On the pregnancy front, it seems to me that those who insist Tessa shows no sign of pregnancy must know that plenty of women don't show mid-way, or even most of the way. It's just that these fans have made up in their own heads that Tessa Virtue is not one of those women. A lot of comments section discussion works off stuff that only exists in people's heads. They decide something or other is not possible for the version of Tessa they, personally, have invented, and they see no reason why what they've made up shouldn't be treated as valid. I see this mentality reoccur constantly in the comments, although of course it doesn't describe everybody.
Alternatively, another reason some people might fixate on the idea that all pregnant women project a balloon shape is that's the only sort of pregnant woman these fans believe they've ever personally seen. When they've crossed paths with women who carry differently, they failed to perceive that she was pregnant, and continue believing pregnant women all look the same. As with much of this mindset, if they don't see it, it doesn't exist.
Image linked by participant in comments section (thanks):
I was going to post a bunch more photos but they're all the same. If you've decided the Tessa Virtue that you've made up in your head is a woman who, if pregnant, would show stereotypically (even though there's actually no such thing as typical) a million pictures won't make that worldview shift.
I was debating posting my thoughts about Marina, as I think the discussion has, at times, gotten down to disagreeing on first principles. When that happens, you just have to agree to disagree; you're not going to change someone's mind on the fundamentals. This post is not an attempt to change minds, but to express my own views, even though I'll reference contrary views. My views start here:
I think Marina/Canton remains the best training center for Tessa and Scott, and Marina the best choreographer for the team. I have thoughts about the political influences that may direct where VM train, if they do continue, and will mention that when the post reaches that point. But to start, I refer to this latest article from icenetwork.com:
icenetwork article on Marina, Canton and current teams
I think the key is fluidity and collaboration in the process of building a program. Here are excerpts that highlight why I think this is the best training center for Tessa and Scott:
"This is actually really different for me. Nikoli did all the work by himself," he said. "I think it's really great. Every coach can see one piece of program from [his or her] own view, and everyone wants to give you the best. When you skate in competition, everybody has different tastes, and I think our coaches have the same [goal] but different tastes. If you want to be a good skater, you have to feed on these different [viewpoints]."
Since her days with G&G, Marina has been a collaborative coach/choreographer, and yet some fans have decided, and, having decided, insist, that she refuses to allow outside influences, despite that fact that collaboration and proactively bringing in outside influences has been the hallmark of her training process since she became a choreographer. She encourages her skaters to do the same. To the extent Scott and Tessa are self-determined and draw upon outside resources, they are modeling Marina, not working against her or despite her. IMO they're not outliers in her program, but represent the fullest expression of Marina's style of working - a style that can only be completely fulfilled by skaters possessing the talent, and the smarts about their talent, that Scott and Tessa possess. Everything known about Marina points to a person who gives her skaters all the tools, all the resources, to be used and understood by the skaters themselves as full collaborators/participants, responsible for themselves, and self-reliant. Of course, the more ability a skater or pair of skaters has, the better this works. Of course the skater has to be receptive.
There is so much "say the opposite" in figure skating and figure skating discussion. The fan meme that maintains Marina does the opposite of what she actually does is just part of the pattern. In that meme, Marina is too easily threatened and Virtue and Moir went to Swan against her wishes. No, this is not the position of every person who is not a Marina fan, but this is the song sung by many who have disliked her for years. This particular criticism is something they've made up, all contrary evidence dismissed. I guess mentioning this may appear to be argumentative/trying to convince, but it's more me acknowledging that, when I highlight Marina's collaborative process, there are fans who inexplicably assert that she doesn't collaborate, or only collaborates when there's no choice.
ETA - To address something I read in the comments section below the previous post: it was mentioned that D/L (think it was them) and Jeffrey Buttle don't have that much experience choreographing ice dance. To which someone else retorted, "JMB and Swan didn't either, and that turned out pretty well!"
I have to ask myself:
Is this person comparing floor dance specialists/choreographers to ice dance/figure skating coaches/choreographers as if it's the same job? If that's the case, Virtue and Moir's horizons broaden. They won't need to train at another rink. They can just get choreo/coaching from Derek Hough. What more would they need?
