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  1. #1
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    Dream of an artistic skating discipline

    Some kids (and adults, for that matter) who take up skating are primarily jocks at heart, interested in the sport for the physical challenges it offers them.

    Some are born competitors who rise to the occasion and deliver their best when the pressure is on.

    Some are born entertainers full of charisma who love to perform for an audience.

    Some artistic souls for whom skating is a means of creating beauty or expressing feelings and ideas.

    Some are blessed with the physical talents and the nerve to master difficult skills and perform them at speed.

    It's very rare for any one skater to excel at all these qualities. At any given time, there will only be a handful of men and women who are good to great at most of these qualities, and those are the skaters who will become champions. And when they perform, whether in competition or in exhibition, they will usually deliver performances that sports fans and arts fans alike can enjoy.

    Most skaters will have one or more areas that are significantly weaker than their strengths, or they may just be mediocre (or worse) all around.

    The ones who are often able to deliver difficult technical content when it counts will likely have at least modest competitive success in sporting competition at their level, regardless of judging system and regardless of interest and ability in artistic areas. They may be boring to watch from an artistic point of view, but from a sports point of view it might be exciting to watch them jump or to fly across the ice, and they may offer difficult blade skills for skating connoisseurs to appreciate.

    The ones who excel artistically but who lack the athletic skills, the competitive nerves, and/or the basic skating technique to succeed in freestyle competition may never make it to a level that would allow them to be seen on TV. Or maybe they do well enough in some competition somewhere to make the broadcast, and then their performance ends up being marred by failed jumps.

    And so fans who look to skating for artistry may never get to appreciate some of the most artistic skaters.

    It's common for athletic ability to decline as skaters get older. For girls, that can sometimes mean that they pass their peak as early as mid-teens (just when they're old enough for senior competition). Injuries can also take a toll on promising or successful skaters at any age.

    For those who remain committed to training and improving, artistry, "maturity," and basic skating quality can continue to improve significantly after the skater is past his or her athletic peak.

    In the old days of professional vs. amateur, some of the most successful competitors would "turn pro" when they retired from competition and go on to develop as artistic skating performers in shows and in a handful of professional "competitions." In a number of cases, skaters who had been primarily "athletes" while competing developed into highly enjoyable "artists" as professionals.

    In the mid-to-late 1990s and to a lesser extent into the 2000s, there have also been invitational "interpretive" competitions for select eligible skating stars.

    For the most part, only a handful of elite skaters with significant success in ISU competitions have had the opportunities to make a living performing in these professional or open events, or to be featured on TV as show skaters.

    Skaters who were always better artists than athletes may have more to offer artistically than some of the champions who get hired to headline shows or invited to perform in made-for-TV events. But except for diehard fans who seek out ice theatre companies or rare videos, most of the public doesn't even know such skaters exist.

    I think there is a significant subset of skating fans who would happily watch skaters with charisma and artistic sensibility regardless of competitive credentials. Some skaters who never had the jumps or who had to retire from competition for various reasons while they still had a lot to offer artistically could become stars in a format that plays to their strengths.

    So what might that format be?

    Are the media and the majority of casual fans only interested in figure skating if there are winners and losers involved and/or familiar faces who have already proven themselves winners?

    Could the ISU sponsor a separate artistic skating competition track in which the emphasis would be on all the aspects covered in the current program component scores with technical difficulty rewarded only for its aesthetic impact?

  2. #2
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    Here are some skaters for whom at least one performance has made it to television or otherwise to youtube. Not necessarily the best examples of what they were capable of, but examples of skaters whose competitive success was modest at best but who were better at the artistic side of the medium than many of the skaters they used to lose to in competition.

    How might the careers of these individuals, and the impression of skating by arts fans, be different if there had been a means for them to showcase to a wider public what they do best?
    (OK, this guy does have a Canadian national title to his name, but has he ever been shown on US television?)

    What if there were a world championship for artistic skating? Judged by PCS only?

    The best standard-track freeskaters could do well there too -- some of them could win both events in the same year. Or they could switch over to artistic skating when their athletic careers wind down. Or ice dancers could switch over when they're between partners.

