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  1. #1

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    Michelle Kwan's Dream of Desdemona and use of music

    I came across this video quite randomly today while I was bored. I have never given Michelle Kwan's Dream of Desdemona program very much thought. I liked it but it certainly doesn't stand out when I think of her amazing short program the way Rach, Romanza, The Feeling Begins, etc do for me. I was shocked when I watched this performance of Dream of Desdemona. I can't remember a short program from her or ANYONE else in the modern era who used every note of music so flawlessly. Nothing goes unused in this program. Every single move has a point and a place and that is SO HARD. CoP can never reward this kind of skating fairly and that is so sad. It would just get glossed over in the PCS mark which the judges do not know how to accurately score. Watch for yourself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEklWrSU8VQ
    -Brian
    "Michelle would never be caught with sausage grease staining her Vera Wang." - rfisher

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    DoD has always been one of my favorite of her SP's. I haven't seen it in awhile. Thanks for the link.

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    I love this program.

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    That is my favorite SP of hers. Flawless in every way.

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    I agree! She never really skated this one to its full potential but I've always been obsessed with the choreography and the way she pieced together a sort of random assortment of music (um, hello, Red Poppy?) into a brilliantly cohesive program filled with incredible dramatic tension. The build to the climax is really just incredible and coupled with Taj confirms my belief that 1997 was one of Michelle's strongest years choreographically speaking.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by zigzig View Post
    The build to the climax is really just incredible and coupled with Taj confirms my belief that 1997 was one of Michelle's strongest years choreographically speaking.
    I agree 100%. 1997's programs were IMO the best she's had. DOD in particular has to be my all-time favorite SP by any lady. Ironically enough, my favorite performance of Kwan to DoD was her world's SP, where she messed up the combination. The anger, passion and speed she had then was breath taking. I also like her Japan Open performance.

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    ITA. Dream of Desdemona is my favorite SP that Michelle ever did. Lori really worked her magic that season and dare I say both DoD and Taj Mahal had the potential to be masterpieces. Unfortunately Michelle never really performed them up to par in competition and so 1996-97 gets pushed aside as being a "bad" season for MK and people tend to overlook how intricate and beautiful her programs were. Its mind-blowing that she was only 16 years old. Very few 16-year-olds have ever been able to interpret music with that level of artistry and passion.

    Michelle's split falling leaf at the 1:18 mark is incredible.
    Last edited by IceJunkie; 05-16-2011 at 02:50 AM.

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    DoD is IMO the best program Kwan's ever had. I personally prefer it to her 1998 SP, which is usually hailed as her best ever.

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    Dream of Desdemona has long been my favorite short program from Kwan (and quite possibly my favorite ever). Incidentally, this particular performance you posted actually placed behind Kristi Yamaguchi. As much of a fan as I am of Kristi (she is the reason I first started watching figure skating back in the early 90s), this performance from Kwan was worthy of the top marks. The attention to detail and the solid execution of the elements should have placed her in first (though she did end up winning overall after winning the interpretive program).

    Despite the fact she stepped out of the 3lutz at Worlds that season, I think that particular performance is my absolute favorite.

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    Sometimes I wish that Michelle had continued to use unusual music like DOD over the years. They bore her signature.

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    I think Michelle continued to use lesser used music even if it wasn't always completely unheard like in her earlier career. For example, she skated to Bolero but how many singles ladies skaters had dared skate to that, or anyone for that matter, since T&D made it their signature piece? She used The Feeling Begins and I could only think of Baiul having ever skated to it, no one in the amateur ranks. East of Eden was already hers to begin with.
    -Brian
    "Michelle would never be caught with sausage grease staining her Vera Wang." - rfisher

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    I recall that Michelle was criticized when she used different music and choreography for 2000-2001 season's The Miraculous Mandarin, music by Bela Bartok, choreo by Peter Oppegard. (This program was only skated this one time -- it might have become a masterpiece had she been able to further develop it. As youtube posters note, ironically Kwan was often criticized for safe programs, but when she went outside-the-box, she was royally panned for choosing unusual music and choreo we were unaccustomed to seeing from her -- definitely a shame).


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWarys9kuzM
    Last edited by aftershocks; 05-16-2011 at 07:48 AM. Reason: Separated comments into 2 posts, due to double post

  13. #13
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    Down memory lane … Thanks so much for posting the clips! I definitely agree with everyone’s comments. It was due to Kwan’s troubles in the ’96 – ’97 season (problems with her skates; adjusting to her sister being away at college; getting used to being a World champion; and learning how to defend her titles) that DoD and Taj Mahal are not usually remembered for their greatness. Great music, great choreography, great costumes, and quite a few wonderful performances as well, despite the media’s focus on the challenges she faced that season. The quality of MK’s DoD sp performance at ‘97 Worlds far surpasses that of her competitors, despite her step-out on the triple lutz combination. The tech scores are questionable because they obviously were not giving her credit for her superb technique on all of the other elements. Was the lutz/ 2toe not counted as a completed combination? Obviously, the musical interpretation is exquisite.

