It may be that there is such overproduction in figure skating that, glutted by torrents of bad and mediocre figure skating programs, one is too dazed and exhausted to respond freely, enthusiastically to the good things that come along, as always, rarely. Or could it be that some of figure skating have reached a Point of No Turn, from which there is not only no return, but no turning in any meaningful direction? Let us hope that it is not so, yet is it inconceivable that there should be left no further combinations of spins and jumps, lines and extensions, tones and sonorities that are both sufficiently different from what has been done before and beautiful and significant enough to be valid? We have, after all, seen the ends of certain human disciplines: philosophy is no more, having been subsumed—more is the pity—by the exact sciences, psychology, sociology, and even linguistics. Geography is, for all creative purposes, extinct. Astrology has become a joke. Not to mention, the gradual banishment of theology from academic life. Many are the crafts that have vanished from the world, and an even greater number of them is on the verge of disappearance. Though our figure skating has, let us say, survived until now, does that necessarily mean that it will be here forever?
So the little girl watched the elderly man walking back and forth in the garden. “What are you doing?” the girl asked. “I’m praying”, he answered. “No, that’s not how you pray!” Kneeling down, the four-year-old folded her hands and said, “This is how you pray.” One suspects the elderly man himself admired the combination of solemnity and spontaneity in a child’s prayers. This is the accomplishment of the figure skating of Julia; it is to deepen the spiritual life of her viewers. I accept the figure skating of Julia aesthetically for its enrichment of poetic perception, metaphor, and device, even if I rejected it intellectually. It is this painful dichotomous account in me to realize the terrifying integrity of this split in the figure skating in Julia. You see, if one was petulant, one might contend that figure skating is a structural projection; but such cavils can be cavalierly dismissed: if a true lyricist briefly lapses into ornamentalism, she is not therefore immediately to be viewed as a malingerer in a chain gang. There is a difference: Julia could move with such untrammeled ease from brooding serenity to empyrean serenity on the ice. It’s easy to get the look. It is not easy to get the feel.
The figure skating of Julia is as clean, swift, and painless as a Palmolive shave. And it, needless to say, blends with the epidermis of subjectivity—for only a very great artist like Julia can make subjectivity become truth. In the figure skating of Julia, you see with the sight of the past: you look at beauty with the eyes of childhood—a childhood remoter than your own, a childhood where sadness is controlled by a faint, gentle hope; this places Julia somewhere between abreast and ahead of her times. As one would describe this earthly life as “this sluggish isthmus of dawdling minutes between the great ocean of eternity in which we had no existence, and that other ocean of eternity in which we shall live endlessly” (Knox, Retreat), as well with Julia’s “You Don’t Give Up on Love” which aptly purports that quotation from the Paradiso of Dante’s Divine Comedy: “And to the Eternal Fountain she turned her head” (Canto XXXI, 93). In answer to Beatrice’s prayers Saint Bernard comes to guide Dante on the final stage of his journey; she smiles to him, and turns to gaze upon God.
In “Schindler’s List,” Julia gave a performance for the like of which one has to go back to Janet Lynn’s “The Afternoon of a Faun”, but comparisons are odious; suffice it to say that nothing quite like it has been seen on an ice skating rink in a coon’s age. Julia spoke on the ice or was silent, moved or was still, looked. And she gave herself, in every form of giving: a girl’s, shyly proud; a woman’s, quietly eager; a tomboy’s, a small child’s, a spoiled daughter’s, an unknown some girl’s—unknown even to herself: astonished, frightened, and very, very sure. We were confronted with a reality so overwhelming that life would have found a way of diluting it, just so as to get us over it and beyond. But in the rink it was there, pure and immutable and ours. So to steal James Wright words&verse from "To a Hostess Saying Good Night" in an attempt to express the tainted poignancy of a child whose questioning shows up our own inadequate senses:
Shake out the ruffle, turn and go,
Over the trellis blow the kiss.
Some of the guests will never know
Another night to shadow this.
Some of the birds awake in vines
Will never see another face
So frail, so lovely anyplace
Between the birdbath and the bines.
Oh dark come never down to you.
I look away and look away:
Over the moon the shadows go,
Over the shoulder, nebulae.
Some of the vast, the vacant stars
Will never see your face at all,
Your frail, your lovely eyelids fall
Between Andromeda and Mars.