Our guest columnist is Rikki Rendich Samuels, an instructor at Rockefeller Rink in NYC for over 25 years. As a four-time USFSA national competitor, Rikki received her gold medals in figures and freestyle, and is a former two-time Middle Atlantic Senior Ladies Champion. As a professional, she has been awarded the highest awards from the Professional Skaters Association, a master's rating in figures and freestyle, and a master's rating in program administration.
The following guidelines are helpful to putting a program together, whether you are a beginner or an Olympic skater!
After you have chosen your music (and select music you love because you will be listening to it a hundred times), the next step is to work out a plan. There are two ways of doing this, but in each case, you are going to start by making a list of the skating moves you want to include. If you are making up your program for a test or competition, you have little choice as to your moves -- you will do the moves that are required by the test or competition. Check the rulebook. Most rinks are members of the ISI and/or the USFSA. For both associations, read the rulebook carefully, and make sure your copy is up-to-date. Rules are always being changed and refined, and you do not want to lose points because you don't include all the required moves, or if you put in moves that are not allowed at your level.
If you are making up a program just for fun, it is simpler: just make a list of the moves you enjoy doing. But don't be afraid to add a couple of moves that you haven't yet mastered. Working on a program is an excellent way to motivate yourself to learn something new.
Think about your program in terms of three equal sections. After making your list of moves, listen to the first third of your music. During this part of your program, you should cover the ice and reach out to the audience. Performing in a skating rink is like performing in a theater in the round. The audience is all around you. Back crossovers are a way of covering the ice quickly, yet facing as much of your audience as possible. For this reason, it is common practice to open a program with back crossovers in both directions. Also, in your first third you should include a move that you are particularly comfortable with -- one that looks impressive yet feels secure.
In the second third of your program, you want to accomplish two things: do the required moves that don't fit the music elsewhere, and use the slower tempo to catch your breath (you will need it in the last third of your program). This is the time for combination jumps, required footwork, and other required moves that are not appropriate in the other two parts of your music.
The last third of your program shows how well a skater has prepared. This is where endurance is important. The last third has to include any required move that you haven't yet done, as well as any required move that is planned for this last part of your music. You also want to leave the audience with something memorable. Sasha Cohen developed her outstanding arabesque done at top speed for this part of her program. Choose a move that is daring and different from those used by other skaters. It also has to be a move with which you feel very secure. It should say something about you, and about how you feel about skating (I call it the "remember me" move). When you watch professional skaters complete their program, you'll understand why final moves are so important.
Many programs end with a spin. There are several reasons for this. Often, the music reaches a level of drama that seems to call for a spin. In addition, after a spin, most skaters are a little dizzy, so that is not a good time to do a challenging move. When the spin is at the end, you don't have to worry about recovering from it. You just stop, hold the position, catch your bearings, and bow. It's important to hold your last position of the program -- the one just before your bow. It encourages appreciation from the audience. Plan to hold that last position for six seconds. After that, it is traditional to do two bows. Note that if you are skating in a filled arena, it's traditional to do four bows, one to each side.
|Here's a trick that makes you and the audience feel good when you take your two bows. On the first bow, you say to yourself, "Thanks for watching me," and on the second bow, you say to yourself, "I loved skating for you!"|
[Rikki has also written a book called Kids' Book Of Figure Skating: Skills, Strategies, and Techniques which contains information on: proper technique, how to purchase skates, warm-up exercises, rink rules and skating etiquette, how to be an informed fan, skating clubs and associations, and many other relevant topics. You can also check out her website at RikkiSamuels.com.]