Karly: You're In The Loop - we're here to discuss the ups, downs and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you +5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this week's hosts. Hi, this is Karly. I’m currently spending the offseason waiting for program announcements, especially from the rhythm dance, because I love my musicals. You can find me on Twitter @cyberswansp.
Niamh: Hi, I’m Niamh and I’ve been enjoying my break from the competition stress by doing absolutely nothing. You can find me on Twitter @rivrdance.
Gina: Hi, this is Gina. You can find me on my Twitter @4Atwizzles.
Niamh: Let’s get into our news. So we have already started the season with a competition, which is terrifying. It’s Broadmoor Open, which is one of the qualifying competitions for US Nationals. So, for the Ladies we had Alysa Liu in first place, Young You in second place and Yi Christy Leung in third. And, for the Men we had Jimmy Ma in first, Ben Jolovick in second, and Emmanuel Savary in third.
Gina: We also had the Peggy Fleming Trophy, with Jason Brown in first place, Andrew Torgashev in second place, and Karen Chen in third place. Other competitors included Mariah Bell, Camden Pulkinen and Tomoki Hiwatashi.
Karly: We should probably mention that the Peggy Fleming Trophy is a very specially judged competition. Scores are going to be different, for example, Jason Brown won with a 120.4. Your artistic score is 60% of your score, which is different from how competitions are usually judged.
Niamh: We have also had some coaching changes and training base changes. We have Vincent Zhou will now be trained under Mie Hamada, and he will be splitting his time between her base in Japan, and his current coach Tammy Gambill. He will also be attending Brown University for the first semester, so he will also be splitting his time between his two bases, and Rhode Island. So, good luck to him.
Karly: Yeah, good luck to Nathan Chen, Karen Chen, Vincent Zhou. They’re all going to Ivies and [are] splitting their time, and I’m like “How do you do this?”
Niamh: (laughter) I can’t even get up in the morning.
Karly: Literally same.
Gina: Gabby Daleman will also be moving her training base to join her coach Lee Barkell at the Granite Club.
Karly: We wish people who are making coaching changes the best.
Karly: Alright, so, getting directly into the topic of today’s episode. We’re going to be talking about warhorses. I’m pretty sure if you’re in the figure skating fandom you know what a warhorse is, but just to give you a direct definition. So, directly from the Cambridge Dictionary, it is known as ‘a disapproving term for a piece of music, television show, play or other performed piece of work that has often been performed and is very famous.’ It was first attested in 1837 in the figurative sense, and is now commonly used in the arts, and a lot in figure skating. So, in figure skating, a lot of people just call warhorses overused pieces of music, but it’s really just music from ballet, musical theatre and popular movie soundtracks that are not only well known and well-used but are recognizable and they have stories built into them, and they have characters connected to them that skaters can reference and portray, whether it be in choreography, performance or just overall the packaging, including the costuming.
Gina: Let’s think about why warhorses are so common, so there are pros and cons to skating warhorses. It can be good for Juniors who are developing their performance and interpretation skills because it allows them to focus on their technical elements because they have those references they can think about from the origin of the music, if it’s something like a ballet or a musical theatre or movie piece. But, they can also reference previous performances from other skaters, which makes it a little bit easier for them. They can look back at popular performances of the same piece of music, get inspiration and also get the motivation to perform.
Niamh: And also, audiences can be very receptive to music that is easily recognizable - music they know and understand and have experience with, and that helps them get behind the skater. A crowd getting behind a skater has proven to be very motivational and very encouraging to the skaters so that also helps.
Gina: Judges can also respond quite favorably to certain types of music. It is worth remembering that the ISU was formed in 1892, and was predominantly European until about 191, so many of the conventions about the sport are rooted in that Eurocentric perspective. Judges might also like warhorses because it's easy to recognize what is a good or bad presentation of the music; if it’s something they’ve never heard before, and it’s the first time someone is skating to it, it could be an awful representation of that music and they don’t know because they don’t know what it’s from, what it’s referencing. But, if someone is coming out and skating Carmen, they’ve got 50 million Carmen’s they can compare it to.
Niamh: Often at the same competition. (Hosts laugh)
Gina: Which brings us onto the cons.
Karly: When we talk about the specific warhorses, we’ll talk about the certain presentations or portrayals that come with each of them, what you can usually expect from each certain warhorse because, let’s face it, they’ve kind of become repetitive a little bit.
Gina: Which is a con of skating to a warhorse, you know what to expect. If someone isn’t delivering your expectations very well, the audiences and judges, that favor towards the warhorse can turn around and be harsh critique instead, if the choreography and interpretation is weak.
