There are required elements and optional elements. Where possible optional elements should be selected for their ability to enhance the programme technically or artistically. Optional elements that do not garner more marks in some way are best left out. However, sometimes skaters are required by the rules to do an element they do poorly which must of course be improved. Good choreography will disguise flaws and highlight elements that are particularly well done.
Skill selection includes quantity and quality. Decisions about quantity are largely influenced by their quality. Sometimes a certain quality is enhanced when presented in greater quantity.
The order in which the artistic and technical elements are performed has an impact on their execution and message. Elements presented from most to least difficult is likely to be less risky in terms of their successful execution and it may be prudent to design programmes in this order if poor fitness is a factor. But elements presented from least to most difficult or at least spread evenly throughout the programme adds difficulty. Artistically, elements presented in this order give an impression of building strength but only if performed successfully. Programmes that increase in complexity artistically as the technical elements decrease in difficulty can leave an overall impression of strength at the end of the programme.
The choice of movement immediately preceding or following a jump or spin also increases or decreases its difficulty. Care must be taken not to increase risk to the point of failure or to create movement patterns that hinder the correct learning or execution of skills.
Speed is not just high speed but the manipulation of it to create a desired effect. There is an optimal speed artistically as well as technically for each element within the context of each unique programme. Artistically, high speed can create impressions of forcefulness, drive, attack etc. which are all desirable characteristics in a free skating performance. Moments of slow speed in contrast can provide relief and reveal the essence of high speed when it appears. The inclusion of slow speed permits acceleration and deceleration allowing nuance to infuse the programme.
Sometimes skaters need to perform new jump elements slower. Since high speed is considered desirable in jump elements clever programmes are designed to create an impression of speed even when it is not present.
Place And Pathway
The pathway, or pattern, a programme makes over the ice surface is often the greatest distinguishing factor in the success or failure of the elements. Especially in the Initiation and Athletic Formation phases ice patterns should support the development of consistent, quality technique. Choreography that requires preparations in conflict with optimal preparations, especially for jumps, can be detrimental to the acquisition of consistency. The difficulty of triple jumps necessitates specific movement patterns that can be disrupted by inefficient or even inappropriate entries. Although the principle of variability ought to be respected it may be unwise to introduce too much variety before a firm technical foundation has been acquired. Too much variety may provide too many motor pattern options for a young skater trying to learn the correct one.
Impressions of flow and speed are created by long, large curves. Quick changes of direction show agility. Straight lines can indicate forcefulness or attack. But it is not enough to simply include these patterns. They must be arranged with a sense of the whole in mind- each should enhance, connect and reveal the theme of the programme. Choreographers must be creative in finding ways to maximize the natural curves, lines and still moments in the programme to show variety without sacrificing the time necessary to properly perform the required elements.
The placement of the technical and artistic elements will modify the statement the programme makes. Elements should be distributed over the entire ice surface and face in a variety of directions. When the majority of the elements are presented in front of the judges it not only excludes a large portion of the audience but tends to make the programme look two-dimensional from any angle.
Free Skating programmes are assigned a fixed time limit and must contain certain required elements in the Short programme and demonstrate the components of a well-balanced programme in the Long. Difficulty comprises the difficulty of the skill itself coupled with the choice of entry, its relationship to the other elements in the programme and the point in time at which it is performed.
Whether the element is performed early, late or in the middle of the programme and the amount of time between the elements are time/motion factors. Elements performed in tighter sequence in some sections of the programme allow for longer chunks of music elsewhere to include more highly developed choreographic moments.
Elements that are irregularly spaced can create a feeling of tension, excitement and surprise. Regular spacing can be hypnotic or comforting which grounds the piece when necessary but uniformity can also become boring. Elements performed in rapid and irregular succession makes them technically more difficult because of the increase in physical and mental control required.