Monday, January 08, 2018

Ice Dancing at Figure Skating Nationals - a Refreshing Break from Quad Mania ... What Grant Hotchstein Shows Us ...

Sanity amidst the madding crowd: Grant Hotchstein

Watching men's singles at the Nationals, it felt as if I had been away for ages. I recall when a few of the best men were turning a quad.  I said, a quad. I returned to witness an insane obsession with but one goal: FIVE QUADS.
Where have I been?   He did five!    Oh, how brilliant, that's four quads  ... only one to go to hold his place! ...  He is absolutely on fire with the quad. This sport is rocking!  Look, another!  Are you kidding? No, no, who knows, he may try for a sixth!

Pardon me, you raving Hamilton cheerleaders, but am I watching an ice skating competition --- or a reality TV stunt skating contest?  This giddy preoccupation with quantity effectively renders second or third rate all of the other items.  The fourth quad down, and, and, and ....  FIVE!  Nailed!  ...  In the bag! ....

I am bored already.  How about half a dozen?  Or better yet, a mandatory cap on the maximum number allowed.  Oh, say ... a thousand?

There was one lone skater in men's finals who did not produce a winning routine, with too many passive sections, but gradually he earned my respect with his artfully expressive moves, some of them thrilling. He looked lost in the pack, a stranger from another time and place, and  I was reminded of saner days that delivered more fully satisfying free style routines.   I think his name is Grant Hochstein.  He missed his true calling. He should have been a dance skater.  Let the vulgarians chase the quinny.

The hucksters who run this so-called sport should cut the pretensions and  carve out a new, more honest and potentially more gripping event, guaranteed to inflate crowd size.

In this more athletically pure event, no music allowed, each skater will have to execute a set list of items in fixed order -- such as axle, salchow, camel, chop suey, loop-the-lutz, traveling camel, upside down camel, and then onto mandatory jumps -- single, double, triple, quad.  And by God, as many of those as he/she can bring off, the first one missed spelling sudden death.  Option:  After completing a quad and then, and then, landing a QUINNY (quintuple), INSTANT victory.

For this mathematically scored challenge, a file clerk from the outside will check off each item completed.  Only one fall allowed.  As for sloppy landings, a panel of judges will deduct points from the score based on three degrees of slop:  Barely missed.  Heroically clinging.  Creatively executed.  This will keep the door to trickery slightly ajar, where judges can still make their under-the-table deals with each other for mutual score fixing.

ONTO DANCE, and please,no quads!

Hubbell and Donahue

I was appalled at how the pairs team of Kayne and O'Shea, were robbed of first place, and then outraged when I learned that only the first place team, Sciemeca and Knerium, won a spot on the Olympic team. So, once again skeptical of the judging, I took out pencil and paper during the last five free dance teams, to seriously look at each and commit a sore of my own prior to the judging marks being made known.  You may have done this on occasion, too.  It''s fun.  Here are my scores (1-100), in order of ranking, with a few words describing my overall reaction, and then, on the next line, how the judges graded each:

Hubbell and Donahue  Compelling creativity   93
               judges: 197.2

Shibutani and Shibutani  Accomplished  91
              judges   196,93

Hawyayek and  Bake  Dancing on waves:  90
                 Judges  187.61

Chock and Bates:  Hard working  75
                 Judges:  196.60

Parsons and Parsons    Humdrum:  72
                 Judges:  176.01 

For my eyes, the marvel of Hubbell and Donahue's skating is how they use acrobatic movements to serve dance itself, rather than treating dance as an excuse for a veiled, pandering pairs program. We too often see dance teams defaulting to light pairs gymnastics for easy showmanship.  To sustain dance is the great challenge.  Hubbell and Donahue were dancing, and that's what I loved the most about them.

Okay, now I'm psyched up.  Now, I'm waiting for the Winter Olympics!

A little ways down, soon, I will be re-posting something I did on the judging in 2014. 

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