What’s the difference between pairs skating and ice dancing?

What’s the difference between pairs skating and ice dancing?


What’s the difference between pairs skating and ice dancing?

Wang Shiyue (L) and Liu Xinyu of China perform during the figure skating ice dance rhythm dance at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, Feb. 12, 2022.

It is both male and female partners who dance on the ice with a melodious music, but one is called pairs skating and the other ice dancing. The two disciplines may look exactly the same, but people will notice major differences in several elements of each.

How to tell their difference? The easiest way for you is to see the length of the female dancer’s skirt.

Chinese ice dance athlete Wang Shiyue said that in ice dancing, the skaters barely jump, the skirt of the ice dance partner can be longer than the knee.

In fact, the two events in the disciplines have different names. Competition is held in the short and free program in the pairs discipline, while in ice dancing the events are rhythm dance and free dance.

Although both disciplines need to complete the lift action during the competition, the rules of ice dance stipulate that the male partner’s arm cannot be fully extended above his head when lifting his partner.

Another difference is the choice of music. For the rhythm dance, the International Skating Union determines a specific theme for each season. 

For example, the theme is blues and street dance at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Thus, the skaters in the compulsory segment need to show exactly the type of dance that was set for the season. The music for the rhythm dance is chosen by the teams, but it must match the assigned theme, rhythm and tempo.

The difference in pairs skating is that the athletes themselves choose any musical theme for their performances in both programs.

It’s worth mentioning that the number of participants at the Olympics is limited. At the Beijing 2022, only 19 duets  performed  in pairs skating, and 23 in ice dancing.