Ice dance

  (Redirected from Ice dancer)

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), an ice dance team consists of "one Lady and one Man".[1][note 1]

Ice dance
Minenkov and Moiseeva 1976.jpg
Ice dance in 1976, its first year as an official Olympic sport (Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov)
Highest governing bodyInternational Skating Union
Team membersDuos
Mixed genderYes
EquipmentFigure skates
OlympicPart of the Winter Olympics from 1976

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 re-name the SD to the rhythm dance (RD). Ice dance has required elements that ice dancers must perform during a competition and that make up a well-balanced skating program. They include: 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.

In the early 1900s, ice dancing was primarily a recreational sport in England, Europe, and the United States. British ice dance teams dominated the sport throughout the 1950s and 1960s, then Soviet teams up until the 1990s. 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, but 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. 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.

The ISU publishes violations and their points values yearly. Deductions in ice dance include falls and interruptions, and violations in time, music, and clothing.

Competition segmentsEdit

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, after many years of pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to restructure competitive ice dance to follow the other figure skating disciplines, the International Skating Union (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.[2] 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".[3] The new ice dance competition format, incorporating just two segments (SD and FD), was first included in the 2010–11 season. In 2018, the SD was renamed the rhythm dance (RD); ice dance competition format now incorporates two segments, the RD and the FD.{{refn|group=note|After the 2018–19 season, due to the change in grade of execution scores from -3 to +3 to -5 to +5, all statistics were reset from zero and all previous scores were listed as "historical".[4]

Rhythm danceEdit

The RD is the first segment performed in all junior and senior ice dance competitions.[5] It combines many of the elements of the CD and the OD, retaining the characteristic set patterns of the CD, a compulsory element 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".[2] The ice dance team is judged on how well the pattern dance is integrated into the entire RD routine.[6] The RD must also include a short, 6-second lift, a set of twizzles, and a step sequence.[2][7]

The rhythms and themes of the RD are determined by the ISU prior to the start of the new season.[2][7][note 2] The RD, instead of through "non-skating actions such as sliding on one knee"[9] or through the use of toe steps (which should only be used reflect the music's nuances and underlining rhythm and the dance's character), should be "developed through skating skill and quality".[9] The RD must have a duration of 2 minutes and 50 seconds.[10]

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.[11] French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron hold the highest RD score of 90.03 points, which they achieved at the 2019 NHK Trophy. They also hold the five highest RD scores.[12]

Free danceEdit

The FD is the second segment performed in all junior and senior ice dance competitions.[13] 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".[13] 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 the music chosen by them.[13] It must also display the skaters' "excellent skating technique"[13] and creativity in expression, concept, and arrangement.[6] The FD's choreography must reflect the music's accents, nuances, and dance character, and the ice dancers must "skate primarily in time to the rhythmic beat of the music and not to the melody alone".[14] For senior ice dancers, the FD must have a duration of 4 minutes; for juniors, 3.5 minutes.[6]

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron hold the highest FD score of 136.58 points, which they achieved at the 2019 NHK Trophy.[note 3] They also hold the five highest FD scores.[16]

Discontinued segmentsEdit

Compulsory danceEdit

Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali perform their compulsory dance at the 2009 Cup of China.

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.[17][18] The CD has been compared with compulsory figures; competitors were "judged for their mastery of fundamental elements".[17]

Many of the first CDs were developed during the 1930s by teams from Great Britain, which dominated ice dance internationally throughout the 1950s, during the period before it became an Olympic sport in 1972.[19] Early in ice dance history, the CD contributed 60% of the total score.[20]

The 2010 World Championships was the last event to include a CD (the Golden Waltz); Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali from Italy were the last ice dance team to perform a CD in competition.[21]

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform a Flamenco folk dance for their original dance at the 2010 World Championships.

Original danceEdit

The original dance (OD) was first added to ice dance competitions in 1967. It was called the "original set pattern dance"[22] until 1990, when it became known simply as the "original dance". The OD remained the second competition segment (sandwiched between the CD and the FD) until the end of the 2009–10 season.[20] 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.[23][24]

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir hold the highest OD score of 70.27 points, achieved at the 2010 World Championships.[25]

Competition elementsEdit

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov perform a rotational dance lift.

Ice dance has required elements that ice dancers must perform during a competition and that make up a well-balanced skating program. They include: 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.

