I hope to get the majority of the entry done within the next couple days. Before my sleep cycle completely changes to compensate with my new schedule and it could be ages before I have time (and energy) to watch him skate again.
But to cut to the chase, I’ll go through the things I come to expect whenever I see Plushenko skate and discuss how that fits into my favorite routines he’s done.
For starters, the other night, the most important thing I look for in any of his routine is DYNAMICS. The tempo of the music has to carry some sort of variation. I may have been spoiled by one too many “Tosca Fantasy” routines, so I’m a little biased in that department, but when he skates to the original Puccini composition, it just doesn’t do it for me the same way. His step sequences don’t have the same !-point they do when he skates to Edvin Marton’s arrangement.
Not to linger on the jumps (the fact he brings at least one quad to his routines is a given :-P), the most common one is probably the cleanest triple axel any skater has ever done. His routines have more triple axels than any other jump, usually. I still can’t tell the difference between a toe loop and a flip, but most of the time, the commentators do say “toe loop.” One thing I’ve also noticed is that the salchow is his weakest jump, so if they show up at all, they aren’t the cleanest.
And usually, he’ll have most of his jumps at the beginning of the program, something that draws as much as criticism as past step sequences that have been dismissed because of “excessive, unnecessary arm flailing”… these are the types of things I come to expect, so I don’t take issue with any of it.
Then with the spins, the two that crop up the most that I find most specific to him are the Biellmann spin and scratch spin.
There’s a story I read about him being so determined to master the Biellmann spin, one of the first men to master this female-specific spin, and he got a lot of flack from other guys he trained with, most likely due to jealousy. I haven’t nailed specifically when he stopped doing them, but I’ve noticed that he hasn’t used the Biellmann in the past couple years, most likely due to issues he’s had with his back.
The scratch spin, I had to look up just to see what it was called. So many of his routines end with it that I’ve come to expect it. In lay-man’s terms, he’s spinning upright and his hands, clenched together, steadily go over his head. Every time I see it, I can’t help but wonder how he doesn’t get whiplash, the way his head whips around as fast as it does 😛
For me personally, what gets me excited about a Plushenko routine is the choreography, interpretation of the music and every now and then, when he’s playful.
All those things, I need to go through them with examples because they vary.
I don’t believe there is a specific “era” of his skating I prefer to any other. Of course, anything from 2001 onward is preferable to his earlier stuff. Not that his earlier stuff isn’t great. I commented on his 1998 European long program, saying how spectacular he was and all that was missing were the quads and the artistry. The signature Plushenko look (that gorgeous blonde mullet) came along in 2001 and for the most part, he really hasn’t aged or physically changed.
I want to say that I prefer him from 2010-present because he made fewer mistakes and his routines carry all the elements I love about him. But I do have some routines from 2005 and 2006 I enjoyed a lot as well.
Heck, the first set of routines I watched came from Salt Lake City. The Michael Jackson medley and Carmen, unfortunately, weren’t executed as well in the Olympics, but it’s spectacular after falling on his short program that he got Silver. His first major Olympic showing.
When done well, both of those routines are among several that come to mind when I think of Plushenko’s skating. The interpretation of the music was huge in both of those. My favorite sequence in the Michael Jackson medley is the step sequence that begins after the classic MJ pelvis thrust, set to the instrumental break of “Billy Jean.”
With Carmen, the highlight for me is the timing of the jumps, which makes it all the more crucial that he hits them cleanly. The landings at the Olympics were shaky so the magic wasn’t all there for me.
Another early routine I enjoy is a “Tango and Flamenco” routine with steps from the actual dances incorporated into the footwork. My mind races to catch up and make sense of it- it’s so cool to watch.
I would include “Town Which Doesn’t Exist” among my top favorite Plushenko routines, but I never get the same reaction twice. The first time I was underwhelmed, the second time I was floored, and since then, I don’t know. Either he had me at a moment of weakness or I need to give it much more time before I watch it again.
