Monday, January 7, 2019

Why US Figure Skating Developed a New Qualifying Pipeline

This month, as with every January, the US Figure Skating Championships will take place, only this year will mark the final time, at least for now, that events at the juvenile, intermediate, and novice levels will be held. This is only one change in US Figure Skating's reimagined qualifying competitive pipeline that will be implemented in the coming season. This system will introduce a new way that single skaters can qualify for sectionals as well as allow for a national ranking to be used for every participating skater in the country, among other things. Here is how US Figure Skating's new plan will work.

General Rules and Qualifying for Mens/Ladies Events

Single skaters, pairs, and dance couples will participate in newly developed National Qualifying Series, a group of competitions approved by US Figure Skating at which skaters can earn scores for a sectional and national ranking. These competitions will take place between June 1st and September 15th, and only the skater's highest total competition score from the final round of an event will count toward their ranking. When the series is over, all skaters that have earned a final round score in a participating event will receive a sectional ranking as well as a national ranking for their division. However, the winner of the series is not given the title "US Champion", as that is only used for the US Championships. The top six single skaters in each discipline and in each section receive a bye to their Sectional Singles Final. The rest of the skaters will have to compete at their Regional Singles Challenge and place in the top four in order to qualify for the Sectional Singles Final. This brings the number of single skaters competing in each event at sectionals up from 12 to 18. At sectionals, the top 4 single skaters in the senior and junior events will qualify for the US Figure Skating Championships along with any skaters who already received byes to nationals. The top 4 sectional finishers at the juvenile, intermediate, and novice levels become members of the National High-Performance Developmental Team and are invited to the National High-Performance Development Team Camp, a training program that takes place immediately after nationals. There, skaters and their coaches and parents can be trained to act as being a part of the development of the future of Team USA. Skaters can also earn Team USA assignments from this camp at the advanced novice and junior levels. The intention and hope for this as a replacement for national competition is to give the skaters what they can use to have successful figure skating careers, instead of just one more competition and one more medal. In addition, novice-level single skaters who place in the top 2 in their section are also invited to compete in the junior division at the US Figure Skating Championships. This is being done to allow skaters to debut at the junior level without the pressure of immediate success. To accommodate this change, the free skate durations for the intermediate and novice ladies and men have been made longer. More specifically, the novice free skate duration will exactly match the junior free skate at 3 minutes and 30 seconds. This change, along with the others I have stated, should work to establish the younger qualifying levels as structuring stages and build up a stronger field of Team USA members in the future.

Qualifying for Pairs and Dance

There are some important differences between the qualifying structure for singles and for pairs and dance, but the general idea is the same. Both disciplines will still have their own National Qualifying Series and national ranking, but no sectional ranking. Also, instead of competing at a Regional Singles Challenge in order to qualify for a Sectional Final, these skaters will compete at a Sectional Challenge in order to qualify for a US Final. The top 3 pairs and ice dance couples in their levels from the National Qualifying Series receive a bye to the US Final, while the top 5 pairs and couples at each sectional challenge will also qualify. The Sectional Pairs and Dance Challenges will take place at the same time and place as a Regional Singles Final in its corresponding section. The same is true for the US Pairs and Dance Finals and the Sectional Singles Finals. From the final, the top 12 juniors and seniors qualify for the US Figure Skating Championships, along with any national byes. As for the younger levels, the top 9 teams are invited to the National High-Performance Development Team Camp.

New Qualification Rule for Senior Competitors

The senior level in figure skating is usually the level with the lowest number of skaters in the country. This normally allows for every senior pair and dance couple to qualify for the national championships, even if they may not be able to qualify at the junior level or even lower. This, along with the very high number of byes for senior competitors, makes for very long senior national events with a wide range of ability. There are many cases in which the events are so long that spectators leave before the final warm-up groups begin, which is where the top skaters are seeded. The solution to this is to establish minimum technical element scores that must be met during the National Qualifying Series, the qualifying season, or at an ISU event in order to compete at the US Championships. This would set a higher standard for what is necessary to be a senior national competitor and, possibly, cut the competitive fields to a slightly smaller number. Personally, I think raising the bar for what is acceptable for a senior-level skater is a pretty good idea. I just hope we don't see USFSA shrink the fields too much, because I always like to see big senior events.

