Teaching Artistry
Unfortunately, not much training time or effort seems to be devoted to general artistic development. Artistry is valued, recognized and desired but it's not taught. The assumption that skaters and coach/choreographers either ‘have it’ or 'they don’t' means little, if any, research and sound practical coaching advice is available. We address artistic development by hiring a choreographer to take whatever natural talent the skater has and help them look as good as those skills will allow. Some artistic development usually takes place over time as skaters acquire a repertoire of movement patterns but it is unlikely that this is the most efficient way to learn phenomenal artistry. Although it may be true that only so much artistic improvement is realistic given the amount of time that needs to be devoted to training today's skater and those who are naturally expressive may ultimately be the most successful artistically but with a good curriculum every skater can certainly be led a little further down the path with surprisingly little time spent. 

Compounding or perhaps, explaining the lack of a practical curriculum are the drastic rule changes that have taken place over the past 20 years. Since 1990 it has become a completely different sport. To help ensure that future figure skating programmes flourish artistically under any marking system we need to focus on those skills that will transcend rule changes. In this way the only real changes need be the choreographic choices skaters, choreographers and coaches make- their fluency with the language of movement will be constant.

Figure skating is often compared to dance. In dance the piece is paramount not the performer but in figure skating competitions the performer is most important. Competitive figure skating programmes strive to garner the most marks possible in the pursuit of victory in a contest. They do not exist solely to be expressive of the nature of human feeling. If they did they would not all require the same number of jump passes and spins to do so. Striving to win is the focus of athletic competition. To call an athlete a ‘winner’ is often a much better compliment than calling him an ‘artist’. Any real or choreographed emotion makes the presentation of the elements more attractive which hopefully earns the skater more marks. In most cases winning isn't based solely on artistry anyway. Usually it is the most or nearly the most competent technician who also has at least a basic capacity for artistry. Good artistry certainly can make a difference though when two skaters are evenly matched technically.

Aesthetics and the Competitive Experience
Aesthetics is a rational inquiry into an irrational subject. An aesthetic experience has been defined broadly as a feeling attributed to an experience in which the sensuous, qualitative aspects are encountered apart from all mediation by ideas and independent of any determination as to whether or not anything else exists.

Grace, effortlessness efficiency, control, fluidity, continuity and dynamic and exciting movement can evoke in us feelings of artistic perception. The communication from the performer may also indicate confidence, strength, power, stability and smoothness. It may be that only some of these qualities need be present in order that movement be considered aesthetic. Perhaps in some performances great amounts of a few qualities could be sufficient however an aesthetic experience would more likely rely on the display of a number of qualities. Risk alone is not art. Difficulty alone is not art. Originality alone is not art. Efficiency alone is not art. Many qualities combined and in a certain manner make art possible.

Because judges are looking for so many technical aspects of the performance as well as the artistic and because some marks are awarded for technical skills that are not successfully performed, judges can become insensitive to negative features. The ability to differentiate should be one difference between the expert and the layman. It is disturbing that so many so-called experts appear to approve of movement that is so infiltrated with negative aspects that the total performance would be considered ugly to the layman. Neither difficulty nor risk without form or grace constitutes what should be considered artistic.

In functional human movements feeling or personality must have as a foundation technique and efficiency for maximum art to be achieved or said another way, beauty follows efficiency in functional movements. Sport technique is best when it is noticed least. Pleasing lines and motion, rhythm, design of routine and those qualities evoking ones emotional feelings such as difficulty, uniqueness, creativity and impressions of personality are possible constituent in what we call aesthetic movement.

How Skaters Currently Learn Artistry
The greatest proportion of movement knowledge is gained through the skater's involvement in the
choreographic process of their own competitive programmes. The extent to which skaters learn movement skills transferable to future programmes through this engagement will depend on the caliber of their mind and the skill and philosophy of their coach/choreographer. The choreographic process offers many opportunities to learn and grow but only if these opportunities are highlighted and reinforced. One cannot assume that skaters will learn simply because they participate, especially if the coach/choreographer is unaware himself of why movement is chosen or cannot or will not communicate justification.

Skaters then drop whatever artistic ‘learning’ they have acquired into their Interpretive and Show programmes. This is a quick way to get show programmes finished and they don't need to be practiced much as they are, in a sense, being practiced each time the skater runs his competitive programme. But this strategy is self-limiting and usually produces trite and predictable work that at the very least does not inspire the public to want to see more. If skaters were to explore new movement and themes in a non or at least less threatening way through their Interpretive and/or Show programmes and then use this learning to inform their Competitive programmes the process would be much more likely to reinvigorate both.

Another less common avenue is through
Creative Movement classes which can be very effective, not just in teaching the components of movement but allowing skaters to experience them. Creative Movement classes are not useful if they are just playtime in which skaters rehash their own idiosyncrasies. A true creative movement approach celebrates spontaneity, originality and individuality through structured movement opportunities in which the skater continuously invents movement.

