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The Art of Evgeni Plushenko

Oct 22 '13
"

- When did you start working with a skater, you can determine how wide the range of his artistic, choreographic possibilities?

- In figure skating, the good news is that you can create a choreography that will hide any flaws. If an athlete is inexpressive, we can compensate for plastics, and to focus on it. Put the motion that will express their individuality that is necessary to convey to the viewer.

Suppose take Plushenko. His charisma is so powerful that no matter what image of Jack chose, “he includes himself,” his inner strength and inner euphoria begins. It’s so captivates the audience, they forget that even a given image, which invested director. To them it does not matter. With Eugene in this sense simply to work…

"

(mildly edited google translate)

This is from a recent interview (Sept. 2013) with Yuri Smekalov, award-winning ballet dancer and choreographer, about his work as a figure skating choreographer. As a Plushenko fan, obviously I am super gratified that an artist of Yuri’s calibre spoke so highly of Evgeni, in particular of his often-mentioned charisma. Maybe I am reading between the lines, but I think there is also an interesting point here regarding the relationship between the skater and the choreography, especially as it applies to Plushenko. To me, that point has to do with the ultimate source of artistic content in a figure skating performance.

Here is an excerpt from the ISU’s outline of its judging system (link). In the section on PCS, the Perfomance/Execution and the Interpretation components, which are often seen as the “artistic” measurement of a performance, Performance/Execution is defined as

the physical and emotional involvement of the skater/couple as they translate the intent of the music and choreography

The Interpretation component is defined as

the translation of the music to movement on ice

These are not necessarily bad definitions. In particular, I am glad to see that they acknowledges intent, i. e. artistic content, in the sense of meanings/emotions/new ways of seeing the world can be evoked in the viewer. However, I’ve always felt that there is a serious limitation to these definitions, in that it appears to presuppose that such “intent” comes from the music and the choreography, and that the role of the skater is as a translator, whose job is to express these intents that come from outside of him or herself. While this is, of course, one way a skating program/performance can achieve artistic force, I feel that this assumption define the relationship between the skater and the program (i. e. music and choreography) in a restricted way: to be “artistic” is, in very large part, about performing the music well. Now I am by no means whatsoever an expert on the modern theory of art, but based on what little knowledge I have gleaned… Well, I’ll go ahead and say it, just as my own opinion: I must suspect that the view of art revealed in these definitions is also not quite the most informed one.


When it comes to Plushenko, I feel that these definitions are in general not really well-suited, let’s say not toward judging, but let’s say seeing his skating. Many fans, upon seeing him skate, speak of aura, charisma, presence. These words of Yuri’s point to this direction as well. I don’t quite think that it is literally true that the specific image “does not matter”—after all, if it really didn’t, Evgeni and his team would not be nearly as incredibly picky about programs, or about “feeling every move”, as they are. But I think what is being suggested is that when Plushenko skates, the ultimate source of artistic content is him, and the music, the image and the choreography need to play more the roles of vehicles that give form to whatever it is that comes from within him. Of course, in terms of competition needs, the program has its own constraints and things that it must do, but artistically speaking, between the skater and the program, in his case it is the skater that takes the lead, and that is, I think, a fundamentally different kind of relationship from some of the assumptions that seem to be underlying the ISU’s definitions.

A side note: in terms of “charisma” vs. “content”. It seems to me that people often often an opposition between them. But I think in many situations, this is a false dichotomy. It is possible that charisma is content, in that it can be the most direct and intangible expression of the inner life of the artist, and his or her emotional connection with forces that cannot be described otherwise. In the best sense of the word, charisma is soul, and what can be more significant content than that?

