Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pairs vs. Ice Dancing

During the Olympics this past weekend, I saw a commercial that referred to "pairs ice dancing."

No. This is not a thing.

You see, there is pairs. Then there is ice dance. They are not the same. In fact, the only thing they have in common is they require a man and a woman to skate together.

I sputtered at the TV for a moment, and then decided to write a blog post about the differences between pairs and ice dance. It occurred to me that not everyone is all up in the skating like I am, and this might be helpful to normal people who have lives and stuff. ;) are the differences:

Pairs lift.
Used under a Creative Commons license;
attributed to David W. Carmichael
PAIRS: Inspired by singles skating.
ICE DANCE: Inspired by ballroom dance.

PAIRS: Has side-by-side jumps, throw jumps, pairs spins, side-by-side spins, death spirals, and throw twists. It operates on the WOW factor.
ICE DANCE: Has dance steps, dance spins, and focuses on rhythm, closeness between the skaters, expression, edge quality and one-footed skating, posture and toe point. It operates on the DRAMA or ROMANCE factor.

PAIRS: The lifts are often (but not always) done overhead, as if the woman is flying.
ICE DANCE: Overhead lifts are not allowed. As a result, the lifts are often innovative and insanely difficult-looking.
Dance lift.
Used under a Creative Commons license;
attributed to David W. Carmichael.

PAIRS: The partners do many elements separately, but in unison.
ICE DANCE: The partners rarely separate from dance hold.

PAIRS: The ladies wear traditional skating dresses.
ICE DANCE: The ladies often wear slightly longer dresses.

PAIRS: The skaters usually have prior (and sometimes concurrent) singles skating careers, and start pairs later. (Note: This may be more common in the US than in other countries.)
ICE DANCE: The partners often start training dance together from a young age.

PAIRS: Program music must be instrumental, like in singles.
ICE DANCE: Program music may have vocals, if the skaters choose.

This is a very basic overview, and I'm sure I haven't nailed all of the differences. But now if you see a couple skating, you should be able to determine whether they're doing dance or pairs.


  1. interesting, was just talking this weekend with my friend about what the differences were and we had NO idea! love watching skating, wish I could do it!

    1. Yay, glad this was helpful! You could skate -- there are several adults in the learn-to-skate classes I teach. Just sayin'... :)

  2. I LOVE ice dancing! It's just so beautiful! And I love how much it looks like ballroom dance :)