Why People Hate This

The answer to this is pretty simple if you ask the general population of currently competitive skaters; The younger levels don't have nationals any more. It's no secret that a lot of people see this as a big downside, but there is evidence to suggest that taking away this national success and recognition could be extremely beneficial to US Figure Skating's attempt to build up a stronger national team.

Ever since a national championship event for juvenile and intermediate skaters was first contested in 1991, skaters and parents began to believe that a national title at these levels was something to strive for. As a result, skaters would spend more time competing in the juvenile, intermediate, and novice levels with the goal of success at the US Championships, instead of challenging themselves and moving up toward the junior and senior levels for the better experience. To put it more simply, parents wanted their skaters to aim for short-term success, while US Figure Skating wanted them to aim for long-term success. It has also been shown that skaters tend to end their competitive careers within just a few seasons of competing at nationals at the Intermediate level. Of the 12 ladies who competed at that level at nationals in 2013, only two competed in the 2018 season, and four are no longer US Figure Skating members. What I found the most staggering is that of the 22 pairs competing at nationals at the intermediate or novice levels, only four individual skaters and one whole pair competed at the junior or senior level, which means 87% of those skaters did not compete last season. This is also largely affected by teams splitting up and skaters not finding partners who meet their preferences, but my frustration with the lack of longevity in US pair partnerships is for another time. To get back to my original point, the hope for replacing the US Championships being held for developmental levels with the National High-Performance Developmental Team Camp is to replace the goal for short-term success with a goal of setting up a future for the athlete as a strong skater at the junior and senior levels and a member of Team USA.

My only worry for this is that younger skaters will be less inclined to work as hard when they lose the chance to become a national champion. However, I wouldn't expect coaches to allow their skaters to put in any less effort than they already do, and the pairs and dance couples will still be able to compete at a national level with their US Pairs and Dance Finals, so I'm not all that concerned. I guess I'd just call it what I think is most likely to go wrong with this system, if anything. Still, I'm pretty confident that this system can be effective in the future.

So, I hope this helps with learning the new changes for next season! If you have anything you'd like to add or you have a question about something I said, don't be afraid to leave a comment.

Happy New Year!
-TJ

Friday, November 30, 2018

A New Era of Ice Dancing: What This Season Brings

Well, the six events of the Grand Prix series are finished. As I look back over the fall events, I see that we as figure skating fans have been treated to some incredible ice dancing! I would even go as far as to say that this season is transformative, both in creativity of the programs and, especially, in their structure. As one may expect with a post-Olympic season, a wave of new rules and regulations has hit the entire skating world, quite notably with the change of the judges' marks for grade of execution ranging from -5 to +5, and also the renovated rules for singles skaters performing jumps in the second half of their programs. Also, all disciplines of skating have seen new scales of values for their technical elements. Ice dancing, however, has seen a wide variety of changes in its rules, and I think the performances that we’ve seen over the fall show just how beneficial these changes are. Ice dancing just got a whole lot cooler. Here’s why.

1. New Choreographic Elements

Going into the 2012-13 season, the choreographic lift was introduced to the free dance add a point value to the "transitional lift" that was permitted in past years. Since then, new choreographic elements have been created and added into programs to make ice dancing less dependent on technical levels and more dependent on creating innovative and unique programs. In addition to the lift, the choreographic spinning and twizzling movements were both introduced as options for dancers to choose from when creating their free dances. This season, the number of options for the elements has increased from three to five. The new elements are the choreographic sliding movement and the choreographic character step sequence. Senior couples must perform three different elements in their free dance, and one must be the step sequence. I think this is a great opportunity to evolve choreographic elements from just a lift at the end of a program to movements that flow directly into the choreography and can be placed almost anywhere to enhance the program. Regarding the step sequence, there's a definitely a wide range of exploration of just how effective this can be. While some couples have shown limited exploration with this element's potential, whether it be with lack of creativity, labored movement, or sloppy execution, other teams have made this element into something really great. There are essentially no rules to what can be done in this element, so the possibilities are endless. It allows skaters to show their individual dancing abilities, if they wish to present that. A team that I think really exemplifies this is Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko, who's character step sequence I mentioned here on my Instagram. This element, in my opinion, can be the biggest connection between free dances and actual dancing on the floor. All in all, these choreographic elements to enhance individual programs and ice dancing as a whole.

