Ice Dancing

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Partnered Ice Dancing Events

International Competitive Dance Structure
       There have been three different competitive ice dancing events that a couple (man and woman) could enter - Compulsory Dances, Original Dance, and Free Dancing. 

       The International Olympic Committee was determined to completely eliminate the compulsory so that the ice dancing competition would consist of two segments, like the other three skating disciplines. To their amazement, many in the international ice dancing community were opposed to completely eliminating the compulsory dances. The feeling was that the set patterns of the compulsory dances provided an essential  comparison of the dances technical skills, A compromise was reached that created the short dance.

      The ISU approved changing the structure of international dancing in 2011. In the 2011–2012 season "Short Dance" and a "Free Dance" replaced the three event compulsory dance, original dance, and free dance structure.

      The concept of performing compulsory dances (pattern dance) and original dance were combined. The short dance requires a set rhythm with choreographic freedom within the constraints of required elements. In addition to skating two patterns of a required set pattern dance, dancers also must include a step sequence, a set of twizzles, and a lift.

Senior Level
Season Required pattern dance Rhythms
2010–2011 Golden Waltz One or two of: Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, or Tango
2011–2012 Rhumba One to three of: Cha Cha, Rhumba, Samba, Mambo, Merengue
2012–2013 Yankee Polka Polka, March, Waltz
2013–2014 Finnstep

Junior Level
Season Required pattern dance Rhythms
2010–2011 Viennese Waltz Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, or Tango
2011–2012 Cha Cha Congelado Cha Cha or Cha Cha + one of Rhumba, Samba, Mambo, Merengue
2012–2013 Blues Blues, Swing

       Competitors are allowed to choose their own music for the short dance provided it is the required rhythm/theme.

       Required elements of the short dance include:
  • short lift
  • not touching circular step sequence (senior); not touching midline step sequence (junior)
  • one set of sequential twizzles
        One transitional dance lift (up to 6 seconds) and a dance spin were permitted as part of choreography but not required. The ISU stated: "The concept and choreography must produce the feeling of a unified dance." Dancers were allowed a maximum of two full stops, not exceeding 5 seconds each, or one full stop, not exceeding 10 seconds. A separation may not be more than two arms length apart

Traditional Ice Dancing will be continued in the USA as non qualified dance events.   
        Ice dancing was built on a foundation of different aspects of ballroom dance that was infused into the medium of ice skating. There is an emphasis on rhythm, interpretation of the music, and precise steps. Ice dancing as a discipline is rooted in its limitless creativity, choreography, its theatrical and innovative aspects, and as skating skills encompassing edging, position, and power.

        Ice dancing competitions consist of events of pattern dances only, pattern dances and a free dance, or a short dance and a free dance at different skill levels.  For the junior and senior levels, the short dance replaces the pattern dance and original dance events. The short dance reflects the character of selected dance rhythms or themes and contains required elements including a sequence(s) of a selected pattern dance

        Ice dancing can also be provided as a track in a Basic Skills program.

        Adult and masters test track skaters have ice dancing events for pattern dances and free dance tests. Adult dance competitions have many events for all skill levels - beginning to advanced. The adult competitive events consist of pattern dances only or pattern dances and a free dance, depending on the level.

        Ice dancing has gone through some changes over the past two years. Dance couples provide their own pattern dance music for qualifying competitions. The music, like that for the short dance and free dance, can have vocals. 

        To enter ice dancing events in non qualifying events, each skater of the team must pass the appropriate test for  the level of the event.
       USFS Rules Governing Ice Dancing
      Dance events, scored under the International Judging System, are evaluated for :
  • Technical elements - Grades of Execution
  • Performance components
    • Choreography
    • Interpretation/artistic expression
    • Skating skills
    • Performance and execution
    • Transitions
    • Timing
       Dance Glossary
      A strong background in Moves in the Field (MITF) and basic free skating is highly recommended for anyone wishing to compete in qualifying dance events.

Recommended Reading:

Ice Dancing General Rules and Regulations

Getting Started in Pairs and Ice Dancing   For adult skaters, ice dancing has its own adult and masters test tracks for pattern dance and free dance tests.


      The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
      combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
      associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
      individual sports programs:
Ice Dancing General Rules and Regulations
         Dancing on Ice
         Dance Steps & Turns
         Ice Dance Patterns
Dance Curriculum
         Ice Dance Partnered Events
         Free Dancing
         Competitive Ice Dancing
PDF Strategies for Compulsory Dance Tests
         Free Dance Test Considerations
         Short Dance & Free Dance Events
         Pattern Dance Events   
         Solo Dance Events 
PDF Solo Dance Events
         Solo Dance Competitions

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