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Janet Lynn wasn't artistic?

Updated on November 5, 2014

Janet Lynn: artistry, Lynn's secret

Often people refer Janet Lynn to artistry in figure skating.

But when they say that, they typically mean Lynn was more an expressive skater rather than a technically brilliant skater.

Especially today people say that as they see figure skating as a sport of two independent disciplines: technicality and artistry.

There is no doubt that Lynn was a skater with unparalleled expressiveness. But Lynn's skating was far from being expressive.

Lynn wasn't as "aritistic" as people think in today's popular understanding of artistry as opposed to techincality charaterized by jump.

Now you may sctratch your head.

What are you talking about, Jesse? Lynn wasn't artistic? You are kidding, aren't you?

If Lynn weren't artistic, how was Lynn able to skate the way she did? How could people say Lynn was the most artistic skater in the world?

All right, I won't tease you longer.

What I am talking about is that today's definition of artistry is wrong, and consequently majority of people mistake about artistry.

When it comes to artistry, people often refer it to something subjective and intangible as opposed to technicality, objective and quantifiable.

When you hear anyone say that to you, you will know he or she doesn't know figure skating. Coaches, experts or even figure skaters don't quite grasp the definition of artistry.

Janet Lynn in 1969


Artistry is not expressiveness

A misconception about Lynn's artistry or figure skating artistry is that people often take it for expressiveness.

Expressiveness is a big part of artistry in general and Lynn was indeed an exceptionally expressive skater.

But Lynn's artistry was purely technical. It is virtually impossible for today's skaters to do Lynn's moves. At this, Platonic idea becomes a reality; imitation won't stand a chance.

It is very true that you need skating proficiency in order to incorporate expressiveness into your skating, or your expressiveness shall be greatly impeded. But to copy expressiveness is still doable.

In figure skating, however, artistry has little to do with expressiveness. Lynn's artistry is completely a different entity from the so called expressiveness. On the contrary, Lynn's art is a pure product of her own control mechanism that no skater has ever developed.

Janet Lynn in 1971

Balance, balance and balance

The most definitive trait of Lynn's skating to untrained eyes is fixation of her center of weight.

Lynn's center of weight never shows misalignment throughout the program. When Lynn changes position of arms, legs and upper body, she almost always follow the least action principle.

Even when Lynn jumps, she appears very mindful of how to minimize jumping disruption so that it won't get in the way of skating momentum.

This is very important because figure skating pursues geometric ideals.

As a matter of fact, Lynn knew, of course instinctly, she needs to slowly shift from one position to another in order to create illusions. Try to think about Inna Bauer move.

Why do you think it's beautiful aside from flexibility and body curve? Now you get that, right?

Yes it's the skater's body part's slow shift while gliding straight that makes it appealing. That is, skaters' graceful, "slow" shifting of arms or body angle effectively evoke a sense of illusion in contrast with its forward momentum.

But this requires an immaculate edge control and balance.

Janet Lynn in 1972

Lynn: a skater who upgraded the sport from 2 dimension to 3 dimension.

So the key is how to make each body part's moves directed and integrated while making them look curvy and illusive in contextual language of execution.

Think this way.

Figure skating is a sport in which you are supposed to make your forward momentum feel like ice surface, smooth, immaculate and polished while your moves feel like compulsory drawing thereon, that is, your moves are almost always curvy and circular, not randomly jagged.

You can see all this while you are watching the center of Lynn's body and how it moves. Not knowingly, Lynn internalizes the classic figure skating within her moves and her presentation.

From the example above, you will understand figure skating artisty can't be mimicked or copied without technical substance.

Figure skating artistry is not something you can produce with pretension or make-believe gesture, because figure skating artistry lies in stability, balance, continuity, linearity, connection, symmetry and completeness that eventually form a language of self-expressiveness.

It has little to do with acting, imitation, or emotion. That's what people today are wrong about artistry in figure skating.

Tara Lipinski, Katarina Witt and Oksana Baiul are all incredibly expressive skaters.

Their remarkable expressiveness owes to their skating skill on one hand, but in reality, they are not artistic at all. They are just expressive.

What do you think is the most outstanding in Lynn's skating?

See results

Janet Lynn in 1968

Talent may have to be born after all

If you look at the 14 year old Lynn's skating above, your jaw will drop.

That's not a 14 year old's skating!

I sometimes marvel. What in the world was running in that girl's head at the time?

The difference between Lynn and her contemporaries, other skaters learned edge control but they were unable to incorporate and convert their edge control into body control.

Well, I am not criticizing them. No. Their deficiency is in fact nothing compared to today's skaters. Figure skaters today are strangers to a term "control". Actually much worse, they don't know how to use edge, which means they can't skate; nor do they know how to use their body.

All they can think of techincality is terrible jumps and all they can think of artistry is acting.

In a time of degeneration like this, I think Yuna Kim was a miracle to the figure skating world.


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      4 years ago

      그녀의 팔은 무거워 보인다.

      연아처럼 표현하는게 아니라 달려 있는 팔을 지탱한다는 느낌이다.

      기술적진보를 제외하더라도, 그리고 시간이 많이 흘렀다는 것을 감안하더라도, 그녀의 표현력은 연아와는 다르다.

      난 피겨를 잘 모른다.

      그렇지만, 그녀의 피겨가 아름답다는 생각은 들지 않는다.

      하지만, 연아의 피겨는 아름답다.


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