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Pasha is an American Dream ...

LOOKING FOR PASHA Was it her blond her, cut medium to short in length; or was it the way she looked on a forward edge? Was it the way she would sometimes cry, as if there was no in between those two extremes of exulation and desolation? Was it a large leopard skin handbag slung over her shoulder and Versace sunglasses, black and impenetrable? What was it about her that so captivated all of us? What is her essence? In spite of her enforced absence from professional skating competitions this past year, it is not an uncommon occurrence to observe any number of Pasha Grishuk lookalikes at various skating events. And so it was at the most recent Pacific Coast Sectional Championships, in San Jose, California. If not the two-time and reigning queen of Olympic ice dance in the flesh, her facsimiles were present. From my vantage-point in the second floor bleachers at the Ice Center of San Jose, I happened to espy one young woman in particular as she and her partner prepared to take the ice with another couple for a Tuesday night practice session preceding the first day of the competition. Her hair was blonde and pulled back into a pony-tale. Something about her caught my attention. Though not the tall, long-legged ice dancer that one has grown accustomed to seeing on he world stage, she was very attractive in form. I should not presume to critique her skating. Be that as it may, I was only interested in the performer. And in that regard, there was something about her; perhaps it was the face I thought. Her partner was not the typical protagonist. His hair was slightly darker than hers, and was cut short as is like a crew-cut in the military fashion. A smile was not readily apparent, rather something more akin to a suspicious stare, as if he were on the lookout for some perfidious conduct. Both were atypical in appearance and behavior, inasmuch as they did not appear to be attempting to conform to an accepted standard, either by their actions or mannerisms. I perceived them as having something to say and wanting to say i in their own way. So they stepped onto the ice with another couple, and began to practice a compulsory dance--a polka. Eventually, they would perform parts of their free dance. A flare for the dramatic accentuated their movements, even as they elicited t e audience's attention with fan-fared bows creatively choreographed as like a free dance. I found myself instantaneously struck by an enigmatic smile. His was no more than implied, a begrudging concession to accepted decorum. Hers captivated and tantalize the imagination with a hint of suggestion. There would be merely two couples competing. The free dance was scheduled as the last event on the final evening of the competition, the senior ladies' long program just preceding it. I noticed her early arrival while the latter event was still in progress. With her partner, she began to stretch and warm-up in a small area designated for that use on the second floor beside the packed bleachers. Ultimately, they began to practice some of the moves they intended to perform on the ice. As I first observed her, she and her partner were the only competitors in the area; nevertheless, they were compelled to share that space with various young people ambling around them, either practicing at or pretending to be skaters. he extra activity did not seem to deter them in any way as each was in a fully concentrated state, and only broke from the routine to intermittently confer with their coach or to simply relax a bit. Her demeanor was staunchly serious and completely belied the confident almost arrogant facade of sensuality that I had first observed on the ice just that prior Tuesday. It reminded me of how easy it is to miscontrue a person, to misinterpret an outward appearance affected for a performance as the being that re ides within. It was obvious to me that she was a very "hard worker." As the last few competitors in the ladies' singles concluded, the ice dancers gathered at rink side and began to pace back and forth in nervous anticipation. The other ice dance couple did not make an appearance upstairs, rather arrived just shortly before the competition was to begin. The majority of the crowd began to vacate the bleachers at the conclusion of the ladies' event, leaving only a smattering intent upon watching the ice dancers. Both couples took the ice and began to warm-up. The young lady and her partner would be first to skate. The free dance they were to perform was what I would characterize as theatrical in style, in that the choreography seemed to be designed to convey mood, rather than to simply demonstrate skating technique. However abstract, it all seemed to have a meaning. Her performance evoked passion and sensuality, and seemed to me to be an open expression of herself as a young woman. I was mesmerized. I had no expected to see this kind of dramatic expressiveness in a sectional ice dance competition in North America. The other couple's performance was more traditionally ballroom, as it appeared to be ostensibly a demonstration of technique. There were a number f interesting lifts in their free dance and one in particular that I had seen before. In the second program at the now infamous 1998 World Pro ice dance competition, Pasha Grishuk, in a lift, was being supported in a semi-inverted position with her back a ched and her face just off of the ice surface. Her partner proceeded to then pull her up into him, to cradle her within his arms, and as their visages bowed inward and met, she had placed her hand on the nape of his neck, just so. A fleeting instant and i was past but the effect for me resonated like the ringing of a cathedral bell. Such small things should never be underestimated. The young lady held on to her partner with her hand placed, meticulously, just so, and the effect was equally miraculous. I did not perceive it as an obvious reenactment. Unfortunately, another of their lifts did not work as well as they would have liked. As she was suspended between his legs, something happened and he collapsed on top of her. I was stunned by the sudden violence of it. However, they quickly recovered and proceeded to perform the remainder of their program as if nothing had happened. At its conclusion, they presented themselves to the judges and audience in the manner that I have previously described, and then proceeded to leave the ice. Once off of the ice surface, and out of the spotlight, she suddenly broke down and began to sob uncontrollably. It appeared that she might have impacted the ice with her chin. There was no blood but that area was garnering all of he attention, or so it seemed. She wept openly and inconsolably, and had to be physically supported by someone as they proceeded out of my view under the rim of the balcony. That was The last I saw of her. Her name is Disa Steiber and his is Patrick Connoly. Since only two couples competed, both apparently qualified for nationals. So they should be competing in Cleveland next week, for those who might be interested. Pasha Grishuk is not Russian; she is uniquely American. Disa Steiber, Norma Jean Baker and Oksana Grishuk are the stuff from which dreams are made. Whether from this country's far-flung regions or from foreign shores, they arise, out of the masses, by the power of their imagination, their passion, and their dreams, to recreate themselves into an embodiment of the "American Dream." May that hope and spirit survive, that did create her, and that continues to live in others, as I discovered just weeks ago. I was not looking for Pasha but I found her anyway--in the rapturous charm of one young lad with a similar dream.

(by Gene Meyers)

Version: Sonntag, 30. September 2001


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