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Ice dancing

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Ice dancing is often described as ballroom dancing on ice.

Unlike in pairs skating, the emphasis is less on spectacular jumps and lifts and more on how gracefully the skaters make their way around the ice.

The skaters are in contact almost all the time, and they are marked on how well they move to the music and the quality of the steps they execute.

Figure skating has been on the official Olympic programme since 1924, but ice dancing was only introduced at the Innsbruck Games in 1976.

Competitors skate three programmes:

What is ice dancing?

The compulsory dance requires all skaters to perform the same routine, with a series of specific steps done in a set way. This accounts for 20% of the total score.

The original dance gives all skaters a set rhythm, like the tango, but they can create their own routine. The programme has a time limit of two minutes and counts for 30% of the total score.

The free dance is the finale to the competition, and it accounts for half the total score.


Ice temperature affects skating speed - the colder the ice, the slower the skates will run

It allows them to give free rein to their skills as they select the music and moves, using changes of position, holds, small lifts and fancy footwork to earn marks.

The time limit for the routine is four minutes, and the marks from the three programmes are all added together to obtain a final total.

Turin will see the Olympic debut of a new system designed to eliminate the risk of biased judging.

In the past, judges gave one mark for technical merit and one for artistic impression, with 6.0 the maximum that could be awarded in each case.

Under the new, more complicated system, there is now a technical score and a score for 'programme components'.

Technical score

Each jump, spin, lift or step sequence is given a 'base value' before the competition begins. A triple axel, for example, is worth 7.5.

It is the job of a 'technical specialist' to decide during a skater's routine which move has been executed - whether it is a double or a triple axel, for example. Two assistants are on hand to correct any errors.

As that happens, the nine judges - drawn randomly from a panel of 12 - each decide how well the element has been executed.

They use a scale ranging from -3 to +3. The highest and lowest of these nine marks are taken away, and the average of the remaining marks taken.

This average is then added to the 'base value' to obtain a mark for each element, which goes towards the final score.

Program components

The old artistic impression mark has been replaced by a set of five judging criteria, each with a scoring scale ranging from 0.25 to a maximum of 10.

Skating skills - reflects the general quality of skating and the balance between the skills of the two partners.

Transitions - covers how well the skater has executed the steps which link each element.

Performance/execution - assesses style, posture and changes in speed. For pairs and ice dancing, it covers the balance between the performance of the two partners and the distance between them.

Choreography - marks how well the movements, steps and music work together as a whole.

Interpretation/timing - reflects how well the skater works in time with the music. For pairs it is the unison, and for dance the relationship between the two partners in interpreting and skating in time with the music.

In the compulsory programme for ice dance, where all competitors must do the same routine, Transitions and Choreography are replaced by a Timing category, which judges how well they have skated in time with the music.

Apart from the skates, all that is required in ice dancing is a costume - but choosing the right outfit is a complicated business.

Costumes must complement the music and moves for maximum dramatic effect, and they are custom made at great expense.

The more eye-catching, the better.

Women must wear a skirt and their clothing "must not give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for an athletic sport".

Men must wear full-length trousers and their costume may not be sleeveless.

BBC sports

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