Tonight’s Olympic Ice Dancing Final could very possibly produce yet another Figure Skating upset for the Russian team. Dominant in dance since the discipline first competed in the Winter Games, a Russian team has never been left off the podium.
After last night’s original dance, the chance of the Russian’s finishing out of medal contention, and the possibility of a North American sweep of the podium reflects the changing nature of the sport. Now that the focus on figure skating judging is more on tangible elements technically as well as for composition, the Russian aesthetic of skating has been left behind. Style points are no longer good enough to carry you to gold.
The compulsory dance portion of the event doesn’t show much of the evolution of style in Ice Dance, because these are dances that are pretty much carbon copies of one another and style points are what sets you apart from just average following of a set pattern of steps. This is why the Russians consistently finish at the top in this phase of the competition. It hasn’t been a game changer for them.
However the Original Dance and Free Dance play to the strengths of the “North American” style of skating and less to the “Ballet” style of Russian skating. Some criticize this shift in preference as being biased to advance North American skating federations, but overall it demands that a skater know how to SKATE and not just perform ballet on ice.
Take for example the top 4 teams from last night. The Russian team of Dobnina and Shabalin were in 1st place after the compulsory dance. But with the technically demanding requirements of the OD the gimmicks and style didn’t do enough to keep them in the top spot. Their Aboriginal Folk Dance left the audience feeling awkward and relied to heavily on schtik and theme, rather than precise technical elements. With the performances of Davis and White, and Virtue and Moir, then Belbin and Agosto, the technical prowess was absolutely evident, even to the untrained eye.
Tonight’s Free Dance will definitely be a very hard fought contest. All six team in medal contention are impeccable and it’s anyone’s event to skate, and anyone’s medal to give away. Traditionally strong in the free dance, Davis and White could very well move into the Gold. Virtue and Moir have skated a very strong Free Dance all year, but some of their technical elements are a bit weaker than Davis and White. Belbin and Agosto’s religious themed Free Dance has been panned by judges and fans all season. The same issue they had last night with their Moldavian Folk Dance. Their concepts are a bit far reaching this season and leaving some scratching their heads, a little lost as to what they’re trying to interpret on the ice.
Domnina and Shabalin also are struggling with technical merit in the Free Dance as well. Now with a weaker Original Dance, they have even more ground to cover and will need to rely on a mistake from the top two teams and a lukewarm performance from Belbin and Agosto to maintain a Bronze medal.
History could be made again tonight in the Free Dance. What do you think of the competition?