I don’t think of myself as an ice dance expert. I answered ice dance questions in “Ask the Expert: Deb Chitwood, Ice Dance Mom” at IceMom.net, though. I definitely have put in my time at the rink over the years.
UPDATE: IceMom.net is no longer available. Here’s the interview:
My answers to some questions from Ice Mom are from the perspective of a parent of an ice dancer, Chrissy, and a former pairs skater, Will, who also competed three years in ice dance. Both Chrissy and Will passed their gold dance tests through USFSA. Chrissy is a senior ice dancer for Great Britain, so she passed her tests for senior dance in Great Britain as well.
For a singles skater, what do you think ice dancing adds to a figure skater’s training? Is it something that a singles skater should seriously consider as part of his training?
I’m a real proponent of ice dance for any skater. I think ice dance greatly improves musicality and artistry as well as skating skills such as stroking, edges, turns, and footwork in general. We always used to hear about the Russian pairs skaters training with ice dancers. We were told that’s why they had such exceptional stroking and artistic, flowing style.
To be able to do dance elements such as twizzles well should definitely help singles and pairs skaters improve footwork levels and their component marks in the International Judging System (IJS). Even before the IJS, ice dance was also helpful for singles and pairs. Charlie White scored high presentation marks and was a very successful singles skater when he competed in both singles and dance. My son, Will, competed in dance for Chrissy, but he also felt that dance helped his pairs a lot. My husband and I both noticed that Chrissy and Will looked more artistic as a pairs team during the two years they trained in both pairs and dance and competed in both at Junior Nationals.
What kind of skills do you need to be successful in ice dancing?
I think skaters should just go for it and see what happens. Skaters will develop so many skills by training in ice dance that I would hate to guess how successful a skater will be. I’ve seen skaters you’d never expect to do well in ice dance be very successful.
They sell ice dance blades and boots. Do parents really need to buy different boots and blades for their skater who takes ice dance?
Dance boots and blades are very helpful for competitive ice dancers. It’s especially difficult for skaters to get down in their knees enough with freestyle boots. That said, my daughter never had a pair of dance boots and blades until she stopped competing in pairs at age 12. Chrissy competed in juvenile and intermediate dance at Junior Nationals with freestyle skates. Maybe she would have been more competitive in ice dance those years with dance skates, but we couldn’t afford two pairs of skates when her feet were still growing. Dance training will be helpful in either freestyle or dance skates.
Do the test dances correspond to a certain level of moves in the field?
There isn’t a moves-in-the-field requirement for compulsory dance tests but there is for free dance tests.
How hard is it to find a partner?
I wish I could say it’s easy, but it is difficult to find a good match in a partner. Especially when skaters are growing, it’s hard to know how tall they’ll be. Chrissy definitely had difficulty finding the right match when she went through a sudden growth spurt. Chrissy was lucky to get along well with each of her partners, but there are so many factors to consider that’s it’s usually not easy to find a good match. And there are always more female than male dancers, although at the upper levels it may be as difficult for males to find the perfect match as females.
Even though Chrissy’s been very lucky, she was without a partner for one season while she waited to find her perfect match. Then she and Mark Hanretty found each other through their coaches. I think http://www.icepartnersearch.com/ is probably the best online resource for skaters looking for partners, although coach referrals are often even better.
What kind of off-ice training complements ice dancing?
Almost all forms of dance are helpful. Ballet and ballroom are probably the most helpful, but jazz, modern, and hip-hop dance can help as well. Pilates, cardio, and strength training are also very helpful. It’s amazing how strong ice dancers are. A lot of core strength is needed for the elements in free dance.
Does ice dancing help a skater get onto a college synchro team?
I think training in ice dance and taking dance tests is essential for that. I’ve heard about synchro teams requiring gold dance tests for skaters on their high-level teams.
What’s the benefit of ice dancing from a synchronized skating point of view?
Synchro requires speed, good footwork, unison, artistry, and musicality. Ice dancing should be helpful for each of those areas.