Lyrics to be permitted in figure skating music for the first time next season
In this Nov. 4, 2012 file photo, Mao Asada of Japan, the gold medalist of the women's free skating of the tournament, performs during the gala exhibition at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Cup of China in Shanghai, China. (AP / Eugene Hoshiko)
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 21, 2014 9:37AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Rachmaninoff or rap. "Moonlight Sonata" or Miley Cyrus.
The music choices for figure skaters will be virtually limitless after the International Skating Union voted to allow lyrics as of next season, a move designed in part to make the sport more appealing to young fans.
"I hope allowing lyrics to be used in figure skating can spice things up a bit for the sport," said Canadian pairs skater Eric Radford. "It makes me happy to see the ISU coming up with ideas that will hopefully bring a new dimension to things."
Lyrics are already permitted in ice dance -- two couples skated their free dance programs at the Sochi Olympics to Michael Jackson medleys.
The musical accompaniment for singles and pairs skaters has ranged from dramatic scores of movies to canned elevator melodies. Anything pop or rock has to be the instrumental version. If there was a list of figure skating's greatest hits, it would include "Carmen," "Swan Lake," and "Romeo and Juliet."
The decision is receiving mixed reviews.
"I think we should have a law that no novice or junior ladies are allowed to skate to Celine Dion or Barbra Streisand," said Robin Cousins.
The 1980 Olympic men's champion from Great Britain -- working as a TV commentator at the Sochi Games -- said permitting lyrics adds another layer that can take away from a program.
"It's bad enough that some of these skaters are competing with their music, let alone have to compete with a voice of that stature (Dion or Streisand) as well," Cousins said. "There was an ice dance team that had Pavarotti and Liza Minnelli in the same music, you don't compete with that.
"The idea of the music is it should enhance your performance and elevate you."
Music can help create a lasting image -- Kurt Browning in white tux and bow tie in his "Casablanca" program, Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's "Bolero," Jamie Sale and David Pelletier's "Love Story."
Russian phenom Julia Lipnitskaia, who was fifth in Sochi, skated a memorable long program to the music from "Schindler's List." The tiny 15-year-old portrayed the movie's little girl in the red coat. The program was choreographed by Ilia Averbukh, a former Olympic ice dance medallist and a Russian Jew.
Lyrics may be a distraction, Cousins said. Might fans sing along to "Call Me Maybe"?
"If it becomes a distraction and people are thinking 'Oh I really like that song' and start listening to the song instead of watching you, you're in big trouble," Cousins said.
Radford, a pianist who studied at Toronto's Royal Conservatory, wrote the music for his short program with pairs partner Meagan Duhamel. He composed the piece named "Tribute" in 2006 after his coach Paul Wirtz died of cancer.
"I think if a skater does decide to use lyrics they have to be very careful and strategic on how they do it," Radford said. "I think lyrics could add a lot to a program but they could become a big distraction if there is no purpose to them in a performance.
"But Meagan and I are at the perfect point in our career to experiment and try something new so I think we will end up using music that has some lyrics in it."
Skate Canada high performance director Mike Slipchuk said when ice dance first allowed lyrics in the late 1990s, skaters rushed to use them. But the pendulum has swung the other way a bit. The top group of ice dancers in Sochi skated to instrumental music.
"It will be interesting," Slipchuk said. "The program will have to really fit with what you're skating to. If it doesn't fit with the lyrics, it could be kind of messy.
"But on the other hand, you look at a lot of the exhibition programs the skaters do (with lyrics) and you think, 'That would be a good short program."'
Slipchuk said Canadian skaters don't need Skate Canada's approval for the music they select.
"I guess we'll just have to make sure the lyrics are clean," he said, laughing. "Have to make sure we stay clear of the rap, nothing with an R rating."