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Hi everyone, recently I had the fortune to talk to Edvin Marton, the composer of 'Art on Ice' and 'Magic Stradivarius', the two songs of Origin. He kindly answered my questions about the creation of these songs (well, mainly about 'Art on Ice'), his friendship with Plushenko, Kings on Ice & ice shows, and then I asked some questions about Yuzu, too. He was there at last year's Rostelecom Cup to cheer for Yuzu and that was also the first time they met. He talked about Yuzu very nicely and there was a warmth in his voice, I don't even know how many times he mentioned that Yuzu was fantasic and that he is a genius. I hope you'll all enjoy this short interview cr [x] * * * Q: Evgeni Plushenko skated to your pieces of music, Art on Ice, Magic Stradivarius and King of the Forest for his Tribute to Nijinsky program in the 2003/2004 season. These songs were released on your second album, Strings ’N Beats. How did you compose them and why were these songs chosen for the Nijinsky program? Edvin Marton: One of the organizers, Reto Caviezel, and the producer of the Art on Ice Show, Oliver Höner invited me to the show in 2003. Höner himself was a skater and he is the artistic director of the show. At that time, Art on Ice was the most spectacular show in Europe and Höner invited to me to write the opening for it. And then I wrote Art on Ice, which later was released on my second album as well. When I performed at the show, Plushenko also skated there, and we became friends after that. He told me that he liked my songs so he asked me to give him one of my albums. Art on Ice was in February, which was before the end of the figure skating season. Shortly after the season ended he contacted me that he’d like to skate to my songs the next season, and then this became the Tribute to Nijinsky program. Q: Did you help Plushenko with music editing? EM: Yes, first him and his team cut a version and they asked me to refine it. So, yes, in the end I helped him. Q: You’ve been friends with Evgeni for many years. Please, tell me a bit more about your friendship with him. EM: As I mentioned before we’ve been friends since his Tribute to Nijinsky program. I had been studying in Russia for 8 years so I can speak Russian very well too but at the end music brought us together and we started working together then. I’ve been working as a producer as well, and after a while, I started thinking about doing a new show. Art on Ice has a bigger budget and it is a more expensive show, so I talked to Ari Zakarian and Evgeni about the possibility of a new show which would be less expensive. Ari is a former skater himself, he has lots of experience, and he works as an agent in the world of figure skating, which means that without him it isn’t really possible to organize a show. So that's how we made Kings on Ice. Q: Plushenko ended his competitive career at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. Are you following the sport, and do you talk about figure skating with Evgeni? EM: Of course, I’m following it and we talk about it, too. We talk about it particularly when we organize a Kings on Ice show, because then we invite many skaters, and then I read about them, whether they’re still active or they’re already retired etc. Q: Yuzuru Hanyu won the Olympic gold medal in Sochi, and four years later, he became the first skater after 66 years who defended his Olympic gold medal. It is a huge achievement. After the Olympic Games, he decided to skate to Art on Ice and Magic Stradivarius in his free skate as a tribute to his favourite skater, Plushenko, and he named his program ’Origin’. How did you react about his music choices? EM: I was very happy about his decision. I think it is fantastic that such a genius like him chose my music and that he skates to these pieces. It made me feel really happy. Q: Did you help him editing the original tracks? EM: No, him and his team edited the music. They asked me to do it on their own and I said of course, they can do however they prefer to do it. There are musicians who don’t really like if any notes are changed in their songs, but I’m flexible when it comes to it. Let them soar and spread their wings! I give them freedom and to me, the most important is if they feel fine. In this sense, I don’t like restrictions. Q: Last year you were there at the Rostelecom Cup in the middle of November, when Yuzuru won the competition. EM: Yes, I was there in Moscow at the competition. I had a concert two weeks later, which I promoted in the television – I asked the TV to arrange it the same weekend as the competition so that I could go to the Grand Prix as well. Q: On the morning of the free skate, Yuzuru injured his ankle when he fell from a quadruple jump, and he only had a couple of hours to completely change the layout of the skate. Did you see him skate for the first time, and how did you like the program? EM: Yes, it was the first time seeing him skate live. Because of the injury, the situation at the competition was unusal, and it’s difficult to judge how he’d have skated without this, he’d have skated more effortlessly. He’s very professional and a genius but even for him this situation was really difficult. Q: After the competition you met him and did you talk to him, too? EM: Yes, we met after the competition and he invited me to Japan, to an ice show. Now everyone is focusing on the World Championships, but let’s see what happens after that – I’d like to