Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ode to Chen Lu: "Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy

In 1994, 17-year-old Lu Chen won her country's first ever Olympic figure skating medal. Considering the enormous strides that China has made in figure skating since then,in pairs skating in particular, Chen is considered a front-runner in the sport, the first one to put figure skating on the map in China. Chen's impressive Olympic campaign, in Lillehammer, Norway came in the wake of the Tonya-Harding/ Nancy Kerrigan saga, and then the Oksana Baiul/Nancy Kerrigan rivalry. Quietly, subtly, and with seamless grace, Chen glided onto the medal podium, finishing third with two gorgeous and demanding performances.

In the short program, Chen skated to the ethereal "Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy. Though she timed her Triple Lutz-double toe loop combination too close to the barrier and stumbled into it and a camera in between jumps, the rest of her program flowed with delightful elegance. "Claire de Lune" is French for "moonlight." In my mind, it is not too hard to imagine that Chen is skating this enchanting performance on a moonlit pond under the stars on a still winter evening.

I began watching figure skating regularly starting with these 1994 Games...this was the first time I heard "Claire de Lune." I was transfixed. It is still one of my favorite pieces of music.

Enjoy the lyrical grace of China's own premier skating superstar.

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