Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Katarina Witt's "The Girl in the Red Coat" Program to the Music of "Schindler's List" by John Williams

In the 1994/1995 season, Katarina Witt skated to the music from the motion picture "Schindler's List." She chose to portray the character from the film, the girl in the red coat. The girl portrays an important character in the film: the sight walking through the massacre of the Polish Jews in the Krakow Ghetto is used in the film to show Oskar Schindler's recognition of what the Holocaust really is; in that moment, a shift in his character takes places as he begins to change from a greedy war profiteer into someone who uses his power for good. The girl in the red coat is one of only two images in color in the black-and-white Academy Award-winning film.

In this video, Katarina skates in the 1994 World Professional Championship, what used to be an annual event held in Landover, MD. As commentator Sandra Bezic points out, Katarina knew her technical level wasn't enough to compete for the title in this competition, but she knew that in a nationally-broadcast event, she could use the platform to express herself and communicates a message about an important issue. Katarina recognized the irony of a German skating to "Schinder's List". She said that the German people are different today, but it's still important to remember what happened in the Holocaust; to never forget.

In this piece, Katarina portrays the girl in the red coat, all grown up, if she had lived. At the start of the program, the tangled movements represent the girl's past. The movements are done in the center of the ice, which represents her home.

In my mind, two programs of Katarina's that are works of art that tell a story and deliver a message are her 1994 Olympic freeskate to "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" by Pete Seeger, in remembrance of the victims of the war in Sarajevo, and this one to "Schindler's List." Both pieces are profound and will forever cement Katarina in figure skating history as one of the great artists and important figures of the sport. Katarina need not leave the ice to create an impact with her skating---her emotion and passion are felt in the simplest of movements, the simplest stroke of the blade, the reach of a fingertip.

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