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New John Curry Biography - 'Alone: the Triumph & Tragedy of John Curry' published.

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by floskate, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. MR-FAN

    MR-FAN Kostner Softie

    I. Love. You.
  2. floskate

    floskate Vacant

    MR-FAN, sadya, briancoogaert and 4 others like this.
  3. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    What a treasure, floskate!
  4. BittyBug

    BittyBug Living in a Kleptocracy

    Thank you, floskate.

    It was interesting to hear Curry comment that one of the things that he loved so much about Janet Lynn's Afternoon of a Faun was the freedom in her skating as I would say Curry's skating was exactly the opposite - it was always extremely precise, controlled and measured. Only in his spread eagles did he seem to momentarily let go. I wonder if that was his perfectionism coming through.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
    N_Halifax and gkelly like this.
  5. briancoogaert

    briancoogaert Well-Known Member

    This is my favorite exhibition with his Sheherazade at 1976 Olympics. What a fantastic skater, what a dancer on the ice.
  6. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    This book is very well done. There's a lot that is taken from Curry's own words in Keith Money's book, but Bill Jones interviewed a lot of people to flesh out his story and to give other points of view.

    Lori Nichol had to be very strong to survive, because as much as he admired the Royal Ballet dancers of the time, he was as tied to an uber-thin aesthetic as Russian ballet companies today are, even more than Balanchine.
    alilou likes this.
  7. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

    Lori Nichol??
  8. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Was she a member of one of John Curry's skating companies?
  9. znachki

    znachki Active Member

    John Curry remains my favorite skater to this day. I can remember being at a party, and leaving early so I could watch his Olympic freeskate :). (Oh the days before video recorders...) Thank you floskate for the videos. I've seen many of his skates, but it's been a long time.
    sadya, Kelvster and MR-FAN like this.
  10. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    Yes. She and Sarah Kawahara.
  11. Lacey

    Lacey Well-Known Member

    Well, that explains a lot with reference to Lori's success after a good skating career, she had a great example as a choreographer in John Curry.
  12. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    FYI if anyone wants to buy the ebook on Kobo, it doesn't come up if you search by the title or by the author name, but if you search with the keyword "skating", it's on the first page that comes up.
  13. Kelvster

    Kelvster Well-Known Member

    I just watched Curry's skate to "Raymonda" about 12 times today ... what an exquisite piece!!!! I have no words ... it's simply so incredibly beautiful. Thanks floskate for posting all the videos. Much appreciated.
    briancoogaert likes this.
  14. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

    Not sure if I could cope reading this book in spite of his creative genius. John sounded like such a self loathing man.

    Not that it is much easier now, but it must have been so difficult being a high profile gay athlete in a less permissive era.
    skatesindreams likes this.
  15. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    What a great thread, and looking forward to reading the book. I just searched a database for any library copies of Black Ice as well, and in the US, there's one! Harvard University! I tend not to ever believe the writer knows the truth unless it's an autobiography, so I'd like to read both books.
  16. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    pollyanna likes this.
  17. floskate

    floskate Vacant

    Well a very early Merry Christmas to all John Curry fans. I have more gems to share which will be coming over the next few days. To start with, the performance which started the 50 golden days of his triple crown:

    1976 Europeans Long Program

    And here's a very early version of his brilliant evolution of skating exhibition, a work that I feel sure must have been an influence for Sandra Bezic in her creation of Brian Boitano's 1988 SP.

    1974 Evolution of Skating Exhibition
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  18. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    "I think they want to see an encore, John."
  19. skatecat

    skatecat Lurker Extraordinaire

    Finished reading this book. As noted by others, it is well-researched and well-written. John Curry had so much talent, and such a clear vision of what he wanted to produce with skating! It is a sad read in many ways, because his periods of happiness seemed so few. Also, had I been a member of any of his companies, I think I would have quit rather than be subjected to the humiliation he handed out on a regular basis. I guess it is a testament to his genius that so many skaters put up with him (and still seemed to love him) given his ability to be so cruel. On a positive note, it sounds as if John was able to reach a state of contentment in that he was able to produce the skating show of his vision. It is clear we lost a great artist far too soon, though. I hope he rests in peace.
    N_Halifax and skatesindreams like this.
  20. Belinda