(Source: fsrussia.ru)

Sep 17 '13

Je Suis Malade, yet again: the metaphor of romantic love

For a long time, I’ve always thought of Je Suis Malade to be one of the most personal among Plushenko’s programs. I’ve seen fans say how immediately it seemed to express so clearly and strongly what he was feeling at that moment, the first time he skated it in Vancouver. It expressed pain, betrayal, determination, love. It very much expressed Plushenko himself, and in a very immediate way. After Vancouver, he skated for two years at a number of shows, and so far, the last time he skated it was at the 2012 European Championship gala, after he won that competition. To me, it appeared that the feeling of each performance of this particular program was subtly different, depending on his mental state at the time, especially when one looks at the two competition gala performances that bookended those two years. (I went on about this at length in a previous post about this program, in particular in terms of how the sense of pain and betrayal at Vancouver were transformed in Sheffield). I’ve been thinking of this program as a “direct” one, in the sense of this immediacy to its emotional impact. It said what was inside of him, and it said so bluntly, without devices. It never occurred to me to think that he was “playing a role” while skating this program. 

But recently, I’ve been thinking about this program a little more. I remembered another fan’s words about the program as Evgeni skated it: “it shows a man in the throes of a great tragic love” (rough paraphrase). This is a description that matches my own feelings , and to me, it seems apt, too, if one applies it to the song itself. But I realized that there is still a small, but important difference, and that realization made me see the program yet a little differently. While I still see it as an immediate and extremely personal, I am no longer so certain about characterizing the program as 100% “direct” and “blunt”. In my personal interpretation, that difference is in the object of that love. 

After all, the song is older than Plushenko himself. Long before he first skated it, it had been sung by many different singers, had its own wide following and fame. And it is a love song, in the sense of romantic, sexual love. The lyrics are well-know enough so I won’t copy them out in their entirety. There is “I”, and there is “you”, in them. The “I”, the speaker, is desperate: “I am dirty without you/I am ugly without you”. He feels betrayed: “you come, one never knows when/you leave again, one never knows where”. He makes clear that this is a sexual love: “my bed turns into a platform/when you go away”. Listening to the song itself, it’s frankly rather hard to interpret the “you” as anything other than a human lover.

But the way Plushenko skated to this music, to this lyric—who was his “you”? Who was the beloved of his great tragic love? 

Somehow, I have a great amount of difficulty imagining the “you” here as any human being. (And as far as I can recall, at least in my limited experience, I’ve never seen another fan interpret it as a human being.) In fact, and this is very much reinforced by the contexts of the occasions when he skated them (again, especially the first and last times), and by what I know about Plushenko as a person, but I have a great amount of difficulty imagining it as anything other than the sport of figure skating—the ice—itself. 

I realized that this is a point I took for granted. I didn’t notice before that perhaps he was using an expression of romantic love of one person for another—namely, the song itself—as a metaphor for a different kind of love. Maybe it is because that second kind of love—his love for the ice—is so obviously clear and came through so overwhelmingly to me in this program, that I did not notice the device that, technically speak, was still there. Maybe a part of it could even be my own cultural background. In classical Chinese literature, there was an important and very well-understood tradition where (male) literati authors use the language of sexual and romantic love to “speak of one’s aspirations”, meaning political and spiritual aspirations. To use a perhaps not very apt analogy (given the wide cultural gap), this is, in some ways, what the romantic/sexual element in the song Je Suis Malade, when it becomes a component of this program of the same name, reminds me of. The metaphor is not at the center of attention, but it is there, and it is something that, to whatever extent, mediates between him and the audience. 

(The reason I’m thinking about this now is in relation with what has been said about Plushenko’s two competitive programs for the upcoming season, which will be his last. Of course, with Evgeni, one can never be completely certain of what he will skate until the moment when the competition actually happens. But working from what we know so far, to me personally, I actually wonder if this small thought might be relevant to both the announced SP, Taka Jak Ty, and the announced “Best of Plushenko” LP. I’ve talked about the LP a little in my previous post, suggesting the possibility that it will precisely lack such a metaphor. As for the SP, Taka Jak Ty in fact translates to “A Girl Like You”, but from some of the things Evgeni and Maxim Staviski have said, I am starting to get the feeling that it won’t really be about any actual “girl”, either…But these are only speculations obviously.)

Aug 31 '13

The new LP in concept: a hypothetical exercise

I’ve been seeing a lot of skepticism (and from some, derision) in various places about Evgeni Plushenko’s statement that his new free skate program will be a “medley” of his previous competitive programs. I confess that I myself was also quite skeptical when I first heard the news earlier, yet now, looking at what Plushenko said in his most recent interview, I find myself growing more and more positive in some ways, at least just about the concept itself. I’ve been thinking out aloud to myself a bit about that concept in the last few days, and I wanted to maybe throw together a few of those thoughts here. 

