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Thread: Sine qua non: Elements and Quality

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by ivy View Post
    When I think of essential elements of skating I think of moves like Michelle's spirals, Angela Nikodenov's layback, Shizuka's Ina Bauer, Brian Boitano's spread eagles. They are unique to skating, they can't really translate to other sports/arts. Sadly they aren't worth a lot of points, but can create a spell. They speak to an edge cutting a curve into the ice and the curve being felt through out the body.

    Over all I like CoP, but this increasing fracturing of elements in things that add or subtract points is not the right direction in my opinion. It's loosing the forest for the trees. I'd like GoE to be more holistic - - failed, poor, below average, average, above average, good, excellent. That may seem more subjective, but feels right to me
    I agree with every word of this. In 1994, when Brian Boitano was attempting to come back and compete at the Winter Olympics, he debuted a long program set to Shaker hymns. In the middle of the program, he did something I will never forget: a spread eagle followed by another spread eagle to one long note. The two spread eagles covered the entire length of the rink. It was so simple, so musical, and so so perfect (and very much "in tune" with the spirit of Shaker hymns and Shaker philosophy). I do remember hearing people in the audience gasping in admiration (you could hear them even on tv). He changed the program significantly for the Olympics and never included that portion again (but I remember seeing a great increase in spread eagles by other skaters for the next season or two or three after that).

    Now I'm a big fan of COP (yes you can shoot me now), but that kind of move would never be used today because it doesn't gather enough points. But it's not only sine qua non for me, it's ne plus ultra of artistic skating - flow, edge, musicality.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    BTW, "element matched to the musical structure" is another bullet point that can add to the GOE of jumps performed with either simple or complex entries and that would also be rewarded in Choreography and maybe other components. How do you feel about "double dipping" on that bullet point?
    Boy, that's a toughie. It is so cool when that happens. But to go along with Dragonlady's further analysis of the necklace, it does seem to make sense that the TES should be about the quality of each stone considered in isolation, and that the relation of the element to the musical structure should fall on the program component side.

    I also agree with Ivy and Weakankles that breaking down everything into hundredths of a point seems to run counter to what we cherish most about a skating performance.

    Here is an example of an element matching the musical structure (a non-scoring element in this case, like Boitano's spread eagle). In the end title track of the East of Eden soundtrack, there is a breath-holding pause at the end of the second bridge. The music swells to a big crescendo, then there is a dramatic lull of a second or so before the triumphant main theme resumes on the downbeat.

    But skating fans know what note it is that fills the pregnant pause. A split falling leaf into a change edge spread eagle.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcYTdxyoehk#t=2m42s

    (Not that there is anything wrong with the jump at 3:18 and the spiral at 3:28. )

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    Would you identify a single quality or element without which a skater should not be considered worthy of winning a competition, in your opinion?

    *Relationship to the audience
    Speaking purely from the point of view of "a Sport"...

    This characteristic may be more related to "Fine Arts" than "Sport", depending on the intended definition of "relationship". Also not certain how to classify "Thematic coherence of the choreography", depending on the meaning of "Thematic coherence".

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    ^ Still, I think that pleasing the audience is a symptom of having given a good performance, and this is true of sports as well as other forms of entertainment.

    Interesting about "Thematic coherence of the choreography." To me, that's what Suzuki's LP has in spades this season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Here is an example of an element matching the musical structure (a non-scoring element in this case, like Boitano's spread eagle). In the end title track of the East of Eden soundtrack, there is a breath-holding pause at the end of the second bridge. The music swells to a big crescendo, then there is a dramatic lull of a second or so before the triumphant main theme resumes on the downbeat.

