ISU components. Interpretation. Interpretation overview

What is interpretation? Interpretation is the personal and creative translation of music by using movements with intricacy, difficulty and quality.
Movement is the keyword. Variety of movement is required in all parts of the skater’s composition, in order to have depth in the interpretation of the music.
All written criteria for interpretation are addressed in this DVD. But to simplify the process for the judge, we are focused on three main points of interests for interpretation.
Musical movement, expressive/nuance movement, and effortless movement.

IN/Music Movement

2.1.2. ISU components. Interpretation. Musical movement

Musical movement is movement that reflects the phrasing, the character, and the style of the musical selection.
Music is played in phrases, much like different languages we speak, each piece of music,
like a different language may have different rhythms and tempos,
but all has a question and and an answer pattern,
a question and answer phrase of music completes a whole musical sentence.
Let’s listen to the musical selection from an ice dance team. This style of music is classical.

(1:50) Let’s now observe what movements were performed to the music. Look to see if the movement phrasing corresponds with the musical phrasing.

(3:07) The phrasing of the movement matched well with the phrasing of the music. In ice dance, the focus is on music and movement and the elements are such that they can be integrated into the interpretation smoothly. Now, a selection of music from a single skater. It is also classical.

(4:20) Let’s look at what movements were performed. Pay particular attention to the movement phrasing to see if it corresponds with the musical phrasing.

(5:24) Generally speaking, for singles and pairs, as the skaters prepare for their risky, technical elements, there is often a disconnect between the music and their movement.

(5:46) Here is an example where the skater ignores the music, and becomes disconnected for an extended amount of time prior to the technical element.

(6:13) While preparing for his second technical element, he again disconnects with the music.

(6:25) In preparation for the quad toe-triple toe combination, this skater ignored the music for 12 seconds in order to set up the element, which is worth 13.8 points. Prior to the triple axel attempt, which is worth 8.2 points, he ignored the music for 11 seconds. There are many points to be gained by successfully completing the technical elements. But in numerous cases, it is at the cost of losing connection with the music and interpretation. In regards to the skater being connected to the music, let’s look at some performances. To help guide and for discussion point, we will indicate on the screen where the skater loses connection with the music and where they are connected. While we do this, consider that the technical element is part of the program, and it should work with the music, regardless of its success.

(8:57) Even though there was a mistake, the disconnect with the music was very short. The movements were not always phrased perfectly, but he was both physically and emotionally connected with the music.

(10:47) In the ISU judging system, the balance between technical points and component points is up to the skater. If the skater chooses to execute difficult jumps with high point values, but does not interpret the music for an extended length of time prior to the technical element, the price they pay should be reflected in the interpretation score. Looking at the time of the connection with the music between these two skaters, the skater on the left was connected for 33 seconds, and the skater on the right for a minute and 25 seconds. The disconnect time was 1:04 for the skater on the left, and just 9 seconds for the skater on the right.
This is a pair skating example, where almost all the short program movements are connected to the music.

(14:34) With the exception of two very short disconnects, all the entrances and exits of technical elements are performed with a full attention paid to the musical phrasing, character and style.
This pair is not at the level of the previous and are disconnected for a significantly more time than the first team.

(17:52) Just for interest, looking at the amount of time connected to the music, the team on the left was connected for only 56 seconds, and the team on the right was for 2 minutes and 39 seconds. The disconnect time of the team on the left was 1 minute and 56 seconds, and the team on the right just 12 seconds. There is a significant difference in the overall quality of the teams. And the difference in the amount of the time connected to the music is also reflected.

IN/Expressive & nuance movement

Expressve/nuance movement relates to the detailed finesse of the skater or the team.
It is their ability to respond with personal nuances and express variations and intensity, tempo, and the dynamics of the music made by the composer and/or the musician.
So, what exactly is a musical nuance? A musical nuance is anything that gives life to the music, like an increase in tempo, or elongation of a note, or the addition of instruments to strengthen a phrase, and intensity and etc.
Listen to this piece of music. And although it is simply a repetition of the same musical phrase, it changes from phrase to phrase by tempo, intensity and the use of different instruments.
We have revealed an audio wave graph so you can see the musical highlights at the same time you hear them.