Karly: And also, one of the cons of doing a warhorse is that programs can be perceived as being dull, predictable or forgettable. Like we said, predictable because a lot of people have portrayed the same characters, and dull because it’s exactly the opposite of taking a risk, and then forgettable because there’s, like we mentioned, 50 million Carmen’s. Because there’s so many of them, it is really easy for your program to not stand out, plus if you’re doing a piece of music that other people have done, there may be pressure to do something special with it, especially because maybe, with a lot of warhorses, something was done special with it a long time ago. An example of this would be that male skaters doing programs to La Strada such as Boyang Jin are often compared to Daisuke Takahashi’s La Strada.
Niamh: And, also with warhorses, it can be more pronounced in certain disciplines, such as Ice Dance, for the Rhythm and Compulsory Dance sections where audience members may end up wanting to rip their ears off if they hear the same Piazolla section for the 18th time. Another example of this was the “Despacito” we had during the Olympics.
Gina: Oh God.
Karly: I was watching the Ice Dance Short Dance with my sister and my sister loves Despacito so every time “Despacito” came on she got super hyped, and I was like “Oh my God, not Despacito again.”
Niamh: Oh no, my mum thought they had to do “Despacito,” like it was the compulsory song. (hosts laugh)
Karly: You’re all doing “Despacito.” Carmen who? I only know “Despacito,” the true warhorse. (laughter)
Karly: Moving on from the pros and cons, and the definition of a warhorse, we’re going to be talking about the history of the warhorses, and what's going to include things like what you can expect from them, and who to look to for iconic performances of them. So, it is only in modern figure skating that lyrics and spoken word has been permitted. In the past, music was completely restricted to instrumentals, with vocals permitted providing they contain no actual lyrics or recognizable words. It was with the 1997-98 season that lyrics were allowed for music used in Ice Dance programs, with the previous rules still applied to Singles and Pairs skaters, although violations were not always heavily penalized ie. Florent Amodio’s Free Skate at 2011 Worlds, which used lyrics but was not given a deduction due to lack of votes from the judges.
Niamh: I like to believe that it was Florent Amodio’s iconic skate that caused lyrics to be allowed.
Karly: You know what, I agree. Then in 2012, as an attempt to appeal to younger audiences, because you know, the ISU wants to appear hip and cool, and to make figure skating more modern, the ISU voted to allow all skaters to use music with words with the new rule in action following the 2013-14 Olympic season.
Gina: So, we really need to think about who popularised certain warhorses, and let's start with the obvious one, Carmen. [Karly: Oh Carmen.] Carmen is one of the musical pieces where it is impossible to pin down who was the first and who really popularised using the music. The earliest we could find was evidence of 1983-84 which was Blumberg and Seibert, but it was probably performed before that.
Niamh: I’m sure it was.
Karly: Yeah. People just didn’t really keep records of figure skating music back then, in the olden times.
Gina: It is difficult with the older examples of figure skating, because a lot of the records just aren't there, and a lot of the music wasn’t recorded in the same way. You also have the fact that the Short Program only really existed in 1973, so having two pieces of music for the Short Program and the Free Program wasn’t a thing until the 1970s, so we did our best when it comes to trying to find the first people.
Niamh: If you can find any other examples, please send them to us.
Gina: I’m really curious now.
Karly: It would be really interesting to know.
Gina: There was also the iconic ‘Battle of the Carmens’ in 1988 between Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas.
Niamh: Overall, it’s been pretty hard to pinpoint an exact moment in which Carmen became popular since it’s just kind of been around forever, and there have been too many iconic moments in skating with Carmen to completely specify which one was the first one to popularise it.
Gina: So, some of the musical tropes for Carmen is using just one section of the music.
Karly: You’ll hear a lot of Habanera as the main piece in a Carmen program. What I liked about Mikhail Kolyada’s Carmen was that it didn’t use Habanera a lot.
Gina: He used the better music.
Karly: So moving on to our second warhorse we’re going to talk about. Swan Lake. Swan Lake is another piece of music that has been used for too long to specify who really did it first, or who popularised it. We do have lots of iconic performances of Swan Lake. Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, with Swan Lake, they won silver at the 1998 Olympics and they were World Champions, and then at the most recent Olympics, in 2018 in the Ladies’ event, we had two Swan Lake’s on the podium. We had Kaetlyn Osmond’s Swan Lake and we had Alina Zagitova’s Black Swan. And then, Shizuka Arakawa, in Worlds 2004, she had Swan Lake as one of her programs and she went on to redo Swan Lake as a Free Program in 2012, and then Yuzuru Hanyu used Swan Lake - White Legend - as a Short, and later on as an Exhibition at Sochi, which Niamh really likes.
