The Programme Components Rewritten
Sport or Art?

Interpretive Skating
    This paper outlines a rewritting of the current Programme Component marks. It is intended to be food for thought. Readers should be familiar at least with the other topics contained in the Music and Choreography section of this website (listed at left) before reviewing this paper as an understanding of them is essential to understanding how the new categories evolved.
If we truly want skaters to use movement and music more creatively and effectively the language of our rules should be clear and expansive. Skaters need room to find creative solutions to their unique technical and artistic strengths and weaknesses. Good guidelines will accurately and consistently define intent in the broadest, general sense and so provide a stimulating artistic environment. It will be up to the skater and the coach/choreographer to decide the final context in which the skater can best demonstrate his proficiency. Artistic components and their definitions should:

· Be measurable
· Be relevant
· Be inclusive
· Not measure unimportant qualities
· Be concise and easy to remember
· Be clear
· Measure the skater, not the coach, choreographer or composer

Translate means,
‘to express the sense in another language’ in this case, movement. Inspire means, ‘fill with the urge or the ability to do or feel something.’ Interpret means to perform (a creative work) in a way that conveys one's personal understanding of the creator's ideas. Motivate means, ‘provide with a factor inducing a person to act in a particular way’. The current Programme Components imply that the music is the only motivation for movement and is the preferred motivation. There is nothing inherently wrong with music inspiring or motivating movement but surely music is not the only inspiration possible. A work of art, nature, emotions, literature, poetry, theatre, national customs, history or human movement itself are all perfectly legitimate and have already been proven successful. 

Great competitive programmes showcase excellent skating with exquisite musical and movement understanding. The theme that holds and defines such a programme is not outwardly apparent through costumes and makeup or even the music. It is revealed as the programme unfolds through the choice of movement and its juxtaposition to the chosen music. A great programme like Janet Lynn’s “L’Apres Midi d’un Faun” is not great because it ‘translates’ the music; it is great because it transcends it.

“The will to originality is not the will to be peculiar and unlike anybody else; it means the desire to derive one’s consciousness from its primary source.” …Nicolas Berdyaev

Originality means going back to the origin, finding the life and vitality of the original. Movement is not intrinsically interesting because it is novel or unusual. This standard is too dependent on the degree of experience of the observer to have validity. Movement interest should be judged in terms of its elements- body, space, force and time. Both technique and originality are essential to the performance. Technique without originality is dry; originality without technique is indecipherable.

Figure skating has always scorned repetition. But repetition is invaluable to making sense out of non-verbal communication. Repetition clarifies intent by providing an opportunity to contrast the original statement against new material. Without the option to use repetition (effectively) skaters resort to more immediately recognizable, stereotypical movement and mime. Theme and variation, transition, contrast, repetition, motif and development, climax and resolution are not qualities a skater possesses, they are compositional tools that have no place being evaluated in the Programme Component scores. Competitive figure skating choreography should not be considered an artistic attribute subject to independent evaluation; it is a vehicle to display proficiency.

In a sport like figure skating it
is important to show variety; skaters should be able to demonstrate a large range of movement skill; but when variety is judged as a separate element it encourages chaos and hysteria. Variety should be evident in everything the skater does just like difficulty, intricacy, speed and quality. These qualities should infuse every skill assessed but they are not separate skills in themselves. The extent of the variety will be modified by the theme of the programme.

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. Good guidelines for evaluating this should measure the proficiency of the skater, not the proficiency of the choreographer. The choreographer is there to help the skater find his ideal self. One of his challenges is to find a way to include as much variety as possible in each programme without compromising its artistic integrity.

Immeasurability and Irrelevancy
Motivation, intent or other assessments of the qualitative aspects of performance may be important parts of the experience and, if known, they might influence judgments and comparisons of performance but 'intent’, ‘motivation’, ‘sincerity’ and 'intellectual understanding’ simply cannot be measured so it doesn’t matter whether these qualities are important or not; for the purpose of determining accurate marks that reflect the skater’s artistic competence they become irrelevant.

Effective Guidelines
The following alternative to the current Programme Components assume that everything in the programme is part of the second mark. Even the technical content is considered but not for its degree of success or failure, that has already been assessed, but for its contribution to the fabric of the programme- how the movement, be it jumps, spins or anything else, contributes to the theme and so on.

These Programme Components include transitions but not as a separate skill, otherwise, everything in the programme would fall under this category since everything transitions into everything else. Transitions and Choreography are still considered but are not given a separate mark- they become a part of every category. 

Variety. Since the goal of competitive programmes is to show figure skating proficiency a large range of movement competence is desirable.