2. Reimagined Step Sequences

In the past, step sequences were very much based on the quantity and execution of difficult turns and steps. One flat edge could be what takes a couple down a level and loses them a point and a half in the base value. This season, it has become less important to get clean turns and more important to make the whole step sequence a dance. In fact, it is now discouraged to prioritize performing more turns over adding to the dance. When the technical panel watches for calling correct turns, they will now only consider the first attempt at each type of turn for each skater. What that means is if Jane Doe attempts one million rocker turns in her step sequence, the technical panel will only consider the first for the level. The other nine-hundred ninety nine thousand nine-hundred ninety nine rockers will be ignored. Poor Jane. However, if her partner John Doe only tries one rocker, it will still be evaluated for the level. All that extra work their choreographer made Jane do was unfortunately for nothing.

To comply with this shift of focus, the base values were changed to make the differences in levels much smaller than they were in the past. Instead of being separated by one and a half points, the levels are each separated by only half a point. This makes the overall results less dependent on clean turns in the step sequence and, therefore, makes them less important. I like this change because its another way to have a more even balance of both skating and dance. It makes step sequences more like dancing, and that's pretty much what ice dancing is supposed to be about: dancing.

Another change with this year's step sequences is that couples performing this element in the rhythm dance may perform this element in hold, out of hold, or a combination of both. In the past, the short dance would normally include a required not-touching step sequence, which could look striking and out of place when performed during a rhythm that calls for dancing as one. This season, couples have the opportunity to perform whatever works musically and stands out choreographically. If you ask me, any chance to skate separately in ice dancing should probably be explored, in moderation of course. There's a reason why two ice dancers are called a couple.

3. New Grades of Execution

The change in grades of execution to a range of -5 to +5 was implemented by the ISU to prioritize well executed elements over poorly executed elements of high difficulty. However, this changed has been used for another purpose as well. In ice dancing, the maximum GOE a couple can get on a leveled element is seventy five percent (instead of fifty like singles and pairs) of the element's level 1 base value. If only a base level is achieved, the maximum is seventy five percent of that value. For choreographic elements, which are only worth 1.10 each, a couple can earn an extra 4.15 points for execution, over three hundred seventy five percent of the original value. With the seniors performing three of these elements in the free dance, it is vital for them to create some amazing choreographic elements. This season has already seen skaters who showed how impactful these elements can be prevail over couples who may have performed rather forgettable choreographic elements as if they were simply a hassle. In the case of Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson, whose performance I analyzed here, they were in seventh place after the rhythm dance at this season's NHK Trophy, but their free dance was a comeback the likes of which are rarely seen. They performed a show stopping program to selections by Donna Summer and Earth, Wind & Fire that was highlighted by their fantastic choreographic elements. They opened with a character step sequence that perfectly set the tone for their disco program and immediately got the attention of the crowd. As they neared the end of their free dance with the audience in the palms of their hands, they performed a wonderful set of choreographic twizzles right to the music and finished with a choreographic slide that never seemed to end. Of course, no one wanted it to end anyway. For those elements, Fear and Gibson received nothing lower than +3 from every single judge. Their slide was even mostly rewarded with +5s. These huge marks led to the couple getting second in the free dance with the highest technical score in the event. Fear and Gibson finished in fourth place overall, a jump of three placement from their rhythm dance. This is one example of how well-crafted choreographic elements can play a big part in who moves up in the rankings of an event and who moves down.

As you can see, ice dancing has become a whole lot cooler, and it's because of rules! I'm certainly glad to see couples exploring what these changes are capable of showing, but I think there is much more that the skaters can do with what they are being given. Maybe someday soon we'll see incredibly complicated Irish step-dancing being done for a character step sequence, or my fantasy of seeing skaters do illusion twizzles will finally come to fruition (hint hint wink wink someone do this please). Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what I should write about.

Happy dancing!
-TJ

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Explaining This Year's Key Points: Junior

Happy New Olympic Cycle!

It's the start of a season, which means it's time for a new pattern dance to be performed in this year's ice dance programs and, of course, new rules. One of the most notable changes this season is that the "Short Dance" event will now be called the "Rhythm Dance". This is because the ISU is making an effort to highlight that this program is an interpretation of a required style of dance, rather than just a shorter Free Dance. This season, the required rhythm for both junior and senior-level couples is the tango. Each couple has the choice to either perform just a tango or a tango along with any other rhythm they choose. The pattern dances that will be performed this season are the Tango Romantica by the senior teams and the Argentine Tango by the juniors. In this post, I'm going to explain key points that are used in the judging for the junior event. If you find this helpful, I'll make another post for the seniors. I hope you enjoy and learn something!