Niamh: I will claim is his most iconic program.
Gina: Really? (laughter)
Karly: Mao Asada has done Swan Lake, I really like her Swan Lake. Oksana Baiul won the 1994 Olympics with this as one of her programs. This isn’t super iconic, but I watched Rudy Galindo’s Swan Lake for the first time yesterday and it’s super good.
Gina: Rudy Galindo is always iconic.
Karly: That’s true. He won the 1996 US Nationals with it, and it was his first time podiuming even in like 8 years, and it was just so amazing to watch. I loved it. Some choreographic tropes are the swan arms. I think these are really well pronounced in Yuzuru Hanyu’s Swan Lake.
Gina: He also has a good dramatic gut stab. Yuzuru loves a good dramatic gut stab. [Karly: He does.] Another warhorse we just can’t really pin down because it’s been around for too long, and there are multiple renditions of this music is Romeo and Juliet, because honestly, who has not done a Romeo and Juliet program.
Karly: It is worth mentioning when we say Romeo and Juliet there are different sources of music to do Romeo and Juliet to. There is the 1968 film, there's the ballet by Sergei Prokofiev, and then there’s the 1996 film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Gina: A lot of different memorable programs for Romeo and Juliet for the different sources of music as well. We do have Yuzuru Hanyu and his two programs, his first one portraying Romeo, which got him his first Worlds medal where he won bronze, and his second one where he was more Juliet. Other well-known and memorable performances of Romeo and Juliet would be Sasha Cohen’s program, even though she didn’t perform it clean at the 2006 Olympics, it is still a really highly regarded program because of her wonderful portrayal of the character.
Karly: Another mention for an iconic program in Romeo and Juliet, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, their 1998 Free Dance, which gets a shout out, not for being the best necessarily but it has so many choreographic tropes. It’s got the dramatic stabby motions, it’s got a clinging Juliet and it’s got a sudden death at the end. And of course, just a shout out to them because having a woman lifting a man is great.
Gina: They did it twice as well.
Karly: As we discussed, the choreographic tropes generally differ whether it’s a man or a woman doing it. In a woman, they're Juliet, the sudden death, and in a man, they’re like stabbing myself. If it’s ice dance or pairs program, you’ve got the sudden death is at the end a la Hubbel and Donohue.
Gina: I would imagine it was in the 80’s where there was just a rush, they had to ban everyone lying down on the ice because everyone was dying at the end of the program.
Karly: (laughter) Really?
Gina: I remember watching a documentary and finding it hilarious that there were so many people falling down on the ice, sometimes dying twice at the end of the program, that the ISU had to bring in the rule about having some weight at least on one blade.
Niamh: Like Torvill and Dean’s, I know they had to start on the ice because they didn’t want to cut Bolero to fit the program requirements, so that’s why they start lying down on the ice.
Karly: Moving on to our next warhorse, we’re going to be talking about Four Season, you may know the Four Seasons, you probably do, by Vivaldi, but it’s also a warhorse! An iconic one, and one of my favorites was Alexei Yagudin’s 2002 Olympic Short Program. It’s technically to “Winter” by the group Bond but it’s part of their cover of Four Seasons. Some more recent Four Seasons performances that might ring a bell in current figure skating fans is Shoma Uno’s Short Program to “Winter,” and then Partick Chan’s Sochi Free Skate is definitely more of the iconic ones.
Niamh: And if you thought you were going to have me on this episode and we weren’t going to mention Riverdance, you are sadly mistaken. So Riverdance is one of those pieces of music that nearly every single Japanese skater has either done a Riverdance or thought about doing.a Riverdance. Riverdance programs usually consist of “Reel Around The Sun” or a medley including “Reel Around The Sun,” “Caoineadh Cú Chulainn,” and “Riverdance.” Riverdance is pretty recent, it only actually was released in 1995, so it was easy for us to find who was the first, or at least the most likely the first which was most likely Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz at the 1997-98 Olympics, which is probably one of the most iconic programs in Ice Dance at least, I feel that everyone has seen it at some point. Another iconic program was Takeshi Honda’s 2003 Worlds performance is most likely the one to be credited with its popularity among Japanese skaters. A long list of Japanese skaters which Rika Hongo, Satoko Miyahara, Shoma Uno, Nobunari Oda, Kazuki Tomono, and most likely many, many more. There are general tropes with “Riverdance” which include a green silk and gold costume, or red in the case of “Firedance,” and a fast-paced step sequence that most likely emulates the general idea of Irish step-dancing. We obviously can’t mention Riverdance and not mention Jason Brown’s Nationals from 2014 which went viral on Facebook, and is the reason I started watching figure skating! An alternative to Riverdance is the Lord of the Dance, also Fleet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger. The last two aren’t - no-one has seemed to use them, and they also have really good music so whoever is listening, please give us them! Lord of the Dance has been around as long as Riverdance, but it’s very less used. I’ve found examples of Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio from 2001-2002 and Brian Joubert’s 2006 Euros Short Program, which is great by the way. Guignard and Fabbri did actually a medley of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance in 2015-2016, which is also great, and one of my favorite Riverdance’s. Also, another shout out to Komatsubara and Koleto who are doing a Lord of the Dance Free Dance next season, because they have heard all of my prayers.
