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Scheherazade: Figure Skating

Scheherazade: One Thousand and One Nights

You may not be familiar with the term Scheherazade, but One Thousand and One Nights gives you an instant snapshot on it. Right, Scheherazade is a major female character in One Thousand and One Nights, a story of the Middle Eastern collection. Yeah, it sounds Arabic, and indeed it's Arabic. The story of a serial killer king who went on butchering his new brides on next day after marriage because his first wife had cheated on him, and he didn't see his new wives commit the same crime against his Royal Highness. In what appears to be a perfect preventive measure taken, the death tolls of royal moral campaign were stacked up in a staggering number, God knows how many. Here walked in Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter, to a death trap in disguise of matrimony. To beat the odd of her certain death, Scheherazade decided to spin a series of stories that would keep the king hooked up to and make him hear more about them, which would spare her for as long as 1000 days. By then the king had fallen in love with Scheherazade enough to decide not to kill her.

Composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888, Scheherazade is a music that is reflected on exotic Orientalism and Imperial Russian folk styles in classic mode. In Scheherazade, various musical props are used in depicting a defenseless girl in danger of royal vengeance. Scheherazade's rich violin helps skaters add lyrical texture in classical symphony and its recurring fanfare motifs serve a dramatic turnover with Arabic flavor. Over the times, Scheherazade has proved to be one of the popular choices that figure skaters in different times are eager to adopt for their artful adventures.

Linda Fratianne in 1976

Linda Fratianne

Whether Fratianne was the first female figure skater who ever used Scheherazade is not clear. It is possible that skaters prior to Fratianne might have used Scheherazade. Yet Frantianne's Scheherazade itself is noteworthy, however, for the quality she put up on the program. To her contemporary standards, Fratianne's Scheherazade was indeed a fine piece of work. Jumps are solid and look as easy as any other elements she lashes out, and her command of the whole performance is nothing short of a superb handling. Of course, you can plainly see there is little sophistication or high technicality in her skating. After all, being done in the 1970s, perhaps we need to be content with that whopping double axel.

Midori Ito in 1989

Midori Ito, Queen of Acrobatics

It's a bit weird that Midori Ito also used Scheherazade. Such a legendary jumper, Ito is anything but lyrical or graceful. Ito's skating represents powerful jumps.Simply her style wouldn't suit a piece like Scheherazade. In this incredible performance Ito simply whistles through jumps. Even in today's perspective, Ito's jumps will qualify for +GOE. But you can't help feeling stunted, however. Contrasted with her towering talent as a jumper, Ito's other figure skating elements like aesthetic qualities are not there. etc. More critically, due to her physiological handicap, it's almost impossible to imagine Ito's turning her performance into something akin to Lynn or Fleming. So, Scheherazade may not be a good choice for Ito. The texture and tone of the music are not in a perfect line with the acrobatic features of Ito's skating, heavily invested in speed, power, and energy. In figure skating, many elements are predetermined by physiological features. Skaters with long arms and legs are more advantageous in expressing lines and extensions than those with shorter arms and legs. Skaters, short and light weighted, do better in jump than those tall and statuesque.

Michelle Kwan in 2002

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Michell Kwan: Queen of the 2000s

Michelle Kwan, famous for her artistic capacity, is neither a Peggy Fleming type skater nor Midori Ito. Rather, Kwan is physiologically akin to Linda Fratianne, short and slim. And stylistically too, composed and apt. Kwan's jump quality wasn't much prominent like other legends. Kwan's strength lies with her consistency, which enables her to establish longevity in her career. Midori Ito may be much stronger a jumper than Kwan - as long as jump is concerned, Ito is second to none in the history of female figure skating - but Kwan is a more rounded, more proficient and more influential skater. It is Kwan's Scheherazade that inspired Yuna Kim, and now we have Kim's version on Scheherazade.

Yuna Kim in 2009


Yuna Kim's Scheherazade

Yuna Kim's Scheherazade is definitely one of her many masterpieces for the balance between its competitive merits and artful rendering. Kim, being at the height of her career at the time, was full of her strength and her technical edge was as sharp as it could be. Up to this day, it is regarded as one of Kim's most definitive programs. Danse de Macabre, Kim's another program same year, also shows jaw-dropping potency in skill and tenacious execution, but Scheherazade consists of finer texture and more sophisticated tone than Danse de Macabre. If Yuna Kim skated to Danse de Macabre like Midori Ito, flaunting her athletic strength and control, for Scheherazade, she added aesthetic nuances. Of course, you may find Kim maturer and more polished in her later programs such as James Bond, Gershwin or even Les Miserables. That is, in terms of maturity and progress, Kim wasn't at her best, but during this period of time Kim's athletic ability was at zenith, no doubt. That's what makes Scheherazade special. In retrospect, Scheherazade is a program done by Kim at her physical and athletic best.

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