Ice Dance: A long way to recognition

Ice Dance in 1930s

By Olga Fluegge

It is assumed that ice dance have been introduced in Austria between 1870 and 1880 by a famous American skater, Jackson Haines. At that time Vienna was the capital of music, dance and figure skating.

The “Wiener Eislaufverein” had a large ice rink, where Haines was invited to perform. His presentation included Waltz, Mazurka and Quadrille. A special highlight of this performance was given by the presence of His Majesty the Emperor of Austria Francis Joseph I.

In the 1920s, the first informal competitions in ice dancing were held in North America and Great Britain. After the World War I, ballroom dancing experienced a significant change. Some old dances disappeared and new ones, like Foxtrot, Blues, Charleston, and Quickstep, were presented. Normally, skaters were excited about these new trends, because there were just a few old dancing styles.

In the 1930s, thanks to the growing popularity of ballroom dancing in Great Britain, live orchestras were sometimes playing during public sessions at indoor rinks. Several rinks supported ice balls and a number of ice dance competitions that were hosted to promote the development of new dances like Viennese Waltz, Westminster Waltz and Paso Doble.

The number of artificial ice rinks has grown strongly, favoring the exploration of interest in ice dancing. In 1932 the Tango was introduced as a new compulsory dance by Paul Kreckow and Trudy Harris. After the World War II, Latin rhythms like Samba, Cha-Cha-Cha and Jive have arrived to ice dancing scenes.

Ice Dance sketches of 1941

Ice Dance sketches of 1941

In 1941 the “Skating” magazine published several articles with description of pattern dances, trying to select musical recordings that would be most suitable for the ice dancing. Unfortunately, the ice dance was a “stepchild” for the ISU for a very long time. Various attempts to take ice dance competition into the ISU program were failed until 1950.

In the early 1950s the ISU developed rules and international tests for ice dance and organized unofficial competitions. In 1952, the ice dance, consisting of compulsory dances and free dances, became an official event at the ISU championships. Nine couples from the Great Britain, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and the United States competed at World Championships same year.

The compulsory dances, drown by lot, included the Rocker Foxtrot, Westminster, Quickstep and the Argentine Tango. Later, each couple was required to perform a free dance for the duration of three minutes.

Photo: Skating magazine, 1941.

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