Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This is what I am talking about....

Okay, another pet peeve (no stick figures this time!)
This time I want to talk about choreography.  Yesterday I was talking about how much I love the way Ivana Hong's floor routines are designed.  They make up for her lack of artistic expression by creating a routine that gives her lovely shapes and lines.  In doing so, they obscure the fact that she isn't necessarily the most accomplished dancer.  I mean, there are plenty worse.  Ivana's not bad and anyway, she's a gymnast not a dancer.  

But that's not the point.  My point is that decent choreography can cover for a gymnast's flaws and weaknesses.  Now, any elite gymnast has been trained to perform balletic leaps, and any elite gymnast must be able to do the splits and a backbend.  So why not use them to give the gymnast who doesn't have naturally lovely lines some lovely lines?  It's a case of the old "if all you get is lemons, make lemonade" principle.  

Any gymnast can achieve this lovely shape.  So why don't they use it?

Why, instead, do they insist on this?!?

A case in point.  Take Kristina Goryunova's floor routine from the 2009 Tyson American Cup.

Now, Goryunova is by no means what we would call naturally graceful.  In fact, next to her team mates The Ksenia's and Pavs, she could even be considered downright clunky.  I mean, she is a fierce tumbler and a good vaulter.  That is why the Russians have her.  But they are smart too.  Her natural talent for tumbling does NOT STOP THEM from finding choreography that will give her enough elegance and poise to impress the judges, elegance and poise that does not necessarily come naturally to her.  

Of course part of it is her good training.  She has clearly been drilled in ballet and has obviously been trained to understand that her leaps and dance moves are of value as much as her tumbling.

As far as I am concerned this is quite a pretty, and more importantly, polished little routine (wavy hands in the tumble corners before the third pass aside!)  from a gymnast who would probably rather be flipping all the time. You can see that she has been taught to treat each move as a move unto itself, and not just a series of gestures that give her breathing time and brings her closer to the next tumble.

It's the little things.  It's the overextended first split leap.  It's the elegant little stag jump out of another jump.  It's the arabesques in the corner. It's the pretty little retire into the half plie before her (kinda sad) leg up full-turn.  It's the the arabesque down into handstand turn. It's the lovely arched back on the finish pose.

It's not much, but the clever choreography gives her routine an air of poise and artistry.  And there is not a single gymnast out there who couldn't at least attempt the same type of moves.  Now clearly some girls are just naturally more graceful and therefore, have the upper hand in that department of gymnastics judging.  But still, there are ways to at least impress the judges with what you HAVE got.  

Sorry to go on about it, but when I see a routine like this that succeeds in showing off a gymnasts best assets, while obscuring her weaknesses through something so basic as clever, well-thought-out chorey, I get frustrated because of the many coaches who do not attend to the same things

 Anyway, well played Goryunova and her coaches and choreographers!!


  1. Another great example would be Cheng Fei's 2004 routine. She's not the best dancer, but they kept her in constant motion and she kept her energy up, which made up for it. Good choreographers can do wonders.

  2. superb article!! yelena produnova was another great example, super powerful but not a dancer yet they found choreography to work with it and still be elegant

  3. Love your blog. Sometimes your embedded videos don't load on my screen and there's just a blank black space. I was wondering if you could do what gymnasticscoaching does and both embed and post a link to youtube (he says something like "watch here or click here to watch on youtube"). Thanks!

  4. I loved your thoughts about choreography. One of the best routines (choreographically speaking) I've seen in recent times was perfomed by Do Thi Ngan Thuong at the Olympic games. Sure her tumbling is really bad, but her choreo is amazing.

  5. I agree whole heartedly. Sometimes it appears that choreographers can't even interpret music properly anymore. At other times it seems that the choreographer is more concerned with making the gymnast perform what she considers "a great routine" to the music without considering the fact that the gymnast might not fit the mold of the routine that's in her head.
    I love choreographing and would be happy to have you on my team any day!