|The Choreographic Process|
|Regardless of the choreographerís style of working, most figure skating choreographers will follow a choreographic process that roughly parallels the one below. The process begins with and returns to evaluation.|
Decisions are based on the outcome of evaluations. For example, sometimes strong artistic statements cannot be made because of the inherent weakness of a skaterís skill. Attention then needs to be focused on improving skill rather than looking for 'better' programmes. Evaluations are ongoing and can affect decisions at any point in the process.
In this phase skaters experiment with new moves and combinations of skills and improve their technique in anticipation of new programmes or to enhance current programmes should re-evaluation reveal that additional material is needed.
During the improvisation phase skaters can use Creative Movement to explore the movement potential of their bodies, space, force and time.These improvs can provide both the skater and the coach/choreographer with an opportunity to explore new movement in a non-threatening environment. Through these explorations new styles and uses of movement can be found.
The choreographer selects appropriate music and movement to enhance the skater's syle.
The movement and music is organized using choreographic tools like repetition, contrast, transition and variation to produce a movement journey. The movement and accompanying music contrive to create the desired effect.
Since a good programme's theme is grounded in movement and its connection to the music it needs to be worked and reworked until it is as efficient and clear as possible. All programmes need to work and rework the technical elements until their incorporation is smooth and effective.
In this stage the skater's style, gestures and expression are refined and clarified to personalize and connect them to the audience. When we say a skater has great expression and feels the music we mean that he appears to be immersed in his performance to the exclusion of the reality around him.
A popular recommendation designed to increase a skater's expression is that he have a story to repeat covertly during the performance to help him 'feel' the music. Expression is an emotional not an intellectual connection. Since competitive performances include elements of great difficulty and high risk it is recommended that skaters attend primarily to the technical aspects of their performance particularly as the performance progresses and fatigue sets in. However, it may be useful to review the overall sense of the piece in the moments before and just as the performance begins to provide enough material for the mind to cycle through in order to avoid attending to the first few skills too intently.
"...when not in fatigue, thinking about technique should cause some performance decline. That is paradoxical to what happens in fatigued states when thinking about technique actually improves performance...In compeititon strategies there has to be a stage where technical concentration is avoided (when there is no fatigue), then a transition stage where it is introduced (fatigue accumulation), followed by a stage when it is emphasized (in fatigue)." 1
When skaters do attend to the presentation aspect of performance thought content ought to include movement words rather than commentary. Float, stretch, sharp etc. will be much more effective in directing performance than vague story lines such as "Iím a princess" etc. Whatever the thought content it will be more effective if skaters develop their own material using their own vocabulary. Thought content and management needs to be practiced.
Perform and Experience
In this phase, skaters perform the piece before an audience, first in simulation, then in competition. Through repeated performances the skater will find ways to achieve his Ideal Performance State within the confines of each unique programme and performance. Performance experience allows him to become more comfortable with how the programme feels to perform, the areas of difficulty, places of recovery, places where more focus is required and places when a high standard of performance can be achieved. In this way the skater gains confidence and has greater input in the evaluation process. The reaction of the audience and/or judges to the performance also provides feedback important to the evaluation process.
The Coach/Choreographer and the skater will continue to cycle through the choreographic process as long as the programme is in use although they may not necessarily go through each stage each time. It is possible to skip steps once the programme has been completed. As it may or may not be the original choreographer who continues the process a clear understanding of each personís responsibilities and expectations should be in place before work begins.
1 J. Bezak.: Possibilities of Applied Methods of Psychical Load in Sports.