Skate Canada gratefully acknowledges the time, effort, and expertise of the following people in composing and assembling this manual:
Many thanks for the contributors of the previous
Artistic Skating Manual:
Mary Claire Heintzman
The Interpretive Program provides an avenue within which skaters can develop their ability to interpret music without the pressure created by the demand for technical difficulty in other programs. Skaters can take tests as individuals or as a couple (male/female, female/female, and male/male) at the following levels:
This program is a means of encouraging skaters to develop:
- an understanding of the relationship between movement and rhythm patterns (music)
- an awareness of their innate choreographic creativity
- an ability to employ basic skating skills as vehicles of expression
- an extensive repertoire of expressive movements
- an increased confidence in their performance skills
This program requires those who judge this discipline to possess an understanding of musical structure and basic choreographic principles. Appendix A contains definitions that may be of use throughout this manual.
Objectives of Interpretive Skating Test Standards
This manual is a resource tool for officials and coaches alike. The first part of the manual provides an introduction to the Interpretive Skating Program, an overview of the theories underlying creative movement, and some guidelines for continued study. Marking of the interpretive program and the conduct of tests and competitions are covered in the last portion.
The following topics will be covered:
- creation of an interpretive program
- role of the coach/choreographer as well as the skater in the development of interpretive skating
- selection of music and costuming
- introducing the principles of creative movement
- requirements to become an Interpretive Test Evaluator
- evaluation criteria and passing requirements
- test standards
Some of the features of the Interpretive program (compared to the Artistic Test Program) include the following:
- One evaluator will assess Interpretive tests.
- All Interpretive tests shall be evaluated by Interpretive Evaluators.
- For Introductory test level the program shall be a maximum of 2.0 minutes.
- For Bronze through Gold levels, the programs shall be a maximum of 3.0 minutes.
- There are no age criteria. Age has little impact on a skater’s ability to interpret music. Skating skills and other basic components are not necessarily reflective of a person’s age, but rather his/her acquired skill set.
- The Adult test is eliminated and the adult skaters are folded into the Interpretive Program. The Adult Artistic test is equivalent to the Bronze Interpretive test. For example, if a skater has passed the Adult Artistic test, then they can progress in the Interpretive program beginning at the Silver Interpretive test.
- A candidate may qualify for the same test more than once using a different theme and program on each occasion.
- A candidate for an Interpretive test shall have passed the preceding test.
- The Interpretive Tests are open to singles skaters or couples.
Components of an Interpretive Program
While viewing an Interpretive program, a judge should consider the various elements of expressive movement that the skater has used to communicate the chosen theme. These are briefly summarized below:
Principles of Creative Movement
The concept of the Interpretive program has its roots in creative dance. People have composed dances throughout the ages. The instinct to use movement is an elemental part of human nature.
Over time three principal forms of dance developed:
- folk dancing – usually rural, lower class, exuberant
- social dance – usually urban, upper class, formalized
- court performances – principally ballet, stylized
In the first half of the twentieth century, dance as a discipline expanded in many areas of technique, style, form and content as it became a form of popular entertainment.
For many centuries, dances have been composed instinctively by talented individuals. Not until the nineteen thirties, were theories of dance composition developed and taught. This lead to a continuing expansion and exploration of the human ability to communicate through movement set to music. It is these theories that we must consider as a basis for developing and assessing interpretive programs.
Composition is not simply inspiration, but it is based on a conception of a theme, and the manipulation of that theme cannot be developed, or shaped without knowledge of the rules of composition.
The most instinctive art form is the A B A: a beginning, a middle and an end.
Dance is designed in two aspects: space and time. At any given moment a dance has a design on space. (Think of a snapshot of a dance). Design in time, exists within the sequence of movements and is more complex than the design in space. It ranges from a simple transition of one movement to another, to the lengthier phrase, and finally to the over-all structure. It is much more difficult to perceive the design on time than on space. The eye must be trained to remember how movements follow each other.
