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Music: how to chose the right one

Figure skating is about dancing, even if in a slightly different way. The music flows, and the skater flows with her, expressing what he feels and what he does on the smooth ice surface. Figure skating is a sport, of course, so it has codified techniques and regulations, but it leaves room for the artistic expression of music. There is plenty of room to be creative, both in the choice of movements and in the choice of songs. Although the regulations impose some limits, we often find ourselves lost and not sure which music to choose for our program. Other times, however, we encounter the inability to interpret our own music of the heart, or we understand that it is just unsuitable for skating! To overcome these obstacles, we can use some tips that can help us.

1. Where are we?
It is not possible to express ourselves if we do not have the technique to do it. A painter will be able to paint the subject that appears in his mind only when he has learned to use the brush and to mix colors. Similarly, a skater can only put on the rink the techniques he mastered (not the ones he has yet to learn) to interpret the chosen song. A basic level (first jumps and spins, a few years of experience) can successfully skate on music that is not too complex, not very fast, and interpreting simple characters and concepts. An advanced level (advanced elements, many years of racing behind) can afford to dare with more complex music, and expressing broader emotional spectra or more complex characters. Example: “Pink Panther” is simpler, while Bizet’s “Carmen” is more advanced.

2. The type of program.
The differences between the programs are not always clear-cut, but there are three main strands on which to build a choreography: the interpretative program, the thematic one and the abstract one. In an interpretive program a particular character is interpreted in his context and in his music (eg Jack Sparrow on the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean, but also the swan Odette in Swan Lake). The thematic program concerns a very clear theme / context, even if there is no real defined character (Brazil on the notes of a Samba, or Woodstock on a medley by Jimi Hendrix and others). The abstract program, on the other hand, does not have an imitative or representative component, but is based on choosing the movements that adapt to the musical atmosphere (for example, expressing romance and passion on a love song, or energy on a lively pop song) . If you do not know what to do, usually the interpretative programs, but also the thematic ones are the most straight forward choises, making the interpretation process easier. If, on the other hand, you want to express a certain state of mind (perhaps it is a period of redemption, of sadness, of particular joy in your life) and you want to express it on the ice, easily you will be led to listen and look for music that suits your feelings, so it won’t be difficult to find the right song.

3. Full music and empty music.
The mood of the music must be balanced with the mood of the program. A music rich in instruments, variations and perhaps fast (Michael Jackson’s Thriller for example), must be “filled” with movements, changes of rhythm and direction, steps and choreographic additions, just to keep up with the musical structure. A more “empty” music, where there is a single and clear melodic line, with few other instruments (for example the soundtrack of the Titanic), allows you to keep the program leaner, while remaining coherent with the musical character. Basically you must always try to “fill” your music. If listening to a song we realize that we are unable to “fill” it, then it is better to choose a simpler one. The optimal point is when we are able to enrich a song, that is to be consistent with it, and maybe add that extra touch of interest with our skating.

4. Music for skating and music … not for skating.
The figure skate (boot and blade) is a tool that is well suited to cover medium-long edges, but also to play with picks and tails. It is not as responsive and fast as a hockey or freestyle skate, nor as smooth and long as a speed skate. It can be said that the figure skate suits well with sinuous movements, but also allows fairly rapid stops. The music that reflects the characteristics of the skate are, in other words, more suitable for skating than others. The continuous melodies of strings, keyboards, vocals or flutes suits well with skating, while the tapping of some piano tracks is more suited to the movement on the toes of classical ballet. Metal, progressive, dance or teckno songs have structures that tend to be too strong to cope with sliding on the ice. A skater with very clean and long edges will be at ease with slow music and long phrases, while a less precise but more reactive skater can make rock or pop songs very interesting.

The really nice thing about skating, however, is the possibility of experimenting and, at sometimes, creating desired and unconventional contrasts. Of course, when you are a beginner it is better to orient yourself by taking a cue from these simple guidelines, but the history of skating often delights us with great twists and unexpected musical choices. The most beautiful experience, regardless of the level, is when technique and music go together and create a program that excites those who do it and those who see it.

Happy listening and good training!

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