Freestyle Workshop at 2011 CDI Sydney Insightful and Inspirational

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:54
2011 Regional FEI Freestyle Forum

The regional freestyle workshop held at the 2011 CDI Sydney in May was hosted by the International Dressage Officials Club (IDOC) and the Australian Dressage Committee (ADC). The workshop was designed to assist riders, coaches, trainers, judges and the general public on freestyle competitions and can be used by both Judges and Coaches for reaccreditation purposes.

There was a large contingent of 32 judges, coaches and riders who safely crossed ‘the ditch’ from NZL. They were joined by visitors from Korea and China. The rest of the attendees came from QLD, NSW, ACT, VIC and WA. The clinic began with a warm welcome from Lesley Sullivan, who acknowledged the large representation of NZ Judges, officials and supporters, which was awesome to see.

As a leader of the sport in our region Australia had, through this workshop, a unique opportunity to increase the sport’s profile and assist the development of the sport in the Asia Pacific area. The workshop offered an opportunity for all judges, coaches, trainers and riders to develop their skills in relation to creating and judging Freestyles.

Presentation of IDOC Initiatives

Susie Hovenaars was the first speaker who spoke about the IODC, its Objectives and aims (of which Mariette is the chairperson). Most of this presentation was covered by way of power point, but basically the IODC is governed by an executive board of 9 members representing 6 World regions, and initiates the development of International and potential International Judges. Susie also went on to briefly talk about costs (interesting to note) involved with the sport at an International level. The cost to Australia to field the team of Dressage riders and their support crew to WEG, $400, 000 Au dollars and the total cost for Aus to field a team in all events at WEG was 2 million dollars. So it is certainly something to consider from our NZ perspective what approx costs we would be looking toward to achieve the same outcome.

Next to speak was Mary Seefried,who gave a snap shot of Dressage and where are we at in relation to the World and alongside other equestrian sports using a Power point presentation of statistics to demonstrate this.NZ and Australia were represented in these figures. Basically the outcome being that Dressage participation in relation to other equestrian sports in the world, is showing growth but very slowly in comparison.FEI events, have also shown the similar outcomes in the number of events being held. There has however been a positive increase in the number of horses and riders competing at FEI level. The key message here, and one we are aware of, is that we need to continue to grow the sport more, and build up our numbers of horses at FEI Level.

History of Freestyle and Rules & Do’s & Don’ts of the Freestyle, by Mariette Withages

Mariette Withages was next to speak and so began the journey through the origins and historical evolution of riding to music, incorporating interludes of musical presentations between each new  historical period to illustrate how the development and evolution of the riding to music has shaped the modern day Dressage freestyle to music. This was quite an in depth lecture, and anyone who has studied art history would’ve been able to make the links between the periods of Historical activities and their influences or reflections in the Artistic World, or vice versa.

What is perhaps interesting in this context is the correlation between the evolution of certain criteria that constitutes a Dressage test to Music in this day and age, is its historical origins. During the Italian Renaissance (1500’s) was the emergence of crafted choreography, the relationship of the music and paces of the horse, complex movements based on the exercises, culminated in dance like performances for horses and riders. In 1625 Georg Engelhard Von Lohensien presented a musical score, which was the first of its kind that allowed for the cadence in the execution of the movements through the music, and in Louis XIV (14th) era 1600’s more musical instruments were added, and music specially composed to create ballet on horses. Later in the 1600’s more focus was placed on the positioning of the riders and horses executing the movements and within this the further development and refinement of choreography. By 1722 music was specially composed and in the 18th century emerged the clarity of the quadrilles, followed by Baucher’s (1843) recognition of music agility and the velocity of the rider, alongside Burkner’s contribution that horses have happy music to dance to and must go forward. These changed the style of music shape and form, alongside its choreography, which is basically the way we come to understand dressage freestyles today.

