ice dancing

ice dancing

ice dancing, ice-skating competition in which couples are required to perform dance routines to music. The sport gained popularity in the 1930s and the first world championships were held in 1950. Ice dancing is similar to pairs figure skating, but does not allow lifts or other strength moves. Ice dancing competitions consist of three parts—prescribed pattern dances; an original set pattern dance; and a free dance, which allows the greatest freedom of expression. The first Olympic ice dancing competition was in 1976. At that time, traditional ballroom dances comprised the core of skaters' programs. The leading ice dancers in the 1970s were the Soviets Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov. In the 1980s, the British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean dominated the sport with dramatic and innovative choreography performed to a variety of musical forms (e.g., popular, jazz, classical). They won four consecutive world championships (1981-84) and the gold medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics. Outstanding in the late 1980s and early 1990s were the Russian ice dancers Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko.

Ice dancing is a form of figure skating which draws from the world of ballroom dancing. It was first competed at the World Figure Skating Championships in 1952, but did not become a Winter Olympic Games medal sport until 1976. As in pair skating, dancers compete as a couple consisting of a man and a woman. Ice dance differs from pair skating by severely limiting lifts, requiring spins to be performed as a team in a dance hold, and by disallowing throws and jumps. Typically, partners are not supposed to separate by more than two arm lengths; originally, partners were supposed to be in a dance hold the entire program. This restriction has been lifted somewhat in modern ice dancing.

Another distinction between ice dance and other disciplines of skating is the usage of music in the performances; in ice dancing, dancers must always skate to music that has a definite beat or rhythm. Singles and pair skaters more often skate to the melody and phrasing of their music, rather than its beat; this is severely penalized in ice dance.

Additionally, ice dancing is currently the only form of figure skating to allow vocal music in official competitions. In some non-ISU competitions, solo dancers can also compete.

Competition components

There are three main components in an ice dance competition. The compulsory dances ("CD"), worth 10% of the total score; the original dance ("OD"), worth 40% of the overall score; and the free dance ("FD") which is worth 50% of the total score and used as a tiebreaker. Some competitions, such as the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, do not have a compulsory dance.

Compulsory dances

Compulsory dances are a part of ice dancing in which all the couples perform the same standardized steps and holds to music of a specified tempo. One or more compulsory dances are usually skated as the first phase of competitions in ice dancing, but they are also popular as a form of recreational or social dance among skaters.

The patterns for most dances either cover one-half or one full circuit of the rink. The International Skating Union publishes the step diagrams and descriptions of the dances that are competed internationally, and also provides a set of standard music recordings for each dance with uniform tempo and introductory phrasing for use in competition.

Original dance

The original dance is a part of an ice dancing competition. It is usually the second of three programs, sandwiched between the compulsory dances and the free dance.

For the original dance, the International Skating Union designates a rhythm or set of rhythms each year that all dancers must perform to, but unlike the compulsory dances, the competitors choose their own music (within a specified tempo range) and choreography. The original dance could be compared to the short program in singles and pairs. The length of the program is shorter than the free dance, and the skaters have more rules they must adhere to. The dance must be choreographed so that the steps do not cross the midline of the rink. There are certain exceptions for this rule that take into account required step sequences such as the diagonal footwork sequence. Closed partnering positions and close skating is also important for the original dance.

Free dance

The free dance is a part of an ice dancing competition. It is usually the third and final part of the competition to be contested, after the compulsory dances and the original dance.

In the free dance, teams are free to choose their own rhythms, program themes, and therefore music. Creativity is also strongly encouraged. Since 1998, dancers have been required to include certain elements in their free dances, including step sequences, lifts, dance spins, and multi-rotation turns called twizzles. Senior level free dances are four minutes long (plus or minus 10 seconds) and usually, but not always, contain a slow section that helps bring variety to the routine and allows the dancers to catch their breath. The hand holds and positions are much more open and free than in the compulsory and original dance categories. Often teams strive to skate in difficult or unusual positions to gain difficulty points. There are more lifts in the free dance than in the original dance.

Competition elements


Lifts in ice dancing differ from those in pair skating because the man may not extend his hands above his head, and acrobatic lifts are generally frowned upon. The more change of direction, flexibility, and height in the lift, the greater amount of points a team can earn from the judges under the Code of Points scale.

Jumps and spins

Mult-revolution jumps are not permitted. "Half" jumps are now allowed. Spins must be performed by both skaters revolving around the same axis, the same as in pair spins.

Ice dance history

Ice dance has a strong tradition in the United Kingdom. Many of the compulsory dances which are still competed today were developed by British dancers in the 1930s, and 12 of the first 16 World Championships in ice dance were won by British couples. The British team of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean famously won the Olympic gold medal in Sarajevo in 1984 with a dramatic free skate to Ravel's Bolero which earned unanimous 6.0s for presentation.

Beginning in the 1970s, dance began to be dominated more by teams from the Soviet Union and, after the end of the Soviet Union, by Russia. The Russian style of ice dance typically emphasizes speed and power at the expense of precision. For example, in the compulsory dances, the skaters have been known to make slight alterations in the pattern and timing of the steps that are not strictly correct according to the rulebook, but which make the dance flow better or have more speed over the ice, and hence appear more impressive. Russian ice dancers are also known for theatrical and sometimes bizarre costuming and expression in their dances.

In the 1990s, the International Skating Union began to try to restrain the excessive theatricality in ice dancing, first by attempting to return it to its ballroom roots by adding more restrictions on music and dance holds. Later, amid complaints that ice dance had become too boring, these restrictions were removed and replaced with requirements that dancers include specified technical elements in the original dance and free dance. The effect is that there is now more emphasis on technique and athleticism in the judging, and less on dramatics. While the requirement that dancers skate to music with a definite beat remains, ice dancing is currently the only discipline of figure skating which allows vocal music with lyrics in competition.

Historical results


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