The ISU defines the dance lift as "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".[26] The ISU permits any rotation, position, and changes of position during a dance lift.[26] After the judging system changed from the 6.0 system to the ISU Judging System (IJS), dance lifts became more "athletic, dramatic and exciting".[27] The ISU defines a dance spin as "a spin skated by the Couple together in any hold".[28] There are two types of dance spins: the spin and the combination spin, which is multiple spins in succession. The ISU defines a step sequence as "a series of prescribed or un-prescribed steps, turns and movements".[29] Step sequences have three divisions: Types, Groups, and Styles.[29] The ISU defines a twizzle as "a traveling turn on one foot with one or more rotations which is quickly rotated with a continuous (uninterrupted) action".[30] It has also been defined as "a multirotational, one-foot turn that moves across the ice".[31] "The U.S. Figure Skating 2018–19 Rulebook" defines choreographic elements in ice dance as "a listed or unlisted movement or series of movement(s) as specified".[32] These elements are not scored in the same way as the other elements, but are "confirmed if the minimum requirements defining the element are met".[33]



Jackson Haines, the "father of figure skating"

The roots of ice dance, like pairs skating, is in the "combined skating" developed in the 19th century by skating clubs and organizations and by recreational social skating between couples and friends, who would skate waltzes, marches, and other social dances together.[34] According to writer Ellyn Kestnbaum, "Ice dancing derives from the turn-of-the-century Viennese and English attempts to translate the waltz and other ballroom dances to the ice and to devise ballroom-style performances suitable for skates".[35] Figure skating historian James Hines states that ice dance had its beginnings in hand-in-hand skating, a short-lived but popular disciple of figure skating in England in the 1890s; many of the positions used in ice dance today can be traced to hand-in-hand skating.[36] In 1836, the Oxford Skating Society published a simple program of figures for hand-in-hand skating.[37] 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".[38]

In the late 1800s, American Jackson Haines, known as "the Father of Figure Skating",[39] brought his style of skating to Europe, and taught people in Vienna, where he capitalized on their "obsession with waltzing",[39] how to dance on the ice, both singly and with partners.[39] 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, to Vienna. By the 1880s, it and the Jackson Haines waltz, a variation of the American waltz, were among the most popular ice dances.[38] Other popular ice dance steps included the mazurka, a version of the Jackson Haines waltz developed in Sweden, and the three-step waltz, which was created in Paris in 1894 and was called "the direct predecessor of ice dancing in the modern sense".[38]

In the 1890s in Paris, a three-step waltz called the English Waltz, which ice dance historian Cheryl Elton called "the direct predecessor of modern ice dancing, featuring the speed and flowing edges that we see today"[40] was created. The English Waltz became the standard for waltz skating competitions and was at first popular with inexperienced skaters, although skilled skaters made it more challenging by introducing more difficult steps such as Mohawks and 3 turns.[41][40] Other early ice dances included the European Waltz, inventor unknown, before the turn of the 20th century, and the Ten-Step, a precursor of the fourteen-step, both of which are still used in ice dance competitions today.[42] The killian, first skated in 1909 by Austrian Karl Schreiter, was the last ice dance invented before World War I still being done today.[43] According to Hines, the ten-step is the basis of the fourteen-step, the oldest dance still done in the sport. The ten-step was created by Austrian champion Max Bohatsch in Vienna.[44] Also in the 1890s, combined and hand-in-hand skating moved skating away from "the static confines of basic figures to continuous movement around a rink".[37] Hines insisted 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, "dealt a death knell to hand-in-hand skating".[37] By the end of the 19th century, waltzing competitions became popular throughout the world.[45] According to Hines, Vienna was "the dancing capital of Europe, both on and off skates" in the 19th century.[44]

Early yearsEdit

By the early 1900s, ice dancing 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 waltzes and in marches such as the Ten-Step, the fourteenstep, and the killian, which were the only three dances used in competition until the 1930s.[46][47] 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.[48] Hines stated that the development of new ice dances was necessary to expand upon the three dances already developed; three British teams—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 ISU competitions by 2006. In 1933, the Westminster Skating Club conducted a competition encouraging the creation of new dances.[49] Beginning in the mid-1930s, national organizations began to introduce skating proficiency tests in set-pattern dances, improve judging 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.[19][50][51] By the late 1930s, ice dancers swelled memberships in skating clubs throughout the world, and as Hines stated, "became the backbone of skating clubs".[52]

The ISU began to develop rules, standards, and international tests for ice dance in the 1950s.[53] The first international ice dancing competition occurred as a special event at the World Championships in 1950 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.[54] Ice dance, with the CD and FD segments, was formally added to the World Championships in 1952.[53] Westwood and Demmy won the first championship; they went on to dominate ice dancing and win the next four World Championships.[51][55] British teams dominated ice dance throughout the 1950s and the 1960s; they won 12 out of the first 16 championships,[19] although in 1962, Eva Romanova and Pavel Roman of Czechoslovakia were the first non-British ice dancers to win a world title.[56]

1970s to 1990sEdit

Ice dance became an Olympic sport in 1976; Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexandr Gorshkov from the Soviet Union were the first gold medalists.[53][57][58] In 1984, British dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean briefly interrupted Soviet domination of ice dance by "famously winning the Olympic gold medal"[19] at the Olympic Games in Sarajevo, with their free dance to Ravel's Boléro,[19][59] which has been called "probably the most well known single program in the history of ice dance".[60]

