As the lights came down on Pyeongchang, Olympic athletes from the representing countries began their journeys back to their own little corners of the world. From February 9 -25, 2018, South Korea became the world stage for countless contenders as they hoped to perform their best and bring home the top prize. As a Team America super-fan, I spent countless hours glued to the television as I watched the nation’s greatest go for the gold. I watched Chloe Kim and Shaun White go into beast-mode and conquer both the female and male Snowboarding Half Pipe. I stared with an open gaze during the final shoot out in Women’s Hockey as Team USA slipped out of their silver place pigeon hole and took the gold from Canada. I even shed a tear as the US Men’s Curling team made history with the first win for the US. However, as much as I watched all the sports, I spent what some may call an obsessive amount of time watching countless hours of the 2018 Olympic Figure Skating competition.
I love the Olympics. For starters, the Olympics are the epitome of cultural diplomacy. I mean, North and South Korea competed under one flag. That is HUGE. However, the reason I watch the Olympics is certainly, first and foremost, the figure skating competitions. There were countless times this season when I would stop and explain to other people how the scoring works and why certain moves garner better results, even if they aren’t as clean as the simpler moves. It would cause moments of, “Do I know too much about this? Am I too invested? Will Adam Rippon think I’m a freak?” In the end, the competition this year across all the events (Individual Male, Female, Ice Dancing, Pairs, and the Team event) was, in a word, fierce. Team USA fought hard, and came out with a well-deserved Bronze in the Team event, but otherwise did not medal in the individuals.
One of the most unique aspects of figure skating is song choice. Interestingly enough, it is also one of, if not the only sport in the Olympics where music is a central component to the competition. For decades, instrumental works have been used to accentuate the skating and add feeling/emotion for both the skater and the audience. Common song choices like Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” allow for an elevated experience and there are truly certain moments where it feels like the skating has stopped and the dancing has just begun. For years, however, song choice was limited to vocal-less tracks. The change comes as a time when much of the sport itself is changing and evolving as well. There is a lot of speculation that the rule change – to allow music with lyrics – was made to open up more song options that would then in turn attract a younger audience. There is also speculation that the judges couldn’t bear to hear one more rendition of “Carmen.”
Interestingly enough, this is the first year to allow lyrics in music with the exception of Ice Dancing – those skaters have been allowed lyrics since the 1997-1998 season. However, each year, the Ice Dancing category is given a style of dance that they must dance to in competition. This limits the music they can choose because the song choice must compliment the style of dance that has been chosen. For this year, Latin American rhythms such as the cha-cha, salsa, and rhumba, were on full display. Song choice is a crucial task because it can directly affect the resulting score. The jumps and precision of a skate are determined by the Technical Score. The artistry of a performance, including song choice, is determined by the Program Component Score.
Just like many music competitions, there is no policy on more than one skater performing the same song(s). Also like many music competitions, it seems to happen pretty frequently. At this year’s Olympics, at least 7 different skaters competed using the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. The Canadian Ice Dancing Team’s routine would go on to win gold in the individual event – they also took home gold in the Team event. Although modern soundtracks will start to appear more and more in figure skating routines, the experts will tell you that classical music and soundtracks are still among the most popular choices.
Like figure skating, song choice in the world of musicianship is not only essential, but it is a learned skill. Sometimes your personal favorite is not the best choice for a college audition or recital. It takes skill to identify clearly why certain songs aren’t the most appropriate option for any given performance, whether it be the venue, the audience, or perhaps the song doesn’t do the best job at representing you. Don’t be afraid to ask a knowledgeable friend or teacher for their opinion and expertise! After all, your song choice can mean the difference between second and first place. If you have the chance to go for the gold, then don’t hold back and perform what you can do best!
Did you have a favorite performance from this year’s Olympic Figure Skating competition? Let us know in the comments!
Jon Bee, Student Services Administrator, Voice Faculty Member, Olympic Junkie