My complaint about Komova

This might be the most controversial post I ever write.

I have a bit of a beef with Viktoria Komova.  No, it’s not what you think…

Viktoria Komova is an amazing gymnast.  She is deceptively powerful, and she can out dance anybody on the floor.  However, her floor routines, certainly within the worlds and the Olympics, lack feeling or expression.

I saw Viktoria Komova for the first time at the 2011 World Championships.  Both times I noticed of course, the beautiful choreography, and how gorgeous she is as a dancer.  It was by far the most artistic routine at the 2011 Worlds.  However, I also noticed something else.  Whenever the camera zoomed in on her face, her face was expressionless.  In fact, the only emotion I could truly see on her face was fear.  She was clearly incredibly focused on her routine, and terrified of making a mistake of any kind.  Her face wavered between a blank, expressionless face and one of fear.  I dismissed it at first, because in the team finals at Tokyo, she had a bad day.  However, I saw the same thing in the AA final, that same emotionless fear.  Instead of growing in stature, she seemed to shrink.

Take a look at her face in this picture.  No expression whatsoever.  She almost looks bored!

And again.  Blank, except for a little bit of worry.

.

It seemed to me that Vika, as she is called, was a dancer, but not a performer.  Her performance lacked passion, or joy, or really any kind of emotion other than fear.  I’m sure performing artists know what I mean.  There are some people who command attention, who can hold an audience in the palm of their hands, who seem to swell under the spotlight.  Neither of those performances showed that quality.

So, I was excited when I read that Vika gave the floor performance of her life in the AA final.  A blogger even talked about how she seemed to be enjoying her routine, instead of doing her routine.  Finally, I thought, a chance to see Vika actually express herself through her dance on floor, rather than simply go through the motions, however perfectly.  I wanted to see her allow her personality to come through the floor routine, to interact with the crowd, to show herself to be a great performer, as well as a technically perfect dancer.  I eagerly sat, watching her floor routine, and once again, technically perfect dance.  I mean, the way she flicks her hand at the beginning of the routine was breathtaking.  But once again, when they zoomed in on her face, I saw that same look again.  I saw the look I saw in Tokyo, and once again I could read her thoughts, even though her thoughts were in Russian.  “I have to stay up on my toes and hit 180 degree splits on my leaps, otherwise my coach will taser me!”

I can also read your thoughts too, and you’re thinking, “Of course she was afraid!  She was performing in the AA at the Olympics with a gold medal on the line!  How could she not be afraid?”  And you know what?  I don’t care.  Fear is no excuse.  Ask any actor, dancer, or singer if they are afraid before they give a performance.  Many of them are terrified.  The actor Michael Douglas admitted that, before his plays in college, he would throw up in the bathroom.  But he still had to go out and perform, to give a great show, regardless of his nerves.  Furthermore, watch the great classical gymnasts of the past, especially the Soviets.  They were incredibly expressive on their floor, and used floor to express the music and their own personality, and I have no doubt that they also felt afraid.

Viktoria Komova clearly sees herself as more than just an athlete.  All the Russian gymnasts emphasize the artistry of their gymnastics. To them, gymnastics also has elements of performance art.  Because of this, I am holding her to the same standard I hold any actor, singer, or dancer.  She needs to learn how to express herself, her feelings, her personality, through her floor routine, and through her choreography.  I don’t necessarily mean that she has to smile, but she has to express emotion and personality in her routine, like any artistic performer must. 

I also find it very strange that she struggles with this so much when some gymnasts, who have far worse choreography and far less dance ability, seem to have this skill in spades.

I expect more from Viktoria Komova, not less.  

I actually don’t entirely blame her for her lack of expression in her routine in London.  I partially blame the person who picked “We Will Rock You” as Vika’s floor music.  Why on earth did they pick that song?  I know, I know, they wanted to play to the home crowd, but even so, did they really think that Viktoria could express herself in that song?  Perhaps the lyrics mean something different in Russian than they do in English.  Plus, Komova’s choreography is so smooth and balletic in style, it plays against the jarring, angry, violent beat of “We Will Rock You.”  Is Viktoria Komova an angry, violent person?

I’m thinking no.

(BTW, her expression in this picture is far and away more interesting than anything I’ve ever seen her show on the floor!  Where does this girl go during floor?)

So, in conclusion, I offer what, in my humble opinion, what the Russians should have chosen for Vika’s floor music.  Imagine what she could do if she chose to express herself with this music, to tell a story, become a character, or simply allow her personality to come through in the routine.  I would love to see that, and I hope that Vika continues long enough in gymnastics that I will be able to see that.

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