I have started thinking about this post when I saw that I had received views by somebody who was looking for a "Mao Asada Swan Lake step analysis" (without finding it, of course). At first I thought it would have been an impossible achievement since I am not very used to this things and Mao Asada's steps are always very fast so that it makes it hard to recognize them. However I decided to try to study a little bit more her sequence from this season's free skate that got a level four at her very first competition Japan Open. That took me a lot of time and I know that is not a perfect work so, if anybody wants to adjust it, I would be very pleased. But now let's jump into it.
Receiving a level 4 in the step sequence is very difficult for a lady, in the last years Mao Asada and Carolina Kostner have been the ones who used to achieve this level eventually. Last year a lot of level fours were given to different ladies, because of the introduction of a feature (doing a half of the pattern on one foot) made things easier for some skaters, but now this is no more valid. During this season level four has been given five times so far (by Gedevanishvili, Makarova, Murakami and Lacoste at Skate Canada, Viktoria Helgesson at Skate America) but no one has received it in a free skate yet.
DEFINING A LEVEL 4
From this season on, for receiving a level 4, skaters must get four features:
1. a complexity of turns (loop turns, twizzles, three turn, bracket, rocker and counter) and steps (toe steps, chasses, mohawks, chocktaws, curves with change of edge, crossrolls, running steps) throughout that must include 5 types of turns and 3 types of steps all executed at least in both directions.
2. Rotations are either direction with full body rotation covering at least 1/3 of the pattern in total for each rotational direction (that means that rotations are at least a 2/3 of the sequence)
3. Use of upper body movements (arms, head and torso) for at least 1/3 of the pattern
4. Two combinations of difficult turns quickly executed within the sequence
(if you want to know more on levels and goes I reported the ISU comunication here)
MAO'S STEPS, ANALYSIS FEATURE BY FEATURE
I am starting with saying that I love the footwork Mao does in the free. She is light, fast and highlights every single note with a move.
Here is the video of Asada's performance at Japan Open. The step sequence is from 3.50 to 4.30
FEATURE 1, COMPLEXITY OF TURNS
Turns are executed throughout the whole sequence in different directions. She does more turns than steps; she does three types of steps (some toe steps, a couple of mohawks in the middle of the sequence and some backward crossrolls at the end) as required and multiple turns. As I counted them she does seven loop turns, four twizzles and then some counters, brackets, rockets and three turns.
This is a list of steps and turns as I was able to recognize them from the video (so please forgive my possible mistakes)
1.Forward left outside edge loop turn
2.Backward right inside twizzles
3.Backward right outside-inside bracket turn+backward right inside counter turns+backward right outside-inside three turn
4. Forward toe steps
5.Forward right inside twizzles
6.Forward left outside loop turn
7.Backward right inside loop turn with illusion spin
9. Backward twizzles
10.Backward inside edge three turn
11.Forward loop with illusion
12.Backward right inside loop turn with upper body movement
15.Forward twizzles+Three turn+counter turn
16.Backward right inside-outside crossrolls
18.Forward left outisude loop turn
FEATURE 2, ROTATIONS COVERING 2/3 OF THE PATTERN
I don't think that this feature needs an explanation, she rotates for almost the whole pattern of the sequence and she does it in both directions as it is also clear analyzing her turns done both on the left and on the right.
FEATURE 3, USE OF UPPER BODY MOVEMENTS
This feature requires arms, head or torso movements for 1/3 of the pattern.
Well, Mao uses her arms for the entire sequence, and does some more specific torso movements in the last third of it, from 4.12 (this is the minute of the video linked before) till the end.
FEATURE 4, TWO COMBINATIONS OF DIFFICULT TURNS
The two combinations Mao does are indicated in the upper list with numbers 3 and 15.
The first one is in the video from 3.51 to 3.65 in which she does a backward right outside-inside bracket turn, abackward right inside counter turns and a backward right outside-inside three turn and the second one from 4.18 to 4.22 in which she does some forward twizzles, a backward outside three turn and a backward counter turn.
I think that this sequence has got all what it takes to get a level four. However, if she does some little mistakes that let her miss some turns, she could easily get a lower level since the footwork is very fast and intricate. For now, we can just enjoy it as a beautiful piece of choreography.
I do really hope you feel satisfied with my analysis, please comment if you have something to say about it!