Design in time is often structured in units, called phrases, that correspond to natural biological rhythms. Each phrase has a recognizable shape with a beginning and an end and usually rises and falls. Differences in phrase length and shape provide variety in the performance. For practical purposes phrases may be considered in three categories: the high point at the beginning; the high point at or near the middle; the high point at or near the end. The high point might be achieved in tempo, or some other element of movement.
Dynamics is the key that adds interest to the dance. It extends from the smoothness of cream to the sharpness of tack. Sharp dynamics plus speed has a stimulating effect: smooth dynamics plus moderate or slow movement is soothing. The good dance is not constructed to stay very long with one dynamic because too much sharpness is nerve wracking, while too much legato is boring. Interesting dances often involve simultaneous dynamics. For instance, one arm can continue with the main theme, while the other beats or quivers. This can be varied by use of other parts of the body. The feet can be staccato, while the arms and body legato. This produces a very rich texture to the program.
Role of the Coach/Choreographer
For the Interpretive program, the coach/choreographer should function as a mentor; guiding skaters to develop their own choreographic skills, rather than as a creator of movements to be imitated. After the theme and music has been selected, the coach should discuss them with the skater to draw out and enlarge his/her understanding of the theme. This is particularly important in the case of the inexperienced interpretive skater.
It is important that the communication of the program’s theme be done through the skater and not through the movements and choreography set out by the coach/choreographer. The coach should encourage skaters to attend introductory classes in acting and modern dance as a means of expanding their knowledge of movement. These classes could develop an understanding of themes and moods in music. Experience in these will encourage the skater to become less inhibited.
Developing Interpretive Skating Programs
Interpretive skating programs require a different choreographic approach than do competition or show programs. For tests or competitions the music is selected for its potential to showcase the difficult jumps, spins and other elements of the skaters’ repertoire. A show program is designed to entertain an audience by presenting a sample of some of the skater’s spectacular moves.
Interpretive skating programs are generated by starting with either a specific musical selection or a particular theme. Skaters might start by selecting a piece of music which they would like to interpret by using their skating skills, listening to the music and developing an understanding of its story or abstract theme that could provide continuity to the movements. Conversely, skaters might start with a theme they wish to express and then select music that is appropriate. In either case, it is essential that the theme and the music form a unified whole from which the movements flow.
For inexperienced interpretive skaters the theme should be clear and simple. There is not time in a brief program to explore an elaborate theme, nor do they have the necessary interpretive skills. Silver level skaters can develop a wider range of movements, gestures and body language that can enable them to utilize a wide variety of skills to express complex themes involving changes of mood, character or style.
After the choice of theme and music have been made. The next stage is to fit the movements suggested by the theme to the music.
There are four basic elements of movement:
Varying these movement styles enables the skater to convey a range of feelings during a program.
Although rhythm is the most basic element of music and dance, dissonance and strange designs in time and space are at the core of much modern dance. This discarding of preconceived notions of what dance should be has led to considerable exploration of the elements of line, rhythm and texture. Such movements are not grotesque, but rather a state of physical awareness full of potential action. Tension can not be indicated, it must be actual. However, for these movements to be effective a high degree of technique is required. Inexperienced skaters will not be more effective by attempting movements beyond their control, but less so.
Composition of an Interpretive Program
The interpretive program consists of a variety of skating moves selected for their value in enhancing the skater’s interpretation of the music rather than for their technical difficulty. Jumps may be included, but credit will not be given for their technical difficulty. Credit for jumps and spins is based solely on the chosen theme, not merely a collection of pleasing or spectacular moves assembled to entertain an audience (exhibition/show program).
Although creative movement usually has a theme as a starting point, each movement need not be part of a coherent “story line”. Movement expresses in aesthetic form the drives, desires, and reactions of alive human beings. It does not involve animals, fairies, ghosts or toys come to life, except as they might exist in the mind of the skater.
While many programs will, undoubtedly, reflect known themes from past ballet, opera, operetta or musical productions of the stage or screen, skaters should be encouraged to move beyond these to explore more original and personal concepts. Skaters choosing an unknown theme shall be rewarded. Programs might explore designs in abstract movement suggested by selected sound patterns, moods, or concepts.
