|Figure skating choreographers select and arrange music and movement to highlight a skater's technical skill in an entertaining and pleasing manner with the ultimate goal of gaining the most marks possible in the pursuit of winning a competition or passing a test. Grace, rhythm, style, speed and physical skill should be evident in all programmes regardless of musical and movement choices.
Choreography combines music and movement to communicate a theme. As shown on the Free Skating Performance chart choreography includes aesthetics, the choice of music and the tactics. These components overlap and enhance one another. Asthetics in a free skating performance is the presentation of the tactics in relation to the chosen music and will modify the success or failure of the tactics.
The term, choreographer, is borrowed from dance- an art form. Dance choreography incorporates the same components, however, its tactics, music and aesthetics are chosen to develop the piece. In dance the piece is of paramount importance, not the performer. Figure skating choreography must highlight the skater. The music and movement must conform to many restrictions while still producing an aesthetically pleasing performance demonstrating good figure skating form. A choreographer can approach this task in two ways.
In an objective treatment a skater strictly adheres to a distinctive style selected to communicate the feeling of the chosen piece. No deviation is allowed and he loses his identity in the world of that programme. The experience can make him more versatile because he becomes educated to movement choices he might not otherwise explore.
A subjective view uses the personality and style of the skater to create a programme which will use and develop his unique talents.
A thoughtful evaluation of each skater will influence the choice of approach. Both views produce valid programmes. A subjective approach is more common in figure skating choreography though because the goal is to reveal and enhance the positive attributes of the skater. Altering a skater's style requires a great deal of time, effort and commitment by both the skater and the choreographer.In either case, each choreographer will have her own style of working. These styles may fall into one of the following categories based on those found in A Sense of Dance.1
THE DICTATOR enjoys being in charge. Working with this type of choreographer will not include collaboration or a discussion of ideas. Skaters who need to be directed and moulded would benefit from this approach. A skater who enjoys input in the creative process might not.
THE VISIONARY. These choreographers sometimes demand seemingly impossible movement. They can visualize the programme they want and can recognize opportunities for spectacular movement. They consider the skills of the skater as well as look for idiosyncrasies that can be transformed into fascinating details. They are great people to work with if the skater enjoys taking risks and being pushed to the limit of his ability.
THE FACILITATOR. These choreographers have a basic concept but let the skater do much of the creating. Since free skating performances are about the skater this style can be a good way to extract a skaterís unique style.
THE COLLABORATOR. This can be a long, tedious, expensive and sometimes frustrating process. It involves listening and compromising, respecting other ideas and letting go of the idea of ownership. No one holds ultimate artistic control. It is a good process for the skater who wants to have his ideas reflected in the finished product but not if he needs to get the work done in a hurry.
The first and second mark are intimately connected. Because technique is a large part of choreography poor skaters will probably not be able to execute beautifully choreographed programmes convincingly. It is also possible for wonderful programmes to be so difficult and demanding that they are impossible for any one to execute well or to execute well for the entire duration. Choreographers must understand the impact their choreography has on the technical elements and the energy systems of the skater and although they expect the skaters they work with to arrive with a sizable movement repertoire it is not their job to teach them to skate. Coaches teach skating. A separate and on-going curriculum of genuine Creative Movement, the development of carriage, line and form, speed, balance, agility, isolation and a basic understanding of musical elements such as beat, dynamics, tempo and rhythm prepares skaters for the choreographic process. It is essential that skaters develop these fundamental expressive skills as well as their basic skating skills. This work can be taken on by a choreographer but because in the early stages choreography is intimately connected to skill acquisition it is advisable for the skaterís coach to also prepare the choreography. Skaters' technique under age 14 and/or the Novice level may not be solid enough to withstand a separate choreographer unless one has access to a patient, competent, sensitive one who is willing to be a part of such a team.
1 Constance A. Schrader.: A Sense of Dance: Exploring Your Movement Potential. Human Kinetics, 1996