I get frustrated when the "ice" part of ice dance is minimized by some fans (again, not all fans, and not all fans who aren't Marina fans).
Marina is changing music for the free dance. We tried already a few different styles. That is the way she works. Every day she speaks about it a little bit different, maybe she found another idea. We have all of the elements for the free dance: lifts, spin, footwork."
That's called process.
Marina is thinking like a professor; she knows what she is doing.
I love the thinking like a professor.
When was the last time somebody invented a new turn, new step? When ice dance fans look for innovation, what do they mean? For me, Marina works better with rhythm and music than any coach around. This is subjective, but I think a lot of people aren't musical, or aren't in touch with rhythm. That is where, for my money, Marina is absolutely brilliant. Just compare her to Igor. Igor is a musical washout, as far as I'm concerned. That's why his choreography, even though he steals and reworks and repurposes like everybody, seems so clunky. There are other choreographers/coaches who put together really nice programs, but IMO they don't use rhythm as well, aren't as insightful about tension and release, anticipation/propulsion, counter motion, etc., either (by insightful I mean, what parts of the music to use when you want this to occur, and where to place it in the program).
That was something I started understanding when I originally began watching Dancing with the Stars. I saw successful singers who couldn't hear or feel music/rhythm when trying to dance. And conversely, there were contestants with almost no range of motion (like 66 year old George Hamilton in 2006) but wonderful rhythm, who were able to put it across. Anyhow, I think that's the biggest obstacle to some people appreciating Marina - the ones who don't hear/feel how she's put it together with the music. Even her work-for-hire (like her blues program for Dube/Wolfe) uses the music with movement so much better than similarly put together programs, to energize the skaters and the audience.
The musicality in Seasons didn't appear as accessible to some as Carmen, but I love this wonderful post from fan forum:
In my favorite part of this post, the author describes what she/he understood about Seasons prior to the point where her sensibility was finally affected by Seasons (an event that occurred in a later performance). Bolded parts are mine:
I was hearing the nuances in the music that Tessa and Scott play within choreographically - nuances which aren't always rhythmic but are sometimes beautifully subtle alterations in pitch. I also felt like I had a decent grasp on what they were trying to do - and project - from a movement standpoint. But as far as the overall texture of the program was concerned - that overarching sensibility it's supposed to stir - it wasn't there for me like it was with so many of their past programs (and this season's SD). And I thought, "eh, that's all right. If it's not there for you, it's not there. Doesn't change the fact that it's a gorgeous, intricate, conceptual program that is gold medal-worthy" (and of course, the skaters performing the program are feeling and connecting to it), which is what matters.
I said I'd mention potential political factors that might influence where VM train if they come back, and with that in mind, let's remember it was the ISU that "recommended" Scott and Tessa return to the lyrical/romantic free dance style for Sochi. Scott and Tessa reported this after Worlds 2013; it was a message they'd obviously received even prior to Worlds. Sure, VM could ignore the suggestions and reap the consequences. Predictably, the ISU, the media and the commentariat turned around and used the lyrical free dance to promote a false narrative that Virtue and Moir hadn't grown.* Still and despite, Virtue and Moir have owned Seasons. They've described every piece of it as hand-crafted. It's their program. Considering some of the views expressed by those who aren't fans of Seasons and maintain it contributed to their defeat in Sochi, I haven't fully worked out the paradox that what Virtue and Moir do well, they do well despite Marina or not much credit to Marina, yet somehow Marina foisted the meh Seasons upon these independent and self-determined skaters and convinced them to love it. How does that skew with the narrative that asserts Virtue and Moir developed independently from any contribution of Marina's, that via talent and the skating skills they brought with them to Canton, they developed naturally into Virtue and Moir, and would have done so anywhere. They achieved despite Marina. Were Virtue and Moir not aware of this? Did Marina somehow deceive them into believing she made a significant contribution to their success? A manipulation that culminated with Virtue and Moir not just skating Seasons at the Olympics, but re-asserting their love for this program after they lost?
