recreational ice skating

In Interpretive skating, figure skaters get to be their own choreographer. Interpretive skating allows figure skaters the freedom to perform what they what. In Interpretive skating, figure skaters don't have to worry that they will forget their program; they can make it up as they go!


There is perhaps no scarier thought than standing on the ice in front of judges and an audience and not having a planned program. Sounds like your worst nightmare, right? But what if that was exactly what you were supposed to do? What if you didn’t actually forget your program, but instead you were given the freedom of completely making up your own — on the spot? Welcome to the world of Interpretive skating where YOU get to be the choreographer and choose the things you want to do. How exciting is that?

OK, maybe you’re not convinced. After all, you spend hours and hours perfecting your Freestyle program so that you know each and every step, turn and maneuver as if it were a part of you. Why in the world would you want to go out without a plan? The truth is that you don’t, and if you take a little time to learn some basic skills, you won’t.


Listen, listen and listen!

Interpretive events always start with the opportunity to hear the piece of music that has been chosen for your event. At a national competition, this will happen in a locker room about 15 minutes before you warm up. At some local events, this may happen on the ice during warm up.

Regardless, when you hear the music for the first time, it is important to concentrate on really hearing it. Does it have words? And if so, what is the song about? Focus in on some key words and remember them. If you can gesture them, that’s a bonus. For example, if the song is about love, you could make a heart with your hands, pretend to hug yourself or even blow a kiss. If it is instrumental, listen to determine what kind of beat it has.

Some skaters get nervous if they aren’t familiar with the song, but that doesn’t keep them from knowing how the song makes them feel. Is it fast and upbeat or slow and emotional? What about the instruments? A set of drumbeats, for example, might play into a footwork sequence, or a fast violin section might highlight a quick spin. Listen for big bashes or crescendos for a dramatic landing. Don’t worry if you don’t hear all of this the first time through. You will get at least two more opportunities to hear it before you perform.


Don’t skate a Freestyle program

Of course, you will want to incorporate some of your favorite maneuvers into your program, but the judges are not scoring difficulty. It’s fine to add an Axel to your program, for example, but it will not earn you anything extra just because of increased difficulty. Choose moves that highlight the music, add some variation to make them interesting and keep the program balanced.

Don’t do three spins even if the music sounds “spinny” — most Interpretive programs are between 1 and 1 1⁄2 minutes. You should be able to fill that with a variety of spinning, gliding and jumping maneuvers if you take a minute to think about it.

Vary your pattern and direction, too. You don’t have to be perfectly balanced, but skating in one big circle usually indicates that the skater is lost. It’s OK to use patterns from your own programs to help with this, but just remember that the judges are looking for your creativity. Make up a footwork section on the spot and don’t worry about the difficulty of it. It’s still more creative than doing a dance step, for example.



Don’t be afraid to try something “crazy.” If the music calls for it, stop in the middle of the ice and break out a Charleston or try your hand at a moonwalk! While you might be thinking quickly on your feet, you still need to remember that you are entertaining the judges and the audience. Use facial expressions, arm movements and anything that helps to convey your interpretation of the music. Just be sure you know the maneuver limitations for your level.

With a little mental preparation and perhaps some “practice,” you can be great at Interpretive. Put on some random music during your Freestyle sessions and challenge your friends to see who can be more creative. Have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously. The more relaxed you can be with it, the easier it comes. And who knows, perhaps you will find your new favorite event!



Established in 1959, the Ice Sports Industry (ISI) — creator of America’s first learn-to-skate curriculum — is an international trade association encompassing all aspects of the ice sports industry. Our goal is to promote ice skating as a participant sport and recreational activity for everyone — all ages and abilities. For more information, visit

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