Thursday, February 23, 2006

Shizuka Arakawa of Japan Wins Ladies' Gold Because She Had Perfect Balance In Hips


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I have not seen the performance yet but can explain how and why Shizuka of Japan won the gold. Studying the pictures taken of her performance showed her astonishing balance and near perfect form. Truly, she will be a great skater like Midori Ito, her idol.

From Associated Press:
She was elegance on ice, her spirals superb, her skating sublime. That she was standing in the end didn't hurt, either.

Shizuka Arakawa made this one look easy. Her brilliant performance Thursday night gave Japan its first medal of these Olympics — a gold in the showcase event. What a way to end a shutout!

"I'm just surprised right now," Arakawa said. "I can't find the words for it."

Try mesmerizing, even spellbinding.
Transcendent. When moments like this happen, one's heart swells with inner joy and even when sitting, can join in the spirit that wells outwards from the performer to susume the watcher and make that magical connection.

Shizuka did this. As with all great performances, she was relaxed enough to be able to disassociate her thinking mind from her emotions and find that point of balance when one is both performer and watcher. When this happens, the natural elegance of the living form, the desire of the body to be in harmony with nature, takes over and one merely shifts from one point of balance to another. The minute the thinking mind enters, furiously calculating, the magic is gone and a tense clumsiness interfers because the mind is always behind instinct. It just takes way too much time to calculate what to do.

This is the sole reason to practice. To teach the body what the mind wishes but then, when on stage, the mind has to let go and trust the dream mind, that deep, inner self, to run things and all the mind has to do is to remember....FEELINGS.

Yes, emotions.

When I used to hang out with skaters, we used to talk about this. As a performer of other forms of dance, I used to warn people to not over rehearse. There are ways to deal with this. One is to NOT do all the hard moves but simply follow the curves of the choreography in an easy, gentle way, savoring the flow of the music, humming it, feeling the arms, moving the arms from one position to the next, savoring the fingers and how the wind glides over and under the palms. Close the eyes and feel the distance on the ice, when turning, imagine it is eternity and the clocks stop and the stars cease to wheel overhead, this sense of all the time in the world drops the feeling of adrenaline which tenses the muscles.

Desperately trying to jump or do difficult things over and over again destroys the needed serenity for performing a balanced dance yet over and over, American (and many Russian!) skaters make this deadly mistake and each Olypmics, they wonder why they do their very worst performances there.

Skating's important point is the hips. Where the hips are in relation to the knees, the ankle and the head, I really got pleasure drawing Shizuka's pictures from the photographs. Astonishing. Text book example of perfection.

In spins, it is the essence. Look at this spin! Every axis, 90 degrees from each other! Look at her arms, they are in perfect position yet relaxed. Just like the top picture here, her fingers are relaxed even as she flew through the air, her legs extended but not rigid. I am shaking my head with amazement.

Bravo.

Sluskaya, I have always disliked. She means well, she is very strong, she manages to pull off many moves but her akwardness, her lack of lyricism is fatal in figure skating. She never surrendered herself to the flow, the magic of ice. It seemed as if she was always pulling back, unable to stretch out to the stars, her shape ended up always weak in the wrong way, bent, crabbed.

Sasha Cohen is the victim of the American system. She was kept separate and alone as she fought the Angel of Death. Rather than trusting her own esquisitely trained body to do the right thing, she obsessed over all the hard parts of her performance. They loomed larger and larger until, like mighty mountains, they blocked her passage. Instead of flying over them, she trudged up and down her private Everests and ended up worn and defeated by the effort.

Skating is like becoming a bird, one has to surrender to the elements. We had a terrible winter storm last week. The wind was screaming. Our tiny chickadees were flying in it. They darted and hovered, they twisted from one side to the other and flicked around the trees, moving at a tremendous speed and it didn't bother them any. Indeed, I suspect they enjoyed the wildness of the wind, the feeling of pressure, the curved space elevating and then suddenly dropping them, they bobbed in the air as they flew to me.

And my horse went wild, galloping up the snowy mountain, head held high, white mane streaming in the screaming wind, ears flicking back and forth, this sense unity with nature is what great performances, a vital life, is all about.
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