Ice dance (sometimes referred to as ice dancing) is a discipline of figure skating that historically draws from ballroom dancing. It joined the World Figure Skating Championships in 1952, and became a Winter Olympic Games medal sport in 1976. According to the International Skating Union (ISU), the governing body of figure skating, an ice dance team consists of one woman and one man.
|Highest governing body||International Skating Union|
|Olympic||Part of the Winter Olympics from 1976|
Ice dance, like pair skating, has its roots in the "combined skating" developed in the 19th century by skating clubs and organizations and in recreational social skating. Couples and friends would skate waltzes, marches, and other social dances. The first steps in ice dance were similar to those used in ballroom dancing. In the late 1800s, American Jackson Haines, known as "the Father of Figure Skating", brought his style of skating, which included waltz steps and social dances, to Europe. By the end of the 19th century, waltzing competitions became popular throughout the world. By the early 1900s, ice dance was popular around the world and was primarily a recreational sport, although during the 1920s, local clubs in Britain and the U.S. conducted informal dance contests. Recreational skating became more popular during the 1930s in England.
The first national competitions occurred in England, Canada, the U.S., and Austria during the 1930s. The first international ice dance competition took place as a special event at the World Championships in 1950 in London. British ice dance teams dominated the sport throughout the 1950s and 1960s, then Soviet teams up until the 1990s. Ice dance was formally added to the 1952 World Figure Skating Championships; it became an Olympic sport in 1976. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was an attempt by ice dancers, their coaches, and choreographers to move ice dance away from its ballroom origins to more theatrical performances. The ISU pushed back by tightening rules and definitions of ice dance to emphasize its connection to ballroom dancing. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, ice dance lost much of its integrity as a sport after a series of judging scandals, which also affected the other figure skating disciplines. There were calls to suspend the sport for a year to deal with the dispute, which seemed to impact ice dance teams from North America the most. Teams from North America began to dominate the sport starting in the early 2000s.
Before the 2010–11 figure skating season, there were three segments in ice dance competitions: the compulsory dance (CD), the original dance (OD), and the free dance (FD). In 2010, the ISU voted to change the competition format by eliminating the CD and the OD and adding the new short dance (SD) segment to the competition schedule. In 2018, the ISU voted to rename the short dance to the rhythm dance (RD). Ice dance has required elements that competitors must perform and that make up a well-balanced skating program. They include the dance lift, the dance spin, the step sequence, twizzles, and choreographic elements. These must be performed in specific ways, as described in published communications by the ISU, unless otherwise specified. Each year the ISU publishes a list specifying the points that can be deducted from performance scores for various reasons, including falls, interruptions, and violations of the rules concerning time, music, and clothing.
Ice dance, like pair skating, has its roots in the "combined skating" developed in the 19th century by skating clubs and organizations and in recreational social skating. Couples and friends would skate waltzes, marches, and other social dances together. According to writer Ellyn Kestnbaum, ice dance began with late 19th-century attempts by the Viennese and British to create ballroom-style performances on ice skates. However, figure skating historian James Hines argues that ice dance had its beginnings in hand-in-hand skating, a short-lived but popular discipline of figure skating in England in the 1890s; many of the positions used in modern ice dance can be traced back to hand-in-hand skating. The first steps in ice dance were similar to those used in ballroom dancing, so unlike modern ice dance, skaters tended to keep both feet on the ice most of the time, without the "long and flowing edges associated with graceful figure skating".
In the late 1800s, American Jackson Haines, known as "the Father of Figure Skating", brought his style of skating to Europe. He taught people in Vienna how to dance on the ice, both singly and with partners. Capitalizing on the popularity of the waltz in Vienna, Haines introduced the American waltz, a simple four-step sequence, each step lasting one beat of music, repeated as the partners moved in a circular pattern. By the 1880s, it and the Jackson Haines waltz, a variation of the American waltz, were among the most popular ice dances. Other popular ice dance steps included the mazurka, a version of the Jackson Haines waltz developed in Sweden, and the three-step waltz, which Hines considered "the direct predecessor of ice dancing in the modern sense".
