Monday, February 22, 2010

Ice dancing: a strange new appreciation

I don't remember for sure when I became aware of the Winter Olympics. I suspect we watched some as a family in the '50s, but I wouldn't swear to it. I distinctly remember Peggy Fleming, who was the ice princess in -- what, 1968? I fell in love with Katarina Witt even when she was purportedly a Commie. I also remember going to a rink in Palm Desert probably 15 years ago and as I was struggling to maintain balance seeing somebody really showing some form -- and lo and behold, it was Dorothy Hammill.

When they introduced ice dancing to the Olympics I thought it was just an excuse to give more people something to compete in, and it seemed to me that for the first few years it was kind of bland. Then Torvill and Dean taught me that it could be artistic and maybe even thrilling. Now I have turned around completely. The pairs skating at this year's Olympics was nothing but jumps and throws and lifts, which requires a great big guy and a teeny girl, which looks incongruous -- athletic but ultimately not all that interesting. Ice dancing now seems to me more like pairs skating was back in the day -- couples skating together, flowing together, matching one another, working together, with the addition of mostly interesting costumes (the Russians with their lame attempt at an Aborigine outfit seemed misconceived -- though the negative reaction was overblown, done by people who have learned the modern dark art of professional offense-taking). I now enjoy ice dancing more than pairs skating.

And oddly enough I don't care a whit about the judging. Let the judges screw things up as they will, I just enjoy them all, My favorites were the Russian couple dancing to Stravinsky's "Firebird, the Canadian couple who danced to Mahler (!) and the Italian couple.

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