Saitama Worlds

By , April 9, 2023 4:53 pm

I wish I could have gone to the World Figure Skating Championships in Japan. Maybe next year in Montreal.

It has been an interesting year for figure skating fans. Personally, I did not miss the Russians (banned due to the war against Ukraine) at all. After the drama of the last Olympics, I was happy to have that angle eliminated from the entire season. I do not care at all who is doing how many quads at what young age. There is such a thing as longevity and health.

Instead we got perhaps less stellar skating but a much more friendly environment. The Japanese fans are legendary: kind to every single skater, clapping along to the beat at the drop of a hat, and always PRESENT. Particularly at Canadian skating events, the crowds have been sparse this year. To see the Japanese fans go absolutely bonkers for Kaori Sakamoto, Ryuichi Kihara and Riku Miura (pairs), and Daisuke Takahashi and Kana Muramoto (dance) was incredible. I love their passion for the sport. And they love a lot of skaters that I love, too: Piper and Paul, Jason Brown, Keegan Messing, to name a few.

The Worlds did give me some concerns though, particularly with the scoring of the dance event. This leaves me wondering, what do you do when the sport you love is an unsavoury institution? Apparently, even though Russian skaters were banned, Russian coaches were there (sort of understandable) as were Russian ISU officials (how is that possibly allowed???). That is just wrong. How does the international skating union look itself in the mirror?

Yes, ice dance – my favourite – is notoriously the most ‘fixed’ discipline within figure skating. All Canadians probably had extremely high hopes for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier to bring home the gold. Unfortunately, Piper had an appendectomy and they sat out nationals. To my extreme pleasure, they skated great at Worlds, if maybe a bit slower than usual. The Evita program played really well. They didn’t tinker with it like they did with last year’s Long and Winding Road. Why then were they third in both the short and free dance scoring? I have enjoyed Madison Chock and Evan Bates ever since their Olympic alien routine. I give them huge credit for sticking with this year’s weird theme as well. But they made a huge error (albeit not on an element) in the free dance that should have lowered their overall program component scores to a maximum of 9.5. But apparently that rule was just ignored. As for the Italians who finished with the silver. Good effort. That’s all I’m going to say. Yes, I am a fickle Canadian fan.

I’ve always been a sports fan. These days my sporting tastes are much more limited. I have no regrets that I continue to invest my time and tears into figure skating.

Piper & Paul and Evita: A dance a decade in the making - Team Canada -  Official Olympic Team Website
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, Evita free dance


By , April 9, 2023 4:30 pm

We had an amazing time this week at Hamilton! The play, that is, not the city.

Having studied American history at University of Toronto, I was surprised when Lin-Manuel Miranda turned the story of Alexander Hamilton into an incredibly successful Broadway play. I had watched some scenes on PBS when it initially came out, but I had never seen the whole play. I knew it had hip hop connections. I know almost nothing about hip hop. I knew about Hamilton, generally.

So I went in pretty blind, except for the history part. Back at U of T I took a number of courses about the time period, particularly my favourite ever course from my undergrad years: The History of the American Revolution with professor David Wilson. That course included pretty much the same cast as the musical: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton. Who knew though that Aaron Burr would play such a big role!

Review: 'Hamilton' is back in Toronto and it really is that good | The Star

Needless to say, we loved it! The music is incredible. The choreography is interestingly engaging. The audience (quite a mix of ages – unusual for a play audience in Toronto) was very into it, especially for King George’s campy scenes (“you’ll be back”) and Thomas Jefferson’s rap battle.

I could sit here and describe the play but that has been done a million times over. I’d rather comment on its approach to history.

The first thing I did after coming home from Hamilton was look up criticism of it. I wanted to know what people think, good or bad. Historically, I thought it was relatively accurate, though not entirely, about Hamilton’s life and work. Whether it’s accurate about Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler, is a pending question. As the second act roles toward its end she becomes the big focus. I have not had a chance to check out the accuracy yet of her portrayal. I’m not into heroism in history. I don’t like this angle on Hamilton.

In a way Hamilton is a story about historiography. The last song is all about ‘who tells your story’, referring to Eliza supposedly continuing Hamilton’s legacy. This focus on historiography is interesting given the play’s context: the American Revolution. The script is all about liberty and yet there is almost total non-inclusion of enslaved Americans as part of the story save for a few tiny references.

Much has been made of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s use of a representational cast . Today, years after its debut, I find it quite ironic to see the almost all Black cast (in the case of the Toronto production) make little mention of the millions of enslaved Americans. I would assume irony was not the original intent. However, circumstances change and audiences make their own interpretations. From that standpoint, I think it’s creative but still has a big hole in it.

It would have been a lot easier to include more reality in the play. Or maybe that was the point: the slavers didn’t give a damn at the time. The scene towards the end where Washington supposedly bows his head in recognition that he didn’t end slavery when American independence took hold is historical revisionism if you ask me.

I will reserve judgement on the overall historical accuracy of Miranda’s script until I read the book upon which he based the play, Ron Chernow’s biography, “Alexander Hamilton.” Then I will judge the book. And only then will I be able to finally judge the play’s use or abuse of history.

Other than that though, it was such a great night out.

History teacher out.

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