I was hopeful when I heard that Kristi Yamaguchi was going to be on the ABC show Dancing with the Stars that she would rock the competition because she was such a talented figure skater. I made a similar transition from competitive figure skating in my own life (hobby) from 1984-1994 to social and sometimes competitive Swing Dancing in 1998-2003. I found that dancing was really easycompared with skating. No jumping was involved (lucky for me) and all the footwork was much much easier on the floor than it ever was on skates. Plus skaters have to have a great sense of body awareness to do what they do and in dancing that is useful to let you know where your head, hips, feet, shoulders, butt and fingertips are all at the same point in time and coordinate them all in different directions at the same time. Body awareness isn’t something you need for all sports, but you do need it for dance, gymnastics and figure skating because of the musical interpretation involved. (Those hobbies and pursuits that straddle the line between sport and art.) It was also great to finally really interpret the music with choreography and improvisation. The lead follow connection was easy too, but I would assume Kristi has that too since she skated pairs also for many years before concentrating on singles skating and winning the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics.
There are a few things Kristi Yamaguchi probably did have to learn in the Dancing with the Stars training sessions. The thing you don’t use in figure skating is the rest of your upper body, arms, head or expressions in much detail or variety. And skaters are not into the same kind of footwork as dancers because they are always skating for the sake of speed, to get to take off for jumps and can’t really spend time on any detail at a slow enough speed to be intricate. (it doesn’t get you any points) After learning to dance though, I thought skaters lacked real choreography, musicality and interpretation. They fell flat on TV as non-expressive beings trained to jump and without any real enthusiasm or artistic expression on the ice. Pretty posture isn’t enough to sell your performance or story to the audience let alone really interpret the music in a real way. I now prefer dancing both personally and for watching as entertainment, I think it has so much more to offer.
I think that Kristi Yamaguchi has the potential to be as good a dancer as the real ballroom dancers because she is in strong physical (cardio) shape, has great body awareness and seems to be learning the musicality and interpretation she needs to sell her dancing to the audience. I hope she goes all the way just like speed skater Apollo Anton Ono did a few seasons ago. It’s true, after figure skating, everything else in life is easy.