How to ice dance

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figure skating, sport in which ice skaters, singly or in pairs, perform freestyle movements of jumps, spins, lifts, and footwork in a graceful manner. Its name derives from the patterns (or figures) skaters make on the ice, an element that was a major part of the sport until recently. There are various kinds of figure skating, including freestyle, pairs, ice dance, and synchronized team skating. The style of competition, as well as the moves and techniques of the skaters, varies for each category of skating. Figure skating has become one of the most popular sports of the Winter Olympics.


Pioneers of the sport

A Treatise on Skating (1772) by Robert Jones, an Englishman, is apparently the first account of figure skating. The sport had a cramped and formal style until American Jackson Haines introduced his free and expressive techniques based on dance movement in the mid-1860s. Although popular in Europe, Haines’s style (called the International style) did not catch on in the United States until long after he had died at the age of 35.

In the early 20th century, Americans Irving Brokaw and George H. Browne helped formalize the style created by Haines by demonstrating it to American audiences. Brokaw, the first American to represent the country at international competitions, participated in the 1908 Olympics, where he finished sixth. Browne, who organized the first U.S. championships in 1914 for men, women, and pairs, wrote two important books on skating and was involved in the establishment of a national skating organization.

Canadian Louis Rubenstein, a former student of Jackson Haines, was also instrumental in the development of figure skating. He led the effort to formalize competitions and tests by establishing governing bodies for skating in the United States and Canada. He helped organize the Amateur Skating Association of Canada (now called Skate Canada) and the National Amateur Skating Association of the United States. The latter organization and the International Skating Union of America (founded in 1914), which had American and Canadian members, were the predecessors of the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA), founded in 1921. Established with only seven skating clubs across the nation, by the 21st century it oversaw more than 400 clubs with some 100,000 members.

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The International Skating Union (ISU), founded in the Netherlands in 1892, was created to oversee skating internationally. It sanctions speed skating as well as figure skating and sponsors the world championships held annually since 1896. With more than 50 member nations, the ISU establishes rules about the conduct of skating and skating competitions.

Also notable for their important contributions to the sport of figure skating are Axel Paulsen, Ulrich Salchow, and Alois Lutz. Each man created a jump that is now named after him. Paulsen, a Norwegian equally expert in figure and speed skating, introduced his jump in Vienna in 1882 at what is generally regarded as the first international championship. The “axel” was later perfected by Swedish figure skater Gillis Grafström. Salchow of Sweden first performed his trademark jump (the “salchow”) in competition in 1909. In London in 1908 he also won the first Olympic gold medal given for figure skating. Lutz, an Austrian, invented his jump (the “lutz”) in 1913.

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While the English diarist Samuel Pepys claimed to have danced on the ice during London’s hard winter of 1662, modern ice dancing most likely developed out of the Vienna Skating Club’s adaptation of the waltz in the 1880s. The sport grew rapidly in popularity during and after the 1930s. Although the first U.S. national championship for ice dancing was held in 1914, it did not become an Olympic sport until 1976.

20th-century champions

Figure skating currently contains more female than male participants, but this has not always been the case. At the first world championships, held in St. Petersburg in 1896, only a men’s event was skated. Pairs were not introduced until 1908 and ice dancing not until 1952. The first woman to participate in a world championship event, Madge Syers of Great Britain, did so in 1902. Because the rules did not specify the sex of participants, Syers entered the world championships held in London, and she finished second only to Salchow, who offered her his gold medal because he thought she should have won the event. The next year the ISU rules were changed to specify that women could not enter the event, but a separate women’s category, which Syers won for the first two years, was finally created three years later.

Twenty-one years later Sonja Henie emerged as the first major female skating star. She reigned as world champion from 1927 to 1936 and parlayed her fame into a Hollywood career. Winning her first world title at the age of 14, she was the youngest champion until Tara Lipinski won the world championship in 1997 at an age two months younger than Henie. Lipinski also dethroned Henie as the youngest female Olympic champion by winning the gold medal in 1998 when she was 15. Canadian Barbara Ann Scott, the first non-European to win a world championship, became a professional skater, as did both Henie and Lipinski, after she won an Olympic gold medal in 1948.

Dick Button was the first great American male star of the 20th century. Now regarded as the “voice of figure skating,” he won five world titles (from 1948 through 1952) and two Olympic gold medals (1948 and 1952) along with seven U. S. national championships (from 1947 through 1953). Button also completed a double axel at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the first skater to land such a jump in competition. While Button’s success paved the way for the emergence of more multirevolution jumps in figure skating, other male skaters developed different aspects of the sport. Karl Schäfer, for example, introduced new elements into spinning by creating a “blur spin,” or scratch spin, where the skater rapidly spins on one foot in an upright position.

