Betina Popova: “If you need to explain the artistic image of your program to the viewer, it means that you skate it badly or it was poorly choreographed.”
Former Russian ice dancer and now choreographer Betina Popova spoke about the restrictions imposed on the choreographer and general approach to programs in figure skating.
About using warhorses
Betina Popova: When you go on the ice, you don’t think who skated before you, who will skate after you, you don’t have time for that at all. But for spectators and judges, the perception is colossal. It either works like a crazy advantage for the first pair, which skated well, while the second pair looked worse against its background, or vice versa. It is very difficult to evaluate it neutrally, because judges are also people, and it is impossible for them to abstract when skaters skate to the same music just in front of them. All the same, you will be comparing two pairs, but our judging system is not about comparing pairs with each other, but about evaluating the performance according to the rules. Therefore, it seems to me that using the same compositions is wrong. It is clear that everyone is free to skate to what they want and to what the choreographer sees, but, probably, there should be some kind of regulation so that there are not 500 Carmen per season.
About theme of the program
Betina Popova: Skater and his coach must be as confident as possible in their choice, otherwise it threatens to turn into a failure. The wrong choice of theme can block all the advantages of an athlete, as happened, for example, with Alexandra Trusova while working with Evgeni Plushenko. The Russian rocket was given a program to Romeo and Juliet, but only after several competiitons it became clear to the fans that the athlete was not portraying a romantic girl, but evil rock. Sasha and her coach had to further clarify this in an interview, which only confirmed the theory that the skater didn’t cope with showing the choreographer’s idea on the ice.
I believe that if you need to explain the artistic image of your program to the viewer, it means that you skate it badly or the choreographer choreographed it poorly. The viewer should understand it anyway, but you have only two tools – your body and music, and you have to cope with them and convey the artistic image.
Should there be a story behind all of this? No, sometimes it is enough to show a mood, an idea, an impulse to the viewer, and it will already be good. There is no need to lay out the program so that here he jumped to the right, because this means this. The dance is multifaceted, the human body can display well any emotions, especially if it is correctly emphasized musically, lined up in relation to the audience and judges, not hidden somewhere under the board or put away at the corner, any gesture can be calculated, there is no special formula.
Of course, the specific stories are easier to understand for the viewer. When you watch Carmen, your associative array immediately turns on, plus a skater performs in a red and black dress comes, everything is clear, everything is simple, I know it, I remember it, I understand it, I like it. With abstraction it’s more difficult, but if it is able to touch … I like abstractions where you really need to think, when there is an aftertaste, when you sit and think about it.
Each choreographer takes his own line, uses his own style, someone tries to emphasize the music with elements, someone with pantomime, someone with the plot – everyone has their own tools of work, but it’s really very difficult – to convey to the viewer a full story in three minutes. For example, when they take ballets to skate, of course, it will not work to show the whole ballet. You can show a certain mood or any one party, a small part of the story.
About ultra-c elements
Betina Popova: Ultra-C elements limit the choreographer, because they require gaining speed, in addition, you understand that this is not one hundred percent execution – you cannot add something super creative, because it can be lost during the performance.
Ultra-c influences the choreographer very much, especially in single skating: you understand that, at some point, most likely, an athlete can change something, shift some emphasis somewhere. In this regard, it is important to look at the drawing of the program so that there is no winding circles in one direction, so that it does not happen that you jump first, and then you skate, or vice versa.
There is such a component as the composition of the program, and it should take into account that the elements should be arranged in a balanced way, there should not be many repetitions in the pattern, you need to have good ice coverage, show both edge skating and wide arc skating, there are a lot of nuances.
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