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The Role of the Choreographer

What Role Does a Choreographer Play
       In modern figure skating, all competitive free skating programs are expected to demonstrate the performance of technical skating elements performed to music selected by the skater and choreographed to fulfill the well balanced program criteria.

       A well balanced free skating program is achieved through the use of body movements as they relate to a specific musical score. In order to do this the program components (jumps, spins, and step/spiral sequences) must undergo an organizational process referred to as choreography.

       Children do not naturally have the ability to create a well balanced skating performance. It is the role of the coach/choreographer to teach their students the concepts of skating and the choreographic process so they can eventually develop their own relationship with music and how to use body movement choices themselves.

The Artistic Skating Philosophy
       From the inception of Artistic Skating Components, there have been differences of opinion on how to define and evaluate the components - skating skills, transitions, performance and execution, choreography, and interpretation. Judges are working to clarify and resolve issues to facilitate the growth of figure skating.

       The current definitions of Interpretive Skating places the emphasis on the skaters ability to interpret music rather than on their technical skating ability.

       Definitions do not mention specific choreographic movements, but there are references to body movement and interpretation of the musical score.

       There seems to be no universal agreement of the term “interpret”. Does "interpret" mean a creative work designed and performed by the skater to convey a personal statement? What if the entire process is the work of the choreographer? Is the stated goal of the "Artistic component" is to translate a musical score into a physical communication derived from or inspired by the music's composer? This may be too much to expect from inexperienced skaters, but is this too much to expect from high level elite skaters?

       Musicians interpret music and skaters attempt to use their physical skills to communicate emotional themes through the use of movement in coordination with the music performed by musicians.

Musical Themes
       Some program attempt to develop a theme based on a single musical score. There are three categories of free skating programs:

➢    based on stories
➢    based on external themes
➢    pure skating programs

       Skating programs do not have titles that may provide a preview for the spectator or TV viewer of what to expect of the performance. In a well choreographed program the theme will be self evident. At some national and international competitions TV figure skating commentators will comment on a theme of the program and provide elaborate descriptions of the concept the skaters will attempt to convey.
      The use of these descriptive titles tend to confuse TV viewers more than they help them appreciate the performance. In a well executed free skating performance, the skaters body language speaks volumes.
Confusion surrounding the choice of the theme may be related to the order in which the music and movement is selected.

Which come first - the Music or the Choreography?
       Music should precede the rough program outline developed by the choreographer. In the final analysis, the choreographer uses the music to support a theme, the music does not become the theme.

       Not all musical scores have a pulse and rhythm that can and should communicate directly with the audience as it would in any concert or opera hall. The music and the skating performance should be mutually supportive and enhancing each in an unified effort.

       Figure Skating disciplines are athletic sports. They should not be transformed into an art form. Music and body movement should support and enhance the unique characteristics of skating, but not dominate the athletic performance.

       Figure skaters and dancers use music differently. Skaters use music to enhance their jumps and spins. Ballet dancers use music in a supportive role to achieve their artistic statements.

       Neither skaters nor ballet dancers believe that musical interpretation is the basis of their physical activity. This is left up to the musicians who interpret the musical score provided by the composer's.

The Musical Form needs to match the skater's age and skating abilities
       There are three musical forms - melodic, rhythmic, and dramatic. Skaters need to widen their musical choices and coaches need to encourage a positive environment designed to stimulate the skaters involvement in choreographing their programs.

       Skaters who choose to use vocal music generally encounter more problems, especially when they are struggling to acquire consistent performance of their technical skating skills. In the interest of encouraging artistic freedom, vocal selections are allowed, but careful consideration should be given to skating to non vocal alternatives.

       Vocal music encourages a conflict between what the audience sees and what they hear. Many recordings of vocal music played in ice rinks usually result in the words that are garbled and serve as a distraction.

Choreographers must understand the ISU rules
       Choreographers do not provide technical instruction. The primary coach has the training to improve the skaters skill performance. Artistic and Interpretive events do not improve a skaters basic ability to skate. They are merely a format in which the skater can present his competence for evaluation and/or comparison.

       Skaters can take their artistic and interpretive skills to higher levels only if their training is based on technical components- edges, turns etc. and the ability to manipulate their body in space and time.

       Coaches may use improvisation in Basic Skating Creative Movement classes as part of a skaters basic education or incorporated into the choreographic process. There is no difference between improvisation and interpretation. Interpretation as practiced in the USA is a self choreographed extemporaneous presentation designed to entertain the audience and may covey a theme.

       Coaches should explore each skaters ability for extemporaneous skating to music. Such improvisations can be effectively used to train skaters for the purpose of clarifying the relationship of body movements into a well balanced free skating program.

