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The Art of Evgeni Plushenko

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.

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