In a perfect world of artistic development, off-ice creative movement classes would be started prior to the start of on ice classes and would continue throughout the skater’s career. However, the reality is that young skaters’ time is usually very limited. If skaters waited to start Creative Movement until they were ready to do it on ice it would still be a very valuable experience. 

Just as the learning of jumps and spins and so on leads skaters into solos for the Free Skating branch, learning about the interaction of body, space, force and time in Creative Movement leads into the Interpretive branch which then informs the Free Skating branch.
Interpretive Skating is a very underrated activity that has much to offer skaters in artistic development if used correctly. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. A wholesale lack of understanding of how to use Interpretive Skating to improve artistry has cheapened the experience to the point where it is nearly impossible to get Competitive skaters to even consider participation. This is tragic and I look forward to the day that Interpretive Skating takes its rightful place as a legitimate facilitator of artistic growth.

It would also be helpful if skaters had a fundamental background in music theory as early as possible. Many skaters take music classes but few of them seem to come out of it knowing much about music. At about six years of age children are perfectly capable of beginning to learn what beat, tempo etc. is and it may be easier to learn these concepts through ear training alone without the necessity to learn how to play an instrument which seems to interfere with learning what music is, at least with young people. Which is not to say that learning to play an instrument is not valuable, it is, but one need not delay the start of a skater’s musical education until he becomes a proficient musician.

Ear training is a concept that allows children to experience the components of music through interactive off-ice lessons. This learning can then be brought onto the ice in Stroking classes and so on. Stroking is an excellent vehicle for teaching musicality at the same time as technique. Good stroking classes are invaluable in the early stages of development. This is where ‘translating’ the music makes sense. This kind of translation is just a way to learn about the similarities between musical and movement concepts. The ability to express musical concepts will be very useful later on. How this learning is employed is for the coach/choreographer and skater to decide.

General Timeline for Artistic Development

Phase 1- Beginner

· Exposure to a range of music appropriate for children
· Drumming, singing, free dancing
· Music, dance, art lessons
· Any physical activity (gymnastics, swimming, running) to promote organic rhythm
· Expect crude appreciation only- likes and dislikes

Phase 2- Junior/Intermediate
· Basic Ear Training
· Off-ice creative movement classes- work with the basic craft of movement
· On-ice creative movement classes at readiness- skaters must possess sufficient skill, maturity,
  concentration, ability to cooperate, ice time
· Stroking classes based on basic musical components (beat, tempo, dynamics, simple rhythm etc.)
· Music, dance, art, drama classes.
· Exposure to a variety of music and dance (live, television, movies)
· Exposure to a variety of music appropriate for skating
· Exposure to superior skating (local skating events- competitions, shows)
· Participation in carnivals & exhibitions
· Experience the coach as the skater's choreographer
· Following and repeating movement
· Performing for peers, coach, parents
· Solo
· Self expression
· Still likely to only have a crude appreciation of artistry

Phase 3-`Senior
· Off ice creative movement
· On ice Creative Movement
· Stroking classes based on advanced musical components (timbre, melody, complex rhythm)
· Begin Interpretive Skating programmes
· Exposure to a variety of music and dance (live, television, movies)
· Exposure to a variety of music appropriate for skating
· Exposure to superior skating (local skating events- competitions, shows)
· Intelligent appreciation of artistry- involves judgment
· Performing in front of peers, parents, other coaches, evaluators, judges
· Participation in carnivals & exhibitions
· Introduction to other choreographers when appropriate
· Respect for professional choices for competitive themes
· Exploration of new movement styles
· Suggesting movement
· Understand basic anatomy
· Self expression

Phase 4- Competitive Skating
· Advanced Interpretive Skating
· Show programmes
· Selecting choreographers for particular purposes
· Ability to select appropriate themes for skating
· Critique- possibly some judging.
· Emergence of personal style
· Self critique and awareness of one’s artistic impact
· Wide knowledge of the arts.
· Ability to contribute knowledgeably to the selection of competitive themes.

Phase 5- Advanced Competitive Skating
· Knowledge of oneself
· Awareness of how other’s perceive the skater (audiences, newpapers etc.)
· Critical appreciation of artistry- justification for judgment
· Ability to use music and movement to make personal statements
· Choosing movement- choreographing oneself
· Effective management of artistic impact
· Total physical and emotional involvement
· Enjoyment of the arts
· Ability to adapt to other styles
· Ability to chose competitive themes wisely

Phase 6- Skating for Pleasure as an Adult
· Advanced appreciation of the arts
· Figure skating judging
· Choreographing for others
· Coaching
· Participation in skating lessons including
Creative Movement