I think the concept of this program has the theoretical possibility to be truly amazing. I also cannot imagine how on earth they could possibly pull it off. I think it is probably by far the riskiest idea, artistically speaking, he and his team has ever attempted. 

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Apr 27 '13
""Charismatic" is a subcategory of the sublime."

C. Stephen Jaeger, Enchantment: On Charismatic and the Sublime in the Arts of the West. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. p. 3

The sublime, in aesthetics, is roughly speaking a sense of power, vastness and/or grandeur that awes and overwhelms. Although there are many variations in its definition, it is generally seen as a distinct concept from “beauty”, or at least the more “traditional”, pre-modern definition of beauty, which tends to be used as something more directly pleasing to the senses, associated with words like “grace”, “prettiness”, “charm”, etc. (For the 18th Century British philosopher Edmund Burke, often quoted in such discussions, “beauty” is associated with qualities such as smoothness, balance, delicacy, relative smallness.) In contrast, the sublime is usually characterized by a component of “negative” reaction in the audience—discomfort, fear, shock, bafflement, which may be momentary, perhaps only for a fraction of a second. It does not allow the audience to merely sit back, relax and enjoy, but pulls one out of one’s comfort zone, hints at forces that are overwhelming, perhaps incomprehensible, perhaps infinite. In the words of the British literary critic A. C. Bradley, the sublime, in art and nature, “forces its way into the imagination and emotions”, and “imposes on us an unconditional demand”. 

Yes, it’s a big, high-and-mighty concept in and of itself, but I began to learn of it through my attempts at understanding Plushenko’s presence and performances on ice, and to me, finding this concept was somewhat like a light switching on before my eyes. I do think there are times when he has come to, or approached the sublime on ice. Or to put it more generally, I’ve started to believe that it is often a concept that is highly useful, perhaps sometimes necessary in order to fully appreciate his skating artistically. 

Another thing: in the views of some, the movement of Romanticism can in large part be characterized as a shift away from the pursuit of “beauty” (in the sense above, for instance of Burke) toward the pursuit of the sublime, a trend that has been called the beginning of modernity in art. I haven’t thought much about it yet, but I want to mention this idea since I’m starting to get the preliminary notion that to many figure skating fans and experts currently, what constitutes artistry in skating may be strongly correlated to the qualities that Burke listed as components of beauty. However, if this is the case, then I must say that such a definition of what is “artistic” in skating appears to me to be highly inadequate. We are in the 21st Century after all, and that the general definition of art and beauty has expanded far beyond Burke’s. In particular, given that one of my other current pet theories is that there is often a strong Romantic component to Plushenko’s art, and at times a modernist one, I suspect that such a definition of artistry in skating is especially inadequate when applied to him.

Sorry, this is still all extremely general and somewhat vague…There are some specific examples I’ve been thinking about, but I’ll have to work on them individually…(and do more research) 

Mar 27 '13

Two years of Je Suis Malade

Vancouver Olympics Gala, February 2010

KOI in Russia, late March, 2010

The Ice, Japan, July 2010

Golden Skate Awards, Italy, October 2010

Russian national team test skate, September 2011

European Championships Gala, Sheffield, January 2012

Plushenko skated Je Suis Malade in post-competition galas exactly twice—at Vancouver for the first time, and at Sheffield for the last time (so far), nearly two years later. In between, he skated it at a number of shows.

I remember being somewhat surprised when I first heard that he did this program for the gala after winning the 2012 European Championships. It seemed a strange choice for such a joyous and triumphant occasion. But after watching his performance, this choice began to make a kind of sense. To me, it was not a performance in isolation, but the culmination of a series. To my mind, its voice and its emotions are brought more into focus when one considers it in context of all the other performances of this program that came before it, beginning with and especially Vancouver, and all that happened in between. (If you have the chance, watch these two galas together: I’ve always found the feelings quite different, but they complement each other.) In a way, maybe it was even the perfect choice of exhibition for this triumph. Perhaps one could push it even further (okay, maybe a little too far but anyway), and suggest that in some strange sense, these two galas, Vancouver and Sheffield, can be seen as two parts of one performance—just one that took nearly two years to complete. 