By the end of the 19th century, the three-step waltz, called the English waltz in Europe, became the standard for waltzing competitions. It was first skated in Paris in 1894; Hines stated that it was responsible for the popularity of ice dance in Europe. The three-step waltz was easy and could be done by less skilled skaters, although more experienced skaters added variations to make it more difficult. Two other steps, the killian and the ten-step, survived into the 20th century. The ten-step, which became the fourteen-step, was first skated by Franz Schöller in 1889. Also in the 1890s, combined and hand-in-hand skating moved skating away from basic figures to the continuous movement of ice dancers around an ice rink. Hines insists that the popularity of skating waltzes, which depended upon the speed and flow across the ice of couples in dance positions and not just on holding hands with a partner, ended the popularity of hand-in-hand skating. Hines writes that Vienna was "the dancing capital of Europe, both on and off skates" during the 19th century; by the end of the century, waltzing competitions became popular throughout the world. The killian, first skated in 1909 by Austrian Karl Schreiter, was the last ice dance invented before World War I still being done as of the 21st century.
By the early 1900s, ice dance was popular around the world and was primarily a recreational sport, although during the 1920s, local clubs in Britain and the U.S. conducted informal dance contests in the ten-step, the fourteen-step, and the killian, which were the only three dances used in competition until the 1930s. Recreational skating became more popular during the 1930s in England, and new and more difficult set-pattern dances, which later were used in compulsory dances during competitions, were developed. According to Hines, the development of new ice dances was necessary to expand upon the three dances already developed; three British teams in the 1930s—Erik van der Wyden and Eva Keats, Reginald Wilkie and Daphne B. Wallis, and Robert Dench and Rosemarie Stewart—created one-fourth of the dances used in International Skating Union (ISU) competitions by 2006. In 1933, the Westminster Skating Club conducted a competition encouraging the creation of new dances. Beginning in the mid-1930s, national organizations began to introduce skating proficiency tests in set-pattern dances, improve the judging of dance tests, and oversee competitions. The first national competitions occurred in England in 1934, Canada in 1935, the U.S. in 1936, and Austria in 1937. These competitions included one or more compulsory dances, the original dance, and the free dance. By the late 1930s, ice dancers swelled memberships in skating clubs throughout the world, and in Hines' words "became the backbone of skating clubs".
The ISU began to develop rules, standards, and international tests for ice dance in the 1950s. The first international ice dance competition occurred as a special event during the 1950 World Figure Skating Championships in London; Lois Waring and Michael McGean of the U.S. won the event, much to the embarrassment of the British, who considered themselves the best ice dancers in the world. A second event was planned the following year, at the 1951 World Championships in Milan; Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy of Great Britain came in first place. Ice dance, with the CD and FD segments, was formally added to the World Championships in 1952. Westwood and Demmy won that year, and went on to dominate ice dance, winning the next four World Championships as well. British teams won every world ice dance title through 1960. Eva Romanova and Pavel Roman of Czechoslovakia were the first non-British ice dancers to win a world title, in 1962.
1970s to 1990s
Ice dance became an Olympic sport in 1976; Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexandr Gorshkov from the Soviet Union were the first gold medalists. The Soviets dominated ice dance during most of the 1970s, as they did in pair skating. They won every Worlds and Olympic title between 1970 and 1978, and won medals at every competition between 1976 and 1982. In 1984, British dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who Hines calls "the greatest ice dancers in the history of the sport", briefly interrupted Soviet domination of ice dance by winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Sarajevo. Their free dance to Ravel's Boléro has been called "probably the most well known single program in the history of ice dance". Hines asserts that Torvill and Dean, with their innovative choreography, dramatically altered "established concepts of ice dancing".
During the 1970s, there was a movement in ice dance away from its ballroom roots to a more theatrical style. The top Soviet teams were the first to emphasize the dramatic aspects of ice dance, as well as the first to choreograph their programs around a central theme. They also incorporated elements of ballet techniques, especially "the classic ballet pas de deux of the high-art instance of a man and woman dancing together". They performed as predictable characters, including body positions that were no longer rooted in traditional ballroom holds, and using music with less predictable rhythms.
The ISU pushed back during the 1980s and 1990s by tightening rules and definitions of ice dance to emphasize its connection to ballroom dancing, especially in the free dance. The restrictions introduced during this period were designed to emphasize skating skills rather than the theatrical and dramatic aspects of ice dance. Kestnbaum argues that there was a conflict in the ice dance community between social dance, represented by the British, the Canadians, and the Americans, and theatrical dance represented by the Russians. Initially the historic and traditional cultural school of ice dance prevailed, but in 1998 the ISU reduced penalties for violations and relaxed rules on technical content, in what Hines describes as a "major step forward" in recognizing the move towards more theatrical skating in ice dance.
