Ice Dancing 101 | W Network

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Ice Dancing 101

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W Staff

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December 11, 2013

Never heard of a toepick? Think a twizzle is an accessory for your fruity vacation cocktail? If you want to impress your friends with some newfound ice dancing knowledge, here are some fun facts to help you follow Tessa and Scott throughout this competitive season. 

So how long has ice dancing been around, anyway?

Ice dancing was popular in late nineteenth-century Europe but it wasn’t until 1935 that Canada first oversaw national competitions in the sport. In 1952, ice dance couples competed internationally for the first time at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. Surprisingly, the sport wasn’t included in the Olympic Winter Games until 1976.

Who were our Canadian ice dancing stars before Tessa and Scott?

Canada has had no shortage of ice dancing stars. In the 1990s, 10-time Canadian Ice Dance Champions Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz dominated the sport. Known for their revolutionary “hydroblading” (gliding on a deep edge with their bodies nearly parallel to the ice), the three-time Olympians were inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame in 2007. 

Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall won bronze medals at the 1988 Olympic Games – the first Canadians to win an Olympic medal for ice dancing. (Tessa and Scott later became the first North Americans to win gold in ice dancing at the 2010 Olympic Games.)

For future Canadian stars, keep your eyes on Canadian up-and-comers Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje,Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier and Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam.

Ice Dancing vs. Pair Skating: What’s the difference?

The most obvious way to tell you’re watching pair skating is that you’ll see a female skater jump or be thrown into the air by her partner. Ice dancers perform lifts but they are not lifted over the partner’s head, and are never thrown.

In ice dancing, part of the short program must be set to a specific rhythm; whereas pair skating can use any choice of music.

If you find yourself singing along to a performance, you can be sure that it’s an ice dance. Ice dancers have more leeway with music and can incorporate songs with lyrics into their performances; pair skaters are limited to instrumental music.

What on earth are twizzles, slip steps and mohawks?

Nobody ever said ice dance terminology was straightforward. All three terms describe specific techniques and movements in the sport. Every year, the International Skating Union (ISU) sets out specific rules and required elements to be included within each competitive routine - for example: music and rhythm requirements, clothing guidelines, number of dance lifts and sequential twizzles, spins, and footwork patterns.

Who are Tessa and Scott’s main competitors?

Can you imagine sharing an arena and coach with your fiercest competition? That’s exactly what Tessa and Scott do with current U.S. and 2013 World Champions Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Other teams to watch out for, who are currently in the top 10 in the world, include Russian powerhouse couples Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev and Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, as well as France’s Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat, Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte and of course Canada’s Weaver and Poje. 

What are Tessa and Scott’s major achievements?

The short answer: too many to list on one page! (Can you imagine their trophy walls?) Some of their titles and highlights include:

  • Two-time World Champions (2010, 2012)
  • Olympic Gold Medalists (2010) – they were the first North Americans and the youngest ice dancing team in history to win
  • Five-time Canadian National Champions (2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
  • World Junior Champions (2006) – first Canadian ice dancers to win!

Figure skates vs. hockey skates

If you’ve ever watched a hockey player try to traverse the ice in figure skates only to fall flat, you’ll know that hockey and figure skates are not interchangeable. The biggest difference is the absence of toe picks on hockey blades, which allow figure skaters to jump and spin. Hockey blades are also shorter and lighter than figure skating blades, which allow players to stop quickly and help with speed. Unfortunately for figure skater’s pockets, their skates are generally more expensive than hockey skates.

Where do Tessa and Scott train?

Although they try to spend as much time in their hometowns as possible (London and Ilderton, respectively), Tessa and Scott train a short distance from Windsor in Canton, Michigan with coach Marina Zoueva.

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Tessa Virtue
Scott Moir
Tessa and Scott