Rhythm dance

The rhythm dance (RD) is the first segment of an ice dance competition. The International Skating Union (ISU) renamed the short dance to the "rhythm dance" in June 2018, prior to the 2018–2019 season. It became part of international competitions in July 2018. 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.


The rhythm dance (RD) is the first segment performed in all junior and senior ice dance competitions, performed before the free dance (FD), at all International Skating Union (ISU) Championships, Junior and Senior ISU Grand Prix events and finals, Winter Youth Olympic Games, qualifying competitions for the Winter Olympic Games, and Olympic Winter Games.[1] The ISU defines the RD as "a dance created by an Ice Dance Couple to dance music with designated rhythm(s) and/or theme(s)"[2] selected and announced by the ISU yearly. In 2010, the ISU voted to eliminate the compulsory dance (CD) and the original dance (OD) and change the structure of ice dancing competitions to include the SD and FD.[3] In the 2018-19 season, the SD came to be known as the rhythm dance (RD) because according to the ISU, the new term "is better aligned with what the competition is all about".[4] The structure and rules for the RD. however, remained essentially the same.[5]

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron ending their short dance at the 2018 European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.

The duration of the RD, for both junior and senior dance teams, is two minutes 40 to 50 seconds long. They receive a deduction of one point for every five seconds over or above the required time.[6] The RD must include a set pattern dance, which the ISU defines as "the design of the dance on the ice".[7] The ISU chooses the pattern dance yearly, from a list of predetermined dances.[8][note 1] Pattern dance diagrams, published by the ISU, includes everything ice dancers need to know to perform one complete pattern, called a sequence, of the dance. Ice dancers can choose to perform a set pattern dance, in which the direction, location, and curvature of all edges as designated in the diagram, and followed as closely as possible. They can also perform the optional pattern dance, a pattern dance which can be altered as long as the dancers maintain the original dance's step sequences, timing, and positions, and if each repetition is performed in the same way and is restarted from the same place as the first repetition.[7] Judges look for the following things during the pattern dance: the dancers' skating technique, timing, and expression.[9]

The RD, instead of through "non-skating actions such as sliding on one knee"[10] 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".[10] RDs should be choreographed to all sides of the ice rink, and not be focused only on the judges' section. Touching the ice with the hands is not allowed, unless otherwise specified and announced by the ISU; neither is sliding or kneeling on two knees and sitting on the ice, and is considered a fall by the judges, also unless otherwise specified and announced by the ISU.[10]

The music ice dance teams choose for the RD, which can include vocals, must be "suitable for Ice Dance as a sport discipline"[6] and must be in accordance with required rhythms and/or themes, and with the required tempo, when applicable. The RD must fit the phrasing of the music ice dance teams use. It must "be translated to the ice by demonstrating technical skill with steps and movements along with flow and the use of edges".[2] Ice dance teams can choose music with "an audible rhythmic beat,"[6] although the music can be, at the start of the program, "without an audible rhythmic beat"[6] for up to 10 seconds.

There are no restrictions on dance holds, or any variation of dance holds, during the RD.[10] Ice dance teams lose points (one point per program) if they stop in one place for more than 10 seconds at the beginning and/or at the end of their programs. They are allowed a full stop up to 10 seconds or two full stops up to five seconds. A dance spin or choreographic spinning movement that does not travel is considered a stop. Ice dance teams should not separate, except when they must separate in order to perform any required element or to change a hold, and they can only be separated by up to two arms lengths during that time. Separations that occur at the beginning and/or end of the program can only last up to 10 seconds and there are no restrictions on the distance of the separation at that time.[6] All changes of position, dance steps, rotations, and turns are allowed, as long as they follow the music and the designated rhythms. They can fully extend their arms while skating while in a hand-to-hand hold only if it reflects the character of their chosen music rhythm, but must not be excessively used.[10] Both partners must perform "difficult, original, varied and intricate footwork"[11] during the RD.

As of the 2019—2020 season, women ice dancers were able to wear trousers; men were required to wear full-length trousers. The costumes worn by ice dance teams, while reflecting the character of their chosen music, could not be "garish or theatrical in design", and had to be "modest, dignified, not give the effect of excessive nudity and appropriate for athletic competition".[6] Ice dance teams could not use props and accessories during the RD.[6]

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]


The required elements for the RD are announced by the ISU yearly. The RD has six required elements: dance lifts, dance spins, twizzles, step sequences, choreographic elements, and pattern dance elements. The following are not allowed in the RD unless otherwise announced by the ISU: illegal life movements and or poses; jump or throw jumps over one revolution or jumps of one revolution skated simultaneously by both ice dance partners; and lying on the ice.[13]

2018–2019 seasonEdit

In March 2018, the ISU published the rules for the 2018–2019 season.[14]

Senior ice dancers had to skate two sections of the Tango Romantica for their pattern dance, one after the other. The first section had to begin on the judges' left side. Their tempo had to be constant, and remain with the range of 20 measures of four beats per minute (112 beats per minute), plus or minus 2 beats per minute. Junior ice dancers had to skate two sections of the Argentine Tango for their pattern dance, also one after the other. If they chose to skate section one first, they had to start on the judges' left side; if they skated section 2 first, they had to begin on the judges' right side. Their tempo had to be between 24 measures of four beats per minute (96 beats per minute), plus or minus two beats per minute. Both levels could chose the tango or the tango with one other rhythm.[15]

