Play it Again Sam

Figure skating music comes in all tones and notes. While others dive into Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata or Symphony No.9, others prefer mainstream, popular music.

As a teen I never cared for Beethoven or Mozart, so why would I want to spend an entire season skating to their music? I kid you not, my first competitive solo was the love theme from Flashdance with the theme from the movie Fletch, and I loved it. Our professional coach had a progressive taste in music, and was open to almost any musical genre. Often the skaters would contribute to their own solos with music, choreography, or both.

Our coach had her own stash of music, which included Elton John and Queen, along with tunes from television and movies, such as Cheers and Beverly Hills Cop. The most operatic was Carman and Phantom of the Opera. What a refreshing change for the judges. One couldn’t help but bob their head or tap their toes when Van Halen‘s Right Now or Roxette’s Listen to Your Heart would blast over the overhead speakers. It definitely set us apart from the other competitors.

Even in synchro, while other teams glided around to Swan Lake we rocked arenas with the Doobie Brothers, George Michael, Phil Collins and The Kinks.

Some people believe skaters should remain classical, while others love to push the envelope. Skaters that snowplow that envelope can either garner attention, or seem utterly ridiculous.

One choice that comes to mind is East German Katarina Witt’s short program, performed to the “Muppet’s Show” theme song at the 1981 World Figure Skating Championships in Hartford, Connecticut. Witt’s short program won that segment, and vaulted her into 6th place once her figures were factored in. Though doubted her coach, Jutta Müller, and the political bloc didn’t have a hand in that.

Another questionable musical choice was Tonya Harding’s long program in 1991 at the World’s in Munich, Germany where she performed to Send in the Clowns which transition into rapper Tone Lōc’s Wild Thing.

In 1985 at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick, Elizabeth Manley skated to her first of three Canadian crowns, and turned a few heads in the process. In the short program, she skated to an electronic version of Snowflakes are Dancing by Isao Tomita. It sounded like a hummingbird flying through an electrical storm. But Manley made it work. Her choreography matched all the “tinkle-tinkles” in the music, which showed her talent well before she became Canada’s sweetheart.

Understandably, skaters get inspired by certain songs and want to share them with the audience. I imagine that was the case in 1989, when Jill Trenary ended her short program with segments from David Foster’s 1988 Calgary Olympic theme song, Can’t You Feel it. She could be forgiven, with the Olympics barely a year old and the memories of the 1988 Calgary Games still fresh. However, she recycled this short program for the 1990 World’s in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Once again Foster’s song blared from the PA system as Trenary skated about the ice, and placed every jump, spin and move in the same place as the previous year. She ended up winning her only championship.

While I’m unsure if I will skate this competitive season because of commitments with school, of course I am contemplating music in case I do. I briefly thought of a 1990s mix of popular music, such as opening with Glenn Frey’s You Belong to the City followed by Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry, but as I hear more and more classical music, I will admit it’s grown on me. Skating to Fifth of Beethoven and Concierto de Aranjuez wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

I’m even thinking of Snowflakes are Dancing…by Tomita.

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