Karly: (laughter) Good for them.
Gina: So our next warhorse is The Firebird and, in terms of ballet music, this is not the oldest. The ballet was created in 1910 - of course, we couldn't find any figure skating performances [of it] from around that time.
Karly: Some notable performances that we found of Firebird include Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo's 1999-2000 program. They won Grand Prix Final [gold] and Worlds silver with it. We also have one that a lot more people today might know, Tatsuki Machida's 2013-2014 Free Skate, which earned him World silver in 2014.
Gina: I really tried to look for the earliest one I could find and the earliest I could find was from 1983 from the International Professional Championships and it was Toller Cranston's disco Firebird - which is the most 80s thing I've ever seen! (hosts laugh)
Karly: That's so beautiful.
Gina: If you thought that Tatsuki Machida's Firebird costume was really out there, you need to see this one!
Niamh: Can we just have a competition with disco versions of warhorses?
Gina: Oh my god, that would be so good! Another warhorse that I really fixated on for no reason, wanting to find the earliest example, was Phantom of the Opera. (Karly sings "Phantom of the Opera") Just in case you didn't know what "Phantom of the Opera" sounded like! So the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical debuted in 1986, and I would have thought I would have been able to find quite a lot of examples from that early but I couldn't. The earliest ones I could find were mostly from the professional scene and they used lyrics because, apparently, that rule wasn't in the professional competitions. And that was as early as 1987, so it did enter figure skating pretty early on, I just couldn't find any examples of it in competition until about 1993. One of the people who did skate to it was Brian Boitano and I think he may have used it as an exhibition and that was in 1996. It didn't seem to start becoming popular until after the movie in 2002, which is a choice.
Karly: Yeah, that is a choice.
Gina: And Shizuka Arakawa used it as an exhibition in 2004. Pang Qing and Tong Jian used Phantom of the Opera for their Short Program in 2004-2005 and for their Free from 2005-2007, where they won bronze at Grand Prix Final in 2004, they won silver at the 2005 and 2007 Four Continents Championships and they also won silver at the 2007 Worlds - but in 2006 they won gold at Worlds with their Phantom of the Opera program so it worked for them!
Niamh: They must have loved Phantom of the Opera if they did it for one season, realized the Short Program wasn't long enough and then had to change it to the Free Skate because it was longer. (hosts laugh)
Gina: Phantom of the Opera is another warhorse that is really popular with the Japanese and I blame Daisuke Takahashi because he used for the 2006-2007 season for his Free Skate. He won silver at Worlds and then everyone in Japan decided to do Phantom of the Opera.
Niamh: Could they not have gotten inspiration from "Blues for Klook"?
Karly: Make "Blues for Klook" a warhorse, I love that piece of music.
Gina: Actually for a warhorse, Phantom of the Opera isn't really skated that much, it's not Carmen levels of overused. Phantom of the Opera is the most successful Broadway musical ever and has been running for 30 plus years. It's so embedded in the social consciousness that any reference to it your brain is just like "I've heard this so many times. I'm so aware of this." So I think it has more of a warhorse effect than music that's used a similar amount.
Niamh: Also the fact that Phantom of the Opera is so clear, you know it's a Phantom of the Opera program straight away, it probably makes it seem like it's done more than it is.
Gina: Yeah, it's not like... Let's think of an overused piece of music that isn't considered a warhorse.
Niamh: "I Put A Spell On You."
Gina: Yeah, "I Put A Spell On You." There's no clear character, really. You can play that so many different ways. Phantom of the Opera, you're either the Phantom or you're Christine. So you are either, and if we're using the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of the Phantom, you are either a misunderstood, sad emo or you are a sad, weirdly into girl.
Karly: (laughter) "Weirdly into it..."
