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rules to support/encourage artistic skating

Discussion in 'The Trash Can' started by gkelly, Oct 5, 2011.

  1. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    In the Japan Open thread in Great Skate Debate, os68 wrote:
    I'm not sure I agree that the art sustains the sport -- depends what you mean by that.

    The fact that figure skating can, at its best, provide an artistic experience for viewers attracts a lot more viewers than a sport that's all about executing difficult physical feats that only other practitioners can appreciate.

    And a lot of skaters like to perform for audiences, like to create something artistic with their performances that's more meaningful than just executing the difficult feats. A lot of them wouldn't bother training and competing if the artistic aspects of the sport didn't exist at all or were simply tolerated but not rewarded.

    The sport of executing those technical feats could in theory exist without music, without choreography, and without audiences. It just wouldn't have as many participants or as much money coming in from ticket sales and TV contracts.

    On the other hand, skating for the sake of artistry can exist without competition or rules.

    Mass audiences have tended to be even less interested in watching artistic skating shows than in wathcing competitions, however. Thus most pro skating has been presented in some kind of competitive format.

    But artistic skating at a high level can't exist without mastery of the difficult physical feats.

    This is not what ISU competitive skating is about, for the most part. Maybe a majority of the Choreography component covers these criteria. But that's less than 10% of the total score.

    There could be a different kind of competition that privileged concepts and choreography and expression over technique. The technique would have to be there to support the execution of the choreography, and a more skilled skater would have more options to work with when putting together a program,

    That kind of competition would never be accepted into the Olympics, though.

    Impresarios of professional skating encourage it, and so do federations who want to give their artistically inclined members something to do that focuses more on their strengths than on landing as many difficult jumps as possible.

    But the ISU has never yet and likely never will show much interest in governing a competition format in which technique and athleticism are valued only insofar as they support artistry. At best, in addition to rewarding the basic technical and athletic aspects of the sport, they can give additional rewards to skaters who are able to go beyond those basics to add artistic value.

    So do we want to discuss how a hypothetical type of art contest on ice, outside the Olympic context, could be structured to give the greatest value to writing an original creative brief that identifies the theme, the core concepts, inspirations, what you wish to express and is judged according to how well the skater is able to convince audiences, with the required elements fully utilized creatively as an extension of the artistic meaning and purpose? What would a contest of skating for art's sake look like?

    Or do we want to start with competitive skating as it is currently structured, with technique and athleticism always paramount, and discuss how the well-balanced program rules, etc., might be adjusted to encourage more variety and/or more coherence of artistic purpose on top of the athletic base?
  2. miki88

    miki88 Active Member

    I think one way to encourage artistic skating is to bring back the "freedom" to the freeskate. At present, the long program is more like an extended version of the short program. The skater's technical skills are already evaluated in the short program, so I think the long program should allow the skater to express more of his/her particular strengths. There should be some basic rules to prevent the long programs from becoming exhibitions, but it shouldn't be as elaborate and strict as the present rules for the free skate.
  3. attyfan

    attyfan Well-Known Member

    I agree with miki88 that the LP now is too much like an extended SP. I would change the available GOEs for the SP only, so that in the SP, simpler moves (or easier jumps) that are done perfectly can gain as many -- or even more -- points as "higher levels" (or more difficult jumps) not well done. (The LP would be the time to try more difficult technical items -- where there is a little more time to compensate for any errors -- and the need to compensate may encourage more development of artistry.). I think that allowing people to gain points by different methods (perfection vs higher difficulty, instead of only higher difficulty) would encourage more creativity and variety.
  4. Macassar88

    Macassar88 Well-Known Member

    The problem with that under the new system is that someone could only do jumps in their program since they are worth more. Like a double loop - double toe - double toe is worth a point more than the most difficult level 4 spin.
  5. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    I've been saying for years that long programs should have options of how many of each element to include.

    To prevent a skater from racking up points just by doing lots and lots of easy elements, there does need to be a maximum on the total number of elements.

    To keep the programs "well balanced," there do need to be maximums, and minimums, of each type of element. But there should be a range available for each type. Currently there are just maximums, which by default become minimums as well because there's no way to make up in TES for leaving out a jump element by doing an extra spin, or e.g. for men to make up for leaving out a step sequence by doing a spiral sequence instead.

    Give some flexibility in the content, and we'll see more variety in the program layouts as skaters choose elements that best showcase their own skills and best reflect the theme of the program if any.

    Personally, I love programs with themes, but from a sporting point of view I don't think they should be required or more important than the technical content and execution.

    I want to see a reward under choreography, and elsewhere, for use of the skating to support the theme. But I wouldn't want an empty program that sustains its theme with costume and arm positions to be considered better choreography than a program that has no intention other than to showcase complex, difficult, and high-quality edges, turns, jumps, and spins.

    Can "pure skating" be considered a valid choreographic theme?
  6. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

    I think attyfan's suggestions are well taken, and might help move judging/ rules somewhat in a better direction. The system right now is so screwed up and the rules fluctuate with the wind, with skaters' and coach's comments, with event controversies, and with who knows what backstage arguments, machinations and power struggles.