At the 1998 Olympics, while ice dance was struggling to retain its integrity and legitimacy as a sport, writer Jere Longman reported that ice dance was "mired in controversies", including bloc voting by the judges that favored European dance teams. There were even calls to suspend the sport for a year to deal with the dispute, which seemed to impact ice dance teams from North America the most. A series of judging scandals in the late 1990s and early 2000s, affecting most figure skating disciplines, culminated in a controversy at the 2002 Olympics.
The European dominance of ice dance was interrupted at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver by Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The Canadian ice dance team won the first Olympic ice dance gold medal for North America, and the Americans won the silver. Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin won bronze, but it was the first time Europeans had not won a gold medal in the history of ice dance at the Olympics. The U.S. then began to dominate international competitions in ice dance; at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Davis and White won the Olympic gold medal. In 2018, at the Olympics in PyeongChang, Virtue and Moir became the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history after winning the gold medal there.
According to Caroline Silby, a consultant with U.S. Figure Skating, ice dance teams and pair skaters have the added challenge of strengthening partnerships and ensuring that teams stay together for several years; unresolved conflict between partners can often cause the early break-up of a team. Silby further asserts that the early demise or break-up of a team is often caused by consistent and unresolved conflict between partners. Both ice dancers and pairs skaters face challenges that make conflict resolution and communication difficult: fewer available boys for girls to partner with; different priorities regarding commitment and scheduling; differences in partners' ages and developmental stages; differences in family situations; the common necessity of one or both partners moving to train at a new facility; and different skill levels when the partnership is formed. Silby estimates that the lack of effective communication within dance and pairs teams is associated with a six-fold increase in the risk of ending their partnerships. Teams with strong skills in communication and conflict resolution, however, tend to produce more successful medalists at national championship events.
Before the 2010–2011 figure skating season, there were three segments in ice dance competitions: the compulsory dance (CD), the original dance (OD), and the free dance (FD). In 2010, after many years of pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to restructure competitive ice dance to follow the other figure skating disciplines, the ISU voted to change the competition format by eliminating the CD and the OD and adding the new short dance segment to the competition schedule. According to the then-president of the ISU, Ottavio Cinquanta, the changes were also made because "the compulsory dances were not very attractive for spectators and television". This new ice dance competition format was first included in the 2010–2011 season, incorporating just two segments: the short dance (renamed the rhythm dance, or RD in 2018) and the free dance.
The RD is the first segment performed in all junior and senior ice dance competitions. It combines many of the elements of the CD and the OD, retaining the characteristic set patterns of the CD, in which each dance team must perform the same two patterns of a set "pattern dance", providing "an essential comparison of the dancers' technical skills". The ice dance team is judged on how well the pattern dance is integrated into the entire RD routine. The RD must also include a short six-second lift, a set of twizzles, and a step sequence.
The rhythms and themes of the RD are determined by the ISU prior to the start of each new season. The RD should be "developed through skating skill and quality", instead of through "non-skating actions such as sliding on one knee" or through the use of toe steps (which should only be used to reflect the dance's character and the music's nuances and underlining rhythm. The RD must have a duration of two minutes and fifty seconds.
The first RD in international competitions was performed by U.S. junior ice dancers Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus, at the 2010 Junior Grand Prix Courchevel. As of 2019, at the NHK Trophy, French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron hold the five highest RD scores, including the highest RD score of 90.03 points.
The free dance takes place after the RD in all junior and senior ice dance competitions. The "2019 U.S. Figure Skating Rulebook" defines it as "the skating by the couple of a creative dance program blending dance steps and movements expressing the character/rhythm(s) of the dance music chosen by the couple". The program must be skated on the entire surface of the ice and be well-balanced. It must contain required combinations of elements (spins, lifts, steps, and movements), and choreography that express both the characters of the competitors and their music. It must also display the skaters' "excellent skating technique" and creativity in expression, concept, and arrangement. The free dance's choreography must reflect the music's accents, nuances, and dance character, and the ice dancers must not skate only to the melody alone, but also primarily in time to the music's rhythmic beat. For senior ice dancers, the free dance must have a duration of four minutes; for juniors, three-and-one-half minutes.
