Sep 5, 2012
Lift Your Leg
The spiral is an iconic move in ladies figure skating, instantly recognizable to connoisseur and layperson alike. What other element in figure skating has quite the same breadth of appeal as the spiral, which captivates the attention of those who watch figure skating for the art (exquisite spiral perfectly timed to highlight a certain musical phrase), those preoccupied with technique (deep, stable, controlled edges...ideally), lavishness old roués (pretty girls in short skirts lifting their legs) and everyone in between? Indeed, some of the more memorable moments in figure skating have involved spirals in various incarnations:
The edge control, the ferocity.....!!
Of course, things weren't always so rosy on the ladies spiral front. One cannot help but suppress a shudder of horror when remembering the dark days of early CoP, when ladies spiral sequences were burdened with ridiculous level requirements that led to practically everybody abusing the same few positions (e.g. Biellmann, fan, etc. or crude approximations of such) over and over again to hit the flexibility/difficult variation bulletpoints, all three positions held exactly for the same length of time (3 seconds per position), consequently with very little relation to the music or the choreographic arc of the program as a whole:
At least we can thank Ms. Slutskaya for helping bring about the Biellmann ban.
What would Dick Button say?
Add the obligatory (and often wobbly) changes of edge, shoddy ice coverage, etc., and so the spiral sequence was more often than not demoted to yet another boring cookie-cutter throwaway element with little purpose beyond racking up points, serving as perhaps the prime example of the CoP's tendency to value complexity over quality to the detriment to anyone with functioning eyeballs.
Luckily for those of us possessing functional eyeballs (i.e. presumably everyone who watches figure skating), the ISU eventually came to their senses and imposed on of their best rule changes in 2010: the choreographic spiral sequence, a spiral sequence with a fixed base value and evaluated by GOE only. With certain fairly flexible requirements for length, it can be said that the choreographic spiral sequence combined positive aspects of both CoP and 6.0-type spirals. By eliminating level requirements, the horrors of contortionist positions and other such CoP abominations are mostly eliminated, yet the GOE criteria made sure that skaters could not do the rather perfunctory blink-and-you'll-miss-it barely-above-the-hip spiral sequences that were quite common in the 80s and early 90s.
What was also good about the choreographic spiral sequence was that it also allowed for more creativity and diversity in program construction and choreography. Here are some examples of good spiral usage that would not have been possible under the previous rules for levelled spiral sequences:
This season, the ISU has introduced the "Choreographic Sequence" rule, allowing for even greater flexibility in program construction and choreography (albeit with the annoying fact that the sequence apparently must be placed after the levelled step sequence). Hopefully the ISU will continue down this path and introduce more elements free of levels differentiated by GOE only--choreographic spins could be used to great effect during the long program, for instance.