    Another thing about DoD: I absolutely loved Kwan’s original purple costume with the puff sleeves, as it was relevant to the story behind the music. However, I believe she and team decided to change to the more abstract black outfit (which was also lovely) because of the clueless criticism in the press decrying a 16-year-old skating to such a “violent” theme. This was ridiculous criticism IMHO. When the criticism reared its head, the critics also referred to the story behind her music for Salome -- nitpicking a majestic, iconic program. Kwan was too good to be true for some people, I suppose. But never mind, she has been and continues to be an inspiration for thousands of others universally. In regard to that thread topic about Yu Na vs. Kwan, there’s no doubt, as Yu Na has stated herself, albeit in slightly different words, that she admires and has been greatly influenced in her own skating by watching and learning from Michelle’s brilliant performances. ‘Nuff said on that topic.

    I could watch Michelle skating clips all day … My absolute favorite exhibition of Michelle’s is Dante’s Prayer (by Loreena McKennitt). Below are four clips of Dante’s Prayer that are interesting to watch (the first has very little commentary – part way through, Sandra Bezic, in a mesmerized tone observes that, “What is so exquisite about this program is that the jumps are meshed within the choreography.”) Highlights for me are the opening moves (so indescribable the feelings evoked), the section where Kwan moves backward and then runs forward, the double falling leaves, the camel spin in one direction and then the camel spin following immediately in the opposite direction, the iconic spiral sequence culminating at about 3:56 in an absolutely breathtaking salchow jump – you can hear the crowd gasp with wonder and pleasure. That is the epitome of what Sandra Bezic said about the jumps meshing as part of the whole. There is a lightness and a spiritual quality about Michelle in this performance (she exhibits that quality in many performances, but particularly here, where the haunting music and the singer’s voice meld with Kwan’s lyrical deeply felt movements and send our hearts soaring in spite of the melancholy aspect of the words and the music). The second clip of Dante’s Prayer is apparently at a pro-am competition, not the Worlds exhibition that's listed. The third clip is at a Keri Lotion cheesefest, and I love Dick's and Peggy's comments. The fourth is at U.S. Pros in '98. By the latter few performances, Michelle had cut her hair. Quite interesting to view these different performances to the same program. Michelle’s consistency is amazing. She is a national treasure.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZnp3fTlVwY (DP at '98 Ultimate 4)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEtWPqeF3UA (at a pro-am event, probably one of her earliest performances of DP; she wore a red dress for this program at the ’98 Worlds exhibition, so that is not this performance)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxcZkM6FKw0&NR=1 (DP at Keri Lotion cheesefest)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deEodYmiqZA (DP at U.S. Pros -- a great fluff interview with Michelle at the beginning of this clip)

    Another favorite of mine is Michelle’s 2002 exhibition performance to Fields of Gold, which speaks for itself:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wazOh...feature=fvwrel

    I also love Hands:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqVXK8xdpV0 (Here she had achieved the aesthetically pleasing leg position in the layback which she did not sustain past this season)

    and East of Eden at '98 World Pros (which I saw live):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS3Fn...eature=related
    Last edited by aftershocks; 05-16-2011 at 07:47 AM. Reason: Separated comments into 2 posts, due to double post

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigB08822 View Post
    I came across this video quite randomly today while I was bored. I have never given Michelle Kwan's Dream of Desdemona program very much thought. I liked it but it certainly doesn't stand out when I think of her amazing short program the way Rach, Romanza, The Feeling Begins, etc do for me. I was shocked when I watched this performance of Dream of Desdemona. I can't remember a short program from her or ANYONE else in the modern era who used every note of music so flawlessly. Nothing goes unused in this program. Every single move has a point and a place and that is SO HARD. CoP can never reward this kind of skating fairly and that is so sad. It would just get glossed over in the PCS mark which the judges do not know how to accurately score. Watch for yourself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEklWrSU8VQ

    JMHO, but CoP cannot and will not reward this type of skating. So, I'm sad to say, we may never see it again. I love watching the links on this page because instead of wondering how many points each element will rack up, I simply stare in amazement as each movement and each element express the music and speak to me.

