Sky on Stage

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Stefania Martinengo is launching an unique online artistic skydiving competition aimed at letting performers fully express their creativity, and even have a say in deciding the winner…

Team Zion – Anna Moxnes and Kristian Moxnes – photo by Andreas Mosling
Example of a 3-way team (inc camera)

Stefania, Why Sky on Stage?

Stefania Martinengo by Filippo Fabio

I wanted to create a platform where flyers and teams could express and share their creativity. Something alternative to common competitions and easier to access. I wanted to focus on the free routine’s aspect rather than the compulsories.

I felt that it was a pity that fewer and fewer teams have been competing in the artistic disciplines lately, so I started brainstorming on how to inspire flyers to get together in teams and create some beautiful choreographies to share and show, in an easier way. 

I felt there were a few issues that were limiting teams to compete:

  1. Formal competitions require that teams are from same nationalities, limiting the possibilities in forming a team.
  2. Travel expenses to go to a competition site are expensive.
  3. Compulsory jumps make it difficult and expensive for teams to compete as they have to train a lot to learn them.

So, I had this idea of an online contest based on one Free Round only, with everything up to the choice of the team. With this format, teams are able to focus only on creativity. This is not to replace the format we have in the more traditional competitions; it is complementary. It is good to have the technical aspects and compulsory rounds in traditional competition. This is just a different concept. The idea to involve also professional athletes/artists who are not skydivers is to understand the perspectives of non-jumpers. What do they actually see and appreciate the most? I thought would be fun and interesting to explore.

VFS Team4Speed, photo by Gustavo Cabana
Team4Speed and Gustavo could enter as a 5-way team

How will the competition work, what are the rules?

Sky on Stage includes 5 contests:

  • Freefly/Freestyle 2 way (1 performer 1 cameraflyer)
  • Freefly/Freestyle 3 way (2 performers 1 cameraflyer)
  • Freefly/Freestyle 5 way (4 performers 1 cameraflyer)
  • Wingsuit acro 3way (2 performers 1 cameraflyer)
  • Skysurf (1 performer 1 cameraflyer)

The rules are:

  • Teams can be formed by skydivers from mixed nationalities.
  • The contest jump is a Free Routine with no compulsory moves to be performed nor guidelines.
  • The content is at the complete choice of the team and will be evaluated for the overall beauty of the routine, rhythm and emotional power.
  • Jumps valid for the contest are only the ones that respect the video requirements:
    1) the video-choreography is a full, non-edited jump from exiting the airplane to end of the choreography. The start of the choreography is set when the feet of one of the performers detaches from the aircraft and ends when all performers exit the video screen 
    2) Before the exit, teams have to film the Start-Paper, a piece of paper with: Sky on Stage 2020, Name of team, Type of contest, DZ Location
  • Team members can compete in just one contest or in all of them. If they wish, they can even compete twice per each contest, once as the performer and once as cameraflyer.
  • The winning teams of each contest will receive medals and some awards (I am still looking for prizes, contact me!). All competitors will receive a certificate of participation with their final placement. The individual competitor who placed the best in the overall by competing in multiple contests will also receive an award.
  • Videos of the 10 best routines per contest will be published on skyonstage website. All videos routine of all contest, also the ones that do not make it to the finals will be published on the skyonstage youtube channel.
Kēbē San skysurfing the clouds, photo by Raymond Adams
Example of skysurf team

How is the judging going to work?

There are 2 different panels of judges. One Panel is the ES-Panel – Experienced Skydivers; the competitors themselves (each team member has a right to vote in the contest they entered) plus a few outside invited judges selected among knowledgeable skydivers– mainly former competitors and professional cameraflyers.

A second Panel, the NES-Panel – Non-Experienced Skydivers; professionals in other sports or arts.

There are 3 judging steps

1st Step – Top 20

If there are more than 20 teams in one contest, there will be a pre-selection of the 20 best teams to be judged by the Panel of judges. Teams that did not make the cut will be put into an intermediate category and will have their own separate ranking.

2nd Step – Top 10, ES Panel

The 20 teams that made the first cut will be viewed and judged by the ES-Panel. This is composed by the competitors in the contest plus a few invited judges. They will view all 20 video routines and send their placement based on which one is their favorite choreography, second best, third and so on till 10th place. They do not have to give a numerical value, just a ranking.

By compiling the results we find find the ES-Panel overall ranking. 