    But skating fans know what note it is that fills the pregnant pause. A split falling leaf into a change edge spread eagle.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcYTdxyoehk#t=2m42s

    (Not that there is anything wrong with the jump at 3:18 and the spiral at 3:28. )
    That program is soooo gorgeous. Every time I watch it.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonlady View Post
    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.
    I believe Plushy's programs aren't conform to the American taste. Because if anybody really knows his programs don't says those aren't complete programs, because lack of choreography...And if these programs are so boring I don't know why the audience are so enthusiastic all the time?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEJXkfMYTX4 Tribute to Nijinsky
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aQdGyJQ1cU Gipsy dance
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK6GucbtVGs Once Upon a time in America

    and Carmen, Bolero, St. Petersbourg 300, Tango and flamenco, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    ^ Still, I think that pleasing the audience is a symptom of having given a good performance, and this is true of sports as well as other forms of entertainment.

    Interesting about "Thematic coherence of the choreography." To me, that's what Suzuki's LP has in spades this season.
    Perhaps judges view competitions in a different light than the fans. As fans, we put high value on our "entertainment". Just read the many posts on these FS boards, and see how many mention or are related to the entertainment value of the programs. Perhaps the judges are primarily interested in the skating skills within the confines of the rules. Audience connection, thematic coherence, etc. may be secondary to them. Do the judges even have time to sit back and appreciate the programs from an entertainment point-of-view? If the ISU would like to protect Figure Skating as a Sport, would they want to risk elevating "entertainment value" to a point where it may rise above "skating skills"? At that point, would Figure Skating be moving down the path towards Fine Art, and away from Sport?
    Last edited by rvi5; 12-04-2012 at 11:03 AM.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by rvi5 View Post
    Perhaps judges view competitions in a different light than the fans. As fans, we put high value on our "entertainment". Just read the many posts on these FS boards, and see how many mention or are related to the entertainment value of the programs. Perhaps the judges are primarily interested in the skating skills within the confines of the rules. Audience connection, thematic coherence, etc. may be secondary to them. Do the judges even have time to sit back and appreciate the programs from an entertainment point-of-view? If the ISU would like to protect Figure Skating as a Sport, would they want to risk elevating "entertainment value" to a point where it may rise above "skating skills"? At that point, would Figure Skating be moving down the path towards Fine Art, and away from Sport?
    Its a tricky predicament. Certainly the judges have no other responsibility than to score conscientiously according to the rules. But the question is whether the rules themselves should take into account audience appeal.

    This is very much the case in other sports. Every year the baseball umpires association gets together with Major League Baseball (MLB owns Ice Network, by the way) and they decide whether the fans want to see more home runs or more pitching duals this year. Then they instruct the umpires to call the strike zone wider or more narrowly accordingly. The National Basketball Association brought in the three-point shot to make the game more exciting to the fans, and they continue to tinker with lane rules, the criteria for charging versus blocking calls, etc., in order to place the best possible product before the customers.

    All sports fall into the category of Recreation and Entertainment. (What else? It's not agriculture and mining, its not transportation and communication, its not banking and financial services. ) If you skate yourself, that's recreation. If you watch someone else skating, that's entertainment. My concern is that with the IJS the ISU is drawing an ever-narrowing circle about itself, resulting in a sport/performing art discipline that is of interest to fewer and fewer people.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    ...This is very much the case in other sports. Every year the baseball umpires association gets together with Major League Baseball (MLB owns Ice Network, by the way) and they decide whether the fans want to see more home runs or more pitching duals this year. Then they instruct the umpires to call the strike zone wider or more narrowly accordingly. The National Basketball Association brought in the three-point shot to make the game more exciting to the fans, and they continue to tinker with lane rules, the criteria for charging versus blocking calls, etc., in order to place the best possible product before the customers...
    The same is true for Hockey. The "icing" rule was implemented after the New York Americans iced the puck 50 times, while the Boston Bruins iced it 87 times during a single game. Likewise, a rule was implemented against goalies who hold the puck unnecessarily. This first occurred in a Toronto Maple Leaf verses Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup final game (which tells you how long ago that was). The Toronto goalie would throw himself on the puck whenever it came anywhere near him (as if it were a grenade). The rules were implemented to keep the game flowing and more enjoyable. However, these are tweaks to the technical aspect of the game which I liken to the ISU tweaking required content, footwork, jumps, etc (for better or worse). I can't think of another sport where a "relationship to the audience" would be a scoring requirement. In most other sports, the audience entertainment is typically derived from the suspense of who will win, and the appreciation of the technical skills needed to achieve the end result (eg. baseball involves pitching, batting, running, throwing, catching, and strategy).

