It’s not the music that makes a performance – it’s how the program is performed. While spectators may bore of hearing the same music over and over again, there were some skaters who can take that piece of music a light the rink on fire.
During the 1996 World Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, China’s Lu Chen skated a spellbinding long program to Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No.2. You could hear a pin-drop between her jumps, as though the audience held their collective breath. Chen floated with elegance and grace effortlessly across the ice. She was rewarded with the silver medal, while an Olympic bronze medal awaited her at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
It was at the 1993 World Championships in Prague where Canadian Pair’s Champions Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler skated the performance of their lives when they choose the music Rachmaninoff for their long program. Where skaters usually appear sluggish at the end of their programs, Brasseur and Eisler gained momentum as the program drew to a close. The combination of the music and their power made for an emotional program, which still leaves me with goose bumps today when I watch it.
At the 1988 Calgary Olympics, Katarina Witt, of the former East Germany, in my opinion, performed the best interpretation of Bizet’s Carman. Witt seemed to place a spell on the audience and judges with her beauty and grace. Everything about her was exquisite – her costume, her make-up, her hair. Former Canadian Champion Toller Cranston said it best during his commentary for CBC Television: “No one can hold a candle to her as far as her appearance goes; she is of movie star material.” While she lacked the arsenal of jumps, the program was so sensual; no doubt it helped her retain her Olympic crown.
Of course there are other memorable programs, such as American Evan Lysacek’s brilliant 2009 World Championship long program, Canadian Kurt Browning’s powerful 1990 World Championship short program and France’s Laetitia Hubert’s spunky short program from the 1992 World Championship in Oakland, California.
It reminds us that when it comes to the program, sometimes it takes more than a great piece of music.