For those of you who do not know, key points are small groups of steps in a pattern dance that are used to determine the technical difficulty of the pattern a couple performs. You can think of key points as positions in a spin or features in a step sequence. Key points must be performed with completely correct steps, clean edges, and perfect timing. In the past, one section or pattern was judged with 3 key points. This season, that number has increased to 4. If all 4 key points are cleanly executed and in time with the music, and every step in the section is performed, the couple receives a level 4. If the couple gets 3 key points, they get a level 3. 2 key points get a level 2, and so on. If no key points are awarded, the couple gets a base level. However, the couple still needs to perform the entire section of the dance. If the element is interrupted due to a fall or stumble for up to 4 beats, the level is reduced by 1. This element would be marked with a "<" sign. If the element is interrupted for more than 4 beats but 75% percent of the steps are still completed, The level is reduced by 2. This would be shown with a "<<" sign. If the couple performs less than 75% of the pattern, no level is given, and it would be marked as "!".

That’s it in terms of general rules. Here are the key points for this year’s junior Rhythm Dance.



As you can see, the dance is divided into two sections. Couples may start with either section as long as the next section is performed immediately after the first. For Section 1, the couple must not miss more than 5 steps to get credit for the element. For Section 2, the couple can’t miss more than 3.

Section 1

Key Point 1: Lady’s Steps 7-10

The lady must perform a left forward outside edge followed by a cross-in-front right forward outside edge, cross-behind left forward inside edge, change to an outside edge, and perform the same cross-behind change of edge on the other foot. The technical specialist will judge this key point and look for correct edges and correct change of edges.

Key Point 2: Man’s Steps 7-10

The man will perform the same steps as the lady, except the final step of the key point is not a change of edge; it is a right forward inside counter. Skaters can have a very hard time with the exit edge of this turn. They may easily skate it on a flat edge and even scratch on their toe pick. The assistant technical specialist will watch for correct edges, a correct change of edge, and a correct counter turn.

Key Point 3: Lady’s Steps 13-15

The lady starts with a cross roll right forward outside three-turn, pushes back into a left backward outside, and finishes by stepping forward on to a right forward outside. Getting a clean turn can be a tough part for the lady, so this could be a big factor in who gets this called clean. The technical specialist will look for correct edges and a correct turn.

Key Point 4: Man’s Steps 13-15

The man will do a cross roll left backward outside edge, step into a right forward outside three turn, and finish with a left backward outside edge. This can be a pretty difficult key point for the man because he needs to execute a true cross roll, not just step back on to his edge. Also, the man can easily lose control on his three turn. The assistant technical specialist will look for correct edges and a correct turn.

Section 2

Key Point 1: Lady’s Steps 23-24

The lady starts with a left forward outside swing roll and immediately after performs a twizzle-like motion on the same foot. She finishes by stepping forward onto a right outside edge. The twizzles can be very difficult, as the lady must not change onto her inside edge before turning. Also, this turn makes no sense on paper. If the skater does one entire rotation, she will end up with her feet right next to each other, and she’s won’t be able to push for her next edge, however, she can’t end the turn on the backward part of the turn, because she would not be completing the turn. What she should aim to do is turn for about three quarters of a whole revolution. The technical specialist will look for correct edges and a correct twizzle turn.

Key Point 2: Man’s Steps 23-24

The man will do a left forward outside swing roll with the lady and then perform an open choctaw. He will have to bring his right foot directly to his left instep and skate on a right backward inside edge to get this called clean. He also needs to make sure he doesn’t “jump” from one foot to the other. The man finishes the key point with a left backward outside edge. The assistant technical specialist will look for correct edges and a correct choctaw turn.

Key Point 3: Lady’s Steps 27-31

The lady will perform five cross rolls, starting on her left backward outside edge. These are very difficult to perform correctly, as the she must shift her weight easily from one foot to the other, instead of just stepping through each cross roll. Her final cross roll will include a swing roll and step forward onto her right inside edge. This is a very quick step that should start between counts 4 and 1. Many skaters rush this step and begin it on beat 4, which is incorrect. The technical specialist will assess correct edges in this key point.

Key Point 4: Man’s Steps 27-31

The man performs five cross rolls, starting on his right forward outside edge. The final cross roll is performed with a swing roll. A common error in this key point is stepping on flat edges and then rolling onto an edge, instead of stepping on and maintaining a clear outside edge. The assistant technical specialist will watch this and look for correct edges.

