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Dec 6, 2015

Super Steps

**This post is dedicated to Hakkai**

Given how fashionable it is to blame IJS for a wide assortment of figure skating maladies (including but not limited to ruining spins in the ever-contorted quest for levels, fan spirals, and the sorry state of pairs skating), I am aware of the fact that having the opinion that IJS step sequences are generally an improvement on their 6.0 counterparts is a controversial one likely to draw scorn, something akin to believing in the tooth fairy as an adult or thinking that tartan pairs very well with paisley. But that is indeed an opinion I hold, and I will now defend it the only way I know how: verbiage with bits of video footage liberally interspersed in between.

When thinking of 6.0 step sequences these days, I find that most people think of the great and the good: Alexei Yagudin's larger-than-life steps, Yuka Sato blazing down the ice with incredible flow and speed, Philippe Candeloro dazzling the crowd with some truly fun footwork:

This, to me, indicates that the rose-colored glasses seem to be firmly on for many when reminiscing about 6.0. Of course, many 6.0 skaters included very well-choreographed step sequences in their programs, but there were also a large number of very simple, boring step sequences that basically served as throwaway elements (ditto for spins, by the way). The one key thing IJS step sequences have done is to force skaters to use a variety of complex turns and steps on actual edges in their programs--gone are the days in which Oksana Baiul could win an Olympic gold with only three-turns as her sole variety of one-foot turns:

Of course, not all things are perfect in this brave new world of IJS. I for one will forever rue the countless minutes of my life spent watching laborious, disjointed step sequences dragging on for 40+ seconds that have every complex turn known to man crammed in them in a ham-fisted attempt to earn a Level 4. But bad step sequences were a dime a dozen in 6.0 as well, and at the very least today's step sequences require at least some level of technical prowess.

Moreover--though this is perhaps Pollyanna-ish of me--I do think that the ISU is slowly moving towards tweaking the step sequence technical requirements for the better, albeit at their typical glacial pace. After all, the ISU has so far abolished the one-foot level feature and cut down the amount of upper-body movement necessary to get a level, among other improvements. At the very least, we are less likely to be subject to eyesores such as this seizure cleverly disguised as a step sequence:

As for one common criticism of IJS footwork--that the excessive requirements necessary for a Level 4 has made footwork too clunky with no time for true musical interpretation--I present the following assortment of some of my favorite IJS-era step sequences, which show that high-scoring but musically meaningful step sequences are indeed possible:

As Carolina Kostner shows, even step sequences with significant amounts of time spent on one foot can indeed be done with good flow and even look good.

Was the camerawork just amazing during these step sequences? Are these two of the greatest step sequences of all time? Were they choreographed under the auspices of IJS?  Have I watched these step sequences so much that I've practically memorized all the choreography? Yes, yes, yes, and emphatically, yes.

As if to further reinforce his superiority, Stephane Lambiel even falls on beat during his step sequences. But seriously, I've always loved watching the flow and lightness in Mr. Lambiel's steps during his La Traviata LP. He can have minutes-long step sequences and I would barely even notice . . .

Not showy steps, but still gorgeous to watch.

Love the beauty, delicacy and nuance of the footwork . . . which, incidentally, is not even the best thing about this program!

It's not a word usually associated with step sequences, but Jeffrey Buttle's steps in his Sing, Sing, Sing SP are just adorable.

Peak Florent Amodio knew how to rock a step sequence. Who cares if he literally spends about a minute standing around when he can dance through his steps like that?

Both of Daisuke Takahashi's step sequences in his Eye SP are Level 4, +3 GOE-levels of amazing insofar as they serve as excellent examples of multi-tasking: Mr. Takahashi flies through complex turns in both directions, dances with his upper body, tosses his hair, and vamps at the judges/audiences with equal proficiency on all fronts all at the same time.

I love how organic this step sequence is to the ebb and flow of Mao Asada's Nocturne 2.0 SP, how it is so elegantly and seamlessly incorporated into the rest of the program.

Excellent example of keeping the theme of a program throughout the footwork, and LOVE the double axel right off the steps (which, unfortunately, was changed as the 2010-2011 season progressed).


  1. Oh thank you so much for this wonderful list. Among these I love Carolina's step sequence at WC 2011 the most. I remember watching it I was in awe. Lambiel and Dai did well too.
    As for Jeremy... why he never brought it to bigger stage I have no idea. He has nice touches on choreography and movements, I hope he will become a choreography and we will see great footworks from young skaters.

  2. And I LOVEEEEE Jeff! He already showed he would be a great choreography by that time.
    By the way, don't you notice that among this list, some of them already become choreographer? Akiko choreographed Rika Hongo's SP this season. Lambiel and Jeff have been choreographing for years.
    Jeremy he might have good future if he invests in choreographing. And maybe one day Amodio can do some choreography for shows, he is always a showman.