    Other skaters might come up through the artistic ranks all along and make their names that way.

    Note that the point of all these performances was artistic integrity and/or entertainment, not showcasing technical difficulty. None of them would have scored well if transplanted into a freeskating competition of the same year, even leaving aside any illegalities. But they would hold up just fine compared with most pro programs or even current elite exhibitions or interpretive programs of their era. And I would bet that for a significant section of the potential audience, these performances would probably be more enjoyable than the average mid-top-10 freeskate.
    Last edited by gkelly; 09-03-2008 at 10:02 PM.

  3. #3
    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    Not sure what your point is here but, I have always loved every aspect of figure skating. That includes the artistic and technical sides of figure skating because one can't really exist without the other. Technical skating would become mundane without the artistic aspect and the artistic aspect would lack finesse without the technical side and attention to detail.

  4. #4
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    At club competitions, there is often a showcase event where you have to act to the music. Then there is also an interpretive event where you hear the music twice on warm up and then skate to it.

    I love doing both those events because they challenge me in different ways. I only wish that more that they would be offered at more competitions.

    There are those skaters who are artists and there are those skaters that are athletes. What is left out of the equation is the all-around skaters who have both. I have strong jumps and also nice artistry. I hate doing a jump wise or artistic wise program because it misses out on one of those components. When I try to play to the crowd, I miss out on those components.

    Skating is a sport for the all around skater. That is why we have long programs that tell us what to do but give us room to be creative. While it would be fun to have no jump competitions, it would miss out on one of the most important aspects of the sport.

  5. #5
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    Well, no one is suggesting to get rid of the standard freeskating competition that rewards the all-around skater. That would still be the most prestigious title.

    But for fans of artistry who lament that the need for technical difficulty in those competitions gets in the way of just skating as beautifully or expressively to the music and hold up exhibition or pro performances as the kind of skating they'd prefer to see in competition, I say, don't try to water down the sport side of competition for the sake of artistry. Make a separate space for artistry to take center stage.

    Maybe any jumps could be allowed, but if there are no technical scores, only PCS, there's no point in putting in difficulty for the sake of difficulty -- only to enhance the choreography.

  6. #6
    On the Ice Mathman's Avatar
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    Thanks for tracking down all the videos. That was great!

    Actually, I could see this working. The patinage artistique discipline could be to singles skating what ice dance is to pairs. There would still be specific rules for scoring (not just, ooh how pretty). But (as Joe put it so nicely on the other thread) the emphasis would be on how the technical elements supported the choreography and musical conception. I don't think it would be hard at all to come up with an adaquate scoring menu, just as there is for ice dance.

    Jumps would still be encouraged as punctuation to musical and thematic highlights. The best program I saw in person all last year had one double Axel and one double flip. But oh! what a double Axel and what a double flip! (This was Yuka Sato, Amazing Grace, at a local club benefit show. )

    At the beginner's level maybe competitions like this could be combined with "solo dance."

  7. #7
    Bona Fide Member Joesitz's Avatar
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    An artistic skating competition is all ready covered in the PCS scores in both the Short and Long Programs. Not exactly to my liking but better than just the judges opining of the hapless skater.

    If the entire performance of the LP were to show emphasis on 'artistic' at say, 60% of the mark with 40% of the Techncal we could have a true even steven kinda comp between the SP and LP, but only if the boring SPs have more meaningful marks for the Technical.

    The SPs need a revamping on what should be considered the Technical score. Why not let the skater select from all the jump elements, say, 5 of them for scoring and likewise 3 for spins and 2 for footwork. Music and choreography remain but the emphasis will be on the Technical at 60% of the mark and 40% for the Artistic.

    There are already element values so the skater can play with the values in arranging his routine.

    It would also give back to the skaters just what they want to show in their skating without the unnecessary requirements.

    Technique rules in the Technical and all those moves in the field rule in the LP with plenty of schmaltz.

    The 60%/40% ratio in both phases of the competition will result in the final score evenly and fairly. I might add,kind of blow the minds of any hanky pankers.
    Last edited by Joesitz; 09-04-2008 at 12:21 PM.

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