Difficulty. Extreme difficulty and originality in skills is desirable but it is questionable whether beauty should be sacrificed. On the other hand a more involved and difficult task often has the potential for even greater aesthetics.

Intricacy- Well-executed complexity is a sign of advanced proficiency.

Quality. Only movements that exhibit a high degree of competence and confidence should be included in the programme. Marks should not be awarded for difficulty if the movement is poorly executed.

Speed- appropriate for the movement

Effective guidelines are not only valuable for measuring competence in a test or competitive setting, they also steer what coaches will teach their skaters. The following components, skillfully executed in sufficient number will create illusions and the appearance of the human body as extraordinary.

1. Skating Skills
Definition: The proficiency with which the skater can use his blades and the ice.

a) Balance. Ability to maintain or change position without consequence to the run of the blade.
b) Flow and effortless glide. Rhythmic, strong, clean strokes; efficient use of lean; easy transfer of weight;
    steady run to the blade.
c) Cleanness and sureness of edges, steps and turns. Clean, controlled curves, deep edges and precise      steps.
    One foot skating is considered superior to two foot.
d) Speed, power & agility. Speed appropriate to the movement, quick acceleration, clean changes of lean
      and direction.

2. Use of the Body
Definition: The proficiency with which the skater can use his body.

a) Shapes. Clear, imaginative and expressive designs
b) Parts- The continuous use of the whole body including the face
c) Movement Quality- plausible incorporation of axial movement into the fabric of the choreography.
d) Steps – use of the entire locomotor skating vocabulary- gliding, sliding, turning, jumping, hopping, toe
    work etc.
e) Grace. Elegance of movement

3. Use of Space
Definition: The proficiency with which the skater utilizes his personal space, the ice surface and the area in which the performance takes place.

a) Place and Pathway. Imaginative use of predictable and unexpected pathways over the ice and through
    space. Use of place to underpin artistic statements. Three dimensional and 360 degree movement.
b) Direction. Forward and backward, clockwise and counterclockwise including rotation in both directions,
    use of the horizontal, sagittal and vertical planes.
c) Level- movement through high, medium and low space
d) Size- Large, medium and small movement

4. Use of Energy
Definition: The proficiency with which the skater can manipulate real or apparent physical and emotional energy.

a) Flow- Functional and imaginative release or restraint of energy appropriate to the choreographic intent.
b) Weight- Ability to create feelings of weightlessness and power. The body’s relationship to gravity.
c) Inertia- An inner impulse that brings the skater into action. Moving ‘because’ and moving ‘as if’.
d) Emotional energy. Emotional investment.
e) Physical energy. The use of energy appropriate to the choreographic intent. An appearance of
    effortlessness relates to efficiency. Economy of movement.

5. Use of Time
Definition: The proficiency with which a skater can use his own rhythms and the music.

a) Timing- Ability to relate to the underlying beat.
b) Rhythm- Efficient organic rhythm, plausible relationship to metric and/or mechanical time
c) Tempo. Imaginative use of tempos
d) Duration. Use of slow motion, fast motion, short and long moments of time, stillness
e) Rhythmic Pattern- Plausible relationship to the rhythmic patterns in the music. Juxtaposition/layering of
    personal rhythmic patterns.
f) Melodic Pattern- Plausible relationship to the melodic patterns in the music.
g) Dynamics- Effective use of piano and forte
h) Expression. Effective conveyance of feeling
i)  Phrasing- Agreeable placement of the high and low points as well as the overall climax

6. Communication
Definition: The proficiency with which the skater can use his body and the chosen music as an instrument of communication.

a) Physical and emotional involvement.- Oneness with the programme. Dissolving of the barrier between
     the skater and the skating.
b) Purpose: the extent to which a coherent theme is revealed as the piece unfolds
c) Originality. The ability to connect to the source of the choreographic idea and breathe new life into it.
d) Style. The distinct impression a skater makes with movement; a combination of the training the skater
     has had and the skater’s personality.
e) Projection. Emotional connection with the audience. Includes degree, duration and conviction
f) Vitality- Life, spontaneity.
g) Gesture- Effective use of ritual, social and personal gestures, not mime
h) Choreographic Risk- Not always taking the easy or predictable way. The contribution of the connecting
    movement to the difficulty of the technical skills. Selection and successful execution of uncommon
    themes. The point in the programme at which the movement elements occur.
i) Motivation. Purposeful movement. Every movement and every section of the programme contributes to the whole.
j) Effectiveness- success of the piece as a whole
k) Finesse- Refinement, delicacy and artful manipulation of nuance