(Maybe I am making things up again (as usual), but more generally, in my eyes Plushenko’s performances of Je Suis Malade always seem to somehow reflect his conditions and moods at that particular time, perhaps more so than other programs which he skated over extended periods.)

A small detail: at Sheffield, he skated it wearing not its usual red-on-black costume, but the blue costume for Storm. Another curious choice: how does this costume have anything to do with what Je Suis Malade was about, after all? But again, somehow the idea begins to make every kind sense when one sees it together with what came before. The two costumes actually have a lot in common—a fairly simple, close-fitting, high-collared top, black pants, the main design element starting at one shoulder, cutting diagonally across the torso and extending past the belt and down the side of the opposite pant leg. In the JSM costume, the slash starts from his right shoulder and go towards the left, the opposite is the case with the Storm costume. But the biggest differences, of course, are with the colors. I remember one fan once calling the red-on-black costume “a slash of blood”, as if he’d cut open his own chest. And the background: black, unrelieved night. If this were lightning, I would have called it T. S. Eliot’s “dry sterile thunder without rain”. One is searching, but hope is not seen. But the Storm costume, with its nearly identical basic form, turns all this around: the lightning (and storm clouds) are strongly contrasted, living dark and bright, and the background is a rich saturated blue-purple, living, optimistic, scattered with crystal lights (stars? water?). I’ve always imagined it as a night also, but a night whose air you would love to breathe, a night when the storm had just passed (and it is the very storm that cleansed the air). It was as if after ages of night and drought, the rain finally came, the stars finally came out. So again strangely enough, this costume was also perfect for Je Suis Malade, I think more so than his usual costume for it would have been—but exactly and only for this occasion.

Mar 11 '13

A few more (not very coherent) personal thoughts on Tango Amore

In a previous post, I was going on about Tango Amore. I felt that though its seductiveness, its passion and its I-want-you-to-love-me was loud and clear and in-the-face to me, for the longest time I wasn’t certain about whether (or how) it said “I love you”. I came to the conclusion that it was because I wasn’t certain about the amount of vulnerability he revealed or did not reveal in that program. 

But I thought about it a little more, and now I feel I was guilty of trying to interpret Plushenko according to my own ways of thinking. 

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Feb 28 '13
Plushenko has said more than once that Tango Amore was about “passion and love”. For the longest time, I felt that there was something about those words that I did not quite understand.
It’s not something I could easily formulate. The passion, the seductiveness, the sexual energy—all these things I could see from this program in plenty. They practically hit me in the face. And love? The next sentence is only about my own inexpert (and as I’m starting to feel now, probably careless) personal impressions, but for a long time, I felt this program said, loud and clear and all the way through, I want you to fall in love with me. And the “fall” here would be in the same sense as “a citadel falls”, “a city falls”. There seems to me to be a sharpness and maybe almost aggression to its seduction, in the music and the choreography, and in his entire being or “aura” (as is perhaps befitting of a tango). I have seen fans who did fall in love with him through this program use the phrase “shot through the heart” more than once. Perhaps there is something to the choice of phrase. 
But did it say, I love you? 
I confess I went back and forth a lot on that one. In my own imagination, the persona he portrayed in this program is the type that….would not quite answer that question straight out. 
Just now something occurred to me, though: probably a part of this is cultural, and of course everyone is different, but some of it may be because to me, saying I love you to someone is, in a way, revealing one’s self and one’s vulnerability to that person. To love is to open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt. And what I really wasn’t sure about this program was how much vulnerability he actually revealed in it. 
And I was tempted to say: on the surface, very little. 
(Remember at Vancouver, the North American commentators talking about Plushenko being “so confident it’s borderline arrogant”? It was a comment that I did not like because I thought it made no sense, but now I am wondering if the artistic choices of this particular program had something to do with this strange impression. And if they did not somehow miss the point in some more subtle way. After all, Plushenko is always confident on ice, yet something about the overwhelming confidence of this program seemed…different, to the point where one wonders if maybe it actually was something else.) 
I think many people would probably say that there is something a little unsettling (perhaps one could go as far as saying a little “inhuman”) about someone who really has no or very little emotional vulnerabilities, someone who seemingly could hurt you by making you fall in love with him, yet who could not be hurt himself by the same. To me—again it’s just my own impressions—it is somewhat plausible that what he portrays on the ice in this program could be imagined to be such a person. 
Except there is one problem: from what I know of Plushenko, that is not him. 
Another wild thought: there is a huge difference between “not having vulnerabilities” and “refusing to show any”. Maybe that difference is what I’m very vaguely trying to get at when it comes to this program. Maybe that difference is where the “love” he talked about lies. 
Sorry, this is not all that coherent…I really need to watch the program much more carefully, and think about this some more. I will probably change my interpretation a couple more times later on. (Which is not to say what I just wrote was an “interpretation”…)  