Skaters are requested to present to their evaluator/judge a brief statement of the chosen theme. This should serve to whet the judges’ appetites for the program and provide a framework within which it can be assessed. It is to be no more than 70 characters in length.
Selection of Music for Interpretive Skating
For this program any type of music may be used provided that the theme and music form a unified whole. In some cases, the music may provide the inspiration for the theme; in other cases a theme may be selected, then appropriate music chosen to convey it. Vocal music is permitted at all levels.
Rhythm is the most powerful element of dance, but its value is rarely appreciated or utilized. Rhythm permeates every aspect of life, providing organization and patterns of existence. Humans possess four innate rhythms:
- breathing/singing/speaking/ which leads to phrasing
- muscle/nerve actions such as heartbeat and peristalsis
- propulsion – walking/running/jumping
- emotional rhythms – feelings/moods/passions
If movements are organized into these rhythmic patterns, they elicit response because they connect to everyone’s experience.
If the rhythmic structure is readily felt by the audience, then they will not be distracted from the performance by the effort needed to understand it. Humans do not sustain feelings with steady intensity, therefore, dramatic rhythmic patterns must show variation to be convincing. Motivation and gesture must be understood by skaters if they are to convey rhythm patterns effectively.
Therefore, care must be taken to select music that permits the skater to fully explore all aspects of the chosen theme. The skater then must study the selected music intensively in order to fully understand and develop its rhythmic patterns.
Three forms of music that are most suitable for interpretive programs are melodic, rhythmic and dramatic. This eliminates such forms as the intellectual composition, the bravura piece, the impressionistic composition, the “big” piece, the well-known programmatic piece, the too-complex composition, the cliché-ridden and the commonplace. There is still a vast range of music to consider, even after these exclusions.
After the preliminary choices of subject matter and music, there is still that most important aspect of fitting together the music and the movement.
Selection of clothing for interpretive skating
The clothing chosen for Interpretive programs should be simple and tasteful. Its purpose is to enable the skater to more fully experience the theme that is being presented. Elaborate costumes can inhibit movement and tend to detract from the skating itself. Care must be taken to ensure that the theme is clearly presented by the sequence of movements without reliance on the clothing to make the concept clear.
Make-up and hairstyle may also be used to assist the skater in capturing the mood. These too should be used discretely, rather than tending to extremes.
Props may not be used in Interpretive programs. Any item that is held in the hand or removed during the performance is considered to be a prop. Thus, for example, a hat worn throughout the program is not considered to be a prop, but becomes one if it is intentionally removed during the performance. If something falls off on its own, it is not a prop.
The safety of the skater must be a major consideration in the selection of clothing. Tails, boot covers, and trailing fabric that could trip the skater should be avoided.
Qualities of an Interpretive Skating Judge/Evaluator
Those who have decided to become involved in evaluating/judging the Interpretive program must be prepared to develop their understanding of movement and modern dance in many directions. Every opportunity should be taken to view live performances, film, television and video material that display various periods and styles of dance.
A keen sense of music is essential for evaluating Interpretive programs. An understanding of the rhythm and melody patterns is necessary to be able to visualize their potential for interpretation. Although it is often helpful for the judge to be aware of the original theme for which the music was composed, this must not block the judge’s ability to understand a different theme that the skater may have chosen to set to music.
Judges for this discipline must be able to set aside their personal interpretation of the music in order to be able to appreciate the interpretation presented by the skater. Analysis must be focussed within the context established by the skater. Finally, imagination is necessary to be able to quickly absorb and assess an artistic program within the available time.