I first saw it as an exhibition after he won the 2005 Cup of Russia. During the one time it moved me, it was that unique brand of magic he brings to his performances. It was so fluid, the choreography was timed beautifully to the music. To me, it felt like he was making a statement just before the Torino Olympics where he won Gold. It moved me emotionally, almost to tears.
Sometimes, it’s just a question of how everything is staged, timed and if everything is executed to its best.
“Je Suis Malade” is an exhibition he added to his arsenal in 2010. I’m not sure if the Olympics was the first time he did it, but the first time I saw it, it was before I studied his routines and Evan Lysachek’s so I thought he was just being melodramatic about getting Silver in Vancouver.
Since then, I’ve seen maybe 3 other versions. When he did it at Sheffield in 2012 (next to this recent showing at Sochi, I think it’s the best he’s ever looked in competition), the final note took my breath away. He fell on his knees, only to collapsed on the ice, curling into himself, but it was the timing with the music that affected me.
I’m not entirely what it was with [likely] his most famous “Godfather” routine, but it took a while to grow on me. At first, it just made me feel exhausted, just watching it. Couldn’t fathom how he had all that energy to keep up with it for as long as he did. It’s another great Edvin Marton arrangement and it has all the dynamics I come to expect from Plushenko. It just looks exhausting 😛 don’t know how he does it.
Oddly enough, during the one time where it did work for me, Scott Hamilton and the other commentators were talking about how he was fighting off injuries and he did not look like it at all.
Cup of Russia was very strong. The Grand Prix was even stronger with the best execution. I also really enjoy the Euro championships which he did with a cold and ended by collapsing on the ice. The spins weren’t the strongest in the end, but the determination is so admirable. The Marshall Cup also has its moment: where he does the final pose in front of the judges.
Maybe it’s because it’s the first routine I watched, but I have some partiality to his “Bolero” SP from the 2001 worlds. I’d heard of the piece, thinking it was related to the Paso Dablo, but they don’t look anything alike to me. I’d seen it a couple of times, one was brought on by the fact Carolina from Italy skated to it for her Sochi free skate. It could be because he’s wearing red and after being so used to seeing him in the Olympic jackets with red trim, they go hand in hand. From a technical standpoint, he was starting to come into his own with this routine. It had the quad and Biellmann spin. The only missing elements was the artistry and playing it up to the crowd.
While in the same breath, I figured I’d watch “Once Upon a Time in America” in the 2001 Worlds that followed “Bolero”. They said that was the first 4-3-2 combination they’d seen at this competition, which is pretty spectacular. I have my preferences of course, but all of the elements I look in his routines were there. The artistry I didn’t see enough of in “Bolero” and, more importantly, one of his great step sequences.
For the most explosive routines, you don’t really need to look further than “St. Petersburg 300,” a piece celebrating the city’s 300th anniversary, and his “Tribute to Nijinksy”, one of which earned him a perfect score, or pretty close to it.
With the one that got all those 6.0’s, I described it as him changing the air in the room, including on my end. 😛 Those who love him often say he changes the atmosphere when he steps onto the ice, especially when he’s at the top of his game.
My favorite St. Petersburg is at the Grand Prix finals, mainly because it’s his sharpest execution and his spins are GORGEOUS.
Speaking of beautiful, his most beautiful to watch that has brought me to tears… Concerto de Aranjuez…
the 2010 Euros and the Olympics were the best versions of this because he ends it on the right note at the end. Either want to get up and cheer or cry my eyes out, lol
he carries himself like he’s prime to triumph as he often does.
As I might have mentioned, though, I get the most invested when artistry meets technicality and holds its own.
When I take into account my absolute personal best of Evgeni Plushenko, the following routines come to mind.
First, an honorable mention that was a program unique to one event, Stars on Ice in 2005 in St. Petersburg.
