By Jack Curtis

Supposing that the latest hot male danseur from the New York City Ballet skated against Frankenstein’s proverbially powerful monster, what would you  see?  

Let’s say that both performed about the same elements acceptably but the monster performed a triple/triple combination where the danseur had a triple/double, though the monster suffered a step-out following his second jump, perhaps from insufficient stitching attaching his foot.

Looking at the program components, the skating skills might be similar. Maybe both or neither will have choreographed transitions into their performances. Their respective choreographers may have given each of them suitable music for them to express, perhaps “Funeral March for a Marionette” for the monster and “Les Patineurs” for the danseur. Each may have performed with equal energy and interpreted their particular music equally appropriately.  

Under IJS today the monster will probably beat the danseur; is that what figure skating needs?

This reflects both the prominence of the technical score and the current tendency of judges to minimize the differences in their program component marks instead of recognizing them with substantial differences between say, skating skills versus choreography or performance. At the 2007 World Championships, among the top ten ladies, the judges’ program component marks separated the various components by an average of about half a point while separating the skaters by an average of over five points. That tendency is reinforced by the penalty that the ISU imposes at year end upon judges who have exceeded the accepted marking ranges of the panels with which they have served.

Crowning champions who have lurched with clumsy strength into success is a new direction for figure skating but the augmented effect of the technical points upon results can provide just that, quite a revolution in a sport originated by a ballet master intent on putting his art onto the ice.

Today, the structure of the scoring system rather than the opinions of the judges is supposed to determine the outcomes. This writer would like to see a technical equivalence or even a small technical difference between  a Barishnikov and the monster always clearly resolved in favor of the danseur by the scoring system. At present, that does not appear to be the way it works.

Gresham’s law in economics specifies that bad money drives out good. Unfortunately, the principle applies here as well: coaches will stop exerting the effort and time it takes to produce artists if the evidence in front of them makes it clear that a well-rehearsed monster will do.   

How will the remaining audience react to a new kind of champion? Hang around; we shall see.  

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