Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vancouver 2010: Free Dance

Okay. Now that I'm partly over the shock of the FD and the sudden barrage of midterms and things due, I can actually think and write about it. I didn't see much of it thanks to schoolwork, and the ones I did see were on a very fuzzy TV screen, but nevertheless the power and beauty definitely shined through. I was so excited for ice dance going into the Olympics, and it totally lived up to all of its hype. Wow.

Due to extenuating circumstances (read: people listening to music before I turned on the TV), I had to watch Isabel Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder on mute. Yes, that sort of defeats the purpose of watching the FD... and I also missed the moment where she pulls down her costume to reveal a tubetop or whatever, because, well, it was on mute and I was doing my homework. So in general that was a fail on my part, but my overall impression based on what I did see was that, like their OD, everything is there except enough time to train. I hope they manage something before Worlds.

Knowing that Meryl Davis & Charlie White were up next, I decided that I would rather be rude than miss the experience of the FD and unmuted the TV. OMG, it was so worth it. Actually the first thing that was worth it was seeing that clip of Charlie back when he was 8 years old or so, still playing ice hockey. I couldn't really make out what he was saying because of the noise in the room, but it was adorable! And then came their FD. I've always felt that they wasted Samson and Delilah by skating to it last year, and that their Phantom of the Opera music is not only overdone but badly cut, but that night their performance blew all of these doubts away. Even through the fuzziness I could tell that they were completely on fire, and everything was so fast, strong, and powerful. I can't even pick out specific moments because it was all one mesmerizing blur, although I do remember thinking (again) that the lift where Meryl is basically balancing on Charlie's calf, is both crazy (in a good way) and odd (aesthetically). At the end of the program he looked like he was going to collapse onto the ice of exhaustion, which just goes to show how much of themselves they put into the performance. As usual Meryl looked as calm and unflustered as ever--how she managed that, I don't know. They scored a personal best 107.19, including a 1.00 deduction for an extended lift that has so far not been identified, and while it was deserved I knew that we were in for another night of record-smashing score inflation.

Then I missed Frederica Faiella & Massimo Scali's FD because I am a bad ice dancing fan and a stressed-out student. However the next team I definitely made sure not to miss, because it was my favorite: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. The audience was crazy with excitement and anticipation, and I must have been too, considering James and Eric were snickering as I watched. Anyway, my opinion of Tessa & Scott's FD has remained the same throughout the season: beautiful, strategically sound (in that it plays to their strengths), version 3.0. Clearly they have become stronger with each season, but this FD is basically the same as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which was basically the same as Valse Triste. But regardless...

It was beautiful. Subtle, restrained, elegant, but powerful, this performance had it all. Tessa & Scott's love and respect for each other really came through. If I were going to be really nitpicky I would say that I have seen them more free and emotional in some other performances, such as at 2008 Worlds, and that Meryl & Charlie gripped my attention more, but overall it was a masterpiece and it was clear (if it hadn't been before they started skating) that they would win. The best part was their swan lift, or more rather the commentary (Rafael: "Zueva really likes hurting her men"), but like Meryl & Charlie's performance it's hard to pick out certain points because it was like all one moment. Their scores were an unheard-of 110.42. While I believe that Tessa & Scott are the rightful gold medalists, I am not entirely convinced that they beat Meryl & Charlie by such a large margin (5+ overall) even with the 1.00 deduction factored in. I suppose if the standings aren't affected, it doesn't hurt much to give the home crowd an extra bit of excitement. As if they needed any... although Scott has always come across to me as calm, intelligent, and well-spoken, his reaction upon seeing his scores revealed to me the fire that drives him to compete as he does and drove his 8-year-old self into an ice hockey melee. It was an interesting contrast to watch, and his pure excitement was refreshing.

Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto's performance fades in my memory because Meryl & Charlie and Tessa & Scott were so far and away the best of the night. However, it seemed to be that this was their best FD of the season, and I am sorry that politics and whatever else kept them out of 3rd place. To their credit both of them were extremely classy in their response, with Ben keeping it funny as usual and Tanith being thoughtful about how they would like to go out when they retire. A few comments by fsonline then got me thinking about how Tanith & Ben were the ones who even made the FD possible. Without them the European stranglehold on the sport would still exist, and the current classiness would probably not exist either. That is an amazing achievement and beyond all of their medals, they have so much to be proud of.

Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin were last, and unsurprisingly NBC was not hesitant in their criticisms. I didn't pay all that much attention to them, except to see that they were using some kind of ropes/straps on their costumes to do their lifts, and while it was creative I just didn't feel anything from the program. They made some comments later about how they "had the best skate" but still only placed 3rd--the medal, by the way, seems like a complete boon of their nationality--and while the American media took that one line and used it as a sign of their lack of sportsmanship, I am still not completely convinced (until I see the whole interview, that is) that they were talking about the best skate of the night instead of the best skate of their season.

Because NBC is silly I haven't seen the moment where Scott tells Tessa that they came in second, behind the Russians, then tells her he's "just kidding." Come on, NBC... that has got to be the best quote of the night. I kept the TV on to watch the medal ceremony, during which it seemed that by the end of the night both of "Zueva's men" would have passed out. Scott looked so relieved and SO excited by his medal and by the anthem that I thought he'd keel over on the podium.

I think Meryl & Charlie still have even more to go--I feel like their full potential hasn't been reached just quite yet, even if the "yet" comes in a month at the World Championships--and I hope, hope, HOPE that neither they nor Tessa & Scott retire. Ice dancing is finally becoming interesting and beautiful, and if they retired it would undo everything.

Just for the record: I am not a bandwagon-jumping fan. I just pick the good ones, BEFORE the Olympics. :)

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