Innovation rarely occurs in codified sport, even in artistic disciplines like figure skating.
As technical elements are concerned new ideas are simply not allowed, so the evolution instinct is channeled into spinning faster, into more complicated positions, adding the third and recently fourth rotations to jumps, jumping more complicated combinations, performing higher throw jumps and recklessly confident lifts if in pair skating. It’s spectacular, but it can also be a little boring. Maybe the only element left open to experimentation is the step sequence, in fact the two required step sequences in the men’s free skate have become the highlight of the routines of elite athletes.
At the same time new approaches to choreography are not as frequent as one would expect, and for a number of reasons. The first one is a consequence of the way technical elements are forced to evolve. Technical elements such as jumps, at the present level of required difficulty, worry skaters so much that they are not able to focus on choreography as much as the may want, especially after a slow start of the routine. Secondly, you need a brave, gifted, consistent and well-informed choreographer to obtain a memorable routine for a strictly codified competitive sport, and all these adjectives rarely come together in the same competitive season. In addition, figure skating judges are well known for their somewhat conservative taste, and will reward an innovative choreography only if paired with absolute technical perfection, otherwise a cold reaction is to be expected.
Actually ice dancing allows a little more freedom, but if you’re old enough to remember the iconic Missing skated by the Duchesnay brothers back in the 1990 Worlds free dance, you will agree with me that ice dancing is often beautiful, but seminal moments are rare.
All this preamble, to officially inform you that I’m quite appreciating Pina, the new routine that Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolchowy are presenting at the Grand Prix this year, based on the soundtrack of the recent Win Wenders movie about Pina Bausch and including contemporary dance suggestions. I praise their bravery and heart (and of their coach Ingo Steuer of course) in presenting something genuinely new every year of their already accomplished career, and I enjoy the routine both technically and artistically, and I’m supporting them vs the (albeit beautiful) Kavaguti Smirnov couple and Volosozhar / Trankov.