Tuesday, May 31, 2016

David Wilson

I’ve become addicted to David Wilson video interviews. While I'm the furthest thing from a The Skating Lesson fan, I was riveted when Wilson 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 the annual pasting of 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 use 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, 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 interview is boring. Yet incorporates a little DL promotional talking point (and that's not even the blandest 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.


  1. Would you mind specifying some programs in particular of Wilson's you think are spectacular? I'm guessing these have been outside of dance, and I do know of Patrick's off hand. The only skilled dance team he's worked with that I can think of is P/I for their 2011-12 FD, but they were much rougher then. His work with Hr/Dz was certainly better than D/L's choreo, but they were quite limited technically.

  2. The Shibs tweeted that they're working with Peter T again. I think you might be underestimating him?

    Pasquale also does some really beautiful work.

    1. I guess we'll still have to wait to see how much range Peter T might have in ice dance, but I'm for sure excited for his next collab with the Shibs.

      And yes, I am also a fan of Pasquale as far as diverse and musical choreographers go. Obviously he's worked across the disciplines, but just looking at ice dance, you can really see how specific and different his programs (alone or done w/ another coach or off-ice choreographer) can be just looking at a couple of teams from the same seasons.

      Hub/Don, 2012-13 FD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS4KrSVFZls
      P/I, 2012-13 FD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6m0BMTkzIQ

      Hub/Don, 2013-14 SD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2A-AZpLg-M
      FD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU6hg_VEQAs
      P/I, 2013-14 SD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNbo5ptrdZw
      FD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKVf-XY8UxA

      Stylewise, it's tough to picture one team skating the other's programs as effectively as the original team did -- they just suited those personalities so well.

  3. Alma Moir was on PJ's podcast talking about Tessa and Scott. Are they going down the Davis/White route of whoring their mothers out to the judges ?

    1. Did you even listen to the interview? Alma spent more time talking about Danny Moir and his ancient history skating career and her own coaching career than she did talking about Tessa and Scott. Alma and Pj are old friends and both are coaches. I wouldn't say that Scott has decided to "whore" his mom out.

    2. The above comment was aimed @ 7:45 PM.

  4. ISU voted to get rid of anonymous judging:


    Although this a good move, this won't in anyway address the corruption in ice dance judging.

    1. Anonymous judging was one of the conditions of the sport that was able to be leveraged in the overall effort that went into putting DW over VM last quad. The corruption is so wide and involves so many things at this point when it comes to ice dance judging, I'm hesitant to believe that this move will have any sort of real positive impact. At worst, I fear it's going to actually be used as another smoke screen for what's really going on. VM's rightful victory in Vancouver was held up as a shining example of how much the sport had cleaned itself up and that ice dance was finally legitimate. What immediately happened was that DW were elevated over the next quad in an awful display of corruption. I fear that instead of the judges giving correct marks because we're going to know who is giving what, the non-anonymous judging line will just be used to justify incorrect marks and placements. "The marks have to be correct, the judging isn't anonymous anymore. We're transparent now and aren't hiding anything." In other words, "non-anonymous judging and transparency" will become another excuse or justification to cover up for continued corruption in ice dance.

    2. Nailed it, 3:11. As much as the problem with D/W was far more top-down than mere vote swapping and individual judges not being accountable, there *was* more variation and oddness eg. the Rettstatt business. It's gotten more lockstep with P/C. If everyone follows the agenda exactly, there is no information to glean from having the identity of the judges.

  5. So is Tessa hanging out with Ryan this weekend, checking out the F1 Grand Prix in Montreal?

  6. Are there any pictures ?