isn't as strong? What if they can't create momentum without doing a hop? Well then you're stuck hopping into every twizzle for five years. You can't just do your own different level 4 twizzle. What if your partner can't skate fast without adopting the speed skaters posture? You might have to match them. What if your partner can only do lifts crouching and on two feet as he hoists you up - can you really feel comfortable up there and maintain a stable core, descending onto a gliding edge? Or is it the other way around - if your partner needs to hang on to you with both arms and you need to drag and hoist her into position and she just kind of dangles there, how can you not need the security of being on two feet?

    I don't know if this is the case or not. I'm just musing. I'd have to think about it.

    What I do find curious is that I can no longer pick the stronger skater out of Meryl and Charlie. The common wisdom (using that term verrry loosely) on figure skating boards used to be that Charlie was the stronger one and Meryl needed to improve. Looking at these gifs that does not seem credible at all.

    1. 3:56 - I ask the same questions - who is the issue? But they both gravitate to the two foot. Charlie almost desperately seeks occasions to have both feet planted and Meryl is constantly letting her free leg drift to the ice or her skating blade go to a flat. They both seem to hurl themselves into the many "re-sets" with relief. It seems necessary for both of them - there's not one of them that is placeholding.

      Time and time again I see Meryl do a "turn" across the ice but it's not a turn, it's a two foot pivot, because she walks it. So often there's little scrambling of the feet or small WTF intersticial skipping.

      I see something that looks like it's supposed to be a skating move and it turns into a two foot scramble. That back walk deal she does prior to the Giselle twizzles for a couple of steps - what she's doing is putting one foot behind her, blade is flat on the ice. It drags or pulls her forward foot a bit backwards on a glide. But it's the back foot that's working, and that foot isn't skating.

      Someone here snarked about Tessa and Scott's "march" steps into the Funny Face twizzles, but while their bodies and limbs are in "marching" attitude, their blades are gliding. They're not stepping. They're skating.

      I think the idea that Charlie was better is aesthetic. He's got the hair and the long limbs. Meryl has the bow legs (Michelle Kwan also has bow legs) and her legs aren't long. She's the one whose lines are presented in spins and lifts so everyone can see the apparent defect of line and that she slams into them - they're not finished or held.

      I agree, I can't pick out the stronger (or the weaker) skater between Meryl and Charlie. There have been many many teams where one partner is stronger than the other, and it's not that difficult to pinpoint. Volosozhar and her last partner. Ben Agosto better skater than Tanith. Viktor Kratz better skater than Shae Lynn Bourne. But the programs usually bridge the imbalance. Agosto never corrupted his grace or his skating technique to match Tanith. He may have modified his speed here and something else there to harmonize with his partner, but he never made himself gawky or ungraceful to match her and it didn't hurt them.

      Charlie seems to have mega mega partnering issues - sustained partnering, and control problems. But Meryl has her own, complementary shortcomings.

    2. "Charlie seems to have mega mega partnering issues - sustained partnering, and control problems. But Meryl has her own, complementary shortcomings."

      Hence, their perfect connection and huge PCS! Made for each other indeed.

  4. You gotta think they're gonna get called out this...its one thing that the judges and media were willfully blind to their overrated skating this season to "atone" for being "robbed" in 2012 (whateves), but you just hope that their garbage technique and programs will be exposed sooner rather, especially in Mother Russia. Surely their crap technique will trip them up. It just has to.

    1. The whole thing is hinky. I've (obviously) also been thinking a lot about how Virtue and Moir were advised to take out that rotational lift at Worlds 2010, and how mysteriously and ambiguously the information reached them. How we're left with the idea the judges could go left or right with it, but why risk it.

      Risk WHAT? Figure skating rules have been revamped so the new system spells it out. It's not mood of the day scoring. It's not political (ha ha ha). It's based on rules, standards and criteria anyone can read. It's a fucking sport. It's not organized crime (again ha ha).

      What strikes me is the reaction of the media. Why didn't a sportswriter go - WHAT THE FUCK? How is this a sport!

      Can you imagine if the "grapevine" or some mysterious message got to a freaking gymnast, even, about something in their floor routine and maybe they'd lose points and maybe they won't? The freaking outcry!

      But the media is just - oh ho ho, it's figure skating, and none of us understand it or have even bothered to try, so - whatever. But we can still have opinions about how deserved to win based upon what the audience thought. You know, like how at baseball games a pitch is a strike or a ball depending on how the crowd feels about it.

      The media enables corruption because if the media actually did take figure skating seriously as a sport, it wouldn't report what happened at Worlds 2010 as a business as usual event, but rather ask - in what type of legitimate sport is shit like this legal?

      I am personally over "the nature of our sport" shit. If this is the nature of things then the activity in which you're involve is not a fucking sport. It's a real sport the way the mafia is real capitalism.

    2. "I am personally over "the nature of our sport" shit. If this is the nature of things then the activity in which you're involve is not a fucking sport. It's a real sport the way the mafia is real capitalism."

      Isn't this also similar to the argument some DW fans have made, that DW's "style" is the new direction of ice-dance? Forget about CoP rules, the actual skating skills, the dancing. It's all about how a program makes them "feel." So the music is "exciting" and they get caught up in the hopping around the ice, the flinging arms and flinging hair.

      Is anyone remembering this is supposed to be the sport of ice-dance? You know what, they don't care. It's become about protecting a certain team (personality is more important than the sport) and also not looking like fools because they endorse this "style."

    3. If winning ice dance championships without actually skating your program and while cheating your elements is the new direction of ice dance - IOW, if "bad technique" is the new direction, it needs to be codified in the ISU rulebook.

      As it is now the sport purports to be judged by what is in the rulebook now. What's there now standardizes good technique and assigns points for the best technique.

      You can't score "new direction" skating by old rules. They're being scored as skaters displaying good technique and the conventional understanding of excellent skating skills, while not displaying these things.

      Bad technique and cheated moves isn't a style. It's the sport itself. We already have a rulebook spelling out the current standards for this sport. If the ISU wants bad technique to be the new good, then it should be in the rulebook. For now, the ISU is cheating. This is not a sport.

      And what does the media do? Lie right along with the ISU. Everybody elbowing each other out of the way on twitter in order to parade their ignorance the loudest.

  5. I love these posts bc it's very informative & you know there are D/W fans reading, trying to understand why Tessa is better than Meryl & why Tessa & Scott are better dancers and skaters.