(1:27) Let’s now look at what was performed during this music, and see if you can pick one movement nuance that had nothing to do with the element, and was only there to recognize the music.

(2:18) In this next example, we look more closely at the highlights of the music connected with the nuance movement using slow motion.

(2:46) Notice the audio wave bar at its highest point at the same time as the skater raises her head, then quickly turns it to the left, then right to catch the downbeats following the highlight.

(3:32) Nuance movements recognizing highlights or at times such small details that can be hard to see in the overall picture, but in the end, it is the small details that make a good performance into a great performance.
Watching one last time without any graphics or use of slow motion, it is easier to see the detail of the movement and hear the detail of the music.

(4:37) It is important to understand that the interpretation of the same music with the same choreography can greatly differ from an event to an event. If the skater is not feeling well or the technical elements are not successful, or if they are struggled, this can change the phrasing of the movement with the music.
It can change the intensity of the overall interpretation of the program. Let’s look at the same skater who has good skills and a good program.
On the right side of the screen you will see her best performance of the year, and on the left side the same program and music, but not skated as well. How does this affect the expression and nuance movements?

(7:29) With the smallest mistakes on the left, the skater is now behind her music, and is faced with a decision whether to rush, take a shortcut or leave something out in order to catch up.
The energy and thought process to make such a decision in such an important moment, takes her away from the magical connection with the music, she seems to have on the right side of the screen.

(9:32) At the end of the program, it becomes clear she was unable to catch up with the music, which left her struggling both technically and with her interpretation. It should be noted that this skater was a wonderful and capable skater of the highest level, but on that day, the interpretation was affected.

(9:51) Here is another example of a very good skater. Performing the same program, at two very different standards. On the left of the screen, is a very good performance from January 2008, and on the right, a more difficult and challenging performance from March of the same year. Notice that once the program begins to have difficulty, the attention to expression and nuances and interpretation begins to rapidly decline.

(15:02) This example, again, demonstrates that when a skater has technical difficulty, much of the expression and nuance movement is left out, while trying to catch up to the music and returned to successfully completed the elements.

IN/Effortless movement

Effortless movement. Effortless movement is when the skater effortlessly changes the tempo, rhythm, or intensity of their skating in direct relationship with the same changes in the music.
During this program, the skater keeps her speed and flow moving effortlessly from element to element, while at the same time responding to changes in tempo, and intensity of the music.

(3:16) Our next example of effortless movement is from a skater who demonstrates a wonderful sense of rhythm with the music, responses to the nuances of the music with small movements. He is totally committed to the character and style of the music, and because of all this, makes the program to seem entirely effortless. It is a good example that all the aspects of the program come together, the athlete and audience are bonded through a seemingly effortless performance.


The judges have many things to consider during the skater’s performance.
Breaking down by item by item it seems almost impossible to assess each detail with such accuracy.
So it is important that one must have an automatic understanding of the priorities in each component.
In interpretation we have tried to make it simpler by concentrating on three main points, which would become your reference points prior to giving a score.
Musical movement: ask yourself, did the skater or the team’s movement reflect the style, character, and phrasing of the music?
Did you, as the audience, or the judge, feel involved by the music and movement, or were you just watching the athletes skate, while the music happened to be played?
Expressive nuance movement: there is detail in every musical piece. Did the skater or the team’s movement express all details of the music, or was there no recognition of the music detail?
Effortless movement: Did the program appear effortless? Effortless programs often seem to go quickly, or without visible struggling and fatigue by the end.
The judge will be based with certain aspects or percentages of these questions being answered “yes.” It is then up to the judge to *accurately* as possible apply the corresponding percentage overall to the scoring each component. Interpretation, it is the relationship of the skater’s movements connected with the style and character of the music. The recognition from the skater in responding with the movements and the nuances of the music. And perhaps the most difficult aspect, the ability to make all of the scenes effortless.