So that’s it! I hope something I said stuck with you. If this was helpful I’ll post something similar for the senior-level couples. Happy watching!


-TJ

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What Denis Ten Meant to Me

When I was 13, a student in my eighth grade class, Shayne, passed away. Although I did not know him personally, I became devastated by just seeing how heartbroken my classmates were. Over the next five years, our class made sure his bright spirit was never forgotten. Any type of class merchandise we had would have his name and, most of the time, his death date. In my junior year, our class had a design contest for our class shirts to be worn by our entire class at pep rally, and one of the requirements was that the shirt had to have something to do with Shayne. I decided to make a design. I was pretty sure that most of the other shirts would show Shayne’s death date, and that was not something I wanted to do. Instead of reminding my classmates of when he died, I thought it was best to remind them of what a great person he was. Because of that, my design had a large quote from Shayne on the back that said “I do not have a favorite color because I don’t want the others to feel bad.”

I didn’t win.

Still, I’d like to continue to remember the lives of people who have passed away, instead of the fact that they are no longer with us. So, this is what Denis Ten meant to me. Feel free to read this, or feel free not to.

When I first started getting into mens’ skating, one of the things I admired especially from them was the speed and command of the ice, maintained along with very relaxed body positioning, from skaters like Patrick Chan. To this day, very much due to my long time coach’s prioritization of skating skills, I’m still so impressed the male skaters that have the best crossovers, no matter what their technical content is. Some other skaters that I’d say have this quality are Jason Brown, Ross Miner, Yuzuru Hanyu, and, of course, Denis Ten. There are very few skaters who move across the ice the way Denis did. We was able to get so much speed throughout his programs, yet he was still so light on his feet. Even the twizzles he does in his step sequence have the speed and ice coverage of an exceptional ice dancer. They way he could combine long sweeping edges and fast-paced toe steps in one step sequence is something that I think is rivaled by very few skaters in the history of the sport. Not bad for a skater who had to wear skates with water bottles attached to them as a kid. The program that I believe shows his absolute best skating abilities would be his Caruso short program from the 2014-15 season. It's a program that I believe works perfectly for his great talent in skating skills and his calm yet strong performance style.


I have to say, I do not believe I appreciated Denis's ability to perform as much as I should have. Looking back, I'd say he expressed himself during his programs in a very relaxed way, not to say that he wasn't working hard, of course. It takes so much time and effort to lose tension in your shoulders and hands, sink completely into your knees, and keep your hips directly under shoulders. These are all things that I have struggled with greatly as a skater, and watching skaters like Yuna Kim and Yuzuru perform without this mistakes is so inspiring to me. For the longest time, I hadn't truly noticed that Denis had this quality as well. The relaxed quality that these skaters have is something that I think is somewhat lost in our current world of international figure skating, and I'd like to see it be recognized and rewarded more in the future.

One last thing I have really admired about Denis is all he has done for skating and winter sports in his country. He grew up in a country that had no indoor rinks, and he helped turn it into a well-known country in the world of figure skating and a bidding country to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The dedication he had to his training turned him into an Olympic medalist, a World medalist, and a national sports hero for Kazakhstan. Through all of his accomplishments, he still dedicated his performances to his fans, instead of himself.

I believe Denis Ten was a phenomenal skater and and wonderful person. His incredible character really showed through everything he did in his life, and his impactful personality will never be forgotten.

Thank you, Denis.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Time I Tied with a Team that Scored Higher Than Me

The International Judging System is supposed to make ties much less common than they were when the 6.0 System was used. Still, there are rare cases of when two skaters have the same technical element score, program component score, and total segment score, resulting in a complete tie. The experience that I've had with one specific tie is one that I think is pretty unique to what others have seen, so I thought I'd share my story.

At the 2016 Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, my partner, Anna, and I were competing at the intermediate level for the second year in a row. The first dance we competed was the European Waltz, which, after our skate, I thought went pretty well. At that event, for some reason, they did not announce scores immediately after each program, so we did not know our placements until our critiques with the judges and when the final results were posted. Once I looked at our final placements, I saw that our friends Olivia and Dillon got fourth place in the European, just like we did. (Liv and Dillon if you're reading this, you're the winds beneath both my wings.) I looked at the detailed scores and saw we both got a score of 12.38 for that dance, with a technical score of 8.40, but Anna and I got 9.28 for component scores, while Liv and Dillon got 9.29. somehow, we still tied for that dance.