Plushenko has said more than once that Tango Amore was about “passion and love”. For the longest time, I felt that there was something about those words that I did not quite understand.

It’s not something I could easily formulate. The passion, the seductiveness, the sexual energy—all these things I could see from this program in plenty. They practically hit me in the face. And love? The next sentence is only about my own inexpert (and as I’m starting to feel now, probably careless) personal impressions, but for a long time, I felt this program said, loud and clear and all the way through, I want you to fall in love with me. And the “fall” here would be in the same sense as “a citadel falls”, “a city falls”. There seems to me to be a sharpness and maybe almost aggression to its seduction, in the music and the choreography, and in his entire being or “aura” (as is perhaps befitting of a tango). I have seen fans who did fall in love with him through this program use the phrase “shot through the heart” more than once. Perhaps there is something to the choice of phrase. 

But did it say, I love you

I confess I went back and forth a lot on that one. In my own imagination, the persona he portrayed in this program is the type that….would not quite answer that question straight out. 

Just now something occurred to me, though: probably a part of this is cultural, and of course everyone is different, but some of it may be because to me, saying I love you to someone is, in a way, revealing one’s self and one’s vulnerability to that person. To love is to open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt. And what I really wasn’t sure about this program was how much vulnerability he actually revealed in it. 

And I was tempted to say: on the surface, very little. 

(Remember at Vancouver, the North American commentators talking about Plushenko being “so confident it’s borderline arrogant”? It was a comment that I did not like because I thought it made no sense, but now I am wondering if the artistic choices of this particular program had something to do with this strange impression. And if they did not somehow miss the point in some more subtle way. After all, Plushenko is always confident on ice, yet something about the overwhelming confidence of this program seemed…different, to the point where one wonders if maybe it actually was something else.) 

I think many people would probably say that there is something a little unsettling (perhaps one could go as far as saying a little “inhuman”) about someone who really has no or very little emotional vulnerabilities, someone who seemingly could hurt you by making you fall in love with him, yet who could not be hurt himself by the same. To me—again it’s just my own impressions—it is somewhat plausible that what he portrays on the ice in this program could be imagined to be such a person. 

Except there is one problem: from what I know of Plushenko, that is not him. 

Another wild thought: there is a huge difference between “not having vulnerabilities” and “refusing to show any”. Maybe that difference is what I’m very vaguely trying to get at when it comes to this program. Maybe that difference is where the “love” he talked about lies. 

Sorry, this is not all that coherent…I really need to watch the program much more carefully, and think about this some more. I will probably change my interpretation a couple more times later on. (Which is not to say what I just wrote was an “interpretation”…)  