go there if we can manage it. Ice shows in Japan are a bit different than for example, Russia or other shows in Europe. In Russia, there are the skaters of course but the focus is also on the musicians and sometimes there are other forms of arts, too, like ballet. In Japan the focus is more on skating. So it’d be nice to go there and play for Japanese audience. Q: Since the Rostelecom Cup Yuzuru couldn’t skate at any competition, but he’ll return at the World Championships soon. EM: I think he’ll be absolutely ready for the World Championships. [smiles] Q: Would you ever like to write a piece of music for one of Yuzuru’s programs if there was a request for it? EM: Yes, of course. Music is my life, and it is very important to me if I can write new music for skaters. Q: What are your plans for 2019? EM: My latest album was released not so long ago, it’s my first album that includes only my own songs. The arrangements and harmonies are different on this album which I like. I’ve just had a concert in St. Petersburg, and later this year I will have concerts in Bucharest, in Baku and then in Vienna with the Strauss orchestra in October. In December, we’re also going to have a Kings on Ice show in Cluj Napoca (Romania) with Evgeni and we’ll try to invite big skaters to the show. Q: Thank you very much for the interview! EM: Thank you. * * *
An interview with one of the technical panel members of Europeans 2020 has been published recently and I thought it could be interesting to share. The TP member was Slavka Grincova (Slovakia), who worked as the Assistant Technical Specialist in the TP in both the rhythm dance and free dance at Europeans and she talked about the judging at the European Championships, why it took so much time for Papadakis/Cizeron's scores to come out, about their skating, and judging in ice dance in general. I just put the text to google translate and corrected it in many parts, I was now too tired to translate the whole thing because it is a long interview. But it is quite understandable I think. Sorry if there are any parts that aren't correct (grammar etc) though. The technical specialist talked about many interesting things although I felt in some of her answers that she was a bit cautious. * Original interview is here: https://www.bumm.sk/sport/2020/02/08/hosszu-pontozas-meglepo-eredmeny-egy-bennfentest-kerdeztunk-a-jegtanc-eb-rol * Long Waiting, Surprising Result - We Asked An Insider About the Ice Dance Event at the European Championships 2020 To the biggest surprise, former French champions Papadakis/Cizeron - who's been dominant for a long time - has lost to Sinitsina/Katsalapov by 0.14 point at the European Championships in Graz. Slavka Grinčová from Košice (Slovakia) was the technical assistant specialist at the Ice Dance event and we asked her what had happened there. - 0.14 points is a very minimal difference. What decided between the French and the Russian couple? Slavka Grincova: Both pairs represent very high levels, but they were different. The Russians showed a more classic style, while the French presented a modern one with modern choreography. From a technical point of view, however, both pairs are at the top and they have also received tens in the second score from the judges. Apart from these two couples, no one else could get 10s. Even after the rhythm dance, the difference between the French and the Russians was minimal, 0.05 points. So the whole race (for the gold medal) basically started from the start in the free dance. The question was what they (judges) prefer and how can the two couples skate technically. I can honestly say that both couples made minor mistakes, but the French did more than expected. They didn't skate as cleanly as we were used to. - The French had to wait for their points for an unusually long time, even five to six minutes. What happened? SG: Already at the beginning of the free dance of the French couple, we were told that the video recorder was not working. The whole system has crashed. Suddenly, the rhythm dance elements from the day before popped up on our computers, and when the French finished their program, we couldn't replay the elements. We were later given permission to go down the ice where to the only computer was that recorded the program so that we could control the technical value of the elements. The technical panel determines the levels for each element, from 1 to 4 based on technical difficulty, based on certain criteria. In the technical panel we watch the skates (/boots) themselves, while the judges have to evaluate the program as a whole. - To the laymen, both free dances were beautiful. In which was were the Russians better? SG: A specialist sees these things a little differently. The free dance of the French couple is beautiful, excellent, innovative, I have no objection against it. I like when people are brave to be innovative, not conservative on the ice. After the competition, however, there were opinions that the steps of the Russians were harder, they were skating closer to each other in harder positions, while the French were often skating hand in hand. It suits their style, but it makes it a little easier. The Russians put together a harder program. These were the first opinions we heard from the background. However, this is not how we perceive the program in the technical panel. We watch if somebody falls down or stumbles, and if so, it happens whether it happens during executing an element, or between elements...We watch