3rd Step – Top 10, NES Panel

The 10 Best as chosen by the ES-Panel will be then viewed by the second panel of judges, the Non-Experienced skydivers. Each judge sends their favorite placements; best choreography, second, third and so on. The overall winners of each contest will be then decided by combining the results from the ES-Panel and the one from the NES-panel

So it’s a bit of an experiment ;-).  We’ll see where it goes, but this way we’ll be able to compare the 3 rankings; from professional skydivers, from the competitors themselves and from non-skydivers. It will be interesting to see if they correspond. The best team, the true winner of the contests, in the end will be the one that impresses all of the judging teams not just one of them!

Los Gringos team member working on his freestyle, photo by Ewan Cowie
Together they could make a 2-way freefly/freestyle team

Why did you decide on a ranking system rather than awarding a score for each routine?

The idea of not having scores as in a traditional competition system comes from my personal experiences as a competitor and as a judge. As human beings, judges do not give the same exact value to numbers when they judge. What for one judge is a 7, might correspond to an 8 for another judge or even a 9 for another. The ranges of the votes vary a lot from judge to judge. This fact tends to distort the final results depending on the judges in the panels. This is understandable, for it is hard to allocate a number to a creative performance. 

On the other hand, everyone is able to say: ‘I liked this choreography the most, this one just a bit less’. No matter what the reasons are, it’s easier to decide a ranking than to decide if a choreography deserves a 10 a 7 or a 5 compared to another. I didn’t want the judges to focus on a number and I wanted to make the evaluation easier.

Why I do not want a technical score and why I want to have a truly FREE routine with no guidelines on what gets more or less points is exactly because I wanted it to be truly free. In traditional competitions you know that if you have pointed toes you score more points, or if you do a Cele move you score higher than if you do a simple daffy. Many times, because of those rules teams end up performing not what they truly would like to showcase, but what they think will give them the highest score. In the end that makes competitors tend to just try difficult sequences of moves, while sometimes is more beautiful to watch a creative move even if it’s not so hard. The technical score can restrict creativity. Not necessarily but it may do. This way, by not having a difficulty value, everyone is truly free to show the choreography they truly want to create. 

Have you tried a similar system before to decide the winners?

I already used this evaluation system in the last Space Games and it worked wonderfully. The numerical fix value given to first, second, third, to find the winners out of the individual rankings is a proven statistical method used since long time. For sure it’s not perfect but to me better than the alternative.

Team One Call – Amber Forte and Espen Fadnes – over the spectacular Norway
Photo by Scott Paterson

How much does it cost to enter?

It’s basically 20 euro per person, so a 2-way team is 40 euro, 3-way is 60 and so on, with a 50% discount for registering before 30 August 2020. 

So, you’re in it for the money then 😉 How do teams register?

Teams register here: 12 October 2020 is the closing date to register and teams will have to download their contest jump by 1 December. Teams can start to create their choreography jump even before registering.

Any final thoughts or comments?

I am totally aware that ART cannot be truly judged as it depends on personal likes and dislikes; one’s own interpretation. Though we can say there is a general sense of beauty; harmony; emotional power; and rhythm that most agree on. I hope that the teams will compete with an open heart, not really pretending that the choreographies that win are necessarily the absolute best, but simply as the ones that have been appreciated the most in that specific moment by the majority.

Again, these games are here just as a place and an opportunity to show creativity and inspire skydivers. The contest is just a fun game to give a goal in the process of exploring one’s creativity and learn new skills. Nothing more but nothing less.

For futher info or to register:

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Meet: Stefania Martinengo

Stefania has dreamt about flying since she was about 5 years old, a recurrent dream, her favorite one.
She started skydiving in 1989 and quickly fell in love with Freestyle and Skydance, being inspired by ‘From Wings Came Flight’ movie, produced by Norman Kent, filming Deanna Kent and Mike Michigan, the father and mother of Freestyle and Skydancing. She started training and competing and the results started to appear. She is a Freefly and Freestyle Italian champion multiple times, Freestyle World Champion, World Air Games Champion and World Games Champion, to name just a few of her accomplishments. She also qualified as an Italian and FAI judge.

1996 silver at freestyle World Championships
1997 bronze in freefly at the ESPN SSI Pro Tour
1998-2005 Co-organizer of the Space Games in team with Olav Zipser
1995,96,97, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005 : freestyle Italian Champion
2001: freefly Italian Champion
2001: freestyle World Champion, World Air Games Champion, World Games Champion
2001: freefly 4th place at World Air Games
2002: FAI international judge
2004: freestyle European Champion in team with Olav Zipser
2004: silver at freestyle World Championships
2005: bronze at freestyle World Cup
2007: FAI international judge at freefly head-down world record
2012: Female Head-down French Record

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