What's the proposition? That if they'd only been to another coach, that coach would have been able to show them the error of their thinking/aesthetic, change them from being the sorts of skaters who embraced a Seasons? I look at the fact that the ISU directed Virtue and Moir to go lyrical, so neither coach nor skaters had free reign, but I also see that even after the Olympic competition had concluded and Virtue and Moir were spit-balling about Marina's split loyalties, they put their arms around that program and bear-hugged it. If they're as independent and self-created as some maintain, then they independently and self-determinedly - and perhaps coincidentally, but I think not - share Marina's taste/aesthetic/musical sensibility and are as responsible for the choices made in that program as Marina.
Maybe they're not actually that independent, but are Marina's creatures (in that case, Marina has to receive credit). Do they need a different environment to show them what they don't understand about impactful, innovative lyrical programs? At what point did they become blind to the fact that Marina really hasn't done much for them; they did most of it themselves combined with their foundation training in Kitchener. Did they just not realize all these years? IOW, I just don't see how some of these concepts about VM and Marina all fit together.
It's much easier to see "growth" in a program like Carmen. Carmen has already been discussed on the blog, but I want to highlight now, that, in terms of ice dance politics, it was user-friendly, in your face. Even observers who couldn't appreciate the particulars of it as a skating skills/choreographic-embed tour de force** like nothing before or since, could plainly observe that it was powerful, dynamic and athletic. Virtue and Moir's on ice personas and the story they were telling were utterly bold and dramatic; the growth was built into the story and choreography. The actual skating growth (power, speed, edgework, control) was still there and more in Seasons but the package was back to seamless and "looks easy", which was perhaps the reason the ISU wanted this style. A style where you might have to actually rewind to process how extraordinary a particular section was. A better vehicle for the ISU to pull off the heist and for the media to ignore what was actually going down.
Tessa and Scott are very tough, very smart, and have, thanks in no small part to an environment that thoroughly understood them, become experts themselves, whereas with DW, I think of them more as vessels who dutifully do their part while it's up to everybody else to figure out how to re-package their limited skill set. If Tessa and Scott were in a training center that had a narrower pyramid, and the inevitable conflict ensued (they're intense, and challenge/conflict is part of their process), it would be them vis a vis the coach over whatever the issue was, and would another coach's environment be fluid enough to work around it or discover a solution on the same terms employed by Virtue and Moir? How many influences would be available to work towards a synthesis, crack the puzzle or challenge? I believe one of the reasons Scott and Tessa stayed with Marina as long as they did - among many - is they respect her as being as smart as they are, and smart in the same ways as they are about skating. Would they be able to work the same way in another training center, given their accurate estimation of their own skating smarts and given their particular musical sensibility? At the same time, at Canton, success is also about a way of working that creates the greatest opportunity for solutions, and it seems to me that Marina prefers a process with many voices, and then a synthesis develops. Somebody has to recognize when a solution has been achieved, and that's Marina's job (along with the skaters). I believe she's demonstrated the smarts to recognize a better idea, concept or solution even if it's someone else's. As have Scott and Tessa.
This link is has the cheesiest title in the world but the article is relevant:
Here's the key piece from the article, that relates particularly to Marina. I'm sure other training centers collaborate to a point, but apparently it's not the hallmark, or the skaters that go to Arctic Edge wouldn't be going there, in part, for the collaborative environment. It would be commonplace:
"If you love clawing your way up social pyramids, by all means, hang on to this view of reality. But if you're into things like, oh, I don't know, happy relationships and enjoyable work, you might want to note that many highly functional human systems are less like pyramids than like calm seas: Roles are as fluid as water, and the hierarchy of personal worth is flat, with every person valued equally. In systems like these, each person leads in situations where he or she is most capable, but just as willingly follows in others."
IMO it doesn't just make for a happy environment, but also a more productive, successful environment. Of course, for the "streaming" approach to work, the environment needs to be populated with people who know what they're doing, and it seems to me Marina consciously, proactively makes sure that happens. Sometimes the person in charge is the only one who really knows what they're doing, and that's why the pyramid, but I suspect as often, the person hires per the pyramid, and screens out threats to their authority. I think the "flat" environment is absolutely the best environment for Scott and Tessa. They challenge/disagree a lot as part of their process, and you need a fluid system to accommodate that and keep working productively towards the same ends. Whereas I think DW don't use the system in the same way. To me, they appear to be a group project the coaching team tinkers with each season without much input from DW, which is not the system's best application. However, the USFSA and the families seem to be okay with using it in that way.