Before 2010, the CD was the first segment performed in ice dance competitions. The teams performed the same pattern around two circuits of the rink, one team after another, using the same step sequences and the same standardized tempo chosen by the ISU before the beginning of each season. The CD has been compared with compulsory figures; competitors were "judged for their mastery of fundamental elements". Early in ice dance history, the CD contributed 60% of the total score.
The OD was first added to ice dance competitions in 1967. It was called the "original set pattern dance" until 1990, when it became known simply as the "original dance". The OD remained the second competition segment (sandwiched between the CD and the free dance) until the end of the 2009–2010 season. Ice dancers were able to create their own routines, but they had to use a set rhythm and type of music which, like the compulsory dances, changed every season and was selected by the ISU in advance. The timing and interpretation of the rhythm were considered to be the most important aspects of the routine, and were worth the highest proportion of the OD score. The routine had a two-minute time limit and the OD accounted for 30% of the overall competition score.
Ice dance has required elements that ice dancers must perform during a competition to make up a well-balanced skating program, including the dance lift, the dance spin, the step sequence, twizzles, and choreographic elements. They must be performed in specific ways, as described in published communications by the ISU, unless otherwise specified.
- Dance lift: "a movement in which one of the partners is elevated with active and/or passive assistance of the other partner to any permitted height, sustained there and set down on the ice". The ISU permits any rotation, position, and changes of position during a dance lift. Dance lifts are delineated from pair lifts to ensure that ice dance and pair skating remain separate disciplines. After the judging system changed from the 6.0 system to the ISU Judging System, dance lifts became more "athletic, dramatic and exciting".
- Dance spin: "a spin skated by the Couple together in any hold". There are two types of dance spins: the spin and the combination spin, which is multiple spins in succession.
- Step sequence: "a series of prescribed or un-prescribed steps, turns and movements".
- Twizzle: "a traveling turn on one foot with one or more rotations which is quickly rotated with a continuous (uninterrupted) action".
- Choreographic elements: "a listed or unlisted movement or series of movement(s) as specified".
Rules and regulations
Skaters must execute the prescribed elements at least once; any extra or unprescribed elements will not be counted in their score. Only the first attempt of an element is scored. In 1974, the ISU published the first judges' handbook describing what judges needed to look for during ice dance competitions. Violations in ice dance include falls and interruptions, time, music, and clothing.
Falls and interruptions
According to ice dancer and commentator Tanith White, unlike in other disciplines wherein skaters can make up for their falls in other elements, falls in ice dance usually mean that the team will not win. White argues that falls are rare in ice dance, and since falls constitute interruptions, they tend to have large deductions because the mood of their program's theme is broken. The ISU defines a fall as the "loss of control by a Skater with the result that the majority of his/her own body weight is on the ice supported by any other part of the body other than the blades; e.g. hand(s), knee(s), back, buttock(s) or any part of the arm". The ISU defines an interruption as "the period of time starting immediately when the Competitor stops performing the program or is ordered to do so by the Referee, whichever is earlier, and ending when the Competitor resumes the performance". Injuries to the lower body (the knee, ankle, and back) are the most common for both ice dancers and single skaters. A study conducted during a U.S. national competition including 58 ice dancers recorded an average of 0.97 injuries per athlete.
In ice dance, teams can lose one point for every fall by one partner, and two points if both partners fall. If there is an interruption while performing their program, ice dancers can lose one point if it lasts more than ten seconds but not over twenty seconds. They can lose two points if the interruption lasts twenty seconds but not over thirty seconds, and three points if it lasts thirty seconds but not more than forty seconds. They can lose five points if the interruption lasts three or more minutes. Teams can also lose points if a fall or interruption occurs during the beginning of an elevating moment in a dance lift, or as the man begins to lift the woman. They can lose an additional five points if the interruption is caused by an "adverse condition" up to three minutes before the start of their program.
Judges penalize ice dancers one point up to every five seconds for ending their pattern dances too early or too late. Dancers can also be penalized one point for up to every five seconds "in excess of [the] permitted time after the last prescribed step" (their final movement and/or pose) in their pattern dances. If they start their programs between one and thirty seconds late, they can lose one point. Restrictions for finishing the rhythm and free dance are similar to the requirements of the other disciplines in figure skating. They can complete these programs within plus or minus ten seconds of the required times; if they cannot, judges can deduct points for finishing their program up to five seconds too early or too late. If they begin skating any element after their required time (plus the required ten seconds they have to begin), they earn no points for those elements. If the program's duration is "thirty (30) seconds or more under the required time range, no marks will be awarded".
