by Adrienne Koob-Doddy

Key points- two words filled with such expectation, anxiety, and importance. Today, we dive into what a key point is, why it matters to your child, and some specific information regarding this season’s key points at the Junior and Senior levels.

A key point is a step or group of steps that has been selected to be evaluated for correct execution. A key point performed accurately according to the specified criteria will help a team earn a level on a pattern dance element. At the Junior and Senior levels, these pattern dance elements occur within the Short Dance. At other levels (such as Novice), these pattern dance elements stand on their own in their own event. A key point can be selected from a “noteworthy” or highlight portion of a dance, such as the choctaw in the Blues or the change edge “break-out” of the Paso Doble. Regardless of the steps chosen, key points need to be executed with precision, control, in accordance with the rules for the year, and on time. A passionate and knowledgeable judge once said to a group of dancers, “This is ice dancing; if you’re not on time, what are you doing here?”

When your child earns a key point, that beautiful and elusive “Y” on their protocol, they earn another level. When they earn higher levels, they receive more points! If your child earns one key point, they receive a level 2, two key points is a level 3, and three key points is a level 4. If they complete all the steps, but do not earn any key points, they receive a level 1. Naturally, a higher level is better because the base value for that element will be greater with more key points achieved rather than with fewer. The criteria for each key point is unique to that particular set of steps, however these are some common expectations:

Correct foot placement in turns- For turns such as mohawks and choctaws, the foot placement is specified and must be achieved along with other components

Correct turn execution- Turns cannot be jumped or scraped

Correct foot placement in steps- Such as tuck behinds or cross rolls

Correct edges- No flat edges allowed!

Correct free leg movement- Such as a swing roll

And of course this is all on time, with a smile on your face, and while holding on to someone else who may or may not be doing the same steps as you! These are challenging to say the least. What makes them exceptionally hard is the degree of error allowed (or not allowed); a scrape of a toepick in a spin may have no effect on your level, yet that same error could prevent you from attaining one if not two levels on a pattern dance element. This variability makes key points frustrating for skaters, coaches, and parents alike. Generally, free dance elements do not vary as significantly in the level attained unless there was a serious mistake in the execution.

Let’s take a closer look at the criteria for each key point for this season’s dances: the Cha Cha Congelado for Junior and the Rhumba for Senior.


1 CC- key point #1- Lady’s and Men’s Steps 3-5

Criteria is “correct slip steps”, which means the skaters need to execute the steps on flat edges with the feet sliding completely past each other. These steps can be identified near the beginning of the dance, heading towards the judges and away for the audience.

1 CC- key point #2- Lady’s Steps 13-17

A number of different steps with different criteria, including correct edges, correct foot placement, and correct turn. These steps are occurring at the same time as key point 3 which is for the man.

1 CC- key point #3- Man’s Steps 13-14, 17

Note that for this key point there are steps considered, a gap, and then one final step which is a three turn. Criteria includes correct edges and correct turn for the man.

These last 2 key points are moving toward the first corner of the dance, and the conclusion of these key points marks the end of the first section. This dance is packed full of steps and the teams are only required to complete one pattern this year, unlike last year where teams completed two patterns of the Blues. There are three more key points for the second half of the dance, listed below.

2 CC- key point #1- Lady’s steps 23-25

Here is a key point that is an obvious highlight of the dance- the man and the lady both complete a closed Mohawk where they turn back to back and then reestablish their hold. Aside from being a key point, it is also an opportunity to include some flair in the dance (my favorite part!) The criteria for this key point is foot placement, correct edges, and correct turn. You will see this key point highlighted across the short side of the rink, generally accented with high free leg extensions.

2 CC- key point #2- Man’s Steps 23-25

Same criteria as the Lady’s key point.

2 CC- key point #3- Lady’s and Man’s Steps 36-38

Criteria includes correct edges, correct turn and correct foot placement for the Lady’s Mohawk step 37. This is the conclusion of the pattern dance element and ends in front of the judging panel.


Now, we can move on to the Senior pattern dance element, the Rhumba! The Rhumba is more straightforward than the Cha Cha Congelado, with one simple pattern running from the judges left and concluding on their right. Unlike years in the past, one of the key points now includes the restart of the next pattern, often called the repeat. But first, let’s take a look at key points 1 and 2.

1 RH- Key point #1- Lady’s Steps 11-13

1 RH- Key point #2- Man’s Steps 11-13

I am writing these two key points together because they are identical steps with identical criteria- correct edges, correct turns, and correct free foot placement. Again, this is considered a highlight of this dance- the two massive, deep, wide open choctaws. This is a tricky section with 2 key points very closely linked thus, this is a high value section of the dance. Luckily, the man and lady are separate, and therefore one could achieve the key point if the other were to make a mistake. You will see this key point placed slightly beyond the judging panel. The skaters will have their backs to the audience if the audience is opposite the judging panel.

1RH- Key point #3- Lady and Man’s Steps 16, and 1-4 of next pattern

The coach in me was happy to see this key point this year; oftentimes in pursuit of the elusive key point, restarts are ignored and can be irrelevant if only one pattern is to be completed. However, that is not the case this year! Now teams must be precise with their pattern across the end of the rink and skate the repeat successfully. Criteria for this key point includes correct edges and correct change of edge. This key point will run along the short end of the ice opposite to the start of the dance.

Key points continue to be a hot topic amongst skaters and their coaches. They require patience, skill, timing, and perseverance. They generally take a few competitions to settle into place but even high level teams can falter on these precious steps. Have faith and trust the process!