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From Beethoven to The Phantom of the Opera: the most overused pieces of music in figure skating

By
Melody Lau

Published

February 9, 2018

Genre

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For the first time in Olympic history this year, single figure skaters will be allowed to use music with lyrics in competition. While ice dance teams are already allowed to do this, this is a big change for solo athletes, and we've already seen some embrace this by performing to Beyoncé, Lil Jon and even the Hamilton soundtrack.

This will be an interesting year to tune in to figure skating, as in the past this limitation has led to some very uncreative song choices. While there are technically many options out there in the world of instrumental music, year after year many athletes choose to stick to the standards.

Below, we've broken down some of figure skating's most overused pieces of music ever. If you're a fan of the sport, the following compositions will sound very familiar to you.

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games kick off today in Pyeongchang with its opening cermonies. Follow all Olympics coverage at CBC Sports.


Carmen (instrumental medley), Georges Bizet

Arguably the most overused piece of music in figure skating history, this famous French opera has been used by more than 50 different skaters over the years, in every single discipline (women’s, men’s, pairs and dance). It’s a versatile piece of music and depending on which part of this four-act composition someone uses, it can be playful or dramatic. Many have also extended this playfulness into their costumes, as seen with the over-the-top looks of Russian ice dance duo Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, or the more understated inclusion of fire-ombré and a rose accessory on American competitor Sasha Cohen.


Swan Lake, Pyotr Tchaikovsky

One of the best-known ballets in the world is also a go-to composition for skaters. It’s a particular favourite among the women's discipline, from three-time world champion Mao Asada to Canadian Olympian Kaetlyn Osmond, who will be skating to Tchaikovsky’s music in her free skate in Pyeongchang. Note: this is also another program that has prompted some fun costumes, many that can rival the likes of Bjork’s famous swan dress.


Romeo and Juliet, Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Of course, Swan Lake isn’t the only popular Tchaikovsky piece used in figure skating. Another composition many skaters gravitate towards is Romeo and Juliet. Often used in pairs programs for obvious reasons, single skaters like Marin Honda, Sasha Cohen, Ashley Wagner and Daisuke Takahashi have also used Romeo and Juliet in competition.


Moonlight Sonata, Beethoven

Skating to Beethoven is almost like a rite of passage for figure skaters, and many have chosen Moonlight Sonata as their composition of choice. Russian champ Evgeny Plushenko, Olympic gold medalists Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, American Johnny Weir and French dance team Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are just some of the people who have picked this piano number over the years.


Scheherazade, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

This big symphonic suite has been used by over a dozen skaters. South Korean competitor Yuna Kim used this in her free skate when she won the 2009 World Championships and just a few years later, Japanese skater Mao Asada incorporated this piece into her short program during the 2011-12 season. American star Michelle Kwan also famously skated to Scheherazade at the 2012 Salt Lake City Olympics (her final Olympics), where she lost the gold medal a second time and placed in third.


The Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber

This famous musical finds its way into everything, from pop culture to even sports. In figure skating, The Phantom of the Opera has been used by athletes all over the world, from Finland and the Netherlands, to many North American skaters including Caroline Zhang, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Even three of this year’s Canadian Olympians — Patrick Chan and ice dance team Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje — have used this piece in the past.


Tosca (instrumental medley), Giacomo Puccini

Many figure skating fans will recognize the sound of those crashing symbols from this Italian opera. It’s a grandiose soundtrack to many skaters' memorable programs, from Michelle Kwan to Kanako Murakami. It also appears to be a popular pick among Russian skaters, as the following have all skated to Tosca: world champion Irina Slutskaya, dance team Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, as well as Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko.

More to explore:

Meet the musicians representing South Korea in Pyeongchang

Here are the Canadian songs the 2018 Canadian Olympic hopefuls are warming up to