figure skating vs ice dancing guide


Ice Skating Dancing
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Ice dancing and figure skating are two of the most popular winter sports that involve performing intricate and elegant routines on ice. Both sports have been included in the Winter Olympics since 1908, and their popularity has only grown over time.
Figure skating is a sport that involves jumps, spins, lifts, and choreographed sequences of steps performed on the ice. This sport requires the skater to perform various technical elements in a specific sequence while also incorporating music into their performance.

Figure skating is divided into several disciplines including singles men’s and women’s events, pair skating where two skaters perform together, and synchronized skating involving a group of skaters performing together as one unit. On the other hand, ice dancing is a form of figure skating that emphasizes ballroom dance moves performed on ice.

It involves intricate footwork set to music within an established rhythm or beat pattern. Unlike pairs or singles figure skating where jumps are essential elements of performance, in ice dancing there are no jumps or lifts allowed in competition.

The focus is more on graceful movement and fluidity throughout the routine rather than technical skills or acrobatics. Ice dancing is also distinguished from other forms of figure skating by its unique requirements for compulsory dance patterns which require skaters to perform specific routines designed by governing bodies like International Skating Union (ISU).

Differences Between Ice Dancing vs Figure Skating

Figure Skating
Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

Ice dancing and figure skating are often conflated by non-skaters, but the two disciplines have significant differences. The most notable difference between ice dancing and figure skating is the set of rules guiding each sport.

While both disciplines compete on the ice, they each have a unique set of movements and styles that make them distinct from one another. In figure skating, skaters are judged based on their ability to perform jumps, spins, and footwork in a free skate program.

On the other hand, ice dancers perform intricate dance routines with lifts, twizzles (fast rotations in unison), and synchronized steps. In figure skating competitions, a pair can lift each other only three times per routine while ice dancers must include lifts in every routine.

Another significant difference is that in figure skating pairs are allowed to do throws and jumps while holding hands or connected to each other via various grips such as overhead holds or wrap holds. In contrast, ice dancing routines must consist primarily of partner work – without separation – with only minor individual elements such as spins or footwork sequences that should not exceed 10 seconds for men’s solo performs.

Overall, while both sports require strength and elegance on the ice they emphasize different skills sets. Figure skating requires more technical movements such as jumps while ice dancing relies heavily on artistic expression with precise choreography and rhythm patterns crucial for success.

Figure Skating History

Figure skating can be traced back to the 19th century when it was first introduced as a form of entertainment for the wealthy. In the 1908 Olympics, figure skating was included as a sport, and since then, it has become one of the most-watched winter sports in the world. The sport involves performing jumps, spins, and footwork while wearing skates.

One of the most significant events in figure skating history was the formation of the International Skating Union (ISU) in 1892. The ISU is responsible for organizing international competitions and creating rules that govern figure skating events worldwide.

This organization has played a critical role in standardizing judging systems that allow athletes to receive fair scores based on their performance. Another important event in figure skating history was the introduction of compulsory figures.
These were specific patterns that skaters had to perform on ice to demonstrate their technical abilities and show their mastery over edges and turns. However, this practice was eventually eliminated from competition due to its repetitive nature and lack of creativity.

Figure skating has come a long way since its early days as an entertainment form for only the wealthy. With its inclusion in major international events such as Winter Olympics and World Championships, it has gained recognition among audiences worldwide as a challenging and beautiful sport that requires tremendous skill and dedication from athletes who participate at all levels.

Ice Dancing History

Ice Dancing History
Peters, Hans / Anefo CC BY-SA 3.0

Ice Dancing is a form of figure skating that has its roots in ballroom dancing. It is one of four disciplines in figure skating and has been a part of the Winter Olympics since 1976. It is also known as Dance on Ice and it involves two skaters performing dance movements on ice to music. It is a discipline that requires precision, timing, and artistry.

The origins of Ice Dancing can be traced back to the early 1900s when it was first performed in Europe. The first international competition took place in Vienna in 1953, where athletes from various countries competed against each other.

During this time, ice dancing was mostly comprised of free skating elements like jumps and spins set to music. However, it wasn’t until the late 1960s that the International Skating Union (ISU) established rules outlining what ice dancing should entail.

The ISU started regulating Ice Dancing as an independent discipline from Figure Skating in 1952. They established stricter rules for judging routines and made compulsory dances mandatory for competitors to perform at international competitions starting at the 1967 World Championships.

In addition to compulsory dances, Ice Dancing also introduced short programs called Original Dances (OD) which allowed skaters more freedom to express themselves through different styles like ballroom or folk dances while still adhering to specific requirements such as timing and tempo changes.

In modern times, ice dancers focus more on storytelling through their movements than merely executing complex technical elements – resulting in stunning performances that leave audiences captivated and mesmerized by their artistry on any rink they skate on all over the world today.


Ice Dancing and Figure Skating are two distinct disciplines that share many similarities, but also have significant differences. While both sports require a high level of skill and athleticism in terms of coordination, balance, and flexibility, the focus of each sport is quite different. Figure skating is primarily focused on individual performance, often with an emphasis on jumps and spins.

In contrast to this, ice dancing emphasizes the artistry of movement and requires more intricate footwork. Despite their differences, both sports represent the beauty and elegance of figure skating as a whole.

Whether it’s the gracefulness of ice dancing or the acrobatics involved in figure skating, each discipline has its own unique charm that can captivate audiences all over the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single skater or a pair working together on the ice – what really matters is how well they can express themselves through their movements.

At the end of the day, figure skating as a whole represents one of humanity’s most impressive technical achievements – it takes an immense amount of talent to be successful in either sport! So whether you’re interested in trying out for your local team or just want to take in some beautiful performances at an upcoming competition, there’s no denying that figure skating is one activity that everyone can appreciate!

If you would like to learn figure skating, you can check out our guide here or our tips on indoor skating if you want to learn in a closed environment.

By kenny