    I am not saying entertainment value is bad thing to have in Figure Skating (it sells tickets). However some of it may be stepping outside the realm of "Sport", and may be of secondary concern to the judges. If the ISU/judges had their way, would they structure competitions like "Figures" had been, and instead have the audience buy tickets to the Gala for the entertainment?
    Last edited by rvi5; 12-04-2012 at 02:22 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rvi5 View Post
    I can't think of another sport where a "relationship to the audience" would be a scoring requirement. In most other sports, the audience entertainment typically comes from the suspense of who will win, and the appreciation of the technical skills needed to achieve the end result (eg. baseball involves pitching, batting, running, throwing, catching, and strategy).
    I think this is important. I think that some sports fans can appreciate the suspense of who will win a skating competition as decided by difficulty and success of the risk elements like jumps. They can easily see whether a skater falls or stumbles, they can soon learn to tell the difference between 2, 3, or 4 revolutions in the air (especially with replay), and with a minimum of study they can learn the relative difficulty of the various jump takeoffs even if it might take longer to recognize them for themselves. And often times the success and difficulty of the jumps are the deciding factor in determining the results of competitions. This was probably most often true in the 1990s (post-figures, pre-IJS), although there have certainly been exceptions.

    Sports oriented-viewers who hate the idea of show business or subjective aesthetic perceptions infiltrating the world of pure sport would tend to think that only the difficulty and success of the technical elements, especially the big obvious risk elements, should determine the results. And to the extent that is true, they can enjoy skating as sport entertainment.

    Arts fans who look at skating as a performing art and want the results to reflect the success of each program as entertainment or as a work of art would value presentation criteria, obvious quality of elements, and again lack of obvious visible errors.

    So aside from the agreement that "no falls or major stumbles" is important, these two groups would have opposite opinions about what should be important in deciding competitions.

    However, both these emphases ignore the technical fine points that require more detailed knowledge of skating to appreciate.

    Since most potential fans do not already skate themselves, and many would not have access to even beginning figure skating lessons even if they wanted for reasons of location or finances or physical fitness, there will always be a problem for perceptions of the sport that many details that are very important to the practitioners are invisible to the unschooled viewer.

    I think the federations (and TV networks who want to build interest in the sport) would do well to find fan-friendly ways to educate fans about technical details that are important in determining results. Instead of saying "Oh, fans will never understand, so either we should just ignore what the fans think, or else we should dumb down the rules to be obvious to casual viewers," I think that instead they should do a better job of inviting fans to think like insiders and appreciate what's going on.

    However, it's a complicated sport with a number of built-in contradictions, so viewers who are looking for something simple to understand without much effort of their own may find it hard to get drawn in.

    If the ISU/judges had their way, would they structure competitions like "Figures" had been, and instead have the audience buy tickets to the Gala for the entertainment?
    I imagine that there is a range of opinions among officials as to whether to ignore audience interests and focus primarily on technical fine points or whether to emphasize the artistic possibilities of the medium that can be incorporated into competitive formats and/or cater to audience interests in order to attract outside money to the sport through sales of tickets, TV rights, and sponsorships. Probably there are some sticklers who would be happy to judge elements only on technical difficulty and quality only, but I expect that most would at least want to keep the program-to-music format and those aspects of presentation scoring that reflect mastery of technique.

    And some judges would want to emphasize the artistic impression, because that aspect of figure skating is why they love skating more than, say, diving. But their impressions of programs would be informed by knowledge of skating technique and by a close-up view of the ice surface that fans in the cheap seats don't have access to.

