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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Subject for Tonight's Lecture is Syllabus

Not content to remain relics of broader Step Sequences lessons in Latin, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have unveiled a classic rock-scored r(h)umba short dance that neatly condenses a Dancesport syllabus including samba, cha cha, and rumba into one sub-three-minute program:



Let's begin.

There's far too much to fully unpack in the opening "Sympathy for the Devil" sequence, but a few highlights -- and hybridized transitions -- are worth noting. The rhythm bounce is a good baseline for understanding the flair injected throughout the dance's up-tempo bookending sections. Consider a bit of batucada to open, a moment at 0:33-0:34 that reads a little bit samba lock, a little bit plait. But at 0:35-0:39, meet the most obvious callback to floor samba: the natural roll. It's been utilized on ice more than once, but rarely in its face-to-face variant and for so extensive a time. It leads into the promenade run up to 0:43.

In their no-touch step sequence, a required stop beginning at 0:59 is really a sort of Cuban break/demonstration of great Latin posture, which swiftly segues into a modified criss-cross bota fogo followed at 1:04 by a tip of the hat to the solo spot voltas -- it is, in general, difficult to explicitly associate the program's myriad turning moments with specifically codified Latin turns, but there's a styling to the movement that at least presents a reasonable facsimile here; they are clearly skating turns for a Latin ballroom program, not for a hip hop or a waltz or a quickstep.

Given the packed and heavily mandated nature of the r(h)umba sequence set to "Hotel California" -- featuring a compulsory pattern and partial step sequence -- it's challenging to point to many specific rumba steps aside from, for example, the opening out at 2:04 or a skating-friendly twist on rope spinning at 2:00. However, a review of the syllabus and this showdance -- and therefore trick-friendly -- rumba do underline Virtue and Moir's easy and excellent hip action and include a few familiar transitions:


The final sequence to "Oye Como Va" presents a quick nod to cha cha, noted in something like the fan at 3:02. As conscientious an effort at translating floor movement to ice this program may be, it also shouldn't be mistaken for a purist exercise in Latin ballroom -- nor need it be. For teams with the skill, the restrictions of a technical ice dance program and the freedom to play across textbook styles is not cause to blame a genre, but opportunity to cleverly -- and masterfully -- adapt.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Special Topic: Choreoliteralism Revisited

UPDATE October 20: When Choreoliteralism Is Used For Good


Do it subtly, do it skillfully, and do it in Spanish.

Watch closely as Maia and Alex Shibutani execute their first twizzle set starting at about 2:13 (embed should begin at the designated time) -- and count along with Perez Prado:


Why does this work? Because it's intricately interwoven with their skill at the element; a fail on the twizzles is a fail for the fun gambit. Sufficiently believing that they can execute is also a bold acknowledgment of their ability on something with which many another team has struggled. (In its sensitive timing, it's not unlike the twizzle passage in Virtue and Moir's Carmen, which required a to-the-millisecond finish to work dramatically -- one they consistently nailed.)

Far from a cheap trick to illustrate a lyric, this is clever play with high-level difficulty, and a great show of confidence.

**

September 3:

Back at the outset of the 2015-16 season, Step Sequences devoted some space to the newly-coined matter of choreoliteralism: moments of choreography that literally depict song lyrics. This concept could be further expanded to include forms of choreographic pantomime based on theme rather than vocals, such as the telephone calls and rope-skipping depicted in the 2016-17 programs of world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, though for purposes of simplicity, we'll continue to reserve the term for a less narrative-based literalism.

We did not outline last season's strikes in the choreoliteral vein, but those that did appear were also mostly less overt than those on offer in the previous year. However, the summer competitions have already revealed one program that presents multiple demonstrations: this "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" / "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" free dance from Dubreuil/Lauzon team Olivia Smart and Adrià Díaz:

When watching, consider these keywords:
  • man
  • train
  • load
  • looking out




As the season unfolds, we'll add any further acts of choreoliteralism to this post.