the technical stuff at the competition, we (enjoy) the experience only during the practices. During the competition, we must focus strictly on the individual elements. The final result then comes from the evaluation of the technical panel and the judges. We look at if the skaters meet the criteria technically, and the judges if it the skate was light, fast, the gliding was on the ice, and whether there was a harmony with the music… - Everyone can see when a figure skater makes a mistake in a jump, but in ice dancing, details are decided that are hard to see by the layman. What exactly is the technical panel watching? SG: We receive the planned layout of the skaters, and during the training we check to see if what they have as planned is what they practice or they change something in the program. In the competition, ice dancers can't change the layout just like figure skates do, like if someone misses a jump, they can change the layout completely. There are three of us sitting in the technical panel, one is the specialist who is now watching the woman and telling the items first, and the other is his/her assistant, who is evaluating the man this season. When the lady's levels are announced, she the immediately tells the man's level. Or he says "review", which means that the man has achieved a different level from the woman, usually lower, and in that case we will check the element afterwards. The steps that we are watching remained here from the era of compulsory figures. We look at whether the competitor makes the move from the right edge or if theey switch to the other edge to make things easier. If we look at their skates, we can see how nervous the athlete is and whether their feet are shaking. Unfortunately, they can lose levels in cases like this because if you can't complete all the steps and turns from start to finish without stumbling, skipping the curve (basically missing to do it), then they don't get the level. - In what quality can you play back the program again? SG: The recording and playback are both very high quality, but we only have one camera. We do not see the camera angles that viewers watch on TV because it distorts it a bit. They show the skater once from the right, sometimes from the left, then only the legs and then the upper body ... Just as the judges sit in the same place all the time, so does our camera. If something does not look good in the recording, we always decide for the benefit of the competitor. But the truth is, the more we replay, the more errors we find. That's why we try to check as few things as possible afterwards, really only to replay an element if we weren't sure. - In Graz, they say that mostly the one-foot step sequence of the French couple needed to be reviewed, which is why the scoring was delayed. Is this true? SG: The one-foot step sequence of the French couple was lower than level 4 so we wanted to check it again. The tech controller also said that he wanted to have a look at it again. That is why we went down to the ice to the so-called cutter, who cuts the videos because he had the only recording on his computer. We quickly checked the element in question, as it ( the StSq) might take 10 seconds, so even if you looked at it four times, it is still only forty seconds. But because our computers got crashed, the time had passed. - Gabriella Papadakis later said as she waited for the scores, she had already guessed that there was something wrong, because if it takes a long time, usually nothing good comes out of it. SG: The system collapsed when they were called to ice. If it hadn't been recorded at all, we would have had to decide for the benefit of the skaters based on what we saw with our eyes only. But it would not have been fair to the others to give the French the highest scores, because after their skate we couldn't have checked whether they were really wrong or not. Give level 4 to everything because we can't rewatch the elements - the controller also said we can't decide this way, he disagreed, he wanted to see the review if it was possible to find the recording somewhere in the system. The review itself didn't last long, just the system crashed. - Many in social media shared an article that was written before the free dance, and in which the coach of the French couple, Romain Haguenauer talked about the judges being told in the pre-competition meeting not to give as many 10s in the second score, in the components. Did the judges really get such a guidance? SG: Our panel does not participate in judging meetings. We are two separate panels and during the competition we do not really communicate, we decide on different things independently. So I don't know what the referee said before the competition, but the French got eight 10s, the Russians nine 10s, combined differently from the judges, so they were pretty much the same. - This time (in the free dance) there was no French judge in the judging panel. Could this have been decisive? SG: With such good couples, when they are all at such a high level, it does not matter whether or not there was a French judge in the panel. The point is how the program is presented in at a given competition. The judges do not know what levels we give, nor do we see what score they give. So the result is only revealed to us when it appears on the big screen. - So were you surprised that the Russian couple won? SG: We started off from the fact that the competition basically started from zero in the free dance, and we have