Torvill and Dean performing in 2011

Throughout the 1970s, there was a movement in ice dance away from its ballroom roots to a more theatrical style. As Kestnbaum stated, "The top Soviet teams pioneered an emphasis on the dramatic qualities of ice dancing, choreographing programs around a single ballroom theme and incorporating elements of ballet and theatrical performances into their performances".[60] Dance teams from all over the world were influenced by ballet techniques, especially "the classic ballet pas de deux of the high-art instance of a man and woman dancing together".[60] They began to move ice dance away from its social dance origins, towards art dance, by performing as predictable characters, choreographing into their routines body positions that were no longer rooted in traditional ballroom holds, and using music with less predictable rhythms.[60][58]

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 FD. The restrictions introduced during this period, especially jumps, spins, and the number and type of lifts, were designed to emphasize skating skills rather than the theatrical and dramatic aspects of ice dance.[61][62] Kestnbaum stated, "The issue again in the dance community was once again that of social versus theatrical dance, this time falling more clearly along historic cultural lines".[63] According to Kestnbaum, the British, the Canadians, and the Americans represented the traditional social dance school, while the Russians have represented the theatrical.[63]

There was a series of judging scandals that affected most figure skating disciplines in the late '90s and early 2000s, which culminated at the 2002 Olympics. At the 1998 Olympics, while ice dance was struggling to retain its integrity and legitimacy as a sport, there was allegations of "bloc voting"[64] 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.[65]

21st centuryEdit

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history.

The European dominance of ice dance was interrupted at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, when Canadian ice dance team Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold medal, marking the first time a team from North America won a gold medal at the Olympics, and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White 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.[66] The U.S. began to dominate international competitions in ice dance at the turn of the 21st century; at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Davis and White won the Olympics gold medal.[67] 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.[68]

According to Caroline Silby, a consultant with U.S. Figure Skating, ice dance teams, as well as pair skaters, have the added challenge of strengthening partnerships and ensuring that teams stay together for several years. Silby states, "Conflict between partners that is consistent and unresolved can often lead to the early demise or break-up of a team".[69] Challenges for both dancers and pairs, which can make conflict resolution and communication difficult, include: the fewer number of available boys for girls to find partnerships; 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.[70] Silby estimates that due to the lack of effective communication, there is a "six-fold increase in the risk of national-level figure skating teams splitting".[71] Teams with strong skills in communication and conflict resolution, however, tend to produce "highest-placing finishers at national championship events".[71]

Rules and regulationsEdit

Skaters must only execute the prescribed elements; if they do not, the extra or unprescribed elements will not be counted in their score. Only the first attempt of an element will be included.[72] The ISU published a judges' handbook describing what judges needed to look for during ice dance competitions in 1974.[57] Violations in ice dance include falls and interruptions, time, music, and clothing.

Falls and interruptionsEdit

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 means that the team will not win. White states that falls are rare in ice dance, and since falls constitute interruptions, they tend to have large deductions because "the whole mirage of whatever they’re trying to create in terms of a theme is shattered".[73] According to the ISU, a fall is defined 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".[74] 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".[75] Injuries to the lower body (the knee, ankle, and back) are the most common for both ice dancers and single skaters. Ice dancers experience 1.32 injuries per athlete.[76]

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 10 seconds but not over 20 seconds. They can lose two points if the interruption lasts 20 seconds but not over 30 seconds, and three points if it lasts 30 seconds but not more than 40 seconds. They can lose five points if the interruption lasts three or more minutes.[77]


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.[78] If they start their programs between one and 30 seconds late, they can lose one point.[77] 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 10 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 10 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".[79]

If a team performs a dance lift that exceeds the permitted duration, judges can deduct one point.[80] White states that deductions in ice dance, in the absence of a fall or interruption, are most often due to "extended lifts",[73] 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".[81] 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;[note 4]; 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.[81]

Violations against the music requirements have a two-point deduction, and violations against the dance tempo requirements have a one-point deduction.[80] Judges can deduct one point per program if the ice dancers break choreography restrictions.[77] The ISU has allowed vocals in the music used in ice dance since the 1997–98 season,[82] most likely because "coaches found it difficult to find suitable music without words for certain genres".[83][note 5]


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".[84] 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.[85] 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".[84]

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";[84] judges can deduct one point per program if part of the competitors' costumes or decorations fall on the ice.[84] 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.[84][85] However, costume deductions are rare. Newcomer stated that 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 take any more risks of losing points.[85]


  1. ^ Women are referred to as ladies in ISU regulations and communications.
  2. ^ The set pattern dance for the 2019–2020 season, for example, will be Quickstep, Blues, March, Polka, or Foxtrot for senior teams.[8]
  3. ^ FD scores prior to the 2010–11 season are published separately by the ISU, due to the competition format change in 2010.[15]
  4. ^ "Finesse" is defined as "the Skater's refined, artful manipulation of music details and nuances through movement".[81] Each team has a unique finesse and demonstrates their inner feelings for the composition and the music.[81] "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".[81]
  5. ^ The use of vocals was expanded to all disciplines starting in 2014.[82]


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Works citedEdit