The U.S. figure-skating community was devastated in 1961 by a plane crash that killed the entire U.S. team. The team was on its way to Prague for the world championships when the plane crashed on approach to Brussels. The championships were canceled. Although the United States had lost such potential world champions as Laurence Owen, American skating returned to world prominence in 1966 when Peggy Fleming, renowned for her elegance and grace, won the women’s world title in Davos, Switzerland, and an Olympic gold medal two years later in Grenoble, France. Fleming followed in the footsteps of such great American Olympic champions as Tenley Albright (1956) and Carol Heiss (1960). Janet Lynn, an Olympic bronze medalist in 1972 in Sapporo, Japan, and Dorothy Hamill, an Olympic gold medalist in 1976 at Innsbruck, Austria, were also part of the ascension of women’s skating in the United States. New coaches who went to the United States included Carlo Fassi, an Italian singles champion in the 1940s and ’50s. He coached Americans Fleming and Hamill as well as British Olympic champions John Curry and Robin Cousins.

Katarina Witt of East Germany, dominating women’s singles in a manner that had not been seen since Henie, won Olympic gold medals at both the 1984 (Sarajevo, Yugoslavia) and 1988 (Calgary, Alberta) Winter Games. American Scott Hamilton (see Sidebar: Scott Hamilton: Training for Olympic Gold) won four world championships (1981–84) as well as an Olympic gold medal in 1984. Earlier, American brothers Hayes and David Jenkins had won successive Olympic gold medals at the 1956 and 1960 Games. Brian Boitano continued the American Olympic dominance by winning the gold medal in 1988.

While the United States continued to produce singles champions, the Soviet Union was the master of pairs. French pairs skaters Andrée and Pierre Brunet won Olympic gold medals in both 1928 and 1932, but the dominance of the Soviet Union became apparent in the 1960s and lasted into the 21st century. Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov won Olympic gold medals at the 1964 (Innsbruck) and 1968 (Grenoble) Games. Irina Rodnina won three Olympic gold medals (from 1972 through 1980) with two different partners, Aleksey Ulanov and Aleksandr Zaytsev. This dominance continued into the 1980s when Yelena Valova and Oleg Vassilyev won the gold in 1984 (Sarajevo). Yekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov won the gold twice (1988 and 1994), as did Artur Dmitriyev (1992 and 1998) with two different partners, Natalya Mishkutenok and Oksana Kazakova. The 2002 Olympic gold medal was shared by two pairs because of a judging controversy—Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia and Jamie Salé and David Pelletier of Canada.

Ice dancing was introduced as an Olympic event in 1976, and Soviet teams dominated the sport. Teams from that country won an Olympic gold medal in 1976 (Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov), 1980 (Natalia Linichuk and Gennady Karponosov), 1988 (Natalia Bestemianova and Andrey Bukin), 1992 (Marina Klimova and Sergey Ponomarenko), and 1994 and 1998 (Oksana Grichuk and Yevgeny Platov). However, Great Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean took the gold in 1984, and Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France placed first in 2002, winning France’s first gold medal in figure skating since 1932.

Theories vary on the reason for the dominance of the former Soviet Union. One school of thought says the political and cultural forces in the country emphasized group accomplishments over individual achievement. The cultural emphasis on dance and ballet may also have been a factor, as well as the inclination of pairs and dance teams to stay together, since athletes were rewarded handsomely under the Soviet regime. Furthermore, the top singles coaches resided not in Russia but in western Europe and the United States. With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, many Russian coaches and their skaters moved to the United States to take advantage of its superior training facilities. European and American pairs and dance teams benefited from Russian coaching, and the gap between Russia and the rest of the world began to close. At the same time, the Russians began to produce better singles skaters, partially because of access to American facilities and coaching and partially because they used different training techniques, which set them apart. Russians began to dominate men’s figure skating in 1992 when Viktor Petrenko won the Olympic gold medal. In 1994 Aleksey Urmanov won the Olympic gold medal, while Ilya Kulik won it in 1998 and Aleksey Yagudin in 2002.

How Is Ice Dance Scored? Look For Twizzles & Spin Combinations

Winter Olympics

Make sure to spot the twizzles!

By Daffany Chan


The 2022 Winter Olympics kicked off Feb. 4, and the figure skating competition is well underway. With so many different types of skating in the sport, it can be difficult to understand what’s going on during the competitions. Of course, ice dancing falls under the category of figure skating, but it has some key differences, including more ballroom dance-like moves while on ice. If you’re wondering how ice dancing is scored, here’s a look at the judging process.