Points of Interest for Freestyles:

Mariette then went on to talk about some points of interest for judges around F/S. Refer to the rule book, for any technical aspects or discrepancies in the judging. Read the rule book, know your rules and make certain you have a clear understanding of the directives. Be familiar with penalties, and identifying compulsory movements as they are directed/re; directives of the test book. Besides all that one of the most important things that was stressed by Mariette, for Judges was to be clear with directives of the test, as to what the directives clearly suggest and the technicality of the movement and its execution to be correct, as well as the choreography of the test. Not only in the way movements are put together, but also when you question what is by accident and what appears to be deliberate.

Mariette used an example of a YRF/S test from the CDI, to illustrate this point. Using a pirouette that was performed with too many steps was not technically correct as of the directives of the test, however given the possible variables of the movement e.g. loss of balance, overturned the judge could still reward a mark. However following the choreography of the test the rider did the same movement on the other rein, with the same incorrect number of steps in the Pirouette, and this time Mariette felt that it was clearly in the choreography, the directive wasn’t followed and the rider ended up with no marks for both movements. To quote Mariette “once...? Maybe, but twice clearly the same... NO!” As riders I think the import to note this point of clearly demonstrating the technical movements, where the judge can see. Mariette’s advice is to “Be clear with you lines”.

Questions and Answers

The next part of the discussion was followed by an opportunity to ask questions from the audience. I have briefly covered these although most answers are outlined in the rule book, or can be referred to in the FEI handbook. Degree of difficulty must be well calculated, and often a risk involved. Simple choreography will work .The rider has 20seconds to enter arena from start of the bell. Test begins from first step after the salute. Breaks in music, marks already given stay, check the rule book for the continuation of the music, movements that are not in the technical execution can still be included but not marked, e.g half pass in passage.

Some discussion of artistic marks, which Mariette read the directives from the FEI handbook, and basically they will depend on the quality of the technical marks. If the test doesn’t look happy, then the degree of difficulty will go down. With music and interpretation, disobedience that is disturbed by the resistances in the technical movements will affect the mark for music.

Character of special movements, music and transitions should be highlighted. Music should fit the rider and be selected pieces of the same genre. If the music is arranged creatively with effort then it should have a good mark for the arrangement, and should be marked down if not.

Music for Freestyles, Music and its relationship to paces

The workshop came into being through a need expressed by judges that they wanted to know more about Freestyles and in particular the assessment of the very important Artistic Marks at the end of the rider’s performance.  Riders were also seeking more knowledge and assistance on how Freestyles are created and choreographed.

Prof Steinke studied music education (piano, trumpet and conducting) and German literature. Since 1988 his principal focus has been on contemporary chamber music and live electronics, e.g. with the “Experimental studio  of the Heinrich-Strobel Foundation“ in Freiburg and the Centre of Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe also  writing orchestral music and chamber operas. Prof Steinke began his lecture by introducing and opening our perspectives up to music, with a range of different excerpts mainly classical. This exposed us to tempo, beat, the sensitivity of the music or lack of and went onto encourage the consideration of, counting the beat in the music, understanding the correct phrasing of the tunes within the music, and a s a rider knowing how to not only count the footfalls but match these to the music, as per the phrasing and then your knowledge of the music.

Other key areas Steinke talked about were melody and stlye.Melody can be very simple, but with the use of emotion and intensity, can create an artistic point of view. Style once you decide can be seen in the idea of themes, or telling a story that falls into the same genre type, e.g if drum music is your choice then it needs to be all the way through the music to give a face to the composition, with no mixing of styles. Style can also be attributed to culture, art and sport. Choosing specific musical pieces that reflect a particular culture can also add identity to the freestyle. All these aspects of light and shade, rhythm and timing, increasing the tension in the music, creating atmosphere and conception all culminate to assist the creativity and character of the choreography toward the performed freestyle.

Prof Steinke’s concluding key point is that the music must have a base note, a melody, and then a crescendo, and that the choreography must match the music.

Putting a Freestyle together from the riders’ point of view

We were then treated to an insight to the main points of Brett Parberry and Rachel Sanna’s ideas on freestyles.

