After reading and participating in several threads recently regarding skaters/Artistry &
Artists, I started wondering if perhaps the terms artists and artistry are being misused
within the context of skating.
Here's why, it seems to me that most forms of art (music, painting, sculpture etal,
dance) have the following items in common, but skating (in most cases) does not. Note
in many cases there is some overlap from one item to another..so bear with me.
1. Permanent vs. Transitory:
Music exists in a permanent medium - the composition is written down and is "set in
stone" by the composer. Painting, sculpture etc. obviously exist in the exact form in
which they were created. Dance again exists in a set of steps (ie choreography) made
specifically for the use with a single piece of music. In this case, skating bears the
closest resembalance to dance, in that it to is a series of steps set to a specific
piece of music. But,as we know all too well, music is often (too too much) reused in
skating, but it is considered at best bad manners to re-use another person's
choreography. So that choreography is used only for that program.
2. The original can be seen or has the ability to be reproduced by others
Hard art can be reproduced in many forms (posters, lithographs even postcards) which
allows is to be seen and appreciated by many. Music can be played (and indeed is meant
to be played) by many different people. Dance cheorography is often danced by several
different dancers both over the course of years and within the same productions by
understudies etc. As with the reproduction of music- dancers and musicians must learn
to execute the composers notes or steps. They (for the most part) are not altered for
the musician or dancer. So we are able to see or hear a composition exactly the way it
was composed or a ballet exactly the way in which it was cheorographed. That is not to
say that each performer does not imbue it with their own personality or interpretation.
But those differences are the intangible which makes watching different performers so
interesting. They do not fundamentally change the work itself.
On the other hand, a skating program exists only for one skater and generally only for a
relatively short period of time. For obvious reasons many skaters can not perform
programs that they did earlier in their careers due to physical limitations and as noted
above it would be unthinkable that another skater would try to duplicate their program.
(Gosh, they get pilloried enough just for picking music that another skater *may* be
identified with...and yes I do it too.). So as an example, we will not see Dan
Hollendar skating to Scott Hamilton's 1984 Olympic program or Nicole Bobek reproducing a
Kristi Y. program. Indeed we often critique skaters or cheorographers for reuseing
moves or sequences either for the same skaters or differenct skaters. Also, not all
skaters are of the same style so in some ways it would be like comparing Gene Kelly &
Fred Astaire..both great dancers, but totally different styles. Indeed one of the
main problems in really trying to compare skaters of different era's is inability to
directly compare the two skaters if one of them did not skate during the video era. You
can look at two paintings or two ballets or listen to two different composers and make
judgements. Also, due to the nature of skating, it often times has obviously flaws
(falls, trips, bad positions) which effect the program. While it is not unheard of for
a dancer to fall, it is very rare in professional level perfomances for that to happen
or for an Orchestra to miss notes etc.
3. Orignator v. Executer & ability to compare execution
In the cases of music & dance the composer/ choreographer creates the music or the
steps. The artist obviously creates the painting etc. The skater (most times) does not
create the program. The execute the program which has been created for them. Now many
skaters do a wonderful job at this and some are so naturally gifted that it appears as
if *they* are simply interpreting the music. But in reality they are very carefully
executing a designed series of steps. This really hit me recently, I was re-watching
Carment on Ice along with a prequel "making of" thingie. Anyway, they were showing
Sandra Bezic working with Katerina Witt on a particular series of gestures for sort of a
toss of the head and a flip of the skirt. They showed them working on it over and over.
Then when you see it in the production, it looked totally natural to the point that you
would think that it just happened. But of course it was very carefully choreographed.
So in a (very big) nutshell my contension is that if if isn't permanent, if the original
can't be seen or reproduced by others and the person in question is only an executer not
an originator....they may be great but the may not really deserve to be artists.
I welcome your imput..thanks for reading.