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Thread: Sine qua non: Elements and Quality

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    Sine qua non: Elements and Quality

    Would you identify a single quality or element without which a skater should not be considered worthy of winning a competition, in your opinion?

    I'm going to list a number of different qualities that have been casually proposed in discussions or that are implied by ISU rules. Clearly there are other qualities and elements that are valued and rewarded but that don't seem to be make-or-break deciders.

    If you choose more than one, how would you rank your choices?

    Please feel free to add other things if I leave out an option you'd want to choose.

    I'll start with singles skating; later maybe I'll make separate lists for pairs and dance.


    *Speed

    *Continuous flow on edges

    *Edge security

    *Edge depth

    *Difficulty and variety of steps, turns, and other blade-based skating moves (throughout the program and/or specifically in the official sequences)

    *Difficulty of jump content

    *Variety of jump content

    *Size and speed of the jumps

    *Correctness of jump technique including takeoff and landing edges, amount of rotation in the air, air position

    *A single important kind of jump element

    *Well-roundedness and variety of all types of skills including connecting moves as well as all categories of elements

    *Carriage, extension, body alignment

    *Relationship to the audience

    *Relationship to the music

    *Thematic coherence of the choreography

    *Originality in technical content and/or choreography

    *Full use of the ice surface including amount of ice covered (related to speed and edge depth) as well as choices of element placement and multidirectional skating and varied pathways

    *Lack of disruptive errors

    *Winning the free program

    *Average level of performance over both programs

    *(up to 1990 only) Ability to trace circles on clean edges with clean turns

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Thank you for this thread! In fact, I was just about to PM you with a queston (posed below) about this.

    To me, the sina qua non is #2, continuous flow on edges.

    It can't be difficult jumps, because there was skating before there was jumping. It can't be tracing perfect circles because skating has continued long after school figures were abandoned. You don't need music to skate. You don't need choreography to skate. You don't need an audinece to skate. You can skate slowly and you are still skating.

    But if you are not flowing across the ice, then why are you out there?

    Here is what I regardas a perfect skating performance. (This was posted recently on another thread -- OK, I posted it. ) This is Kristi Yamaguchi doing a show program near the end of her professional career. The program consists almost entirely of flowing along on the ice, while displaying a sampling of pleasing positions of the upper body and arms. This is what the angels will be doing when I march through the pearly gates.

    Now, my question is: Is this hard to do, or is it something that any accomplished skater can do?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWfOF6o5jBs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    To me, the sina qua non is #2, continuous flow on edges.
    I'll agree with that choice (and your reasoning).

    Here is what I regardas a perfect skating performance. (This was posted recently on another thread -- OK, I posted it. ) This is Kristi Yamaguchi doing a show program near the end of her professional career. The program consists almost entirely of flowing along on the ice, while displaying a sampling of pleasing positions of the upper body and arms. This is what the angels will be doing when I march through the pearly gates.

    Now, my question is: Is this hard to do, or is it something that any accomplished skater can do?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWfOF6o5jBs
    I would say that any accomplished skater -- average novice level and up -- could perform all or almost all of those skills. But what makes this special is the effortlessness and seamlessness of the edges and body movement, which are at an extremely high level that most skaters will never achieve even if they can do lots of triple jumps.

    Mid-level difficulty but top-notch quality.

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    Custom Title spikydurian's Avatar
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    I will give it try, gkelly, ranking the skills which I as a non-skater see as what differentiates one skater from another.

    1) Speed (which tends to be most obvious) and ice coverage.
    2) Flow and deep edges and the ability to turn in all directions without stopping.
    3) Blade work - which is least obvious if watching from afar in the rink. I love love it when the t.v. zooms on the footwork of the various skaters.
    4) Jumps - technical perfection, height, distance, exit and entry.
    5) Carriage and posture- some skaters just have that 'soft lovely body movements' (I don't know why some just have it and some don't. And not all those who have 'it' are within the top ten in the Worlds nor some of the top ten in the Worlds have 'it').
    6) Spins - speed and lines

    The rest are dressings which add up to the uniqueness of figure skating as sport which are important too but I rate the above skills as something which I first look out for.
    Last edited by spikydurian; 11-26-2012 at 09:58 PM.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    ^ That is an interesting take on the question! So, we watch a top level competition. All of the skaters are pretty good. But at the end of the day, we say."This skater was the best and deserves the medal." Why?

    To me, posing the question this way brings "big jumps, no fall" to the fore, especially for the men. If a guy starts out with 4T+3T, 4T, 3A, 3A+2T, that guy has got my attention. I can forgive weak choreography and blah musicality.

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    For me it all boils down to connection..to the music, the audience & the choreography. To me that's what makes a skater great and its what makes skating unique from other sports. Difficulty and the ability to skate cleanly are important, but if you have that connection I'm not even focused on the elements. There have been many times I've watched and program that I loved and afterwords couldn't tell you what jumps they did. A quad lutz to open would certainly get my attention...but only that connection will hold it.
    Last edited by BravesSkateFan; 12-01-2012 at 08:36 AM.

