Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pop-Culture Obsessions, February 2014

 When I was a teenager, I hated bluegrass music and I hated Nirvana. But for some reason, I'm absolutely obsessed with Patti Smith's apocalyptic-bluegrass cover version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Well, I love a good upright bass, and the Americana arrangement makes it clearer than ever that this is a timeless youth anthem. I saw Patti Smith perform live at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in 2012 (though I don't remember her singing this song, appropriate though it would have been). I want to be her when I grow up.

Watching the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, I fell in love with ice dancing, and particularly with the gold-medal winners, the Canadian team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. So I was VERY excited for their epic re-match this week with Meryl Davis and Charlie White, their American rivals who train under the same coach.

I do like the Americans, who won the competition this time. The final sequence of their long program was super impressive: they skated full-tilt and did one cool trick after another. But ultimately, my loyalty still lies with the Canadian pair. The Americans are hard-driving; the Canadians make it look effortless. They have sprezzatura. Tessa Virtue's smiling face seems to say "I can imagine no experience more blissful than being flung around an ice rink in the arms of Scott Moir." I know that the Olympics are an athletic competition, but unfortunately, I've always been more interested in aesthetics than athletics. Is it unfair to judge athletes on the basis of grace, beauty, elegance, and how much I want them to just kiss one another already? Probably. Do I do it anyway? Yes.

Ice dancing is ridiculously heteronormative and sentimental, yet I love it to bits. There's drama in the choreography, drama in the question of "are they in love or just extraordinarily talented actors?", drama in the judging. The routines must include a lot of specific technical elements, yet art still manages to emerge from within the constraints. If only I could figure out a not-ludicrous way to depict ice dance on stage, I'd make it the subject of my next play.

Photo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's free dance by Richard Lautens of the Toronto Star. 

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