"To watch Robin is to sense the complete control he has over his body."
February 9, 2018 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I admit that, as a skater, when I’m watching I just go, ‘For God’s sake, just slow down.’ When I was competing and choreographing for competitors, my whole thing was, if you fell on every jump or if you took every jump out, would your routine still be interesting to look at? I want to bring the beauty back.

As the 2018 Olympics kick off and figure-skating fans settle in for ‘quad watch’, let’s take a moment and revisit the artistry, musicality, and graceful athleticism of Robin Cousins.

Gold medallist in the 1980 Olympics, veteran of both amateur and professional competitions into the 1990’s, and an extensive career in the sport which has included choreography, judging, commentating, and both performing with and founding touring companies. He holds the Guinness world record for the longest axel and backflip. He indulged his theatrical leanings off the ice for a time, both in West End performances and in a touring company in Britain. Those who remember moves such as open/delayed axels, slide spirals and layout backflips associate them with him; while not quite as rare, he also frequently deployed bi-directional spins in his programmes. Few other male skaters have approached his elegant, effortless affect on the ice.
posted by myotahapea (12 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
It's kind of astonishing that someone who hates the sport aspect of figure skating was so successful in that realm. Like learning that someone who really liked dance and ballet had devoted a portion of his life to the long jump and the triple jump.
posted by explosion at 1:46 PM on February 9

And this is why I'm addicted to ice dance. Technique, technique, technique, amazing beauty and...no jumps. It just changes the entire thing when there are no jumps.

I'm an American, but I'm a rabid Virtue/Moir fan. Here they are a couple of weeks ago with the routines they'll use at the Olympics. (With tiny changes.) Short. Free dance.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:00 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]

>It's kind of astonishing that someone who hates the sport aspect of figure skating was so successful in that realm.

He speaks a bit about how he first got involved in figure skating in this video, mentioning how for him skating incorporated dance, ballet and gymnastics. (Also a lovely bit about taking a £9pcw Notting Hill bedsit (!!!) when he first arrived in London.)
posted by myotahapea at 2:11 PM on February 9

Oh wow. That flip made me gasp and I couldn’t stop grinning for the rest of the video. Just fab!
posted by greermahoney at 5:06 PM on February 9

I enjoyed watching him skating in this video.
posted by aniola at 6:23 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

And this is why I'm addicted to ice dance. Technique, technique, technique, amazing beauty and...no jumps. It just changes the entire thing when there are no jumps.

I used to be kind of ignorantly scornful of ice dance, but in the past year or so I've really gotten into it. Much of my favorite skating happens in ice dance.

And, though it isn't an Olympic sport, synchronized skating can be fantastic. This 2015 skate from Team Canada is a favorite.

I'm a men's gymnastics fan, and it can be so discouraging--the open-ended scoring system that combines a difficulty score with an execution score has pushed athletes to more and more difficult skills, and you end up with competitions where practically nobody can get through a routine without falling. My kid and I were live and in-person for the 2015 men's national championships, which were a total splat-fest. You could literally see the moment when Chris Brooks, always something of an also-ran, realized that if he could stay on all of his apparatuses, he had a shot at the podium

I watched the figure skating national championships a couple of years ago, and watched Nathan Chen, skating like a block of wood, throw up his quads, and I was like, "No! Do you want figure skating to become men's gymnastics? Tedious filler punctuated by risky big-points skills? No! You do not!" I was gratified when Adam Rippon won the championship that year despite Chen and his quads, but I fear that the days of skaters like him are numbered--and Jason Brown, the whole world's favorite artistic crowd-pleaser, isn't at the Olympics this year.

The men's short program portion of the team skating competition reminded me of men's gymnastics, guys falling one after another--even Nathan Chen, who I thought was entirely unflappable. And after you watch a skater like Rippon or Brown, where every moment of their skate is interesting, a lot of the choreography from the other skaters seems pretty dull, to my eyes anyway.

This article in the New York Times about Jason Brown is a good discussion of this stuff as well.
posted by Orlop at 7:09 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

To be fair, Nathan Chen's artistry has improved a lot--he is a great deal less wooden these days.
posted by Orlop at 7:09 PM on February 9

Patrick Chan ftw!!!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:35 PM on February 9

I miss '80s skating. Between Robin Cousins and Torvill&Dean, it was a span of years where art, humor, grace, synchronicity, and storytelling were as important (if not more important) than jump, prep for next jump; jump, prep for next jump; jump.
posted by tzikeh at 11:24 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]

I miss '80s skating. Between Robin Cousins and Torvill&Dean,

They owe it all to this man, without whom the sport would probably have looked very different. There's something about that tiny cadre of British skaters that's just so damn sexy, and most of it is due to the late John Curry.

I always think of Cousins as Disco to Curry's Ballet. Torvill and Dean at their peak were something else altogether. Ballroom doesn't even begin to capture it. All went above and beyond the sport, which seems ironic because some of their best work was in competition. Thanks for posting.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:57 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]

Realized belatedly I didn't give a link to the NYT article about Jason Brown.
posted by Orlop at 6:48 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Elizabeth the Thirteenth: Always happy to run across another John Curry fan! Torvill & Dean became icons after Sarajevo and Cousins has an ongoing career in the sport, but it seems the world has largely forgotten Curry. I recall reading that same story you linked about 'Looking for John', Tony Timberlake's one-man show about him, but regretfully never got the opportunity to see it.
posted by myotahapea at 8:33 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

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