How many other training centers have the same diversity of personnel as Canton? Some in the comments section say VM's success with Canton is due to VM. I believe that Canton helped them BECOME VM. In a critical phase of their careers (end of juniors into seniors) the part of their career where they were maturing, working in Canton helped them become self-reliant, and by that I mean the real architects of their skating. It's what all good teachers hope to accomplish with their students, no matter what discipline. I don't think a training center exists just as a shopping center for choreography. Marina and Canton are a key reason Virtue and Moir were able to fulfill themselves as Virtue and Moir, discover their own process as Virtue and Moir. It didn't occur despite Canton, it occurred because Canton facilitated it. It's not a formula for every skater to become Virtue and Moir, clearly, but it's an excellent formula for skaters with talent, maturity and intelligence. Whatever the equivalent of emotional intelligence is when you're skating-wise and dance-wise, Virtue and Moir have it, and Canton is where it reached its fullest expression. I think, basically, that Canton's is a system that's going to work best for the legitimate best, so it might not be one size fits all, but it fits VM. And I also think it takes a talent to work that way, and however talented some other coaches may be, that particular talent isn't common.
When I look back at, for example, Michelle Kwan's split with Frank Carroll, he said she started saying to him "I don't need you to tell me how to do it, I know" or whatever, and he started thinking, well, I'm still the coach. Carroll's very talented, but I also believe when you have someone like Kwan, who at that point had been skating about fifteen years, you do need to start collaborating more, being a team, opening up the process. With her, I, personally, think she had a lot of ambivalence about the Olympics that undermined her game (and boy did it show), so there may have been more going on with her resistance to her coach than her growing independence, but a component of the thing is that when you have talents like Scott and Tessa, who have as deep an understanding of figure skating as Marina, you need an inclusive model, and sometimes you even need to be oppositional so they can work it out/understand it for themselves, have something to push back against while they do so. That something they're pushing back against needs to be something they respect, something as strong, smart and tough as they are.
I said I was going to mention political factors that might influence where they train if they come back. It's occurred to me, as it would anyone, that if Scott and Tessa wanted to continue on, they'd first need to test the waters with their Fed and the ISU. Is the game still rigged against them? An opt-out for the ISU would be if Scott and Tessa were encouraged to go to another training center. This helps the ISU save face. It would be a bit awkward if Scott and Tessa remained in Canton and in the run-up to the next Olympics started getting the explosive scores they ought to have been getting in this past quad. How come they didn't get these scores before? If they change camps, then the improved scores could be credited to a change in their coaching environment. One look at what VM did on the ice while training in Canton would show that up as a lie, but as we all know, nobody actually acknowledges what VM do on the ice. Only the narrative matters. The change coaching narrative would cover ISU ass and allow it to give VM the scores it deserved. Skate Canada has been up David Dore's ass since Sochi; I'm sure he and they have good communication and Skate Canada would be able to share his input with VM.
*Virtue and Moir, of course, had grown, exponentially, but that aside, "grown" is irrelevant. What's relevant is "better than DW." The ISU and those who talk and write about it spent most of the past quad promoting fallacies about its own sport.
**It wasn't brilliant because it used modern dance choreography for Carmen, it was brilliant because in every inch of that program Scott and Tessa used superior skating skills to deliver that choreography. It was the embed that makes that program historical. Who did the skating skills part? Who solved those challenges? Not Jennifer Swan - she's not a skater although she's a wonderful choreographer. It's a reciprocal process. The choreographer has to find moves that work on the ice after after acquiring an understanding about skating, the coach and the skaters have to find ways of using skating technique to execute choreography while abiding by, let's not forget, some pretty severe requirements/restrictions inherent both in the act of figure skating and in the rules about what ice dance programs contain.