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Choreography - 
the process of creating program content

DANCE GLOSSARY Names of dance steps, terms used in the process of creating dance content.

      In 1994, the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations developed eight professional teaching standards to address domains of knowledge that include the mastery of dance content, the skills and knowledge of dance, understanding choreographic principles, creating and communicating meaning, plus using critical and creative thinking skills.

      The following Content Standards are endorsed by American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD)

    1. Identifying and demonstrating movement elements and skills in performing dance
    2. Understanding the choreographic principles, processes, and structures
    3. Understanding dance as a way to create and communicate meaning
    4. Applying and demonstrating critical and creative thinking skills in dance
    5. Demonstrating and understanding dance in various cultures and historical periods.
    6. Making connections between dance and healthful living  
    7. Making connections between dance and other disciplines
      In the world of choreography the term "style" describes of body movements, head and arm gestures, and facial expressions. Acquiring these skills occurs as part of a slow process that requires a choreographer to begin working with students to acquire the basic theories that are assembled by putting together separate parts into an organized structure.  The skill sets are then refined and clarified over a period of months (even years) and form the basis of the student assimilating and personalizing the skills so they become a “natural” expression of body and form that allows the skater to connect with judges and the audience.

      What do we mean when we say, “The skater has great expression and feels the music!”?  Most often we are referring to a skater who appears to be totally involved in the performance and ignores all external distractions.

It is common for choreographers to suggest to elite skaters that they develop a theme that tells a story from the start to the end of their performance. The underlying concept is that this approach will help the individual understand or “feel:” the music. Unfortunately, expressing feelings is an emotional not an intellectual skill; however, a skater must develop to establish a connection with the audience. The important question is, “How can this be accomplished?”.

Technical Skills are Essential to be a Top Contender
      Winning elite free skating, pairs, free dance, synchronized team skating or Theater On Ice events must include the technical skills associated with performing extremely difficult and high-risk elements in combination with an enhanced delivery of presentation components associated with a well-balanced program specific for each discipline.

      Most coaches stress concentrating on acquiring the technical skills of their craft since their performance tend to degraded as fatigue sets in as performance progresses.

      It may be useful to use “Positive Imagery” as a tool to rehearse and review the performance of the program elements during the off ice warm-up period prior to actually competing.

      Coaches and Choreographers should remind themselves that asking for a skater to perform their most difficult element first can be a high risk gamble given that they can self distruct at the beginning of the program and not recover sufficiently to perform the remaining elements in their programs. Conversely, performing a high-risk element successfully may cause the skater to become so elated that they lose their focus on performing the remaining skills that they ordinarily perform without error.

Strategic Considerations
      There are strategic considerations that a skater and coach need to assess according to the skater’s position in the skating order in the short and long program, plus an analysis of the performance of pervious skaters and potential of subsequent skaters successfully performing high value elements such as quad rotation jumps.

      Even when an athlete is not experiencing fatigue their adrenaline levels may be so high that their focus on technique causes a degradation in their performance. It seems to be paradoxical that a skater can be too focused, but this situation frequently occurs when the skater is still thinking about prior errors that cause them to mess-up their performance of subsequent elements.  Focus in a program needs to move from one element to the next throughout the performance. It is easy to advise a skater to exclude a fall or other errors; however, this is a skill that consistently will improve placement on the podium at competitions.

Improving Technique actually Improves Performance
      As a competition strategy, elite skaters can achieve a stage where concentration on their technical performance is not on “autopilot”, but they are “In their Zone” or “Peaking” and their practice and competitive programs are indistinguishable assuming skaters develop the stamina to increase their tolerance levels to accumulated fatigue without a decline skill performance.

      When skaters do decide to concentrate on the presentation aspect of their performance, their focus should be on developing their ability to express their personality and personal experiences. Ultimately, the goal should be to take possession of the intellectual concepts and use their own vocabulary to express their thoughts rather than become a clone of their choreographer.

Simulate the Performing Stage to Gain Experience and Confidence
      In this stage, skaters perform their program in workouts that simulates the competitive experience in front of an audience. This can occur through participation in exhibitions or shows.

      It is the repetition of simulated competition performances that provides a skater with an experience that sufficiently realistic to provide the desired self-confidence without actually skating in a real competition.

      Such performances allow a skater to experience how the program feels to perform, rate potential areas of difficulty, identify places to recover, and important areas that require more focus to achieve the highest standard of excellence that can be achieved.

      It is very important that the athlete has a considerable amount of input into the evaluation process. It is also important for them to understand how to positively use the audience reaction for emotional support. If a judge critiques the performances, the skater has an excellent opportunity to acquire important feedback.

      The Coach/Choreographer and the skater should continue to seek ways to improve the choreographic concept. As long as the program is used, the program needs to be “tweaked” to reflect continued improvement of the athletic skills.

      Sometimes a different choreographer may be selected to continue the process. If this occurs, it is important to have a clear understanding of each person’s boundaries, their responsibilities, and a clear expectation of what is the desired goal before all parties enter into an agreement/contract.

Levels of Idea Exchange Between Choreographer and Skater
  • The Choreographer is the innovative engine providing the ideas to fuse the music and talents of the skater into a seamless performance.

  • The Skater and Choreographer collaborate to develop the concept of the program and the steps/movements to bring the music to life for the audience.

  • The skater develops the concept of the program and creates the steps/movements to bring the music to life for the audience under the guidance of the Choreographer.

    The following resource articles discuss efforts to introduce performance skills into a well balanced and choreographed figure skating program.

All materials are copy protected. 
The use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

Recommended Reading:

Summer Workshops
On Ice





Free Skating

Dance Steps






PDF Understand choreographic principles, processes ... Students learn how to create choreographic content; they then create their own dances about a specific personal or contemporary issue.

The Place : Content : Choreography, Improvisation and ... Choreography and improvisation are a vibrant element in the life of the School. Choreography courses are structured in a developmental way.

PDF Dance, Choreography and Performance II, Grades ...  Standard 2: The student understands choreographic principles, processes, and structures. Content: Strand B: Creation and Communication ...

 PDF Content Standard 1 Students refine technique through self-evaluation and correction. Content Standard 2. Understanding choreographic principles, processes, and structures


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Choreography and Artistic Performances
Choreography - An Art or Science?
Role of Skating Technique in Choreography
Music's Role in Creating Skating Programs

Role of the Choreographer in Figure Skating
A Choreographer's Role & Duties
Choreography & Presentation
The Role of Choreography in Presentation
Event Required Elements
Choreographing Free Skating Programs
Choreographing Artistic Skating Programs
Artistic and Interpretive Events
Choreographing Showcase Events
Theater On Ice
Creating Dance Content
Skater Feedback

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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