Gina: So it really stands out as being quite trite even if it's not actually used that much. Notable performances might be [Meryl] Davis and [Charlie] White from 2009-2010, and Akiko Suzuki did it for her 2014 Olympics Free.
Karly: I really love Akiko Suzuki's, I think it might be my favorite Phantom. She does a really good job of being Christine.
Gina: Speaking of being Christine, a more recent one, Alina Zagitova.
Karly: A rundown of Phantom of the Opera in 2.5 minutes!
Gina: To be fair, Andrew Lloyd Webber would approve [Niamh: He would] because it's just all of the loudest moments of the musical.
Niamh: I mean, if you're going to do Phantom of the Opera in 2 minutes, use the iconic moments.
Gina: Choreographic tropes for Phantom of the Opera: a hand mask. Just hand in front of the face - always just covering one side and not the full face because, even though the full face mask is canon in the books and everything that came before the musical and is on the posters for the musical, the full mask had to be abandoned from the musical because it didn't work with Michael Crawford's onstage microphone.
Karly: Fun fact of the day! Learn something new every day!
Gina: That's where the half mask comes from! Another trope would be the costuming - everyone knows the color palette for Phantom of the Opera.
Karly: What's black, white and red all over? Phantom of the Opera costumes! So moving on to our next warhorse, we have Turandot - which I, until recently, thought was pronounced Turan-dot. So, really, a Turandot program is mostly just "Nessun Dorma." We have a lot of iconic performances of Turandot. What you may think of is Shizuka Arakawa, who has been mentioned quite a lot, to be honest. She won the 2006 Olympics and the 2004 World Championships with this as her Free Skate. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won two consecutive World Championships, 2002 and 2003, with this as their Free Skate, where they displayed excellent musicality and performance of elements. It's just one of those programs that stands the test of time, it is one of the only performances that consistently makes me cry.
Gina: Yeah, when I watch it I get goosebumps.
Karly: Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, their Olympic Free was to Turandot - kind of a throwback to their coaches, Shen and Zhao. And then Shoma Uno, his Olympics [and 2015-2016] Free Program, which got him the silver medal. So Turandot has a lot of iconic programs and, honestly, they're all pretty great. Turandot is pretty old, so it's probably been around for a while [in figure skating]. We, unfortunately, couldn't find any sources that provided us with the first performance of Turandot. We found some from the early 2000s but we couldn't really find any from before the 21st century.
Niamh: You know what, [Turandot's] not that old. Puccini's version is 1926. I expected older.
Karly: And then also a warhorse, Malaguena. A lot of smaller fed skaters have skated to Malaguena, but the two notable performances are Sasha Cohen, she skated to this as her 2003-2004 Short Program and it was great, it was amazing. It bops, it slaps, pops off - all of the above. Her costume is really recognizable, the bright yellow. And then, of course, our Spaniard, Javier Fernandez, love him. He did Malaguena and it was also amazing.
Gina: The amount of work and effort he put into just getting the choreography really spot on, [Karly: The iconic chest slap!] going to the Spanish Ballet and having the input of actual flamenco dancers.
Karly: It's just amazing. The hard work really showed off. So our next warhorse is Scheherazade, and you want to know how I know how to pronounce that? Niamh hasn't heard this yet - Niamh, you want to know how I know how to pronounce Scheherazade?
Karly: You know Aladdin, right?
Karly: You know the song "Friend Like Me?" The best song of the movie.
Niamh: The best song of all Disney movies.
Karly: That's correct.
Karly: Well the song starts, he goes "Alibaba had them forty thieves, Scheherazade had a thousand tales." (hosts laugh) And that's how I know how to pronounce it!
Gina: Thank you, the Disney company.
Karly: Thank you, Robin Williams. So, Scheherazade iconic performances, you may know Yuna Kim's Free Skate in 2008-2009. She won her first World Championships with it and it was great. Also, you may know it from Meryl Davis and Charlie White, they won the 2014 Olympics with it as their Free Dance. Michelle Kwan won medals at the 2002 World Champions and the 2002 Olympics with it as her Free Skate. So there are many iconic performances of it, they're all really good - I know lots of people who love Davis and White's Free Dance to it.
Gina: And this is a genuinely beautiful piece of music as well.
Karly: Yeah, I love it.
Niamh: It's always one of those pieces of music that I know I like it but I just can't remember it.
Karly: That's valid. [Gina: True] But when you hear it you're like "Oh yeah, this is good."
Niamh: Yeah, it's like I know I like it, I know it's a beautiful piece of music - I just have no recollection of how it goes!
