By the end of his performance, I had tears in my eyes. My mom and I were clapping even though the performance was on television, not live. It was breathtaking.
And no, it wasn’t a musical performance. It was ice skating.
I never thought that an ice-skating routine could be done with such passion, energy, grace, and joy. The live audience was on their feet screaming and clapping before he even finished! This young man is clearly on his way to becoming a world-class competitor. But what gave him such a powerful edge? Previous skaters had added more difficult moves to their routines, skated more precisely, and looked more impressive. What was this guy’s secret?
~ Before he started, he was clearly nervous. His coach, a young woman (yay for young female teachers, woohoo!) who looked fully confident in his abilities, gave him a hug and whispered some kind of encouragement. He had the complete support of his coach, who knew that he was prepared. I found out later that his coach had been with him since he was five years old!
~ When he finally settled into his beginning position on the ice, you can see the nervousness in his eyes still, but another look comes across his face: focus. He breathes deeply and exhales, pushing away the anxious jitters. As the music started he swung smoothly into the first move; his face now looked calm, determined, and intent.
~ While I couldn’t see what was going on in his head, of course, his movements were completely controlled. Nothing looked haphazard or timid due to nerves shaking his resolve. He was absolutely ready to skate, and once the music started, he stayed in control of his muscles and body. He knew how to direct all the nervous energy into useful energy, blocking out the voices in his mind.
~ Each step was rehearsed so well that his body could fall into the familiar patterns without hesitating. Nothing was forgotten. Nothing was done too fast or too slow. Every footfall, twist, twirl, hand motion, head turn, arch, and spin was perfectly memorized. He probably could have performed the routine in his sleep! One of the judges said that last year “jumps gave him fits”. Obviously he spent months perfecting each second of the program with practice and spot-work.
~ He was always looking ahead to the next step. Over his shoulder, ahead to the landing spot on the ice, ahead to the far end of the rink: he would think one step ahead of himself, prepare for the difficult moves, and execute them with focus. Then he was immediately looking ahead for the next move. He did not dwell on what had just happened. Everything was about the future and about continuing to move on to the next step.
~ Once the music’s tempo got faster, he really threw himself into the playful aspect of the performance. All his energy was put into putting on a true performance for the audience. The judges were still watching, but it was the audience who was cheering and clapping in rhythm for him that he was skating for now. You can see it on his face as he flies past the crowds! “He has something very unique that we’ve seen: the ability to connect with the audience, and by extension, the judges.”
~ While still keeping control over his body, he put all his passion into what he was doing. You can see his excitement while he was skating. “He truly knows the power of the performance.”
~ He had all three elements of being a great ice-skater, as the judges pointed out: entertainment, artistry, and athleticism. You need everything in balance to captivate both an audience and a judge.
~ At the end, you can tell by his expression that he was not prideful about what he had just accomplished. He was happy, surprised at how well he did, and excited to hear the roar of the crowd! A great performer should be humble about their successes. The shocked look on his face when his scores were announced proves that he used the energy of the moment to surpass his personal best and bring a spectacular show to the rink.
In the end, I realized that much of what I saw in Jason Brown’s performance could be applied to being a performer of music as well. Being a classical musician means that usually the audience isn’t cheering loudly or stamping in their seats, but you can still feed off the energy of the crowd! You might not be leaping into a triple spin, but you can hold the audience in the palm of your hand with an electrifying melody. You might not glide across the ice with grace, but you can bring a room to tears with the tender notes of a story told without words.
As performers of the arts, we would all do well to learn lessons from each other, so that each of us can grow and benefit for the beauty that we love to show the world.