    Figure skating is a sport AND an art, and I think we've gone too far in the direction of the former. Is it possible to be creative and expressive under CoP? Yes, but it's much harder to do, and there is no reward for it. Even those that succeeded (Jeff Buttle comes to mind) did their best work in the 6.0 system in my opinion. With skaters like Yuna Kim and Patrick Chan, I wonder if their programs would be even more free and expressive without the restrictions of CoP. I think Yes. I know everyone has their opinion, but the reason I was drawn to figure skating was because of its artistic side. Let the people who say it's "not a sport" keep on saying it. We're never going to change their minds anyway. They can watch balls fly into nets all day long and I won't say a thing. In the meantime, please ISU modify the judging system and at least give the Free Programs some freedom.
    Last edited by Triple Butz; 05-16-2011 at 09:25 AM.

  15. #15
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    Dream Of Desdemona is definitely my favorite Kwan SP and my favorite Ladies SP ever, though she had a lot of great ones. Just note-perfect choreography and performance. Taj Mahal is amazing as well. COP programs without the need of a strict road map, basically.

  16. #16

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    aftershocks. thanks so much for sharing your thoughts - and the links.
    I'd "rep" you, if I could.

    Were you in Landover for Michelle's 1998 World Pro-Am "Ariane"?
    That's one of my "desert island" performances.
    I'd love to know what it felt like "in person".

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    It doesn't get as much love as some of her other performances, but I have a real soft spot for East of Eden at 2001 worlds. Part of it might be the dress which fits the music and theme better than others she wore for this program...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44ylTuYn4J0

  18. #18

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    What a trip down memory lane. The Kween is such an icon.

    On another note, I went from Michelle Kwan to Grishuk & Chicko at Jr. Worlds in 1988, to Klimova & Ponomarenko, to the Battle of the Brians and then to a variety of other worthy skates.

    Makes me nostalgic for skaters of yesteryear. What can I say? It's the off season.

  19. #19
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    Nice to see this thread. Back in the day when we only saw Worlds, Lausanne in 1997 was the first time I saw DoD and I remember thinking, despite the step out on the combo, just how miles ahead of anyone else she really was at that time. no other skater could have skated it. I'm loving the links on youtube too and just watched Pocahontas from the Ultimate 4. while a very youthful exhibition, there's no denying how wonderful she is in that program. The emotion is just oozing out all over the ice. Wonderful stuff.

    ETA: Does anyone know what US cheesefest she also performed Pocahontas post 1997 Worlds and skated an absolute blinder bringing the house down? I've seen it before but can't find it.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by skatesindreams View Post
    aftershocks. thanks so much for sharing your thoughts - and the links.
    I'd "rep" you, if I could.

    Were you in Landover for Michelle's 1998 World Pro-Am "Ariane"?
    That's one of my "desert island" performances.
    I'd love to know what it felt like "in person".
    Thanks skatesindreams! (I love your username )

    Yes, I was in Landover and witnessed both of Michelle's performances live at 1998 World Pros. The best highlight was meeting Michelle backstage at an afterparty and having a picture taken with her! Being in the audience watching Michelle perform was absolutely thrilling and uplifting. There was a lot of electricity and excitement in the air. Michelle skated her technical program to Ariane, and EoE was her artistic program. This event marked her first (and ultimately her best) performance of Ariane. It was amazing to have the opportunity to see her skate brilliantly to this performance for the first time. Her technical content was outstanding and unusual for a Pro event. Although the event itself was unusual, as eligible skaters were allowed to perform at World Pros that year without losing their eligible status. In the youtube clip, the commentator notes that Michelle has such "calm, serenity and integrity" as a skater, which "is rare and not often seen these days." I'd add: not often seen at anytime -- and that's one reason why Michelle's performances stand the test of time.

    At the World Pros event, I had a decent seat, but not an up-close seat, so I enjoyed seeing the performance again many times in video clips and recalling what it was like being in the audience. Yuka Sato also skated brilliantly at this competition and placed second.

    In viewing the EoE clip, it is quite noticeable how closely bonded Michelle and Frank were in their relationship at that time. Maybe a short time later they began to subtly not see eye-to-eye regarding Kwan's desire to attend college, and also Frank seemingly was not fully on board with Kwan's Miraculous Mandarin program, with the unusual music and choreography by her brother-in-law, Peter Oppegard. Interesting how a poster in the MM youtube clip notes that The Miraculous Mandarin by Bela Bartok "is probably one of the most important 20th-century [musical compositions]." LOL at the announcer's voice for this GP final event -- his voice sounded similar to that of a boxing announcer.

    Thanks mafke for posting that link to Michelle's 2001 Worlds EoE sp -- skated so beautifully, and I agree re the costume. She was definitely fit and ready to battle.

    LOL, mayra, I know what you mean. There's so many wonderful skating clips to view on youtube that bring back memories, or provide a chance to see performances I might have missed at the time, and of course all the historical clips that are so fascinating.

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