To explain how American Pattern Dance scores are calculated, the technical and component scores are added together, and the sum is multiplied by 0.7. The new number is rounded to the nearest hundredth, and the total segment score is finalized. Knowing this, I realized that when our scores were each added up and rounded, they equaled the same number. Since our technical scores, which I believe would have been used to settle the tie, were also equal, there was no rule to determine that we should be separated in placement, so we both ended up in fourth place.



With this in mind, I think it would be a good idea for US Figure Skating to reevaluate how ties are settled when the total score for the segment is factored. The possibility of technical and component scores should be reflected in the rules of this situation. That way, placement can be more fairly awarded in this scenario.

I don't think I have even seen a tie in which the two scores are not exactly the same, so I thought this would be an interesting story to share. If you've ever seen anything like this before, let me know! I'd love to see what other crazy ties have occurred in the IJS.

That's all for now. Happy Sunday!

-TJ

Saturday, May 26, 2018

My Top 10 Favorite Pattern Dances

If you ask me, the Compulsory Dance event of ice dancing is a lost art of the sport. It was an event that did not reward technical difficulty, but pure skating and dancing with a partner. Although I look back at old videos from these events and see that the Compulsory Dance events are sometimes ill-attended, I can't help but pity the people who chose to skip this event. I think I could stay and watch team after team performing the same dance over and over to the same rotation of music all day long. As Dick Button once said, ice dancing is "...a wonderful exercise of a delightful way to have a great time," and I think there are some compulsory dances, now known as pattern dances, that truly showcase the beauty of both ice dancing and figure skating as a whole. Although I think there is much to be appreciated from all thirty-three pattern dances (except maybe the Swing Dance ;) ), I believe these ten dances do the most for the sport. So, here is my top 10 list for my favorite pattern dances.


10. Rhumba


This is one that I've been going back and forth on having on this list, but in the end, it won me over. The way this dance allows a team to present their best edge quality and deep lobes is probably what draws me in the most. Some may say that the Rhumba is an easy dance, due to it's small number of steps and sustained kilian hold for it's entire duration. I could not disagree more. This particular dance is one that requires a couple to have a lot of speed, since you have to go around half of the rink in 15 seconds. Of course, when a couple has this much speed, they must also have complete control of their own blades and their hold, to make sure both partners are skating as one. That control is crucial for the two choctaws that are performed near the end of the pattern. Finally, after the first pattern has been completed, the couple has to maintain the speed they created for the first pattern and carry it through for the following three pattern. So yeah, it's hard. Still, I wish this dance had more of a latin feel to it. Hopefully the upcoming dance called the Rhumba D'Amour will will have that.

9. Viennese Waltz



I think the Viennese is unique to other difficult waltzes because of how visually pleasing it is. For one thing, I love this dance's trademark timing that is seen in the very first steps of the pattern. Along with that, this dance is slow enough so that the motion of how the skaters move their legs for swing rolls is very pleasing to the eye. I find that I don't normally overanalyze this dance, because I am so distracted by the beauty of it. It doesn't quite have the same difficulty and command of skating as other dances, but it's pretty heckin' nice to watch.

8. Kilian



I tested this dance last summer, and I have to say, it's so fun! After I had learned to properly do the choctaw in the pattern, I decided to try something new and do this pattern with the other pieces of music in the rotation provided by the ISU, and I had such a good time. It wasn't just skating fast that was fun, but I also enjoyed being able to present to an audience in a commanding way for such an upbeat style of dance. I liked being able to dance a fun style while maintaining an upright back, unlike the Yankee Polka, where the upper body bends from side to side at times. Although not very complex in terms of steps, partnering is still a big factor in this dance, especially during the choctaw, the source of all evil. This dance is 8 seconds of dancing joy. (I'm not kidding. A Kilian pattern is only 8 seconds long.)

7. Quickstep



Competing this dance last season was an absolute blast. I think the Quickstep may be my favorite dance style, and the pattern dance certainly does justice to it. I'd say my favorite section would be the backward cross steps in the middle of the ice. Another thing I like about this dance is the way it allows the couple to perform outward to the audience. There are plenty of steps that allow for nuances to the dance and pleasant presentation. If I had one criticism, it would be that this dance does not have any foxtrot or quickstep holds, which are seen just about all the time in ballroom quicksteps. Still, the Quickstep matches its dance style very well through the couple's light and enjoyable expression.

