Sunday, 23 February 2014

Grace, and the phantom

I've just been watching archive videos of Yevgeny Plushenko and remembering how beautiful he is. Such grace - that mastery of the physics that makes the man appear to fly, to move softly and subtly and effortlessly, with instant acceleration, deceleration and control.

It frequently makes full-speed video look like slow motion.

Part of it is musicality - even in Olympic competition, the music rarely seems like simply a background or framework for the choreography. In many routines he still manages to make the movement look as though it's motivated by the music, and that contributes a lot to the illusion of ease, and the reality of grace.

Of course, it works much better in the gala routines, which are more like pure dance.

I often think that it's a mistake to learn how to move by trying to make it look a certain way. If the movement has a meaning, something to do, say, or express, then beauty is an automatic byproduct of efficiency in doing that. I can't prove that, it's just my opinion. For me, seeing that something looks wrong is often a good way to identify an inefficiency or bad habit and discard it. Seeing the way someone else does something, and noticing that it looks good, can also be very helpful in working out how to do it better. But trying to look a certain way, or to do anything simply because it might look good, is mostly confusing and counterproductive.

An individual performance is about how it looks for an audience, yes. But I think it looks better when it's looking that way at least partly in the service of meaning something.

Bonus: Destin and his Phantom super slow motion camera explain the physics of ice skates.

My favourite thing about the internet these days is all the pop-science educational content that gets straight to an interesting point. Or if they do waste time, it's with genuine banter rather than irritating apology. Not a Pensive-Presenter-With-Landscape in sight.

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