Gina: Speaking of warhorses that we kind of like but then forget about when they're not playing directly into our ears - that's me with Les Misérables. Les Misérables is the 1980s musical based on the book. Common music from Les Mis is "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," "Bring Him Home," "I Dreamed a Dream," and, the clearly best clip of music possible ever, "Do You Hear The People Sing?" Michelle Kwan's 1998 Olympic [exhibition] to "On My Own" is one of the iconic Les Mis programs, probably the earliest one that I could find. Yuna Kim also did Les Mis for her 2013-2014 Free Skate, which is one of her iconic skates as well. When you watch it, it's so beautifully performed. You just get completely wrapped up in it.
Niamh: It's just so well put-together.
Gina: Yeah, I mean, I've never watched Les Mis and even I'm invested in that program, so.
Niamh: Another program that, although it's not overly iconic when you compare it to the likes of Yuna Kim, is Daisuke Murakami's "Bring Him Home", which is probably just because I swear he did it for the majority of his career.
Karly: I feel that.
Niamh: I've watched it so many times, it's just kind of been ingrained in my memory.
Gina: When it works, it works.
Niamh: And it did work. It was a beautiful program. So, moving on to warhorses that are well-known and done but are questionable as their status as a warhorse, we have the 1993 film soundtrack, Schindler's List, which is most commonly known for Yulia Lipnitskaya's 2014 Sochi Olympics [program], which I feel like was just kind of known around the world, not even just figure skating fans, "the girl in the red dress" is something that everyone knows of from the Olympics. Also in 2000, Irina Slutskaya. Another program if you haven't seen it, Joshua Farris, if you can somehow manage to find a working YouTube video in the ISU purge, please do try to find it. It's a wonderful program.
Gina: Schindler's List is one of those where it's not used a lot, and it's kind of questionable as a warhorse, but it's a piece of music that's quite uncomfortable to use in a program, and it's so ubiquitous to one skater that you get that kind of audience response of "Oh, there's an instant image in my head when I hear this music in relation to figure skating, that's all I'm thinking about, and I'm gonna think of that the whole way through this program".
Niamh: Like, any lady that does Schindler's List will constantly be compared to Yulia and any man that does it will constantly be compared to Joshua Farris.
Gina: So, of course, there are a lot more pieces of music that are considered warhorses but we can't go through every single one. But, someone who really, really tried to was our queen of warhorses, Sasha Cohen. I think every single senior program she had was a warhorse. She had Carmen, Malaguena, Swan Lake, she had the Nutcracker Pas de Deux, she had Romeo and Juliet, she had Moonlight Sonata, she had Dark Eyes, she had a lot of warhorses.
Karly: And like, she did them well!
Gina: And I think that's a challenge with warhorses, if you're gonna do them you have to do them really well to stand out. With her kind of portfolio of program music, she very easily could have been a very forgettable skater, lost in a sea of people doing very similar programs, but because she really went that extra step and really pushed herself with this music, she stood out as being a very beloved skater to a lot of people because she managed to use that music to get the positive audience response of "Hey, I know this, I know what to expect from this, I can get behind this" and still managed to not make it dull.
Niamh: Another similar skater is Michelle Kwan, who's done Prelude in C Minor, Bolero - which actually, her Bolero was choreographed by Christopher Dean, Tosca, East of Eden, she did the Red Violin, she did Carmen, Piano Concerto...
Gina: Yeah, if you have the skills to pull it off, do all the warhorses that you want.
Karly: It makes picking music so much easier.
Gina: Other notable examples of really iconic programs that were to warhorses would, of course, be Torvill and Dean's Bolero, and also John Curry's Don Quixote, not just career-defining programs but also definitive of their eras, particularly for British skating. Even people who don't know anything about figure skating in England, which is basically everyone, know Torvill and Dean and their Bolero.
Niamh: I was just about to say, Bolero wasn't just a moment in British skating, it was a moment in British history.
Karly: Okay so, moving on from just talking about examples of warhorses that you may see, you may be thinking "Oh, isn't this a warhorse, or isn't this a warhorse". Well, there's a difference between a warhorse such as Phantom of the Opera and an overdone piece of music, our example was "I Put a Spell on You". We kind of considered what makes a warhorse a warhorse, other than just being overused, and we kind of considered - it has to do with how the music is embedded in social consciousness, like how people perceive it, does it have that standout character, does it have that standout portrayal, or can you just use it over any sort of choreography. "I Put a Spell on You" or "This is a Man's World", while they're overused, they're open to different interpretations, whereas music that's considered as warhorse fodder has many more limited portrayals.
Niamh: And more music that is on the rise to being a warhorse, at least in figure skating terms, is Moulin Rouge, La La Land, The Greatest Showman, Ave Maria.