The ice dancers' pattern had to "proceed in a generally constant direction".[16] They had to cross the rink's long axis once at its end within 30 meters of its short axis. They could also cross the rink's long axis once as they entered into the pattern dance element and/or once at the entry and/or exit to the not touching step sequence, as well as while skating their required step sequence. The dancers also had to perform a maximum of one short lift, lasting up to seven seconds, one step sequence, and one combination set of sequential twizzles. The step sequence either had to be in hold, not touching, or a combination of both. They could use a midline, diagonal, or circular pattern to their step sequence as well. Each partner had to perform at least two twizzles, and they could only make one step between twizzles.[17]

2019—2020 seasonEdit

In April 2019, the ISU published the requirements for the 2019—2020 season.[18]

Both junior and senior ice dance teams had to select music from musicals and/or operettas, with rhythms from the Quickstep, Waltz, Charleston, Swing, Foxtrot, Polka, March, and Blues. They could choose any number of the prescribed rhythms. The music they selected could be from the same or different musicals and/or operettas, but the music had be from a stage play or film "in which music, singing and/or dancing play an essential part 'to tell the story'".[19] Jukebox musicals such as Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! were allowed, but music from film soundtracks such as A Star Is Born and Mr. & Mrs. Smith and soundtrack music from movies like the Star Wars and James Bond films, which were "'compilations of music/songs/tracks'"[19] and not musicals, were not allowed. The music they chose also could be vocal and had to be "be suitable for Ice Dance as a sport discipline".[6] Their music also had to have "an audible rhythmic beat",[6] except for at the beginning, when it could be without an audible rhythmic beat for up ten seconds at the start of their program.[6]

Senior ice dance teams had to perform one section of the Finnstep for their pattern dances, skated to the Swing, Charleston, or Quickstep rhythms. The tempo they used had to be constant and follow the required tempo, which was 52 two-beat measures per minute, 104 beats per minute plus or minus two beats. They also had to perform one section of a pattern dance-type step sequence (PSt), skated to the same rhythm they chose for the Finnstep. They could choose the same or a different tune as the Finnstep, but had to have the same tempo. Both tempos for the pattern dance and PSt had to be constant and follow the required tempo. Their pattern had to start immediately after the slide-and-stop step of the Finnstep and had to end at the short axis on the judges' side of the rink, in the middle of the rink. They could stop at this point, for up to five seconds, but it was not counted as a permitted stop. No additional stops were permitted during their PSt. Hand-in-hold holds were not permitted during the pattern dance or PSt, and the dance team had to always remain in contact, even during twizzles and during changes of holds. They could not perform separations, hand-in-hand holds with fully extended arms, and loops and retrogressions.[8]

Junior ice dance teams had to perform two sections of the Tea Time Foxtrot for their pattern dance, skated to a Foxtrot rhythm. The tempo they used also had to be constant and follow the required tempo, which was 27 four-beat measures per minute, 108 beats per minute. The first section of their pattern dance had to be followed by the second section, with the first step skated in front of the judges. They were allowed to vary their Foxtrot hold, and prescribed holds while performing twizzles could be different if they maintained contact.[8]

Both senior and junior ice dance teams had to perform only one short lift, lasting up to seven seconds. They had to perform one step sequence, either in hold, not-touching, or a combination of both. Both levels had to use a different rhythm for their step sequences than what they chose for their pattern dance; seniors also had to choose a different rhythm than what they had chosen for their PSt. Their chosen pattern could only be diagonal or midline, and retrogressions and hand-in-hand holds with fully extended arms were not allowed. They could use only one stop lasting up to five seconds during their step sequences. Both levels had to perform one set of sequential twizzles. Each partner had to perform two twizzles each, and they could not be in contact between the twizzles. They could perform up to one step between twizzles; pushing and/or transferring their weight while on two feet between twizzles was considered a step.[8]

Ice dance teams lost one point per program for stops (remaining in one place for over 10 seconds at the beginning and/or the end of the program), although they could use two full stops of up to five seconds each or one full stop lasting up to 10 seconds, with no restrictions on the distance of the separation. A non-traveling choreographic spinning movement or dance spin was considered a stop. They could not separate at any point in their program, unless it was to change a hold or to perform an element that required that they separate, and they could not be more than two arms length apart. Transitional elements and change of holds and turns could last longer than one measure of music.[6]


  1. ^ See S&P/ID 2018, p. 133, for the list of pattern dances.


  1. ^ S&P/ID 2018, pp. 9—10
  2. ^ a b S&P/ID 2018, p. 139
  3. ^ "Partnered Ice Dancing Events". Ice Skating Information & Resources. San Diego Figure Skating Communications. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  4. ^ Walker, Elvin (19 September 2018). "New Season New Rules". International Figure Skating. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  5. ^ "ISU passes series of technical reforms for figure skating". Yahoo News. Associated Press. 8 June 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k ISU No. 2239, p. 5
  7. ^ a b S&P/ID 2018, p. 120
  8. ^ a b c d ISU No. 2239, p. 4
  9. ^ "The 2020 Official U.S. Figure Skating Rulebook" (PDF). U.S Figure Skating. July 2019. p. 242. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e S&P/ID 2018, p. 141
  11. ^ S&P/ID 2018, p. 140
  12. ^ "Progression of Highest Score: Ice Dance Rhythm Dance Score". isuresults.com. International Skating Union. 10 December 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  13. ^ S&P/ID 2018, pp. 141—142
  14. ^ ISU No. 2148, p. 1
  15. ^ ISU No. 2148, pp. 2–3
  16. ^ ISU No. 2148, p. 5
  17. ^ ISU No. 2148, pp. 4–5
  18. ^ ISU No. 2239, p. 1
  19. ^ a b ISU No. 2239, p. 3

Works citedEdit