If a team performs a dance lift that exceeds the permitted duration, judges can deduct one point. White argues that deductions in ice dance, in the absence of a fall or interruption, are most often due to "extended lifts", or lifts that last too long.
The ISU defines interpretation of the music and timing in ice dance as "the personal, creative, and genuine translation of the rhythm, character and content of music to movement on ice". The ISU has allowed vocals in the music used in ice dance since the 1997–1998 season, most likely because of the difficulty in finding suitable music without words for certain genres. Judges take the following things into account when scoring ice dances: timing (steps and movement in time to the music); the expression of the character and/or feeling and rhythm of the music, when they can be identified clearly; the use of finesse; the relationship between the dancers' ability to reflect the rhythm and character of the music; if the dancers skate primarily to the rhythmic beat during their rhythm dance; and if they can keep a "good balance" between skating to the melody and beat during their free dance.
Violations against the music requirements have a two-point deduction, and violations against the dance tempo requirements have a one-point deduction. Judges can deduct one point per program if the ice dancers break choreography restrictions. If the quality or tempo of the music the team uses in their program is deficient, or if there is a stop or interruption in their music, no matter the reason, they must stop skating when they become aware of the problem or when signaled to stop by a skating official, whichever occurs first. If any problems with the music happens within 20 seconds after they have begun their program, the team can choose to either restart their program or to continue from the point where they have stopped performing. If they decide to continue from the point where they stopped, they are continued to be judged at that point onward, as well as their performance up to that point. If they decide to restart their program, they are judged from the beginning of their restart and what they had done previously must be disregarded. If the music interruption occurs more than 20 seconds after they have begun their program, or if it occurred during an element or at the entrance of an element, they must resume their program from the point of the interruption. If the element was identified before the interruption, the element must be deleted from the list of performed elements, and the team is allowed to repeat the element when they resume their program. No deductions are counted for interruptions due to music deficiencies.
As for the other disciplines of figure skating, the clothing worn by ice dancers at ISU Championships, the Olympics, and international competitions must be "modest, dignified and appropriate for athletic competition—not garish or theatrical in design". Rules about clothing tend to be more strict in ice dance; Juliet Newcomer from U.S. Figure Skating has speculated limits in the kind of costumes ice dancers chose were pushed farther during the 1990s and early 2000s than in the other disciplines, resulting in stricter rules. Clothing can, however, reflect the character of ice dancers' chosen music. Their costumes must not "give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for the discipline".
All men must wear trousers. Female ice dancers must wear skirts. Accessories and props on the costumes of both dancers are not allowed. The decorations on costumes must be "non-detachable"; judges can deduct one point per program if part of the competitors' costumes or decorations fall on the ice. If there is a costume or prop violation, the judges can deduct one point per program. If competitors do not adhere to these guidelines, the judges can deduct points from their total score, if most of the panel, including the referee, thinks a team's outfit is inappropriate or non-compliant. However, costume deductions are rare. According to Newcomer, by the time skaters get to a national or world championship, they have received enough feedback about their costumes and are no longer willing to risk losing points.
- Women are referred to as "Ladies" in ISU regulations and communications.
- The Oxford Skating Society published a description and explanation of figures for hand-in-hand skating in 1836, well before it became popular.
- The set pattern dance for the 2019–2020 season, for example, was quickstep, blues, march, polka, or foxtrot for senior teams.
- FD scores prior to the 2010–11 season are published separately by the ISU, due to the competition format change in 2010.
- The use of vocals was expanded to all disciplines starting in 2014.
- "Finesse" is defined as "the Skater's refined, artful manipulation of music details and nuances through movement". Each team has a unique finesse and demonstrates their inner feelings for the composition and the music. "Nuances" are "the personal ways of bringing subtle variations to the intensity, tempo, and dynamics of the music made by the composer and/or musicians".
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ice dancing.|
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- Silby, Caroline (2018). "Mental skills training". In Vescovi, Jason D.; VanHeest, Jaci L. (eds.). The Science of Figure Skating. New York: Routledge. pp. 85–97. ISBN 978-1-138-22986-0.
- "Special Regulations & Technical Rules Single & Pair Skating and Ice Dance 2018". (S&P/ID 2018) International Skating Union. 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2019.