Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder Lift 2 - 2007 Europeans

2008 World champion ice dancers Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder perform a dance lift. Dance lifts differ in many ways from pairs lifts.

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 having different requirements for 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 (music) or Rhythm. Singles and pair skaters more often skate to the Melody and Phrase (music) of their music, rather than its beat; this is severely penalized in ice dance.

In some non-ISU competitions, solo dancers can also compete.

Competition componentsEdit

There are three 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 dancesEdit

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.

DomninaShabalin CP EC2007 1

Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin perform the Golden Waltz compulsory dance.

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 danceEdit

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.

WC2008 OD BelbinAgusto USA 1

Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto perform a folk dance original 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 danceEdit

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 include multiple music cuts and tempos that help bring variety to the routine. 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 elementsEdit


Lifts in ice dancing differ from those in Pair skating in prohibiting the man from extending his hands above his head, but allowing a wider variety of holds. The more change of direction, flexibility, and height in the lift, the greater number of points a team can earn from the judges under the Code of Points scale.

Jumps and spinsEdit

Multi-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 historyEdit

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 United Kingdom 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 (Ravel) 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 resultsEdit


  • Figure skating
  • World Figure Skating Championships
  • European Figure Skating Championships
  • Four Continents Championships
  • United States Figure Skating Championships

External linksEdit

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