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Music Choices (9/14/13)

BY CHARLIE WHITE


Meryl and me with Marina
(L-R): Me, Meryl, Dancing with the Stars pro dancer Derek Hough
and "the moms"!
Meryl and me with dancer Alex Wong
Meryl and Derek Hough in the dance studio

One of the things that makes figure skating so great, and what Meryl and I come back to time and time again as one of the reasons we love what we do, is the way powerful athleticism is blended together with an artistic representation of the music. This combination sets our sport apart from all others and is central in making figure skating such a premiere attraction at the Olympic Winter Games. Some skaters will often times focus on one side or the other, but the best of the best are able to make the two sides work together in harmony.

Beyond talent levels and dedication, one of the key factors in having a program worth remembering is the musical choice. And what makes not just a successful music choice — but the best possible music choice — is perhaps one of the most individualized aspects of skating. There are many pieces of music that can work for many different skaters at any level, but there are only a few per person or team that can really help pull the best of everything they have.

Meryl and I have been through the ups and downs, and rounds and rounds of musical selection throughout our career. After 16 years of constantly searching for music, I wish we could say we’ve found the secret, but the truth is there is no secret. A lot of people say you have to love what you skate to, some people say you should leave it all in the hands of your coaches, some people say it’s good to skate to music you don’t feel comfortable to so you can grow as a performer, and some people say you should stick to what you’re best at. But again, the approach that works for some people won’t work for others in the same way some music will only work for some people.

There have been years in the past where neither of us liked what we were skating to, but had faith that our coaches were steering us in the right direction. These pieces we learned to love and appreciate, and I think these experiences had a tremendously positive effect on our career. Sometimes we’d all sit down together to listen for ideas and hear a piece that everyone would instantly fall in love with… only to find after starting our choreography that it just wasn’t going anywhere. These experiences taught us about our strengths and weaknesses, as well as the nature of our skating.

However, this year… this year, honestly, I think we got it right from the get-go. Both of our music choices were thoroughly thought out and vetted; both have characters we love to represent, beats we can dance to, and unforgettable melodies. I’m not sure if my blog audience has read my other blogs, but if you have, you can tell how excited I am about our musical choices this year simply by the gusto with which I’m writing this entry.

For the short dance, skating to “My Fair Lady” was totally Marina’s idea. Meryl and I had been listening to more of the typical foxtrot and quickstep selections and hadn’t been able to get a real good idea of what we were looking for. But (as usual) thank goodness for Marina’s insight. The music has a great foxtrot and quickstep feel, without feeling too “strictly ballroom”; it also matches perfectly with the feelings inspired by the pattern dance this year, the Finn Step. The music is well known, and so are the characters, but at the end of the day it’s impossible to get the tune “I Could Have Danced All Night” out of your head, and I think for all the right reasons. It’s certainly a sweeping piece that allows us to attack the program with full speed.

Our free dance choice, “Scheherazade,” is a piece of music Meryl and I have been inspired by since I imagine the first time either of us heard it, and something to which we have longed to skate. But it was also a piece that felt like we needed to keep for the right moment. Last year, in a moment of weakness, Meryl and I started to think maybe we should just use “Scheherazade” right away. But thankfully Marina was there to settle us down and explain how it was the perfect piece for our Olympic season (as well as coming through with the idea to skate to “Notre Dame de Paris”). So approximately two days after this last world championships we were back on the ice brainstorming with Marina the four minutes that would work best, as well as what direction to go in choreographically.

As far as the free dance is concerned, I won’t give any more away, except that Meryl and I have never been more pleased with the potential of a program. I guess you’ll just have to watch!