This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

- veneer

How important is style really, compared to say landing your jumps? Isn't style just a fancied up veneer? Well yes and no; it depends quite a bit upon who you ask. If you invite a random person off the street into the rink to watch you skate a competition, what do you think they see?

A whir of artists, marks on the ice, costumes flitting sparkly, twirling arms, legs, pose, posture, and grace. Primarily the impression they are left with is, yes, your style.

A novice viewer doesn't much know the difference between a double and a triple, a Lutz or an Axel. Surely the other moves look interesting and distinct, but what gets transmitted and absorbed first and foremost is style. Style is the outer shell, the book cover, the inside flaps and backside testimonial that the audience scans first. For novice viewers this is all that they read.

Sure they can see if you long or short or two foot a jump, but they view this through the lens of whether you are smooth or awkward or confident or upset with your performance. So although Style may be the last thing you work on (occasionally in your freestyle) it is the first thing most non-involved audience members register.

I am curious if this perceptual difference is essentially at the heart of the present controversies over scoring. Sometimes framed as whether IJS scoring makes the sport worse by encouraging non-stylish jumpers, the issue may actually be how the ISU selected an audience: they have chosen to focus on pleasing the cognoscenti -- those inside the sport -- rather than the random non-involved viewers off the street. They have stripped off the veneer.

1 comment:

  1. This is why I miss figures. Figures used to be the part of the competition that was for the insider. Free skate was inventive and personal and an audience pleaser. I know the arguments against figures, but since they were eliminated in 90 and IJS instituted, figure skating has become a marginalized sport. As a friend of mine said, "It's now all skateskatejump." The one thing you can say about skaters in the figures days, they had style in spades.