    I really despise the fact that skaters are able to just leave out jumps they don't like/ aren't very good at, and still receive top scores. To be a top contender, you should have to do all the jumps (at the least over the course of sp/ lp).

    I also feel that os168 made great points in the Japan Open thread with these comments:

    ITA re figure skating is both art and sport, and the art right now is getting a beating. Many skaters and coaches are trying not to lose that aspect, but the strategizing for points often gets in the way.

    Re the ladies, os168, please give more examples than Miki. I thought Miki tried to do something different last season with her sp, and I thought it was a good direction for her, but Morozov must have felt it was not successful enough and dropped it in favor of the lyrical direction to compete more with what Alissa and Kira were doing. I've been lukewarm re most of the ladies for quite awhile in any case. I think Alissa is quite special, but it tends to be a heart-in-throat experience generally watching her, hoping she can get through her programs without falls/ technical errors. I was very happy for her last season. She does not have an aggressive attack style and her personality seems quite sensitive, albeit strong enough to survive so many setbacks and come back to triumph. However, I think in the long run, her shy hesitations and sensitivities, and rep as not being rock solid on jumps tend to hurt her with the judges (e.g., I thought she should have been scored higher at recent Worlds). I loved what Alena Leonova did at Worlds in Moscow (though I never liked her much previously). I have always enjoyed Mirai, but I'm not sold on what I've seen of her so far this season. The rest have bright spots and flaws, one and all. Yes, the up-and-coming Russians are quite amazing, but still young and time will tell the story there. At this point, I don't see any ladies breaking new ground or separating themselves from the pack in an interesting or unique way.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7kTnyOcPy4 pure skating and a valid choreographic theme

    Janet Lynn, the epitome of art and sport, that transcends sport:


    The below 2 performances = pure skating, exquisite choreography, uplifting competition



    The below: pure skating + gifted skater + superb choreography + valid choreographic theme + athleticism = Transcendent Art


    Sometimes trying to break everything down on the basis of numbers, and defining everything on the basis of rules spoils the pure uplifting joy of what this sport/ art is all about. Yes, rules are necessary -- transcending them is priceless.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  7. os168

    os168 Active Member

    Thank you GKelly for starting this thread. Sorry if this is going to be a long rant, I hope you don't mind but I would like to share some random thoughts over these recent trends that seems to be destroying the artistic aspect of the sport which I love.

    I can't speak for everyone but I became a fan of the sports because of its beauty, unpredictability and pleasure it can brings me. Creativity and artistry excite me, especially knowing the hard work and effort that goes into put together something unique, original is to be a celebration of every skater's personal growth that should get matures and better every year.

    I would dread to see budding young skaters who probably fell in love with skating because of the artistic values in the first place, ends up devoted a long time to develop their craft, ends up having to sacrifice everything to get to the top because of the competition level are ruled by a COP system that does not look after their interests. Why does to stay competitive means they may have to give up a large chunk of what makes them unique? A template format is only likely to ever generate cookie cutter programs with cookie cutter like performance (Except maybe you get to choose a colour and a theme) that satisfies neither the sport and kills the art.

    Looking at the ladies program this year, this Morozov approach appear to have become the established trend. I read something on Miki recently which I thought was touching. It was an old article about David Wilson dated in 2005. From what I understand Miki was one of the original jumping beans from Japan, but in the article she expressed of the type of skater she aspired to be

    http://www.aussieskates.com/wilson/web/news IFS.htm

    This was the program that inspired her


    and this was Miki's version back then


    The 2004 Miki competed with triple triples, quad attempt and express skating with freedom, gutsiness, speed and joy. A world of difference from her competitive performances in recent years. I wonder if someone were to interview her now: Is the Miki today how she imagined to be 6 years ago despite the 2 titles? (Will she answer honestly?)

    The 2x gold is nice, but if you are to ask the young skaters of today which skater inspires them and who will make them work really hard just to be like them - how many will say they just want to be like Miki Ando? If not why not? She is a twice world ladies champion!! And she had been one since 2007.

    If what Gkelly says is true, that Art only account for LESS THAN 10% of total rewards and that keep all your jumps in the 2nd half for 10% bonuses, there's clearly an imbalance of the COP right there. He obviously sacrificed arts for sports. It is hard to blame Morozov for prioritising what is important for him to win. Nevertheless the system has been exploited in such a blatant manner, that it ends up completely disregard the importance of original artistic choreography. The new established format does not make inspired programs nor inspired skaters.

    With the Morozov strategy paid off at WC 2011. Today, we found the top ladies seems to have no choice but to follow similar path to learn to work the system. And just like watching Miki, I can't help but notice it seem all their previous good qualities seems to have been severely dampened and dispirited. If things remain the way it is, a few years down the line, will there be the new/old Miki Andos? What will become of the sport then? A jumping and endurance test?

    Is this the right direction of the sport? Is that the sort of artistic performance the skaters dreamed of when they were little girls? Or should the sport at least recognise there's a fault, a kink in the system and try to address it? To offer the freedom to allow all skaters to express themselves without feeling like they are being penalised by not adopting the same scoring optimised way as everyone else?
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  8. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    I guess we'd have to ask a bunch of skaters what they dreamed of when they were little girls -- or little boys, as the case may be.

