There’s been a video doing the rounds this week of Russian ice skater Evgeni Plushenko wowing the crowds with a routine to Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb from 2002. Plushenko is at the top of his game, a huge, dominant figure in men’s figure skating.
Here it is: brilliant, comic, jaw-dropping.
But I started digging, and I was fascinated to discover a second version. A few years later he’s back on the ice with Sex Bomb. But this is in a whole different league. This is a man who has the audience in the palm of his hand. He hands over a rose, leaps over the edge of the rink to embrace a member of the audience, and whips up the enthusiasm to fever pitch.
But what’s happened to the skating? I’m no expert, but it looks to me as though he’s taken the difficultly level down at least a couple of notches. And yet to me this later version is so much more compelling – the audience’s enthusiasm has turned to total mania.
My guess is that Plushenko’s energy has changed its focus. The intense concentration that a skater needs to pull off extreme technical feats has an entirely different target. It’s now the audience in the beam of his focus, not multiple quadruple jumps.
Do they care that their hero isn’t delivering the extreme difficulty of his competition routines? Not a bit of it. They know he can do extraordinary things on ice. Now he’s giving them a present – pure enjoyment, entertainment and thrill of a different kind.
We don’t need to deliver everything, all the time. We can relax. We don’t always need to be the great technical artist. In fact we can’t be. Great artists know where to put their energy at any one time and they know the impact of it. Sometimes we can just engage.
Here’s Plushenko at his audience-wowing, riotous best. Enjoy.