I am really tired of being angry at things, so here is something adorable and cheerful.

Every so often I remember I follow figure skating, and go check to see what my favorites were up to. Much to my delight, Johnny Weir and Stéphane Lambiel are working together in Fantasy On Ice this year. I adore them both; the technical jumps are impressive and all, but they both do a lot of fancy spinny things and daring layouts that I am sad I can't get up enough speed to do on a dance floor.

They are also both rather interesting people. Weir's always had a smart mouth, and surprised a lot of people by being an entertaining commentator for NBC Sports -- admittedly, when you think 'professional athlete' or 'fashionista', the first thing that stereotypically jumps to mind is not 'well-read wit'. Weir's book is a hilarious, if quick, read. He wrote it when he was twenty-five. He'll probably be terrifically embarrassed about it when he's fifty. Most of us are fools when we're twenty-five, but most of us have the luxury of tactically forgetting about it later, because we didn't publish it in hardcover. He's a more than reasonably entertaining writer, and has a head just level enough to recognize when he was being an irrational histrionic idiot as a teenager.

Lambiel is just hellaciously smart. The kind of hellaciously smart that claims not to speak Italian and then starts doing interviews in it a month later. For anyone counting, that would be language number five -- he comes from a French-speaking canton of Switzerland, he has school German (useless for understanding Schweizerdeutsch, he needs translators as much as I do), speaks fluent English from all the travelling, and apparently got Portuguese from his mother, who still has family over in Lisbon or some such. His coach has tales of when he was a wee little nipper and already flashbulb-memorizing the contents of competition invitations he'd seen for a few minutes, printed in a language he didn't really speak at the time.

The two of them are great friends and have worked together on several professional shows since retiring from competition. And whenever they have a chance to rehearse together, they end up working on things like this.

One of the reasons Weir didn't do as well as he might have in the sport was the persistent accusation that,to be blunt, he skated like a girl. Skating choreography is ludicrously sexist, mainly because the ISA is run by old rich white people who are aghast at the idea that anyone might get the impression that their sport is full of (gasp) homosexuals. This is exactly as insane as it sounds, and as a lot of your points come from the totally arbitrary assessment of your artistic merit... well, you know where that's going.

If you're going by rigid gender standards, then yes, Weir does skate like a girl. He does it very well. Johnny Weir girls up better than most ciswomen I know, who have been practicing at it since day one. Lambiel also has a very fluid, dance-inspired style. (Contrast to another friend of theirs, Evgeni Plushenko, who is gorgeous, but does skate very much like a dude. Not so much emotional sliding around flat on the ice, etc. And that's his tribute to a famous ballet dancer.) He didn't get nearly so much flak for it as Weir did, possibly because I've seen Lambiel give himself whiplash watching the lady skaters, whereas Weir was so openly, unrepentantly gay from the start that when he and another competitor had a spat over rooms in Vancouver, the Olympic housing committee threw up their hands and solved the problem by putting Weir in a suite with one of the girls.

ISA rules forbid non-mixed pairs in competition. (To wit, they specify one male and one female skater in each competition pair. Women were also required to wear skirts until 2005. I think the idea of nonbinary or agender skaters would just make their heads asplode.) But, as you can see in one of the Johnny Weir clips above, there is nothing stopping you from doing anything you damn well please in a commercial exhibition. I happen to be a great fan of both Lambiel's and Weir's style, and I keep holding out hope that someone will give them the chance to make an actual piece out of that, and perform. I would pay actual money to see it, assuming I had any.

[Bonus post: Weir tweeted a bit after the first one that he was pretty proud of that video clip, because they'd screwed it up plenty in practice. He's got a good sense of humor about falling flat on his ass on the ice.]

Comments

  1. Oh, Johnny. Stephne and he are such Instahams. I loved his book. Also, his reality TV show was utter trash, but I and a friend loved it so hard that we'd try to organize viewing parties in which only the two of us ever showed up. If I had the money to fly and see Weir . . . I content myself with social media, but seeing him perform live would be awesome.

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    1. I've seen him live. He apparently has a soft spot for the Jimmy Fund people, because he's turned up at An Evening With Champions for a few years running. It's an annual thing sometime between mid-September and mid-October, run by volunteers at Harvard. $25 for a front row seat, IIRC.

      He is the tiniest thing. Some of the ice dancer girls topped him by several inches. He just has enough personality for someone about a foot taller than he actually is.

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