    Belinda Member

    I just finished “Alone”. As everyone says it is well written with sympathy, honesty, and with no judgment on anybody mentioned in the book. The final chapter is particularly moving: when I finished the last page I was in tears. The second part of Curry’s life, ie after his Olympic triumph, makes compelling reading. It is well researched providing lots of information new to me.
    I wouldn’t like to be ungrateful or ungracious to the author, but I must say the first part of the book was rather disappointing. Before reading the book, I looked forward to finding out how Curry had acquired his distinctive skating style – his early coaches, his training environment, fellow junior skaters. However, there was very little new information. I really wanted to know what sort of coach Mr Vickers was. Under him, was Curry already skating in that style, with that posture? Did the author manage to talk to other pupils of Mr Vickers? Did he manage to find old footage of young Curry in his junior competition days?
    Neither was there any information about the ballet lessons he started taking soon after his father died. Curry was fifteen or sixteen by then, and I have always wondered how he felt then. Did he have a lot of catching up to do? How did he get on with the instructor and other students of the ballet class? Did he feel perhaps it was not too late to seriously consider ballet?
    This is all because I have always thought that Curry might have been happier had he been allowed to pursue ballet rather than figure skating. This biography does not pose this question. In fact, though the author repeatedly refers to Curry’s unhappiness, he does not try to analyse or speculate as to the reasons. Having read the book, I see no answer but it has brought home the fact that all his life Curry had to battle with 1) the art-or-sport thing in figure skating, 2) the absence of infrastructure and career path in figure skating as art form, and 3) the absence of skaters of his artistic calibre, none of which would have been an issue with ballet. Even his troublesome personality might have had a chance to be tamed had he grown up in a regimental ballet world in which he would have been forced to obey his superiors and get on with fellow dancers.
    I am glad I read this book but felt very desolate reading some of the pages and really, really felt for Mrs Curry.
    TygerLily and N_Halifax like this.
  21. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    As far as starting ballet class at 15 or 16, how much catching up he'd have had to do would depend on the level to which he aspired. Full-time skating training and full-time ballet training are not an easy mix, even when they're both started young and not with a tremendous amount of catch-up.

    I've never seen or heard him say that at any point did he think about quitting skating to train full-time in ballet once his father died. Although Nureyev had been at the Royal Ballet for five-six years by the time Curry was 15-16, and the Royal Ballet Principal male dancers tried their best to raise the technical level knowing they would never catch him, the school didn't turn around virtuosos overnight. Even with a late start, a guy in the '70's was still a guy in the '70's, and if he could have mastered partnering, it was not inconceivable that he might have been able to secure a spot in the touring company, had trained ballet as much as he trained skating. The touring company had a trial-by-fire approach for the younger members of the company -- only prodigies like Antoinette Sibley went straight into the Main company -- and that's where they learned stamina and flexibility. Guys didn't have to be that technically proficient, their turnout could be wonky, they could have weak feet, etc. if they could lift, carry, and present a ballerina, and if they had the kind of presence he did, they could go far.

    There was also money for guys to train. (Actually, there still is.) I don't know if he didn't want to give up skating, didn't think it was possible to make the transition, or simply felt he wasn't (potentially) good enough, even with such a late start. It's also possible that, as much as he loved ballet, the thought of being in the last line of the corps might not have been terribly appealing, and he wasn't that inclined to follow authority. Being a company member may have been a stretch, given his personality and ego.
    skatesindreams likes this.
  22. Belinda

    Belinda Member

    Thank you for your thoughts, kwanfan1818.
    If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll have a chance to read this book to test some of your hypotheses in your post.
  23. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    The book doesn't go much beyond: he wanted to take ballet lessons, but his father wouldn't let him; he took dance classes after his father's death; he loved Fonteyn; he didn't drop skating for ballet or any other kind of dance; and he wanted to created dance on ice. I'm not sure why his coaches never told his parents that he had to take dance lessons for his skating, but there's no record AFAIK that they did.