I forgot who posted it, I believed it was on Plushenko’s Facebook page, but it’s one of the best supportive gestures I’d seen. Taking into account there’ve been postings featuring his Russian fans wishing him well, collages of YouTube videos set to music…
This was to take our minds off the fact he was going to surgery soon and to keep us positive that he can one day come back. The first few seconds were startling because he was being helped onto the ice with crutches. I didn’t know what to expect, seeing him skate a bit with the crutches, but after he broke into a dance solo with the music hanging over to hip-hop… words almost can’t describe it. It was very moving to see him do those triple axels, skating to this quirky music, and yeah, I believe he will rise to that same greatness again.
It might only be on the exhibition and show circuit, but if it makes YouTube, that’ll be worthy of celebration without question 😎
Next, “Tango de Roxanne,” which was among the first routines I picked out on YouTube because I had other figure skating memories pertaining to it.
I’d been to two skating shows in my life within a couple months (or years) of each other. One featured Katerina Witt and her female skating friends (Nancy Kerrigan, Yuka Sato, among others) and another had a mix of everyone, including one dude known for doing backflips (which are apparently frowned upon in competition).
Katerina and friends stuck with me for a couple reasons, but the biggest one was someone’s routine to “Roxanne,” where Katerina (or Nancy Kerrigan, I forget who it was) played a girl working the red light district and was evading a man on the ice. Very dramatic stuff.
Of course I’d been fascinated by the song since then. It’s my favorite part of “Moulin Rouge” (always impossible to get through that movie without balling at the finish). I remember listening to it on our CD of The Police and being so disappointed that it sounded nothing like this version.
Of course, everyone knows that Plushenko skated to “Tango de Roxanne” in his Olympic short program this year and it was what had everyone going nuts.
Admittedly, I did get sick of hearing the song between his routines I’d been comparing on YouTube 😛 but this routine stuck with me for one big reason:
The charisma! And it deserves that exclamation point because the impact is huge. My favorite part is where he skates to the judges’ bench, hushes the crowd with this pause and the sashaying of the arms shortly after. Drives me crazy every time 😛
I constantly talk myself out of falling in love with him, but that moment is the closest I allow myself to feel turned on. All of the tango movements in this piece and how he carries himself throughout the choreography, step sequences and all… I could go on, so I’ll stop there.
*edit* The Olympic short is super strong, but the Sheffield free skate in 2012’s European championships is my favorite because it has that moment I love.
At the absolute top of my list of what I consider “The Best of Plushenko”…
I really want to say “any Edvin Marton collaboration” because I adore the fact he has written for him to skate to. That really shows the depth of his artistry to me and sets him apart.
Not all Edvin Marton arrangements work all the time (I mentioned “The Godfather”).
“Tango Amour,” like with “Roxanne,” it’s the Tango inspired movements that I enjoy. It took a little while (not as long as “The Godfather”) to grow on me. What excites me about it when it’s at his best: the little moments I come to expect each time, the tango components, but also the final step sequence before the final chorus of music. Those dynamics and him skate in front of the audience at the end of the rink before returning to center ice for the final spins.
Edvin Marton’s version of “Tosca Fantasy”… that is the ultimate for me because everything I love about Plushenko’s skating is here. The technicality, of course. The jumps always go over really well and I often say with this routine, his quads defy gravity.
The dynamics are there. It starts slow and quiet, beautiful with a delicate edge. Then it explodes with the step sequences that are in perfect synch with the music. I’m the kind of person who loves timing of movement with music and it’s as good as it gets. My favorite movement is when he does a few steps and every now and then he balances himself on one foot before continuing on two.
That about sums it up. It took me maybe 3 days to write this and I think I’d gone as far as I can.
If I need anymore discussion about Plushenko, it’ll be on new routines I’m coming across for the first time (which I doubt cuz I’d seen 90% of them already), a new interview, news about his possible return or something else entirely.
Nothing left to say other than “Keep up the good recovery, Mr. Plushenko. We’re all pulling for you.” 😎