Typical Competition Events

The most typical competition events include freestyle Short program and Freeskate, pairs Short Program and Freeskate, and Compulsory Dance, Original Dance, and Free Dance events. These events are well defined for Qualifying Competition, and are generally followed in non-qualifying competition as well. This page summarizes these and some of the less frequently occuring competitive skating events.


The Freeskate, whether used in singles or pairs skating, is the most widely recognized event in figure skating. This event, often known as the "long program" offers the skater the most freedom to create a program which highlights his or her own best skills. The event has a minimum number of rules to define content, and those that exist mostly serve to ensure that the program will be well balanced (jumps, spins, and other movements). Long program definitions for levels from Juvenile to Senior can be found on the program Requirements page. Most local competitions will follow the standard definitions for these levels, and will either create their own or leave unspecified the requirements for lower levels.

Always follow the program definitions listed in the Competition Announcement for the competition in which you are skating. If there is no definition for your level, skate a well-balanced program that demonstrates command of at least those elements upon which you tested to achieve your level.

In a long program, since there are no specific required elements, there are no deductions for elements missed, or for falls. However, different skaters skating at roughly the same quality level will be judged such that those with more difficulty, or more elements will be placed more highly in the final result.

Short Program

The Short program, often known as the Technical program, is a program which is shorter in length, and much more rigid in the definition of necessary elements. Short program requirements for levels from Intermediate through Senior are listed on the program Requirements page in this booklet. The elements required in a program must all be skated within the program, and added elements are not allowed. There are deductions taken for missed or failed elements, as well as for elements added. Some competitions will run Short program events for Juvenile, but since the Rulebook doesn't yet specify standard elements for Juvenile, they usually make up their own -- you should check them closely, because they may not be the same from competition to competition.

Compulsory Moves

A Compulsory Moves event is a skating event similar in nature to the Short program. Typically, these are created by local competition organizers for their own competitions, and substitute for Short program events at those levels below Intermediate (because the Rulebook does not define standard short programs for those levels). The Competition Announcement will list the elements required in the program. These requirements should be followed exactly, just as if you were performing a Short program. At most levels, these events will be performed as a program to be skated with or without music.

Sometimes at lower levels these events will be performed as individual elements skated one-at-a-time upon request of the referee or ice monitor. If this is the case, the monitor will usually line up all the skaters at the side of the ice, and each one will be asked to skate the first element, one at a time. Then all will be lined up again, and each will skate the second element, and so on.

Be aware that, whether skated as a program or as individual elements, the elements required in a Compulsory Moves event may vary widely from competition to competition. Do not assume that a C/M program from last month's competition will work in next month's competition, just because you are skating at the same level!

Artistic Showcase

These events are of a freeskating nature, but are not judged on the technical quality or difficulty of the elements, but upon the overall artistic impression conveyed by the skater. Often, excessive jumping will be discouraged. In general the skater will be permitted to select his or her own theme; in some competitions the theme may be pre-specified. Thematic costumes and/or props are usually encouraged. Creativity, artistry, and originality are encouraged. Generally, skaters are grouped into very broad categories based upon freeskating test level.


An interesting variant of the Artistic Showcase style of event. In this event, all skaters will skate to the same piece of music, which will be selected by the competition organizers. The music will not be announced prior to the competition, and the skaters will not hear the music until the time for warm-up for their event. At warmup, all skaters are permitted onto the ice, and the music is played through twice. Skaters may skate to the music at this time, as they attempt to develop a program. Then all skaters except the first are removed to a soundproof room. The first skater remains on the ice and is permitted to listen to the music one more time, without skating. Then the second skater is brought out of the soundproof room, the music is played and the first skater skates, while the second one listens. The procedure is repeated until all competitors have skated. The object of the event is to interpret the music; technical quality, originality, presentation, and overall interpretation will be judged.


More and more competitions are honoring spins by offering special "Spin" events. For this unusual event, skaters are usually asked to perform a 1/2 ice program incorporating all or a selection from the spins required in their level's freeskating test. No jumps are permitted, although step or spiral sequences are usually allowed.


In dance, competition may be held using Compulsory Dances, Original Set program dances, or Free Dances. Sometimes a Solo Dance event will be offered, in which a single skater executes the pattern for a Compulsory Dance.