ICYDK, ice dancing and figure skating may appear similar, but there are a few differences that distinguish the two. After all, figure skating has more of an emphasis on jumps, lifts, and spins, while ice dancing is more similar to ballroom dancing on ice. Ice dancers are expected to be no more than two arms’ lengths apart, and the routine should include the following key moves: twizzle (a complex moving turn on one foot), a pattern dance, lift, spin, step sequence, and myriad choreographic elements.

Since they’re more focused on dancing, ice dancers also use different music than figure skating — typically a tune with a steady beat or rhythm to accompany their dance moves. Given the differences between the two sports, ice dancers are judged more on grace rather than technicality (though it’s also taken into account).

Like figure skating, ice dancing is scored using the ISU Judging System, which combines both the technical element score (TES) and the program component score (PCS) to determine a final score. The TES is based on how technical elements — such as jumps and spins — are executed as well as their difficulty, while the PCS is focused on artistry, including presentation and interpretation (such as how well the choreography and music go together).

In ice dance, the short (rhythm) program runs between 2 minutes and 50 seconds and 3 minutes, and the long (free) program lasts between 3 minutes and 50 seconds to 4 minutes and 10 seconds. The scores from the rhythm dance and free dance are added together to determine overall placement.

According to the official Beijing 2022 Olympics website, competitors in an ice dance team event advance to the finals based on the “progression rule,” which states that the “top five teams at the end of the qualification phase qualify to the final.” That means only the five teams with the highest qualification routine scores will be able to compete in the final round for an Olympic medal.

To give you a picture of how the progression rule works, the top five ice dance teams in the rhythm dance category to advance to finals on Feb. 4 during the Beijing 2022 Olympics — United States, Russian Olympic Committee, Italy, Canada, and China — had scores ranging from 74.66 to 86.56. The Feb. 7 free dance results of the top five pairs — United States, Russian Olympic Committee, Canada, China, and Japan — had scores ranging from 98.66 to 129.07.

DeFodi Images/DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Now that you’re brushed up on the basics of ice dancing, you can look out for twizzles and more during the 2022 Winter Olympics.

How to watch ice dancing to understand everything

January 28, 2016 14:44

How to watch ice dance so you understand everything

How to watch ice dance so you understand everything and coach Alexander Zhulin help to understand the only type of figure skating where there are no jumps.

What technical elements are evaluated in ice dancing?

Dancers have a much more modest set of technical elements than sports couples. Jumping and throwing are prohibited. The basic program regulations include step sequences, rotations, twizzles (synchronous rotations of partners on one leg with a change of legs, as well as edges of the skate - and lifts. Each element has 4 difficulty levels: the higher the level, the more the element costs. But, of course, the score also depends on the quality of execution - the arbitrators can add up to three points to the basic cost of the element if it is executed perfectly, or subtract the same amount - in case of errors. For an ordinary spectator who has never been involved in figure skating, it is difficult to determine the level of an element at a glance. But it will be useful to know what the judges pay attention to. For example, rotation: the more turns (minimum 3) in various complex variations (leg in hand, split, deviation, etc.) with a change of position (standing, sitting or camel, when the body is parallel to the ice), the more points. In support, its duration, the complexity of the positions of both partners, as well as the difficult and interesting entry and exit from the element are evaluated.

“The most difficult and important elements in dance are step sequences and twizzles,” explains Olympic ice dance medalist and now coach Alexander Zhulin. – Tracks are the most highly valued component. If you make it to the 4th level, you can get 10-11 points. This is a lot. It’s a huge difference right away, because the second-level track will bring only 5-6 points.”

Thus, the winners of the 2015 World Cup, the French couple Gabriela Papadakis / Guillaume Sizeron (pictured), scored 51. 17 points in the sum of two programs for these two elements, that is, almost 60% of the final score for technique.

How to spot errors in dancing couples?

Figure skaters rarely fall. They have no jumps, no throws, they are prohibited from any acrobatic elements and dangerous lifts in which the partner is above the head of the partner. However, the dancers skate at such a speed (the judges appreciate it very much) that falls can happen out of the blue. For example, at the 2015 Grand Prix in Moscow, Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin lost 8.5 points in the short program because their partner stumbled and fell on twizzles. Such errors are obvious to both judges and ordinary spectators. But it is quite difficult to notice the incorrect setting of the rib, support on two legs or underrotation in a twizzle. “Only a professional can see all the details,” Alexander Zhulin agrees. Even I can't see sometimes. It seems to me that everything is clean, and then the experts look at the slow replay and see that this element is not executed perfectly. It is important that the commentator during the broadcast on each pair, or at least on the first three, explains the technical features of the performance of the elements. So if you decide to watch dances, listen carefully to Tatyana Tarasova on Match TV - she says a lot of interesting things in the reports.

