Saturday, November 23, 2013

Winter is in the Air: Michelle Kwan's "Winter" and "Winter Song."

Yes, that familiar chill is in the air. The gusting wind rattles my window pane, flurries dance across the gray sky, and Christmas decorations sparkles in the trees. It's the time of year when the orange and pink swirls of dusk sweep across the sky before 5 p.m., the time of year when a hot cup of tea and a heated throw blanket seem like the best luxuries in life, and the time of year when figure skating season is in full swing.

I will not pretend that winter is my favorite time of year; however, it does come with its upsides. The cold-weather- months do bring us many fine holidays that give me a lot to look forward to and enjoy. As Thanksgiving week is nearly upon us, I feel an extra happiness in my step. Thanksgiving has long been the jewel in the crown of our family-holiday traditions. Every year, more than 20 of us spend the weekend together in one house, eating delicious food, reading good books, watching good movies, playing good card games, and having good laughs. We treasure the time we get to spend together, reveling in the celebration of family and giving thanks to all our blessings and good fortune.

Figure skating season during the long winter months is also something that I have always cherished and greatly enjoyed. I can barely remember a winter in my life where skating did not figure prominently. One skater who was always central to my passion for the sport is Michelle Kwan. Two programs of hers came to mind when I was thinking of the winter months: "Winter" by Tori Amos, skated as her exhibition piece during the 1996-1997 season, and "Winter Song" by Ingrid Michaelson, performed as an exhibition in 2009 and 2010 at Yu-Na Kim's "All That Skate" events in Korea and L.A. Both programs are skated to beautiful pieces of music and perfectly showcase the glory that is the "Kween." I've always thought that a mark of a great skater was if they could transport and captivate audiences with their exhibition pieces, as well as their competitive numbers. It's one thing to compete well, but it's quite another to perform well when there are no medal at stake. Michelle's exhibition pieces were always masterful and showed the world her heart.

Michelle's "Winter" program is mesmerizing. Truly exquisite. This particular taping at the World Exhibitions in Lausanne is particularly transcendent and magical, as she skates on a clean sheet of ice, tracing lines on the glass-like surface. There's something so pure about a skater on a fresh sheet of ice, performing with a freedom and ease that comes from loving what one is doing. This performance is a gift.

Michelle's "Winter Song" is also a revelation. At the time of this performance, in the summer of 2009, it had been exactly three years since the world had seen Michelle skate. Three years without Michelle, after having more than a decade of seeing her skate and perform on a regular basis, was a huge hit to the skating world. A void was felt by all, especially her fans. To see Michelle skate again, as passionate, beautiful, and free as ever before, was an extraordinary moment in time. Michelle's ability to give herself to an audience had not been diminished. If anything, I think she skated with even more abandon and joy than ever before. "Winter Song" is a treasure.

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