seen that there were mistakes in the step sequence of the French couple. They got the levels they were performed, but I didn't know how the judges would score them. When I saw that the Russians were still in first place after the free dance of the French, I was a bit surprised, but not in the sense that something incredible had happened. - The French skated in the free dance to an unusual music with voiceovers. What is your opinion on this? SG: They are the best couple and they have the right to experiment with it, because they are the ones who set the trends. If this is done by a couple who are just trying to get out (for the first time) for a big competition, the judges might even punish them a bit. But when the best couple come up with new thoughts and ideas, they tolerate it. Voiceovers can be confusing at times, but we are in the middle of the Olympic cycle. If they want to come up with something new, they need to do it now to see what kind of feedback they are getting. It would be more risky for the Olympics to bring something like this. - Papadakis and Cizeron dominated in Europe for five years, and no one could even get close to them. Is this a beginning of a new era? SG: I like when there is a stake, when there is fight. But in every sport, it's like sine wave. There are stronger years when someone does better than others. The French have set a certain trend and style, and the others are trying to follow it. Unless they come up with something new, fantastic, the others will slowly reach them. The French introduced this modern, very lightweight, absolutely harmonic skating that is filled with emotions, in which we couldn't even feel where the other one is, yet skating together with great feelings. But the other couples have realized that this is the trend and are trying to catch up. - In the Ice Dance competition at the Pyeongchang Olympics, you were the technical specialist and you experienced an unusual situation where Gabriella Papadakis had problems with her costume in the rhythm dance and breasts were visible. The French couple then finished second behind Canadian Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. SG: In Graz, after the announcement of the final score, I also remembered that I was in the panel again when the order changed in some way. But in Pyeongchang, something very serious happened, too, because of what happened to her costume, Papadakis messed up a few steps and a twizzle (traveling on the ice) because she was checking her costume. These mistakes then accompanied the French throughout the Olympics, after getting level 4s on all elements, they did not become Olympic champions. But if the purpose of the new scoring system is to change the order after the rhythm dance, if some couples skate in the free dance much better or much weaker, then the judges must show it. Now at the European Championships, the order changed quite much, between the 1st and 20th place there were only two or three pairs remaining in the same place where they were after the short program. Each pair skated somehow and both our technical panel and the judges appreciated what was presented at that moment. - Do you think the new scoring brought more objectivity to the ice dance? SG: Definitely. In the past, there were only minimal changes in the order, with only one or two changes, and if someone had moved three places, it would have required two or three falls. Now, it may just happen that a couple in a rhythm dance is tenth, and in the free dance, sixteenth, and the judge doesn't know where to place them. The judge evaluates what he/she sees, and if someone makes a mistake in one of the element, they are required to score it minus in the grades of execution, the GOE. In other words, the new scoring gave the judges more freedom. The old system was based on putting couples in a certain order. Now, however, this is not the case - after each competitor, the judges must also put down the paper to the ground on which they wrote the scores - although there is a touch screen computer system, they must also write down each scores so that if something happens with the system/computers, so they have to put the papers down face down and take the next skaters' clean one on the top. Previously, they had to be careful not to put two skaters in the same placement, now they don't have this burden anymore and the're now focused on the particular program. And if there are twenty couples and they all present ten or ten elements, then the judges have no chance of calculating what the mathematical result will be. *
There's an Ari Zakarian (Plushy's agent and vice-president of Armenian Figure Skating Federation) interview over on FSU and definitely worth a read. I so feel this man's frustration and it's not like we here haven't talked about some of this stuff for a good while now. Some bits The whole thing here
So I came across this again the other day: This is the Kozuki Sports Award and Athlete Acknowledgment Ceremony that was held back in 2014. Hanyu was awarded the biggest award there for his achievements, and was the representative chosen to speak on behalf of athletes who were awarded in the event. He gave a speech that's a little over 4 minutes long which I haven't seen a translation for floating around, though I very well could have missed it. If one does exist, here's the version I did of it anyway: (Speech starts at the 9:17. If your want to see him accepting his award, it's starts at 7:29, right before his speech.)