Do the judges evaluate the music and costumes of the dancing couples?

“The choice of music and costumes is a very important component for dancing,” says Alexander Zhulin. “The victory of 20 percent depends on this.” However, the rules limit the imagination of skaters and coaches. So, in the short program, a certain topic is chosen for each season - this way it is easier for judges to evaluate the technique of athletes who, according to the pattern of a given dance, must perform several mandatory elements and keep the rhythm. The dance motif of this season is the Ravensburg Waltz, one of the fastest (approximately 198 beats per minute) musical themes. But this does not mean that all duets roll the same waltzes (although earlier, when there was a compulsory dance, it almost was). Now the choice of melody is up to the skaters - for example, this season Ilinykh / Zhiganshin “waltzed” under Freddie Mercury, and the Canadian couple Weaver / After – under Elvis Presley.

There are no restrictions in the free program. You can dance the love story of Karenina and Vronsky - like Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Solovyov, or you can talk about the fate of the artist Frida Kahlo - like Elena Ilyinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin (pictured). But here it is important that both the spectators and the judges correctly understand the idea of ​​the athletes. Then in the protocol lines "performance", "interpretation" and "choreography" will be high scores. “In dancing, they look at everything,” explains Alexander Zhulin. - If the judge is hooked on your story, your plot, he will evaluate it in the "interpretation". Separate mark - for the choreography. For the way the program was staged: musically, choreographically, what interesting moves, solutions were invented.” And, by the way, in this part of the assessment, the opinions of arbitrators and ordinary viewers often coincide. “If you enjoy the program, if you understand it,” says Zhulin. “You see that all the accents are precisely placed, everything hits, as if you are just listening to music and the dance does not distract you at all, but, on the contrary, helps to reveal this music – that means it is musical.”

What does "good skating" mean?

Skating, or skating, is a very important element in dancing and a separate line is evaluated in the components - Skating Skills. Leaders usually get 8.5-9.3 points out of 10 for it. When the slide is light, soft, smooth and at the same time fast and confident, this is the highest class. The viewer should get the impression that the skaters are not making any effort to move on the ice. So, for example, the 2010 Olympic champions from Canada, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, skated. “If the slide is silent, soft, the work of the knee is excellent, the judges reflect this in the scores,” agrees Zhulin. “And the viewer sees it too: if you don’t take your eyes off the skating, then the possession of the skate is perfect.”

Text : Igor Osipov

Photo :; Andrey Golovanov and Sergey Kivrin

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Pattern, twizzles and supports. Explaining how to watch ice dancing

October 3, 2019, 09:45


Winter Olympic sports

Figure skating can rightfully be considered a veteran of the Winter Olympics. For the first time, competitions in this sport were held at the 1908 Games in London and were represented by men's, women's and doubles competitions. The appearance of ice dancing in the Olympic program had to wait 68 years.

It won't take long to find the reasons for such a delay. Unlike dancers, with single skaters and greenhouses everything is very clear. Even if you don’t know the names of all the elements, you can always distinguish a high-quality rental from an unsuccessful one at least by the presence or absence of falls, and the “like / dislike” factor works secondarily here. And the viewer was more willing to watch pair and single skating, and dancing ... And how does it all work there?

See also

The technical revolution. What did the leading Russian figure skaters show at the test skates

Actually, this question is still relevant for many today. For the 1976 Olympics, the International Skating Union (ISU) had already outlined the technical rules, and ice dancing officially became an Olympic discipline. The first ever Olympic gold in this form was won by Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov, and until 2006, only twice the highest award was given to non-domestic athletes - at the Olympics-1984 Britons Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean became the first, and at the 2002 Games the French Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat celebrated the victory.

However, already at the 2010 Games, the situation has changed. And largely due to the fact that Russian coaches began to move to the West to work with local skaters, which led to increased competition overseas. The clearest examples of this are Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva, who actually began the history of American and Canadian ice dancing. It was they who led the American duo Meryl Davis / Charlie White to the gold of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi (by that time Zueva was their head coach, the skaters stopped working with Shpilband a few years earlier). In addition, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, now the most titled figure skaters in the history of this discipline, have been training in their group for a long time.