    I'd be curious how many were more interested in creating art and how many more interested in the sporting side of things.

    Just as a guess, I would expect that jocks tend to be overrepresented among the girls who make it to the top. But that's more a reflection of which girls have the physical ability to learn and maintain triple jumps after puberty than of the side of skating that drew them in to begin with.

    Certainly I've seen more originality from male skaters than from female ones both before and after the change in judging system. I attribute that to the fact that they peak later and have more life experience to draw on as adults whereas most of the girls are still teenagers when they reach the elite levels.

    But I also wonder whether part of it is that a man of average athletic ability can probably learn to do triples if he puts in the training time, although not triple axels or quads.

    The women who can do any triples, especially loop-flip-lutz, have to be of above-average athletic ability and within a smaller range of typical female body types to get the jumps at all. The ones who have the most interest in being artistic might not be the ones who make it to the elite levels.
  9. os168

    os168 Active Member

    GKelly, you have raised several great points which I do not have the answers for, but I feel if we are to judge figure skating as art, the current PCS definitions is rather inadequate.

    Afterall, just how do you quantify a great art work purely by numbers? It seems absurd. That is why when I read some figure skating fans say they believe more with their own eyes, I totally agree with them. You can break it down to even more detailed categories, but it becomes even more ridiculous and ill suited to justify the overall impressions of the credibility of a good piece of work compares with a great piece of work.

    I think may be that is why the COP system failed when a smart aleck like Morozov learnt to exploit these numbers and priorities the scores.

    In an ideal world, I expect at certain level, the technical aspect of skating should be there, that all skaters have a good basis to start off with. And those who doesn't have it shouldn't have any business of competing. (But then that is just me, because I am really tough)

    The mechanism of skating therefore should serve a higher purpose, to realise an unique design and delivery which most of today's programs are becoming. More design than art.

    The current PCS is like elementary school level scoring system (tick boxes, attempt to quantify according to criteria) trying to appease the elementary level of universal understanding, but they do not take in account of the the decisions and the quality of how these choices came about, which would should be awarded in art.

    In an ideal world, I much prefer 2 panels of judges. One's expertise purely on the technical aspect of skating. One purely on the artistic value of skating with all the full knowledges of forms, aesthetics, dance, musicality, arts, crafts, arts periods, movements, greater appreciation and understanding cultural influences and differences. The qualification of the artistic value judges need to be scrutinised, examined and attested. But once that is decided, there should be no dispute. And actually I would prefer the artistic panel of judges to be someone everybody knew and respect rather than remain anonymous. They opinions should be shared with the public in a transparent manner as well.

    Despite all these talk on objective or subjective, I strongly feel artistry is subjective to audience only, and objective to judges and that is all it should count. At the end of the day, it should be who are the judges on the day that decide the performance. In an art competition, like judging painting or a music recital, there can only 1 or 2 judges, and his/her opinions matters only. Others doesn't matter. Tough luck!

    The current judging system when applied to art is a bit like design by consent, you never get something as good or pure artistically. It stops innovation.

    Ofcourse, one can counter argue that IF we know who's going to be the judge then *somebody* will know who to bribe! But then artistry has always been controversial, so why bother hide it. Or you can have a panel of judges, but pick a draw on the day?!

    Actually I am rather curious how PRO AM competitions are judged, since it seems Miki has said she is thinking of turning Pro. If we are to keep this COP elementary way appraisal, may be there should be a more sophisticated version at the elite level based on expert judgments in a transparent manners, like the one suggested above or something similar?


    I wonder if she will stick with Morozov and if she is not then I will consider she is not really happy with the direction of her skating, and it would really interesting to see how she performs in the pro circuit.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  10. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    BTW, I meant that the Choreography component only accounts for about 10% of the total score, and element distribution is only one part of that component.

    One could argue that almost all the criteria of Performance/Execution, Choreography, and Interpretation contribute to the artistry of the program, so that would add up to approximately 30% of the total score.

    I wouldn't focus too much on element distribution alone. There's a lot leeway within any ordering of elements for the program to be artistic or completely devoid of artistry.

    Having the opportunity to choose the best order to support the program concept allows for the possibility of more original and artistic programs, but most skaters are not going to care about that as much as they care about the aerobic demands of executing those elements. It's hard to be artistic when stumbling through the program from fatigue.

    Can junior short programs be artistic, with specified jumps and spins? How about short programs from the 1980s when not only jumps and spins but also the shapes of the step sequences were also specified?

    Even if the rules for long programs were that skater must do exactly the same jumps and spins and steps in exactly the same order, some skaters would find a way to make an artistic program out of those requirements and others wouldn't care.
  11. miki88

    miki88 Active Member

    What I don't like is how the choreography/interpretation score has a direct correlation with the Technical score of the performance. In other words, I often see skaters' score much higher in those areas when they skate a strong technical program regardless of the quality of the choreography. Miki is a good example of this. I think these scores should be separated (preferrably scored by different panels). If the judges begin to substantially reward skaters for good choreography/artistic impression, then we will see more skaters make an effort in these directions.