Famous Figure Skating Programs to Ballet Music

Famous Figure Skating Programs to Ballet Music

These melodies can be heard not only on the stages of the world major theaters, but also on the "big ice". What ballet music brought athletes medals in figure skating?

Carmen performed by Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov 

For the 2006 Olympic season, coach Alexander Zhulin staged one of their most recognizable numbers for the ice dancers. The skaters took the ice as hot Carmen and courageous bullfighter to the music by Georges Bizet. 

Tatiana Druchinina, a world champion in rhythmic gymnastics, was responsible for the choreography of the program. And Tatiana Navka once admitted that when preparing she was inspired by the image of the ballerina Maya Plisetskaya.

It was Carmen that brought the Russian pair of athletes victory at the 2006 Olympics in Turin. The work was highly appreciated by judges and professional critics: Navka and Kostomarov managed to transfer to the ice the smoothness and expressiveness that are more characteristic of parquet or stage than ice. 

Swan Lake performed by Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov

The program to the music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky from the ballet Swan Lake brought the Russian ice dancing pair medals at the home Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. In the team event, they won the first place then; and in the individual event, they were third. The images of the skaters remind of the Black Swan from the classical ballet production: the male partner is in a black suit, and the female partner wears an embroidered black dress resembling a tutu. Elena Ilinykh once hinted that "one person from the Bolshoi Theater" took part in the work on the production:

“This is a very famous choreographer who has participated in creating many outstanding ballet performances. Everything he has taught us, you’ll see in the free dance.”  

The Olympic performance of this program turned out to be truly historic: the audience applauded the pair, and the bronze medal in the individual event was won confidently. Shortly after that, the dancing couple broke up, so the performance to the ballet music by Tchaikovsky can be called the swan song of this duet. 

The Firebird performed by Anna Shcherbakova

The figure skater performed the free program in 2020 to the music from the ballet The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky and the composition Gnossienne No. 1 by the French composer Erik Satie. The vibrant magical character became a challenge for the athlete and a surprise for her fans, who had previously been accustomed to seeing Shcherbakova in lyrical and romantic images. The expression of the number was emphasized by the costume that suddenly turned from violet-blue to bright scarlet imitating the shiny plumage and as if flaming hem. Following the music, the ballerina began with unhurried and smooth skating in order to pick up the pace by the climax and maximize her expression with technical elements. 

By the way, ballet aesthetics are also close to other Russian figure skaters from the team of coach Eteri Tutberidze. The former ballet dancer of the Bolshoi Theater Lyudmila Shalashova worked with her students for a long time: she participated in preparing numbers for athletes and taught them typical ballet pas. 

The Nutcracker performed by Mikhail Kolyada

The story of the brave Nutcracker on the ice was shown by many generations of figure skaters, and it is still in demand to this day. An excerpt from the ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was taken as the musical accompaniment for the short program of the Russian figure skater in 2021. According to Mikhail Kolyada, he chose The Nutcracker for this number himself, and the coach, Alexei Mishin, supported the idea. Ilia Averbukh took part in the preparation too. Here is what the figure skater said about his character shown on the ice: 

“There is a story that I was wooden first, then gradually I turn into a prince, but at the end I close up again. There's a kind of double choreography going on here, so to speak. A little wooden, a little pliable.”

 In this program, Kolyada appeared as the classical character of Hoffmann's fairy tale: a red uniform with golden embroidery, dark blue trousers with red stripes and snow-white gloves. Unfortunately, the skater doesn’t have a chance to show the Nutcracker at the Beijing Olympics: right before the departure, he tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn’t join the national team. 

Bolero performed by Evgeni Plushenko and Kamila Valieva

Many figure skaters took the ice in the world's greatest competitions to the legendary composition by Maurice Ravel. In a few years, this piece, written for the ballerina Ida Rubinstein, will mark its 100th anniversary. Among the Russian athletes, the Spanish dance was immortalized by Evgeni Plushenko and Kamila Valieva. In 2001, 18-year-old Plushenko won the world championship with a short program to this music. As for Kamila Valieva, she delights both judges and spectators with her brilliant performances in the 2021-2022 season. According to the young skater’s coach Eteri Tutberidze, Kamila "managed to show the most worthy Bolero.” The choreography and plasticity of the figure skater in this program remind of the movements of the brightest ballet stars who danced to Ravel’s music at different times - Maya Plisetskaya, Sylvie Guillem, Diana Vishneva.