Feb 23 '13
"Danse Macabre" in Best of Saint-Saens, from the Russian national team test skate, September 2012
I confess that in my own mind, I actually wanted to do a “spiritual transformation”/”life-death-resurrection” interpretation of this program, but back then, I also wanted to wait until the end of the season. The program was in its very early stages; it was evolving continuously all through the end of last year, but as it turned out, alas, some works are destined to remain unfinished, perhaps. 
Anyways, I had wanted to imagine, in the different parts of the program, different stages of the soul’s progress. Much of this was inspired by the words of other fans at the time. In particular, several of them mentioned birds other than the swan—such as the eagle and the phoenix—in connection with this program, especially the last part of this program, the Danse Macabre. I briefly looked up some of the symbolism of these birds, and with even a very quick basic glance, what jumped out immediately at me was that these birds (including of course also the swan) are all associated with the idea of transformation, including transformation through death. (E. g. a main theme in Swan Lake, especially in some versions of its ending.)  
In particular, there was a tradition of bird symbolism in alchemy (which has been interpreted in psychological and spiritual terms, for instance by C. G. Jung), where images of different birds suggest different stages/aspects of the alchemical process. There are many different versions, but one article I found interesting was this one. The author mentions, in rough order, the stages of the raven/crow (death/darkening/decay), the white swan or eagle (the first glimmer of dawn/hope/illumination), the peacock (vision/wisdom/beauty), the pelican (sacrifice/struggle), and finally, the phoenix rising in illumination.
Obviously, I’m not actually trying to make this program fit into some allegorical form. It doesn’t fit that way. But still, it was fun for me to go a little off-the-deep-end with the associations, and it was interesting for me to see the following image of the phoenix rising from the flames, from the webpage above, because yes, according to my way overactive imagination, it somehow reminded me of the original ending pose of the program:

Okay, now that I’ve already shown myself to be a crazy person, let me just go a little further with the craziness. This one particular “stabbing” moment toward the end of the program? 
In my wildest free association, this moment is the pelican.

"Danse Macabre" in Best of Saint-Saens, from the Russian national team test skate, September 2012

I confess that in my own mind, I actually wanted to do a “spiritual transformation”/”life-death-resurrection” interpretation of this program, but back then, I also wanted to wait until the end of the season. The program was in its very early stages; it was evolving continuously all through the end of last year, but as it turned out, alas, some works are destined to remain unfinished, perhaps. 

Anyways, I had wanted to imagine, in the different parts of the program, different stages of the soul’s progress. Much of this was inspired by the words of other fans at the time. In particular, several of them mentioned birds other than the swan—such as the eagle and the phoenix—in connection with this program, especially the last part of this program, the Danse Macabre. I briefly looked up some of the symbolism of these birds, and with even a very quick basic glance, what jumped out immediately at me was that these birds (including of course also the swan) are all associated with the idea of transformation, including transformation through death. (E. g. a main theme in Swan Lake, especially in some versions of its ending.)  

In particular, there was a tradition of bird symbolism in alchemy (which has been interpreted in psychological and spiritual terms, for instance by C. G. Jung), where images of different birds suggest different stages/aspects of the alchemical process. There are many different versions, but one article I found interesting was this one. The author mentions, in rough order, the stages of the raven/crow (death/darkening/decay), the white swan or eagle (the first glimmer of dawn/hope/illumination), the peacock (vision/wisdom/beauty), the pelican (sacrifice/struggle), and finally, the phoenix rising in illumination.

Obviously, I’m not actually trying to make this program fit into some allegorical form. It doesn’t fit that way. But still, it was fun for me to go a little off-the-deep-end with the associations, and it was interesting for me to see the following image of the phoenix rising from the flames, from the webpage above, because yes, according to my way overactive imagination, it somehow reminded me of the original ending pose of the program:

Okay, now that I’ve already shown myself to be a crazy person, let me just go a little further with the craziness. This one particular “stabbing” moment toward the end of the program? 

In my wildest free association, this moment is the pelican.

(Source: fotki.yandex.ru)

Feb 4 '13

the (usual) definition of “charisma”

"Charisma" and "charismatic" are among the words I see most frequently when it comes to descriptions of Evgeni Plushenko’s skating. Not only from fans; I’ve seen even his critics say (some times in a rather grudging tone) "yes, he’s got charisma". So what does it mean? 1. in the context of figure skating as a performance art; 2. more specifically, in the context of Evgeni Plushenko? I don’t know if these questions even have answers—many have expressed the idea that there’s something different and special about Plushenko’s skating, but it seems hard to pin down. But if these questions can be at least explored to some extent, then one can also ask: where does it come from? 

Anyways, here’s the standard definition, from the sociologist Max Weber.

