Ice Dance: Why Everyone Should Learn It

The first thing anyone asks me when I tell them I skate is “Can you jump?”, right next to “Can I watch you on TV?!”, but people don’t really get when I tell them I ice dance. The prestige that singles skating receives isn’t undeserved though; can you blame them? It’s amazing to watch people launch themselves in the air at breathtaking speeds, doing many revolutions and landing somehow on one foot. I know firsthand how insane the crowd can be at a live free skate event! But why is ice dance so less popular? These athletes are the superheroes of one foot step sequences.

Something is amiss in the singles skating world that’s getting more recognition since the changes to IJS for the 2018-2019 season. Yes, it’s skating skills. People have been upping the ante in jumps a lot lately, and while the penalty for falling on a quad jump can cost someone the gold (or the podium altogether), the reward still felt worth it to many in the first season with the revisions.

But artistry and flawless skating skills got Jason Brown, a skater with not a lot of quads in his programs, second to Nathan Chen in the short twice this season! And there’s no questioning it: Nathan Chen has definitely done ice dance before.

If you ever thought that ice dance is boring or that it’s not worth the extra money, let me tell you why even a month or two of working with a dance coach is incredibly worth your time as a figure skater.

You’ll skate faster without trying

Have you seen the bend and press exercise by Coach Hamish? While it is something you learn in the beginning and hone here and there through your levels, it’s almost impossible to avoid proper stroking technique in ice dance. It’s not only the bread and butter of skating, but it’s the only things keeping progressives smooth runs across the ice. The more you practice ice dance skills, the more it’ll transfer over into your normal skating no matter what discipline you choose.

Ice dance is low-impact

Most patterns don’t even have jumps, and solo free dance only allows half jumps, so the only thing you’ll have to worry about is skating on one foot at a time. Easy peasy (kinda)! This makes figure skating accessible to more people who may have a slew of body issues but still want to glide around. That’s not to say your body won’t ache, as I leave every session with sore knees from all the bending and the occasional fall on a rushed turn.

Even if you trip, you’ll almost never fall off the ice

Speaking of falling, I trip a lot, and I blame it on city sidewalks and suburban hills. This actually might be applicable to skating in general, but trying to save a fall despite sharp edges on top of a slippery surface makes falls on the ground laughable. There’s so much friction on concrete and even hard wood flooring that I’ve saved enough falls just from muscle memory. I may have traumatized my body so much that it just thinks I’m always on ice.

Say goodbye to flutz! Ice dance and edge control

You get really good at edge control in both directions, inside and outside when you do ice dance. Have you ever watched a televised ice dance event and when they’re waiting for the judges to finish their calculations, they show all the closeups of the skaters’ feet and talk about depth of edge. I can guarantee you that every elite skater with a strong lutz has done ice dance at least up to silver dances. Of course, ice dance alone isn’t going to fix your lutz, but if you’re having issues finding that backward outside edge, you might just need a little dance in your life.

You’ll be more competitive and a level-headed performer

Difficult entires, fancy step sequences, and some confidence are real score boosters regardless of if you’re in a 6.0 or IJS competition event. Ice dance patterns not only require you to add precision to your movement, but you have to stay on beat and show the proper expression going into that outside mohawk-chasse! Challenging your mind to keep calm under the pressures of ice dance can help you perform when it counts.

Ice dance is fun!

Some people may say ice dance isn’t their cup of tea, but it’s a good stress reducer while still being on the ice! Sometimes I’ll just run through an old pattern just to get my head in a good space for the stuff I have to work on. There are also social ice dance events where people of all levels can dance partnered or solo, doing patterns to modern music you won’t find in your rink’s designated test CD collection. It’s a great way to make new friends, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll be competitive in it!

To be fair, I’m incredibly biased in all of this, but if you ever needed someone to convince you to try ice dance, this is your sign!

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