June 25, 2010

How to Choreograph a Figure Skating Program

Every skater has to face the ordeal of making up new programmes - whether it be your very first, or your short programme for your 15th season. There are the hours spent listening to music (95% of which you find boring and tedious), but whats next? Making up the programme is undoubtedly the most important part of the process and can take anywhere between 1 hour and several months! With the IJS judging system coaches and choreographers' job just got alot harder. 

Now instead of just implementing required elements, they also have to think about the level at which they want their skater to execute said elements, and how to go about making them up (don't get me started on step sequences).

Many skaters choose to employ a professional choreographer, and most major rinks have one. Smaller local rinks may not, however you can usually find budding choreographers among the higher ranking skaters at your rink. Ask around. If you're going to be competing in IJS judged events you really need to make sure your guy knows what he's talking about though, as a beautiful programme isn't much use if you are executing level 1 elements when you have the technical expertise to execute them at a level 3 or 4!! What a waste of points!

Unlike for coaching, there is no choreography certificate or diploma. Skaters pick the skill up by being mentored, and often sheerly through passion for movement and skating.

Of course, you don't need a choreographer. Many coaches are proficient in the art of programme building, and this is even more applicable to skaters who are just starting out, as they probably don't have the skill yet to express complicated moves and sophisticated gestures. If you're child needs a first programme, his/her coach is probably going to do a really great job. The up side of your coach making the programme is that s/he knows you, and your capabilities. This makes a programme more adapted to your skill set, and will lead to a better over-all programme. Don't get me wrong, a choreographer won't ask a 9 year old to jump a triple axel, and of course they will indeed get to know the skater they are working with. But all that takes time. Time takes money. Money probably worth investing to go to the World Championships, but not necessarily for a local event.

Some skaters make up their own programmes. Today this still rings true for gala and exhibition pieces, but less so for competitive programmes. Again, a sound knowledge of the code of points system is needed to understand what elements will get you the most points. Coaches attend IJS seminars to get a better grip on these regulations, and more often than not are going to do a better job than a skater alone. Some skaters have sheer natural talent for it, and can have great fun creating routines. Russia's Maria Butyrskaia choreographed most of her international competitive programmes to great success (and many medals!). I've embedded a YouTube link to one of her programmes below:


Remember to use music that suits you, and that is going to show off your skill set to it's maximum! If you want to read more about how to choose music for a programme, please see this post from 2010 and this post from 2014!

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Credit Where Credit Is Due:
I got the idea for this post while reading through Tony Wheelers blog "Flutzing Around" (situated at http://tony-wheeler.blogspot.com/). Tony talked about US figure skater Johnny Weir, and how he would fare as a choreographer on the international figure skating scene. The general consensus is that Johnny would make a great show choreographer but is too artistic to manage the restricting aspects of international competition. Have a look at Tony's article and have your say by clicking here.
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