|The Evolution of School Figures
The schedule of figures skating throughout the 1900's began with the exploration and development of various turns and edges in isolation, field figures and combined figures.
Great attention was paid to their execution and many hours were spent analyzing and perfecting the form thought necessary to execute them.
|Source: The Art of Skating. Cyclos. 1878
|A great deal of effort was devoted to understanding and developing technique. For example, the following description of loops by H. E. Vandervell & T. Maxwell Witham can be found in their 1874 work, 'A System of Figure Skating'.
"Before attempting to explain to our readers the nature of loops and crosscuts and the practical way of skating these figures on ice we wish to lay before them the diagrams and definitions of the three varieties of the cycloid and trochoid curves.
If a circle E P F roll along a straight line A B (Fig 1) so that every point of the circumference may touch the line in succession and if P be that point of the circumference which was in contacet with the straight line at the beginning of the motion when the circle has made a complete revolution the point P will have described a curved line A P D B which is called a cycloid or trochoid. '"
| Fig 1
"Again, if a circle roll along a straight line Eb (Fig 2 and 3) and Q be that point of its circumference which was in contact with the straight line at the beginning of the motion and P be a given point in OQ, the radius of the circle (Fig 2) or in the radius produced (Fig 3) when the circle has completed a revolution the point P will have described a curved line at PDB which is called a prolate or inflected cycloid or trochoid if the point be within the circle (Fig 2) and is called a curtate cycloid or trochoid if the point is without the circle".
| Fig 3
At this time the print on the ice was very loosely drawn. Form was considered far more important.
Each figure was given a factor (the number listed to the far right of each figure below). Factors related to difficulty; the more difficult the figure, the higher the factor. The mark given for each figure was multiplied by its factor and in this way, more difficult figures were worth more of the total score.
The following schedule of figures is from 1898:
By the 1920's school figures were nearly symmetrical. Notice the crossed centres.
During this time skaters were still exploring and enjoying new figures. The following description of the 'Demon Eight' figure appeared in 'The Elements of Figure Skating'. Dr. Ernest Jones. George Allen and Unwin Ltd. 1931,1952
'I will finish this section by mentioning a particularly ferocious figure know as the Demon Eight. It is so called because of its having been invented by the Devil, a fact which will be obvious to you as soon as you try it. There is only one gentleman- let me call him Mr. A. B., not Mr B. A.- who can skating it with easy proficiency so it is not surprising that he has been suspected of complicity in sorcery, if not of something worse. Carry out a full circle on an ordinary No.1- No. 2 Backward Outside, but before finishing the circle draw the free foot again forward, slip it across the skating foot and in front of it, i.e. inside the circle, and on reaching your centre strike off on a Backward Outside edge on this second foot. What has been the skating leg remains somehow attached to your person and gradually finds its way to the front. The shoulders have to be strongly reversed in preparation for the change. With luck- and skill- you are now again in a No. 1 Position and you have to hold it until you change to a No. 2 and complete the circle. The change was an inter-circular one for there are two circles; so it cannot be a Mohawk. But both circles are skated on the same edge; so it cannot be a Choctaw. In fact it is pure wickedness, not to say devilry.
Between the Wars
In between the wars Arnold Gerschwiler came to the States and completely revolutionized the skating of school figures. He made the centres tangent and popularized tracing. This approach provided the final push away from form-based figures to print-based figures. Figures were executed in this manner until they were removed from competition in the early 1990's.