Figure Skating Elements: Spirals

(I got tired of gifing spins so I’m making the spiral post first.) Spirals are elements where a skater glides on one foot while the free leg is raised above hip level. Spirals can be performed on either leg, going backwards or forwards, and on the inside or outside edge of the blade. Before the 2010-2011 season, spiral sequences (SpSq) - where the skater must perform three spirals in succession - were a required part of ladies’ programs (and pairs’, but I’m only covering singles skating for now). Men usually do not perform spirals because they do not receive points for doing them. Though spiral sequences are no longer required elements today, I thought it would still be useful to make a post about spirals since you still see them in skating programs - they just aren’t scored the same way. These days, ladies must include at least one spiral in the choreo sequence of their free skate.

There are more spiral variations than the ones shown in this post; I have only gifed some common positions.

Arabesque spiral: Basic spiral position, with the free leg extended above the hip at any angle greater than 90 degrees. The arabesque spiral can be performed forwards or backwards and on either edge. Mao is performing a back outside edge arabesque in the gif.

Biellmann spiral: A spiral performed in the Biellmann position, with the free foot held higher than and behind the skater’s head. The skater may hold their free foot with one or two hands. The spiral can be performed backwards or forwards. In a cross-grab Biellmann, the free leg is on the opposite side of the body than the arm used to hold it. For example, Mao is using her left hand to hold up her right foot in the first part of her spiral sequence above. She then switches hands so that her right hand is holding her right foot, resulting in a more standard Biellmann position. Notice that her spiral sequence is a change-of-edge spiral - she starts on the outside edge and changes to the inside edge.

Kerrigan spiral: An outside-edge spiral where the free leg is supported by one hand at the knee. It can be performed forwards or backwards.

Charlotte spiral: Usually performed backwards, though it can be done forwards. The skater bends forward and points their free leg into the air in a near-split position.

Fan spiral: Back outside-edge spiral where the free leg is held unsupported to the front or side of the body, creating a fan shape.

Skid spiral: A 180-degree turn performed in a spiral position. This element can sometimes be seen as part of a step sequence or in exhibitions. Notice how Mao starts on a back edge and turns onto a forward edge.

Catchfoot/cross-grab spiral: Any spiral in which the free leg is supported qualifies as a “catchfoot” spiral. A Biellmann spiral is a catchfoot spiral, but in a normal catchfoot spiral, the supporting arm is straight and reaches behind the skater to grasp the free foot. In a Biellmann, the arms go above and around the skater’s head and the free foot must be higher than their head. Biellmanns can be done with one or two hands and generic catchfoots are usually done with one hand. In a cross-grab catchfoot spiral, the free leg is held by the arm on the other side of the skater’s body (Yukari uses her right hand to hold her left foot in the gif above). The boundary between a generic catchfoot position and a Biellmann position can sometimes be murky.

Y-spiral: A spiral where the free leg is held at the side of the body and forms a straight line with the other leg. The legs and body form a “Y” shape. This spiral can be performed in either direction and on any edge. The free leg is usually supported by the ankle or blade, but skaters can vary their holds or leave their leg unsupported. Shizuka performs a variation on a forward change-of-edge Y-spiral in the gif.


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