6. Blues



I feel like this is a pretty underrated dance, because many people may be bored by the dance's slow tempo, but I absolutely love this dance. To me, the Blues is 25 seconds of pure skating. The edge quality and pushing that are used in this dance are absolutely breath taking, and the last step of one pattern flows effortlessly into first step of the next. I do like that this dance requires that skaters used their fullest potential for making their edges deeper, unlike the Midnight Blues, which has a noticeable mix of deep and shallow sections. This is a dance that I would love to spend more time on so I can practice skating the pattern as deeply as I can.

5. Ravensburger Waltz



I don't think I can express just how much I love how this dance moves across the ice. The swinging motion of the opening three turn section is so aesthetically pleasing, and the speed that couples need to have throughout the dance is amazing. I love how this dance shows the character of a viennese waltz in its lifting knee action and utilization of count beat 3 in each measure. In this dance, you really need to give some credit to the lady. She has to speed into three different types of twizzles and perform several other very difficult steps. The man kind of just does a bunch of chass├ęs around the rink. I guess that means there's no excuse to let his partner fall if she needs him to catch her!

4. Paso Doble



Okay, let me explain. I know I placed this over a bunch of internationals, but just listen to this: I love this dance style. I'm not sure why, but there's something that draws me in about a dance that is based off of the connection between a matador and his cape. Like, the lady's supposed to be a cape.

A CAPE.

THAT'S REAL WILD.

My favorite part of this dance is when the couple does their slide steps right in front of the judges and stares directly into their souls. It's such a powerful moment of intensity that draws me into the performance. This dance is not incredibly difficult, but I think the captivating style and drama pull me in anyway.

3. Tango Romantica



What a fantastic blend of skating, choreography, and true dancing. The way these hold changes are designed to be executed is completely mind-blowing, and the way the skaters must do their turns to the music so quickly is incredible. To be honest, I wasn't sure how to feel about senior teams performing this dance in the coming season because I was afraid the performance of the dance would fall flat for many skaters, but looking back at old videos, I've become very excited to see what teams have to bring to this dance.

2. Finnstep



Wow, I have a lot of Virtue and Moir on this list.

Okay, so, bonus points for being a quickstep. this dance doesn't have the quick changes of hold that the Romantica has, but I'd say it does beat the other dance in timing. It's not so much the tempo that's the difference; it's the fact that just about every step is about half of a beat long. The man even has two steps that are each a quarter beat long! Because many of those steps are crossing steps, it makes for an extremely hard dance. Aside from difficultly, the steps that were created for this dance are very appropriate for the quickstep style, including the very well choreographed stop. Also, we get foxtrot and waltz holds this time! The Finnstep's complexity and light style are what make it such an enjoyable dance for me, but I can't say it's my favorite.

1. Golden Waltz



I mean, you read this blog's name, right?

The Golden Waltz is known for its high difficulty, in terms of steps, tempo, and partnering. Like the Finnstep, it takes a very long time to master. It is also similar to the Finnstep because it has very unique steps, like the opening waltz three-turn section and the spread eagle. These two dances also very fitting for their styles, whether it be viennese waltz or quickstep, but when I comes down to being able to glide across the ice, I have to give it to the Golden.  It may not be the fastest dance across the ice, but the couple is always at work to skate on the deepest edges that they can. I look at some of the steps in this dance and wonder how it's even possible to move that quickly while skating with another person. Overall, I think this is a compulsory dance at its best, and it allows a couple to present fantastic skating and dancing abilities.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed my first top 10 post! This was a very hard list to finalize. Like I said, every pattern dance has good qualities to it, so if you think I missed a particularly good one, let me know in the comments. I'd love to here what you have to say.

-TJ

Friday, May 25, 2018

Introduction

Hi everyone!

My name is TJ Carey. I'm 18 years old, and I have a huge passion for figure skating. It's become a really a big part of my life! As a skater, I am a junior-level ice dancer with my partner, Anna, and a member of Act I of Boston, a junior-level theatre on ice team. Outside of my own competitive environment, I am a big fan of skating at international events. If I am not in the rink, I am looking up results from world-class figure skating competitions and learning more about other skaters. I hope to use this blog to share my love for the sport of figure skating from the perspective of a current competitor, former synchronized skating team member, and a big fan of the entire sport.

Enjoy reading!
-TJ