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by rvi5 View Post
    If the ISU/judges had their way, would they structure competitions like "Figures" had been, and instead have the audience buy tickets to the Gala for the entertainment?
    I think it's a catch 22. In the past the ISU met the dilemma by discontinuing figure-tracing contests altogether, going instead with pretty girls in short skirts (aka free skating). People seem to have moved on in their entertainment tastes. Outside of Japan, skating shows are struggling. In the U.S. Ice Capades is gone, Ice Follies is long gone, Champions on Ice is gone, Stars on Ice is hanging by a thread. Conditions are not quite so dire in Canada and Russia, but still ...I don't think anyone would want to buy a ticket to a gala held after a private competition.

    So, sports it is: "The suspense of who will win, and the appreciation of the technical skills needed to achieve the end result." (Well put. )

    Now our task is to create a scoring system that allows the audience to know who won and what technical and performance skills they displayed in doing so.
    Last edited by Mathman; 12-04-2012 at 02:52 PM.

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    My father was just suggesting last night that "they" (by which he meant NBC) should show more instant replay or close-up videos of elements to explain fine points about jump edges. I said there is some of that and there was more back when there were more hours of TV coverage. But that's really about the networks choosing whether to develop a knowledgeable fan base or to aim their broadcasts at casual viewers only, not about what the sport itself is doing.

    How can the ISU and national federations themselves invite spectators to understand the scoring and results? What should they change about what is scored (I'm sure there are differences of opinion among insiders about what should count most, e.g., revolutions in the air vs. edge work on the ice), how it's scored, how the scores are reported (including announcing freeskate-only standings before combined standings)? Unless the decision is made to give no credit for anything that isn't obvious to a first-time viewer, then even with a scoring system that is transparent to knowledgeable fans, it will still be important to find ways to make the necessary knowledge easily accessible to nonskaters who want to understand the sport. That's the big challenge.

  13. #43
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    In typical television coverage, while the scores are being tabulated, they show replays of three elements. The jump the skater fell on, a successful jump (while saying the the technical specialist is scrutinizing it for short rotation), and then maybe a spin.

    What if instead they showed some sort of short transitional sequence, with the expert commentator saying, that step is called a Mohawk, now look how she changes from inside to outside edge and turns backward in the opposite direction. etc. This demonstrates the Skating Skills that the judges are looking for, and contributes to the mark for Transitions.

    That at least would head off some of the puzzlement when a skater wins despite a fall or obvious mistake on a highlight element. The commentator could say, he lost 5 points for the fall, but he made up ground with these transitional moves -- see?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    What if instead they showed some sort of short transitional sequence, with the expert commentator saying, that step is called a Mohawk, now look how she changes from inside to outside edge and turns backward in the opposite direction. etc. This demonstrates the Skating Skills that the judges are looking for, and contributes to the mark for Transitions.
    Yup, that would definitely be helpful.

    Here's a failed attempt at such commentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0MmXR1Q1ro&t=3m44s
    If only they had actually shown the process of turning backward and named it as a choctaw, explaining that it changes from inside to outside and counterclockwise to clockwise at the same time as changing from forward to backward, which is what makes a choctaw more difficult than a mohawk (inside to inside -- easy -- or outside to outside -- medium).

    It's only one step and doesn't by itself explain why this skater won this short program. But it gives the same amount of explanation as just saying it's a "difficult way to turn backward" and also gives the viewer a knowledge base to apply in recognizing choctaws on his/her own and understand how they contribute to difficulty in the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    Here's a failed attempt at such commentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0MmXR1Q1ro&t=3m44s
    If only they had actually shown the process of turning backward and named it as a choctaw, explaining that it changes from inside to outside and counterclockwise to clockwise at the same time as changing from forward to backward, which is what makes a choctaw more difficult than a mohawk (inside to inside -- easy -- or outside to outside -- medium).
    PLus, Scott could have mentioned that there is a mandatory one point deduction for wearing a silly-looking collar. ("Skating costume must be appropriate to an athletic contest." )

    It might be better to show transitions that are not a lead-in to a jump. In this example the audience will be more interested in the jump than in the fine points of the entry.

    By the way, if you back up to the previous element, a triple Axel, Scott says about the rotations and the landing -- three and half rotations; he just barely made it." I thought it was perfect. Maybe the tiniest of a few degrees rotation on the ice, but basically right on the money. Am I wrong?

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