    I've never seen and interview or read anything that states that he considered giving up skating to try to make it as a ballet dancer after his father died, but floskate or someone else may know. It's not in the book, and there's little against which to test any hypothesis on the subject. I was pointing out that in the context of the ballet at his time, as a man, it would have been possible, had he any talent for it, to start that late and have become a professional dancer, even at a company as prestigious as the Royal Ballet, but I don't think he was temperamentally suited to being at the back of the corps or a company member.
  24. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    I doubt that he would have been happy in a subsidiary position, either.
  25. leapfrogonice

    leapfrogonice Active Member

    I can still remember how fascinating it was when he took his tour to major theaters and 'houses' such as (if I'm not mistaken) the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Such an honor. Such an innovator. His unique ability to attract audiences that could bridge worlds, skating and dance.
    Artistic Skaters likes this.
  26. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    One of the great parts of the book is the description of the tour from London to New York's Met Opera House to the Kennedy Center, including how, despite not much publicity became the ticket to have: *everyone* was there, including many dance luminaries. (Having to cancel the opening night performance may have been a blessing in disguise for a cash-strapped, indebted presenter, because it got them talked about and explained what the show was going to be.) They even added an extra performance at the Met.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2014
    Artistic Skaters likes this.
  27. floskate

    floskate Vacant

    More NEW and never before seen clips of John's earlier performances:

    1972 Europeans LP

    I think this must have been his best skate of the 1972 season. John had issues on both his triples in Sapporo and skated about on par with this in Calgary. Certainly his working relationship with Alison Smith shows real dividends when comparing this with his 1973 Worlds performance just over a year later.

    1974 Worlds SP (Home video)

    A hand down on his flying change sit - a move he would later describe as terrifying - and a bobbled combination saw him lose ground after the figures. His LP, oft described as a meltdown is really just a bad skate. Both triples are under-rotated and stepped out of and he scaled down a double axel. No splats. His biggest meltdown was 1971 which I also intend to upload. I have similar home video of John's 1974 Worlds LP - the same program as skated in 1973. Let me know if you think it's worth uploading.
    sus2850, rosewood, sadya and 5 others like this.
  28. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Every Curry video you wish to share is "worth" seeing, floskate!
    sadya and kwanfan1818 like this.
  29. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the links, floskate!

    This is very interesting to me in terms of analyzing presentation, especially from an IJS perspective. Many of the excellent qualities that made the 1976 freeskate a masterpiece already in evidence, others not yet here.

    Plenty of originality in the in-betweens/transitions, very good quality on split jump, spread eagle, etc
    Good variety in patterning -- half the spins clockwise helps there, since there aren't many clockwise turns or steps
    Excellent carriage and clarity of movement, body line
    Not a lot of outward projection -- though during the slow section he's so connected to the music and choreo it really draws me in
    I'd be torn how to evaluate the musical interpretation, since that slow section with no jumps it's so perfect and nuanced, and the rest of the program there are a few highlight moments that really work but most of the time the music just seems to be background
    Three separate pieces of music, not much thematic connection between them, as was the norm at the time -- if there's a "purpose" to the program I would say it is to present clean, clear, beautifully executed skating and elements (the one big and one minor jump mistakes on this occasion notwithstanding)

    Looks like the required elements that year were
    single axel
    double axel
    jump combination with double toe
    flying sitspin (axel takeoff, land/spin on other foot required?)
    scratch spin
    serpentine step sequence

    Was the time limit 2:00 max at that time? Curry got it done in 1:30 -- is efficiency to be rewarded, minimal telegraphing? The double axel immediately following the single helped with that. Not much room for "in-betweens," and I remember (from the Keith Money book?) that in a later year there was controversy over whether it would be legal for him to include a spread eagle or Ina Bauer in a short program or would that count as an extra element.
    kwanfan1818 likes this.
  30. BittyBug

    BittyBug Living in a Kleptocracy

    He seemed to skate with much more freedom in his early days.