Figure Skating Music, “Carmen” > “Kanye’s in Paris”

August 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

A friend on facebook noted that during the 2012 Summer Olympics, it was weird how music was being played during the floor exercise and beam events in women’s gymnastics. Out of all nits to pick, this is crazy, so it might be helpful for some context, maybe. Why would it be necessary to play music when it’s silent during men’s events? Big news syndicates or by any influential person on Twitter did not seem to pick up on this topic, preferring to talk more about cheap shots to Carmelo Anthony’s groin, Hope Solo’s disdain of Brandi Chastain and Bob Costas.

Music in figure skating, on the other hand is instrumental to a skater’s competitive performance. Its tempo and dynamics fit the skater in terms of their musical tastes and their skating personality. There are skaters who display a graceful elegance or a powerful, technical edge when they are on the ice. Unless you’re Brian Boitano, then you can have both.

But why do you hear Carmen, Rachmaninoff, Fiddler on the Roof, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony rather than Phil Tong’s cleaned up version of Cazzette’s “Kanye’s in Paris” remix, a Skrillex instrumental or Monday Night Football?

1. Because classical music is tight, yo.

You’re right, Kanye. French fries are the devil. But all joking aside, here are my speculative reasons why figure skating music is… what it is.

1. Rules on lyrics or no lyrics

That’s a stupid distinction that seems obvious but there’s little literature beyond what is and what is not allowed by the USFSA rules and the judges that enforce them.

Under Technical Requirements for Singles on page 188 in the 2012-13 edition USFSA rulebook states:

For skaters at the levels preliminary on up to intermediate, they can do whatever they want with the music as long as they follow the time limits according to their levels. They’re feeling Monday Night Football on Super Bowl Sunday? Rock on. They’re feeling dubstep? As long as you don’t slump your shoulders or drop the quality of your performance, drop the base and the smackdown on the competition.

For high levels of competition and in competitions such as Four Continents, World Championships, Nationals and the Olympics, Rule 4040A does not allow skaters qualifying for national competitions in novice and up to skate to songs with lyrics, unless they are skating the short program. It does not make the distinction of whether the judges penalize the skater for their music violation or disqualify them outright, but you figure that is all up to the judges. Besides, even if the skater is not disqualified, they would not want to start off their competition with a significant deduction in their points total. Those points matter when you are trying to hold off other competitors for that gold medal.

Archaelogist = rogue figure skater. Hank Hill = USFSA. USFSA ain’t having it.

I personally don’t see any reason why not to skate to music with lyrics, unless “It’s tradition and that’s the way we have always done it” is considered a reason.

2. Derogatory language in music

Skating is a family sport. Established skaters in their dresses and shirts littered with rhinestones are jumping, spinning and step sequencing role models to young children (Rule 4033 makes it illegal for male skaters to wear tights). While Carmen, Rachmaninoff and Beethoven are acceptable musical vehicles to great skating performances, it’s hard to convince the powerful members of USFSA that “Kanye’s in Paris,” even when censored for most of the derogatory language is appropriate for skating. It’s probably even harder to convince that a skater is taking the sport seriously, lacking the respect for what USFSA stands for. Not sure how they would even feel about the message “Somebody That I Used to Know” sends, even if the skater’s performance articulated damn well how their significant other treated them.

Oh dear.

3. A pattern of success has not been established with MNF or EDM

John Madden, Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster. Pat Summerall, Hall of Fame broadcaster. Skrillex, making hundreds of thousands of dollars for doing crazy things with music. They are successful people. However, Monday Night Football and a remix of Benny Benassi’s “Cinema” within the context of competitive figure skating means nothing. No one of particular significance has skated to either one of the tunes and made people go, “Holy crap, I didn’t realize you could actually skate to those songs.” But until that actually happens, you’re skating on thin ice with such unorthodox music.

And by thin ice, I mean (Lana. Lana. LANA. LANAAAAAAAA!) danger zone.

Unless you are a diehard figure skating fan, you would not have immediately noticed that Michelle Kwan’s short programs were choreographed to music composed by Rachmaninoff and Shchedrin. But because there have been examples of skaters having great performances to classical music and songs from musicals and movies, it’s the acceptable norm to choose to skate to songs that parents of figure skaters have heard over and over.

But who is to say that someone cannot have a great performance skating to a Kanye medley or a Swedish House Mafia instrumental? How dare I skate to heathen music and do ridiculous things at the ice rink?

Hold on, am I figure skating correctly?

I think change is possible. People can translate their love for football into a skating performance with “Monday Night Football” blaring from the loudspeakers. Just make sure your coach agrees with your musical selection.



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