Brett Parbery’s main points are as follows:

Establish a theme, based on the horse’s personality, natural ability and movement of the horse.e.g when Brett rode Whisper he had a more masculine theme, and with Victory Salute he has a more mystical theme to match the horses elegant way of going. Begin to put the freestyle together based on the compulsory movements of the test before adding in other lines or movements. In some cases especially in the higher grades, have a spare line or diagonal in the choreography to repeat movements where there has been a mistake. Break up the movements in places if the music feels too monotonous. Make an impression as soon as you move off from the salute. Have a clear pattern, and make it somewhat predictable so the judges can connect with the pattern and the music. Read what the judges have to say about you freestyle test so you can objectively improve what you are doing and listen to their suggestions that may assist you with areas such as degree of difficulty and patterns. With Impressive movements the horse has ride them toward the judges, and show them off. Brett also mentioned the help of others around him, and a sound engineer, to assist with the development of the compilation.

We concluded Brett’s presentation by watching a Clip of his successful placing in the F/S at WEG.

Rachel Sanna’s main points are as follows:

When creating Grand Prix freestyle for JB Alabaster, the freestyle needs a theme, or should tell a story, and within that show the strengths of the horse and his ability to do the movements. Watching Freestyles at the level you are competing at on You Tube, observing top combinations, movements and the patterns they are using, and the lines they are working on. Build on strengths, cover the weak points, and organise the music to fit the horse. Using the professional help of a sound technician to engineer the music and make adjustments where needed was strongly recommended by Rachel.

Rachel also attributes her mum for being the one who creates her freestyles, and does her music. After working out patterns Rachel rides lines of movements, and begins experimenting and putting the choreography together, followed by trying different styles of music, and begins shaping the test and its patterns from there.

Working with horses – Int 1 & GP (choreography and music and their interrelationship)

Following Prof Steinke’s presentation the final part of the clinic saw 4 dressage freestyle displays. One at Advanced level and three at Grand Prix.The panel of presenters were asked to watch the test and then give comments based on their impressions, the positive aspects and things that the riders could use to improve their choreography of the test, including the musical composition.

This was interesting to hear the judges’ comments of each test. Useful observations were noticed and questions were raised such as riding the same diagonal many times, placing movements in positions that were difficult for the judge to see and at times identify, over using some movements, there needs to be a balance in the choreography of work in the paces and movements, and use of the whole arena.  The judges also made some suggestions where to alter the choreography in some tests to improve the degree of difficulty, or the flow of movements to show more of the horses’ strengths. This was tried and it was interesting to note the successful differences from those suggestions .Prof Steinke was also able to offer a comprehensive interpretation of each rider’s music and highlight areas of weakness. The main areas identified for improvement in general was the monotony of the base note over too longer periods of time in the same beat, where there was a lack of difference. In the melody there needed to be a more deliberate increase of tension in the music to create more atmosphere, and an artistic point of view, and the Crescendo’s needed to compliment and highlight the overall picture. Timing again proved a crucial point the music must lift and take the horse, just as the choreography must match the music.

To conclude from a judge’s perspective I did find that breaking down the Artistic areas for freestyles really helped to refresh my understanding of their meanings, complexities and integration, with each other and the relationship to the technical marks. Having Prof.Steinke’s expertise in regards to the music was clearly demonstrated by those 3 points of base note, melody to create tension that informs artistic point of view, and crescendo to highlight the impression. The Judging panels comments of the performed tests , I also felt really gave a insight into grey areas of degree of difficulty, what constitutes this and what movements quantify its identification, followed by the effective use of choreography and music to enhance your performance.

Text by Mura Love/Leanne Kingsbury, Equestrian Federation of Australia
Photos © Franz Venhaus

Related Links
2011 Freestyle Workshop to be Held in Sydney
Susan Hoevenaars Becomes 5-Star Judge
2005 FEI Freestyle Forum - Table of Contents