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Jan 28 '13
Putting this old post here, also for reference…
whitebamboo

There was once a dancer, a great star. This dancer was thin, pale, golden-haired, possessing great skill, astonishing suppleness, a painful childhood, a proud soul, an apparently completely inborn sense of rhythm, and an unique aura that was impossible to describe. There was solitude in this dancer’s provocation, melancholy in this dancer’s seductiveness, and a strange elegance in even the most commonplace moves. This dancer has been called “modernity itself” by admirers, yet others have considered this dancer’s style convulsive and inexplicable, almost akin to “flailing”. This dancer has been described by contemporaries by the following words: genius, adorable, spiritual, vain, mad, extravagant, perverse, wicked….
This dancer’s name was Jane Avril. She was a cancan dancer at the Moulin Rouge, Toulouse-Lautrec’s muse, the original for Nicole Kidman’s character in the movie of the same name, and a remarkable artist. 
I first learned of her because of Evgeni Plushenko’s Tango Roxanne LP from the 2011/12 season, and I keep on seeing something of her whenever I watch this program now. 

This was actually (approximately) the start of an incredibly crazy essay in Chinese I wrote last summer about Plushenko’s 11/12 season LP, Tango Roxanne. I had the thought that although it was called a tango, the program did not appear so sharply “tango-ish”, especially when compared with Tango Amore. Rather, to my imagination, it had more of a late 19th Century, “belle epoque” feel, more closely connected to what one might think of the historical Moulin Rouge in the 1890s. 
So I looked very cursorily around the web, and it led me to this site about the dancer, Jane Avril. Reading some of the description of her dancing (by contemporary poets and artists) rather shocked me, because in many of those comments, I thought I saw an eerie connection to the “aura” of Plushenko’s skating. Not an exact fit, of course: they were over 100 years apart, of different genders, nationalities, positions, and in completely different social environments. Yet somehow, those mere descriptions of her motions…There was something about them.
So my imagination got overactive. Just as one of his most famous programs was “Tribute to Vaslav Nijinsky”, could this program, in some sense, perhaps be seen as “Tribute to Jane Avril”? (Which, of course, does not mean that it would have been intended that way.) 

Putting this old post here, also for reference…

whitebamboo

There was once a dancer, a great star. This dancer was thin, pale, golden-haired, possessing great skill, astonishing suppleness, a painful childhood, a proud soul, an apparently completely inborn sense of rhythm, and an unique aura that was impossible to describe. There was solitude in this dancer’s provocation, melancholy in this dancer’s seductiveness, and a strange elegance in even the most commonplace moves. This dancer has been called “modernity itself” by admirers, yet others have considered this dancer’s style convulsive and inexplicable, almost akin to “flailing”. This dancer has been described by contemporaries by the following words: genius, adorable, spiritual, vain, mad, extravagant, perverse, wicked….

This dancer’s name was Jane Avril. She was a cancan dancer at the Moulin Rouge, Toulouse-Lautrec’s muse, the original for Nicole Kidman’s character in the movie of the same name, and a remarkable artist. 

I first learned of her because of Evgeni Plushenko’s Tango Roxanne LP from the 2011/12 season, and I keep on seeing something of her whenever I watch this program now. 

This was actually (approximately) the start of an incredibly crazy essay in Chinese I wrote last summer about Plushenko’s 11/12 season LP, Tango Roxanne. I had the thought that although it was called a tango, the program did not appear so sharply “tango-ish”, especially when compared with Tango Amore. Rather, to my imagination, it had more of a late 19th Century, “belle epoque” feel, more closely connected to what one might think of the historical Moulin Rouge in the 1890s. 

So I looked very cursorily around the web, and it led me to this site about the dancer, Jane Avril. Reading some of the description of her dancing (by contemporary poets and artists) rather shocked me, because in many of those comments, I thought I saw an eerie connection to the “aura” of Plushenko’s skating. Not an exact fit, of course: they were over 100 years apart, of different genders, nationalities, positions, and in completely different social environments. Yet somehow, those mere descriptions of her motions…There was something about them.

So my imagination got overactive. Just as one of his most famous programs was “Tribute to Vaslav Nijinsky”, could this program, in some sense, perhaps be seen as “Tribute to Jane Avril”? (Which, of course, does not mean that it would have been intended that way.)