Friday, August 5, 2011

Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships

The prestigious Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships has long been considered an important pre-season competition for high-level competitive ice dancers. Well known National and Olympic contenders such as Natalie Buck and Trent-Nelson Bond (Australia), Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA), and Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier (Canada) have competed at the championships over the years.

Ice Dancing is a discipline of skating that resembles ballroom dancing on ice. Unlike it’s more acrobatic and singles-skating based cousin pairs skating, ice dance requires the participants to interpret different rhythms and styles of dance, all while executing difficult lifts, spins, and footwork sequences.

Starting in 2002, all the disciplines of skating became more difficult and technical; the International Judging System debuted after the pairs judging scandal in the 2002 Olympics. The International Skating Union decided that the figure skating judging system needed an update; what resulted was a more complex, point-based system. Each element has a set point value, and can gain “upgrades” depending on how well or how poorly the element was executed. The entire judging system is difficult to fully explain, but the result is that figure skating has been propelled into a new age of increased technicality. Ice Dancing was no exception.

New to Ice Dance this year was the addition of a short dance. Previously, ice-dancing competition consisted of three segments: a compulsory dance, an original dance, and a free dance.

The Compulsory dance was the most technical part of competition. Couples skated a set pattern of steps to a set rhythm of music. The skaters were judged on how well they executed the timing, character, and steps of the dance. Compulsories were considered in much the same way the now-extinct figures were; an important technical training tool that helped ice dancers with technique and basic skills of dance.

The Original Dance was a segment in which couples were given a specific rhythm (or set of rhythms) and theme to interpret each season. For example, one season it might be a Waltz; the next it could be a Tango. Skaters were given the freedom to choose their own music within the rhythm and their own choreography. However, there were more rules to adhere to, and close skating and partnering positions were important.

Finally, the Free Dance allows the most creativity of the skaters. They are allowed to choose their own music, choreography, and program themes. Although the skaters have been required to insert certain elements in the free dance since 1998, (step sequences, dance spins, lifts, and spin-like turns called twizzles), they are still allowed a certain degree of freedom. Some skaters aim for more traditional free dances (waltzes, tangoes, etc) while others push the envelope and incorporate such themes as “Star Trek” and “Riverdance” into the segment.

Incorporated after the 2009-2010 season, the short dance aims to combine elements of the compulsory dance and original dance into one segment. Other figure skating disciplines only have two segments, which was one of the considerations put forth to the ISU, and led them to eliminate the compulsory and original dance from competition and insert the short dance instead.

The short dance requires couples to adhere to a pattern (like the compulsory dance) but they must skate to a designated rhythm and perform specific elements.

This year marked the first time the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships include the short dance in competition; the Championships draw International and National skaters.

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Christie Sausa

Christie Sausa of Lake Placid is a member of the historic figure and speed skating culture in the Olympic Village, and writes about those sports for the Lake Placid News and on Lake Placid Skater which she founded in 2007.

Christie holds degrees in Communications and Sports and Events Management and when not on the ice herself, or writing about what happens there, you can find her helping her mom with their local business, the Lake Placid Skate Shop.

Christie is a also a member of the Skating Club of Lake Placid and the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club.




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