Getting Started in Ice Dancing and Pairs Skating

Written By: Riedell | August 30, 2012

Although ice dancing and pairs skating may seem similar, the two figure skating disciplines are actually very different. Whether you’re a skater or a spectator, here’s a quick look at some key differences. And if you want to try it yourself, here are some tips for getting started.

Ice Dancing
Ice dancing has its roots in ballroom dancing. The emphasis in ice dancing is on rhythm, interpretation of the music, precise steps and intricacy of footwork. Ice dancers also spend most of their time on the ice in physical contact with one another, only separating for short periods of time to change position. When competing, judges look at how closely the pair skate together, the complexity of edges and turns, the speed with which they move across the ice and whether they skate in unison and in time with the music. Ice dance is extremely technical due the neatness of footwork and precise timing needed.

Essential Skills (recommended by USFSA):

  • Ability to communicate and work well with others
  • Musical/Ability to recognize and skate to a beat
  • Good skating skills (edges, turns, stroking, twizzles, etc.)

Pairs Skating
The basic elements of pairs skating are the same as those for singles skaters—jumps, spins, spiral sequences and footwork. While ice dancing can be practiced and performed by solo skaters, pairs requires a male and female team. But because two skaters perform as a team, the essence of pairs skating is exact timing and unison. This can be done by shadow skating (each partner performs exactly the same moves side by side) and mirror skating (one skater’s moves are mirrored by the other). A key difference of pairs is characterized by throw jumps and overhead lifts. Lifts also occur in ice dancing, but are not as high.

Essential Skills:

  • Ability to communicate and work well with others
  • Good singles skater
  • Good skating skills (edges, turns, stroking, jumping, etc.)

Both disciplines require strong basic figure skating skills. Although ice dancing does not involve jumping, it is just as fun and challenging as pairs skating. Skaters should choose the figure skating discipline that they enjoy most and that suits their athletic ability.

No matter how different these disciplines are, both are extremely fun to participate in and watch! Do you skate pairs or ice dance? Or have a favorite routine you’ve seen on TV? Share with us!