Karly: I would consider Moulin Rouge as becoming a warhorse, because a lot of people portray that character of Satine.
Gina: I almost think that another characteristic of a warhorse is kind of being sick of hearing it, because we did say at the beginning of the episode, warhorse is a negative term, it's not a compliment and it's not necessarily a neutral term either. It is kind of derogatory towards music, being so overused, so overdone that it creates a bit of a negative response, to which I say Moulin Rouge is very much there for me.
Karly: I love Moulin Rouge, can't relate.
Niamh: I can name two Moulin Rouge [programs] that I actually enjoy.
Karly: I can name all of them. And that's it. So! Do you wanna hear about our favorite and least favorite warhorses? Well you're gonna!
Gina: Whether you like it or not.
Niamh: Isn't that why we're here?
Gina: So, as Niamh will probably back up, as a British person, getting drunk and pretending I can Irish dance is one of my favorite pastimes. No English person can Irish dance but everyone will attempt to at a wedding to "Bewitched". So, as an English person who really enjoys watching other people Irish dance, or trying to do it myself and failing miserably, Riverdance is really easy for me to enjoy. And even though I have never seen Les Mis, I do really like "Do You Hear the People Sing", because you just wanna sing along. Every time I hear it in a program, I'm suddenly an angry man in France.
Niamh: I'm suddenly Eddie Redmayne.
Karly: "I'm suddenly an angry man in France."
Gina: A piece of classical music that I wouldn't mind seeing used more is probably Danse Macabre, I love Danse Macabre, and Don Quixote is probably my favorite of the ballet warhorses, but only because people don't use Giselle enough, otherwise Giselle would be my favorite. I hate Carmen, and I don't know if Chicago counts as a warhorse yet -
Niamh: I feel like it's close to it.
Karly: It's definitely an overused one.
Gina: - In my heart, every Chicago program is a warhorse and it's terrible, but especially “Roxie.”
Karly: That hurts me, Gina, that hurts me.
Gina: I'm really sorry but it makes me cringe, I have to mute every single one.
Niamh: I can handle “Cell Block Tango,” I can pop off to “Cell Block Tango,” but “Roxie” is just... ugh, please.
Karly: Okay, Niamh, go! Favorite warhorse.
Niamh: Well, as someone who literally grew up watching to, listening to, and literally performing to Riverdance and alike music, that's probably definitely my favorite warhorse, as you can probably tell by my Twitter @. Another one that's not a warhorse but is probably close to it, Moulin Rouge, is one of my favorite pieces of music. Also if I ever have to see another Phantom of the Opera program I will quit figure skating as a whole.
Karly: Yeah, I can't relate. Phantom is my jam, I was raised listening to it because my mom and my sister both really like it, I've seen the musical, like, twice. I don't really actively rewatch Phantom of the Opera programs, but I enjoy them. I'm not a super huge fan of most warhorses, so I don't super love Phantom of the Opera programs, but if I had to pick a favorite, it'd be Phantom of the Opera. I also agree with Niamh that I really like Moulin Rouge as an overused piece of music, all the music is so dramatic and honestly pretty good. As for a least favorite warhorse, I don't really have a least favorite, because I don't really like, hate any of them, but the one where the music I just don't enjoy the most would be Romeo and Juliet. None of the music has really connected with me, except for like, honestly, not even because I'm biased, but Junhwan Cha's, just because it's fun.
Niamh: I feel like the Romeo and Juliet music is objectively really pretty music.
Karly: It is! Like, "Kissing You" is really pretty.
Gina: Oh my God, I just remembered that Notre-Dame de Paris exists. Can I add that as one of my favorite warhorses? Because that's genuinely pretty music.
Niamh: It is very nice music.
Karly: So yeah, we're gonna dabble a little bit into warhorses and gender performance. We did a whole episode on gender, it's a great episode. Gina, weren't you on it?
Gina: I was!
Karly: So, most older warhorses tend to use either traditional or rigid displays of masculinity or femininity in their common usages. For an example of this, in ladies, [the character of] Carmen is depicted as flirtatious or sensual, you know the object of the viewer's gaze; Swan Lake is usually very delicate, while contrasting, the Black Swan is usually cheeky or tempting; portrayals of Juliet are usually reserved or pining - or dying, and then with women skating to Phantom, it's usually to portray Christine, as we mentioned.
