Creative figures are getting popular because they’re in the World Figure Championship. These patterns of tracings designed by skaters are nothing new.
Back in the day, creativity in figures was expected. Special figures have a prominent (though brief) place in every book on figure skating history. Each one has a creative skater behind it. Books like Spuren auf dem Eise expect skaters to learn the building blocks and use them to make new figures.
Special figures disappeared, but creative figures have reappeared a few times. In an opinion piece in Skating, the official magazine of US Figure Skating, Per Cock-Clausen proposed adding them to competitions—in 1965!
From the present four groups prescribed by the ISU from which one is drawn for International Championships, the first figure should be eliminated. Each skater should then compose a creative figure containing certain prescribed elements such as rockers, brackets or others. The figure should be developed in such a manner that it can be performed in a graceful style. (Not as the old Starfigures.) The figures should be executed only once. Form A as well as Form B should be skated (right and left feet).Per Cock-Clausen (1965)
Cock-Clausen’s suggestion wasn’t taken up by the USFSA, but a couple of USFSA competitions offered them around when figures were dropped. Searching for “creative figure” in the online archive of Skating brings up the following events:
- “July 14-16: Vail Invitational Figure Skating Championships, sponsored by the SC of Vail and Rocky Mountain FSC, at the Dobson Arena, Vail, CO. Creative Figures, Juvenile thru Senior Final Round Freestyle, Pre-Preliminary thru Pre-Juvenile Free Skating, Preliminary thru Intermediate Compulsory Moves, Intermediate thru Senior Original Program, Pairs (all levels), and Precision Teams events. For in information contact: Debbie Wordekemper, 303-252-8528, or Debby Warner, 303-949-5315.” (Skating, July 1989)
- “July 10-12: 1992 Troy Summer Skate, sponsored by the Troy SC, at the Hobart Arena, Troy, OH. Figures, Compulsory, Free Skating, Dance, Solo Dance, Pairs, Showcase, Similar Pairs, New Era, and Creative Figures events. Badge through Senior Levels. For more information contact: Dianne Hartmann, 1815 Shaggy Bark Rd., Troy, OH 45373, 513-335-5267.” (Skating, July 1992)
The first occurred in 1989, the second in 1992. Creative figures didn’t catch on in the USFSA. It’s an interesting coincidence that the first of these two competitions was in Vail, at the rink where the World Figure Championship has been held for the last three years.
A creative figure has also been an option on the USFS Adult Gold figure test since its inception in about 1990 (as inferred from searching through Skating and my 1987/88 and 1992/93 Rulebooks). Skaters can choose to do a creative figure (after giving a sketch to the judges) or any other figure from the test structure. And the ISI has been offering creative figure events in competitions for years.
Per Cock-Clausen, 1965. “In my opinion 60/40.” Skating December 1965.
The 1992-93 Official USFSA Rulebook and The 1987-88 Official USFSA Rulebook. Colorado Springs: United States Figure Skating Association.
“Calendar of Events”. Skating July 1989 and 1992.