Read also

Golden time. Figure skater Trusova started at the adult level with two world records

Today, the power in ice dancing belongs to four-time world champions and five-time European champions Gabriele Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron of France. Russian duets are also very strong, but so far they have not managed to break into the lead. The main weapons of the Russian team in the fight against the French are Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin even managed to get around Papadakis and Sizeron in the fight for gold at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Milan.

Are they jumping there?

No. Ice dancing is the only discipline in figure skating that is almost completely devoid of jumping elements. For jumping more than one revolution, athletes will receive a penalty. Yes, and one-turn jumps should not be carried away, because this will destroy the structure of the program and will not allow judges to evaluate the skill of owning a skate.

As in other disciplines, dance duets perform short and free skate, but they are called differently - rhythm dance and free dance. The first one should be given special attention. Due to the fact that ice dancing is technically difficult to evaluate, ISU, in order to make it easier for the judges, each season sets a certain musical theme for the rhythm dance, establishes a central dance motif and a set of rhythms in which this same dance should be performed. Thus, skaters in the short skate need to perform a set of elements and at the same time in one mandatory segment of the program (the so-called pattern) demonstrate exactly the type of dance that was given by ISU. The musical leitmotif of the new season is musicals or operettas, the main dance is a playful and extremely fast finstep.

What do they do in these dances then?

During the rhythm dance, the skaters must perform the following elements.


This is one series of parallel rotations on one leg in motion. In single skating, for example, twizzles are part of the step sequence and have no value, but in ice dancing it is one of the two most expensive elements. By the way, it is on twizzles that dancers most often make mistakes visible to the naked eye. So, at the European Championships - 2019in Minsk, Katsalapov and Sinitsina made a fall on this element in the short run and remained outside the top three.

All elements, with the exception of choreographic ones, in figure skating have a difficulty level from basic to the highest - the fourth. Depending on the level set by the technical specialist, the element receives a fixed base value, after which nine judges give points for the quality of its performance (the so-called GOE) in the range from "-5" to "+5", which then serve as a coefficient when calculating the final allowances to the "base" or deductions from it. One worst and one best estimate is immediately excluded from the protocol, then the remaining seven numbers - GOE coefficients are converted into specific points in accordance with the basic cost of the element according to the ISU table, summed up and divided by seven. The number obtained as a result of division and rounded to the nearest hundredth will be the final score on the GOE scale.

So, for successfully executed twizzles (on the fourth level and with good GOE allowances) you can get about 10 points.


The element includes the pattern dance itself (finstep for the current season) and the pattern dance track, in which each step must be performed in accordance with the ISU requirements for a particular season. Tracking the quality of the performance of the pattern is difficult not only for the audience, but also for the athletes themselves. It is not uncommon for skaters to literally freeze in amazement when announcing their marks - after all, everything seems to have been performed correctly, and the scores leave much to be desired. However, then it turned out that the technical team found small errors and lowered the levels.


There are not too many requirements here. The main thing is not to get too carried away in time (up to seven seconds are allotted for an element) and that the partner should not be completely above the partner’s head. When placing a GOE, the judges look at the beauty of the position and the original approaches to the element.

Step sequence

This is where the dancers get the highest score. Skaters who demonstrate silent, smooth gliding with so-called "deep ribs" on skates and a variety of steps can earn 12 points or more for this element.

In free dance, unlike rhythmic dance, there are no restrictions in the choice of music. As a consequence, there is no pattern section. Otherwise, the free program does not differ very much from the rhythm dance in terms of the set of elements. Unless, instead of one support, you need to perform three and two tracks instead of one.


In addition, skaters need to add one spin in free skate.

Choreographic element

As well as three different choreographic elements. Their notable feature is that the GOE premiums here almost always exceed the base cost, which is only 1.10 points.

They say ice dancing is a very subjective thing. This is true?

Yes and no. In fact, the assertion that duets who have waited "for their turn" win in ice dancing is not without meaning. But it can also be justified logically.

Ice dancing can hardly be considered a technical discipline. The quality of skating and good coordination are all the specific features of this type that affect the elements performed. At the same time, other qualities that are almost impossible to learn come to the fore.

Read also

"Our pair skating is now in its prime." Coach Vasiliev on the results of pre-season rentals

The feeling of a partner, the artistry and the flatness of the couple affect the overall impression of the judges from the rental, which is then reflected both in GOE bonuses and in the second rating scale - components. Presentation of the program, composition, interpretation - on these points the best duets in the world consistently receive the highest scores, up to the maximum (10). An important factor in evaluating the components of the programs are the skill of skating and the variety of connecting elements. And here, of course, experience also determines a lot.

Telling a story while performing and looking like one on the ice is a challenge for those who have recently paired up.

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