NOTE: All Interpretive tests shall be evaluated by one Interpretive Evaluator
Interpretive Test Evaluator (from Officials Definition, Appointment, Qualifications Policy)
Prerequisite: The prerequisite to an Interpretive promotion are:
- A minimum of Gold evaluator certification in the Free Skating, Skating Skills or Dance
- A skating background defined as follows:
- Any two of Junior Bronze Free Skating, Skills, Dance; or
- Any one of Senior Bronze Free Skating, Skills, Dance or a Juvenile Competitive test; or
- Any one higher level test
Clinic: Successful completion of the Interpretive Skating Clinic
Practical: Successful completion of the Interpretive Skating Workbook, which includes as a minimum the following practical exercises:
- Standards module (actual or video)
- Report of a supervised evaluation session with three interpretive tests
- Summary report of an observation session at a theatrical or dance performance (actual or video)
Interpretive Skating programs are to be evaluated using the following criteria:
Specific skills will be evaluated on the following scale: Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, and Needs Improvement.
- Edge and Turn Quality - Quality of basic edges and turns (e.g. three turns, brackets, Choctaws etc.) incorporated into the choreography of the program.
- Speed, Flow and Power - Gaining and maintenance of speed; easy and continual flow; power reflective of the ability of the skater and the chosen music/theme.
- Creative Movement with Sureness - Incorporating new and creative movements performed with sureness and control.
- Carriage and Line - Upper body carriage and body line reflective of the chosen music/theme yet still incorporating good style (e.g. a skater may choose African Tribal dance music; one would expect angular lines and departure from the “normal” skating posture, but this should not be confused with poor basic form. In other words, there is a difference between intentional choreography and poor basic form and line).
- Interpretation of Music - Clear interpretation of the chosen music.
- Communication of Theme - The skater’s ability to portray the chosen theme through interpretation of music, skating skills and movement rather than through mime and posing. The current evaluation of “Development of Theme” is problematic in that too many persons get caught up in trying to tell (or discern from the performance given) a story from start to finish. This limits creativity and shifts the focus of the program from development of interpretation skills and creative movement/performance. The “Communication of Theme” idea allows for less subjectivity and more objectivity as it is easier to decide whether a skater is utilizing the music chosen (with an appropriate underlying theme), creative movement and strong basic skating skills then it is to evaluate a skater’s ability to tell the story of Juliet’s Death, as example.
- Use of Whole Body - Skater’s ability to use the entire body (including torso) to help interpret the music and communicate the theme. Particular attention should be paid in differentiating between postural and gestural movements.
- Use of Levels and Space - Skater’s ability to use low, mid and high levels as well as space (either immediately surrounding the body as well as within the performance area, or ice surface). The Interpretive Program is a perfect vehicle to begin experimenting with use of levels and space which then can ideally be incorporated into other free skating or ice dancing programs once the skill is more developed.
- Originality/Creativity - Skaters should be encouraged to choose (and rewarded when chosen) an unknown theme or original interpretation of a known piece of music.
- Interaction - This is relevant to couples only and reflects the need for interaction between the couple during the test but encourages more creativity than what might be the case if the term “unison” is incorporated.
NOTE: Since in the Interpretive program falls may be a deliberate choice in order to enhance the development of the theme, marks should only be deducted for falls that clearly interrupt that development. Such falls should be penalized in the second mark.
Please see Appendix C for sample Interpretive Skating Test Evaluation Sheets.
Judging Interpretive Competitions
There are two viewpoints that are unproductive in terms of objective comparison of interpretive programs.
- Comparison of the validity of the chosen themes does not lead to significant decisions.
- Personal likes/dislikes of the judge or the audience have little to do with the relative artistry of the performance.
The judge should consider the programs rationally in terms of the choreographic and presentation skills displayed. The most significant of these for determination of placing are:
- demonstrated strong range of expressive skills
- suitability of technical elements chosen to illustrate theme
- sophistication of the theme
- sense of physical awareness that provides texture to the program
- unity of the symbolic meaning and the music
The same standards used in evaluating an Interpretive Skating test should be looked at when judging interpretive skating competitions. See Appendix B for the Interpretive Skating Test Standards document and Appendix D for a sample of a Interpretive Skating Judges Worksheet.
Horst, Louis and Russell, Carrol. Modern Dance forms
Humphrey, Doris, The Art of Making Dances
Laban, Rudolph, Modern Educational Dance, MacDonald and Evans