Gina: For the ladies, it's pretty narrow, even if you're not using a warhorse. The ladies are gonna be Madame Butterfly, or whatever, and that's fine, there's a place for it, but with the warhorses it does get pretty limiting and again, we do have to remember that a lot of the conventions for figure skating were set out a very long time ago and are very Eurocentric. And a lot of those conventions are not just Eurocentric but they're also deeply rooted in misogyny. So women have to be a certain way, men have to be a certain way. For the men in Carmen, they're usually depicted as strong. We did say that Mikhail Kolyada picked the right character to be in his Carmen program, but he was the matador, he was the cool guy that strolls into the bar and Carmen falls in love with him. He's the strong guy, and that's usually who the men are gonna be in a Carmen program. He's the object of desire, but he's active in that. In Phantom of the Opera, they're always the Phantom, and they're never the weirdo-behind-the-mirror phantom -
Karly: They're the emo sexy boy.
Gina: - Yeah, the Andrew Lloyd Webber misunderstood sex god.
Karly: What I'm annoyed with is that they're never Raoul. I love Raoul.
Gina: Yeah! Where's the Raouls’? No, apparently Raoul's boring.
Karly: And then, if you're using a warhorse in Pairs or Ice Dance, it's almost exclusively following a heterosexual storyline. You know, Romeo and Juliet, to think of an example, Hubbell and Donohue - he's Romeo, she's Juliet, she dies at the end. Swan Lake, Phantom of the Opera, they all have these common themes that - they do match the source material, but like - heterosexuality is overdone.
Gina: We're bored of it. Can we move on, please? This is why I actually kind of liked that Russian team this year that had the really weird program where they were like, sword fighting.
Karly: [Natalia] Zabiiako and [Alexander] Enbert?
Gina: Yes! I really liked theirs, because they weren't sexualized at all, they were just sword fighting.
Niamh: They were just having fun.
Karly: Who needs sexualization when you have swords?
Gina: Right. And they were equals! She wasn't a damsel, he wasn't rescuing her, she was stabbing him! And for me, that's more of what I wanna see. Opera will have these kinds of common themes and ballet will have these common themes. Even Pairs programs set to Riverdance follow a similar structure in the way that the skaters interpret the music. Traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity in warhorse performances can be used as an argument why many fans perceive warhorses to be safe choices in relation to judges liking the programs more. Due to age groups in figure skating, judges tend to fall into, well, judges are old.
Karly: To make a long story short, judges are old.
Gina: Judges tend to be on the older side, and they really enjoy the more traditional performances and enjoy traditional depictions of gender and sexuality that might align more with what they believe is "proper", whereas younger audience members would like to see a shift away from that, because it's boring. There are some subversions of the typical warhorse.
Karly: We talked about disco Firebird, the original. See I thought the original subversion of the warhorse would be Cyberswan, which is, you know, my brand. But there's things like disco Firebird, legendary “Cyberswan,” also legendary; Yuzuru Hanyu's Romeo and Juliet 2.0, because of him portraying Juliet, which was very different for a man doing Romeo and Juliet music.
Gina: Especially considering that at the time he was quite heavily criticized for quote-unquote skating like a girl, because he can do a Biellmann.
Karly: Tatsuki Machida has done lots of subversions on warhorses - his eight-minute Bolero, which is amazing.
Niamh: Please just go and watch Tatsuki's post-retirement exhibition programs.
Karly: He just does very outlandish interpretations of lots of warhorses and overused pieces of music, such as Ave Maria.
Gina: I did kind of hope that when the ISU said that men could wear tights now, that maybe Tatsuki Machida would be tempted to return to competition for at least one season, but sadly, no.
Karly: Our shoutout of the week, we have a couple of shoutouts of the week. We'd like to shoutout to Jason Brown's score of 120 at the Peggy Fleming Trophy because that's the type of scores he deserves.
Gina: That's what he should be getting in PCS.
Niamh: (sarcastically) I can't believe Peggy Fleming is now a Challenger Series [event] and Jason Brown holds the world record.
Karly: And we also want to shoutout to our warhorse queens, Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan, for sponsoring this episode. Thank you guys for listening, we hope to see you again for our next episode.
Gina: If you want to get in touch with us, please feel free to contact us via our website, inthelopodcast.com, or on Twitter or Tumblr. You can find our episodes on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or Spotify.
Niamh: And if you enjoy the show and want to help support the team, then please consider making a donation to us on our ko-fi page and we'd like to give a huge thank you to all of the listeners who have contributed to our team thus far.
Karly: You can find the links to all our social media pages and our ko-fi on the website.
Gina: If you're listening on iTunes, please consider leaving a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show. Thank you for listening, this has been Gina,
Niamh: And Niamh.
Karly: Thank you for listening!