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    Custom Title skateluvr's Avatar
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    For those who did not speak Latin nor feel like googling, can you explain what sine qua non is here? Are you asking which is most important in your list? Or the one thing one cannot do without, i.e. the most important basic skill from which others flow? Thanks.

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    sine qua non = without which not, i.e., something indispensible

    So I'm asking what is the one thing that is most necessary to good skating, without which whatever you have may be good but not skating, or may be skating but not good.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Skateluvr raises a good point, though. Sina qua non could mean something like the lowest common denominator without which it's, "Get off the ice, you impostor!"

    But the other question is interesting, too. In an elite competition everyone has good basics, satisfactory speed, adequate choreography, an arsenal of jumps and spins, etc. What characteristic is it that makes us say, "This is the one!"

    http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/11/35/32...13/628x471.jpg
    Last edited by Mathman; 12-01-2012 at 11:21 AM.

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    Custom Title Kitt's Avatar
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    Arms? So you're saying the skater has to have toned arms?

    On the other hand, could Sasha be any cuter in that picture?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    And the winner in the toned arms contest:

    http://nimg.sulekha.com/sports/origi...9-19-31-22.jpg

    (But does Joannie have sine qua non or je ne sais quoi? )

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    Like you, the first person I thought of when I heard "toned arms" was Joannie. I think she has both sine qua non and je ne sais quoi, n'est-ce pas? (One might shorten both and just say that a skater has It.)

    I agree that there are some skaters one sees and says, "This is the one!" (Or the two, in the case of pairs and ice dancing.) For me, I think I make the assumption that an excellent skater will have at least good jumps and basics, so for me the element that makes the difference is usually flow that somehow expresses the music. I reason inductively by looking at all the skaters who give me gooseflesh and thinking about what it is they have in common. Browning, Kwan, Yagudin, Asada, Takahashi, Lambiel, Wylie, Sato, Klimova/Ponomarenko, G/G, Davis/White, Virtue/Moir, and so forth make me feel that I'm watching something that is full with meaning, not just something that I can compare in terms of points score with the others. In fact, when I watch it, I don't think of any others. It's in its own world.

    Probably a lot of that is due to blade-to-ice skills; my favorite skaters all tend to have that quality. But it's also what happens with the upper body: the arms, the shoulders, the neck, the carriage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    Like you, the first person I thought of when I heard "toned arms" was Joannie. I think she has both sine qua non and je ne sais quoi, n'est-ce pas? (One might shorten both and just say that a skater has It.)

    I agree that there are some skaters one sees and says, "This is the one!" (Or the two, in the case of pairs and ice dancing.) For me, I think I make the assumption that an excellent skater will have at least good jumps and basics, so for me the element that makes the difference is usually flow that somehow expresses the music. I reason inductively by looking at all the skaters who give me gooseflesh and thinking about what it is they have in common. Browning, Kwan, Yagudin, Asada, Takahashi, Lambiel, Wylie, Sato, Klimova/Ponomarenko, G/G, Davis/White, Virtue/Moir, and so forth make me feel that I'm watching something that is full with meaning, not just something that I can compare in terms of points score with the others. In fact, when I watch it, I don't think of any others. It's in its own world.

    Probably a lot of that is due to blade-to-ice skills; my favorite skaters all tend to have that quality. But it's also what happens with the upper body: the arms, the shoulders, the neck, the carriage.
    I totally agree with you on this point. Beautiful uninterrupted flow is what stands out for me in skating. Michelle and G/G epitomize this quality and it's what makes them so great.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    This has nothing to do with scoring, but everything to do with whether I enjoy a program or not, but in dance, it's scoreable:

    Do the skaters show a connection to their music? If the piece is a waltz or a tango, can I tell with the music turned off? Do they portray the character of the dance well?

    When the skaters have a good connection to the music, they connect me, as a member of the audience to the music, and that's the key thing I love in skating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    To me, posing the question this way brings "big jumps, no fall" to the fore, especially for the men. If a guy starts out with 4T+3T, 4T, 3A, 3A+2T, that guy has got my attention. I can forgive weak choreography and blah musicality.
    I look at the feet first. Always. If the feet are good, the edges are deep, strong, clean and quiet, speed is achieved effortlessly in a few strokes, the skater has good blade skills in the footwork, and deep strong edges, I'm a fan. I became an Arakawa fan just watching her stroke around the rink. Just the thought of her skating makes me swoon. And don't get me started on Yuka, Yags or Kurt. Of the current skaters, there's Patrick, Takahiko, Yuzuru, Nobi (softest jumping landings - like a feather), and of course, Daisuke. Irina had the most amazing speed and power over the ice. Three strokes and she was flying.

    If the feet and basic skating are strong, then I want them put to good use. I want to see them doing complete programs, with real choreography and to pay attention to the music. Nothing bores me more completely than watching skaters strong around stalking jumps. It's why I'm not a Plushenko fan, even though his feet are to die for. My husband used to watch Elvis Stojko setting up for a jump and finally yell "Jump already!" at the TV.

    If the feet aren't good, I'm not interested in the rest.

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