       The choreographic process needs to explore the improvisational abilities of the skater as part of an extensive process of evaluation and modification before being incorporated into the finished work in preparation for competition.

The Choreographic Process occurs over months, not days
       Many coaches do not start early enough in the training season to achieve a basic layout of competitive free skating short and long programs. They should start by designing programs that the skater can complete in daily program practices to maintain their stamina.

       As skating skills develop, the coach and choreographer should gradually add to the levels of difficulty. If a test is required, don't make the connecting steps/transitions so difficult that it impedes the flow of the performance.

       Ultimately, the skater and coach/choreographer must decide how they can demonstrate an artistic proficiency in their free skating programs. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each judge to evaluate the skaters ability to effectively communicate the musical score.

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

Recommended Reading:

Stages of Learning Sports
Sports Skill Mechanical Techniques
General Physical Preparedness
Sports Biomechanics
Figure Skating Skill Development
Training Principles
Choreographing Artistic Skating Programs
Test Requirements


Lehigh Valley Performing Arts Programs In addition, skating academic courses are offered in rules/standards, skating history, choreography and program construction. In all artistic and academic

Choreography: Figure Skating's hidden edge |  Jan. 11, 2007  That's why good choreography — the music and steps that make up a program — is so vital to the success of today's finest skaters.

PDF Choreography & Style on ice, and in educating the public that it is the role of a choreographer to introduce drama and expression in a skater's program.

Figure Skating and Ballet Relationship  Does ballet really enhance the skater’s performance or on-ice technique? The “skating experts” say yes, and so do the ballet pros. But what is it specifically that is taught and practiced in ballet that relates to the specific elements on the ice?

How do you develop choreography?   Two methods that are standard are the structured and freestyle method . 

The structured method is described as movements that are formally arranged and repeated in a predetermined order and usually performed to the same piece of music each time the routine is used.”

The freestyle method is described as “movements that are built and sequenced either by using linear progressions or by placing movements into patterns or combinations. Linear movements are easier for instructors to use in the beginning because the movement develops from the prior movement.

Artistry in Motion (AIM) Curriculum is designed to educate skaters on the basic principles and philosophy of ... incorporating Artistry in Motion in conjunction with the USFS Basic Skills Bridge Program.

Dance Technique Handbook University of North Carolina Greensboro, Department of Dance

Music for Figure Skating  Skating to music is a very important part of figure skating. This article will help figure skaters with music selection.

Tips for Cutting Good Music  What are some of the things you should think about when you cut new music?

Choreography Expression and Style!  by Figure skating Choreographer Lorna Brown is a British and World Professional ice skating champion and a world and Olympic figure skating coach. In this article, she gives some thoughts on figure skating choreography, expression, and style.

How to Choose Music for Ice Skating  by Lorna Brown  Choosing your music is so very personal, if the skater doesn't feel the music then it will never look good no matter how good the choreo- graphy is, because it is the feeling above everything - else which allows the skater to interpret and express the music.

Interview with Figure Skater Oksana Baiul - Figure Skating News

Artistry in Motion by Paula Wagener  This is an excellent article by Paula Wagener who is the inventor of the Artistry in Motion (AIM) US Figure Skating Basic Skills Program.
Magic of Style DVDs and Videos by Ann-Margreth Frei  Ann-Margreth Frei was Swedish National Champion. This is a series of training DVD/videos, teaching step-by-step how to improve the style and appearance of skaters.

V. U. Sound Studio   V.U. Sound Studio produces and edits high quality figure skating music.
SK8 Tunes - Figure Skating Music  SK8 Tunes is a music editing service for figure skaters and coaches.
Michelle Kwan: World Champion Skates to Azerbaijani Symphonic  Michelle's choreographer, Lori Nichol discovered the Amirov music and choreographed Michelle Kwan's Figure Skating Program.

Richard Dwyer  Mr. Dwyer's was Mr. Debonair in Ice Follies and later in Ice Capades. His role made him one of the most popular ice show personalities in history.

Gary Beacom  Choreography, but for me it is not just a. matter of setting steps — “People have called my style weird and offbeat. It was not intended to be that way. I just came up with something that was little bit different.” — Gary Beacom

Relationship Dynamics and Dimensions of Support for Figure Skaters: Implications for Schooling

Coach’s Manual: Choreography & Style for Skaters by Ricky Harris

Ballet for Figure Skaters


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
Differences in Artistic, Interpretive Events
Choreographing Showcase Events
Theater On Ice
Creating Dance Content
Skater Feedback

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