I’m starting to think that Ice Dancing is like the dressage of figure skating. Sure, there’s no horses in ice dancing (or I hope not) but I think there are many similarities in the two sports (ice dancing/dressage) within the two disciplines (skating/equestrian).

Here’s why

  • Most ice dancers start out in another discipline – single figure skating and/or possibly pairs. Likewise, most dressage riders start or have at least dabbled in jumping (I suppose it is possible to switch from Western but it seems less common – that would be more like someone switching from speed skating or hockey to ice dance…).
  • Ice dancing does not have jumps or throws (says wiki), side-by-side spins (says wiki) or overhead lifts  which are some of the most dangerous movements in pair skating (falls, getting whacked with a spinning blade etc). Likewise, dressage does not have jumping, galloping or other riskier movements (sharp turns/sudden stops) or the falls that come with it. (It still has the odd buck/bolt when things go wrong…maybe even jumping the tiny dressage ring fence…)
  • For these reason, ice dancing and dressage are often aren’t quite as immediately impressive (that WOW! factor) as the pairs/singles or jumping/eventing counterparts.
  • Although likely considered “safer” (or less spectacular spills), both ice dancing and dressage are VERY technical, precise  and accurate – or at least, more so than the other disciplines (it is hard to understand what exactly is going on!).
  • Due to the technicality, it can be hard to understand what on earth you’re watching as a speculator!
  • Apparently there are pattern dances that ice dancers must do and likewise, there are schooling figures and other elements and moves that dressage riders must do
  • Thus some skaters don’t like ice dancing and some riders don’t like dressage for reasons mentioned and find it “boring”
  • Both are semi-regularly picked on by people in the other disciplines “it’s what we do in warm-up” type of thing – both for fun and seriously to a degree (although maybe dressage is more respected by jumpers and eventers than ice dance is to singles and pairs…)
  • But at the highest level (especially for the dressage musical freestyle/kur since the other ones are a set test without music), the performance is spectacular to even the average viewer…
  • A good partner is important (human or horse)
  • They are both judged sports. (I believe they are both judged quantitatively per element now but I know little about ice dancing judging and I’ve never competed in dressage).  Whether or not it means it is inherently unfair it’s quite another story….
  • As a spectator, it’s very hard to do “armchair judging”….
  • General public wonders WHY it’s an Olympic sport! (For what it’s worth, I think equestrian vaulting should be an Olympic sport. I mean it’s like gymnastics with lifts/holds ON a horse!)

I also think dressage tests (especially lower levels) can be similar to the now historical compulsory/schooling figures of figure skating in some ways (boring to watch lol!).

Since both ice dancing and dressage are not that well known, it doesn’t really help to compare them when explaining the sports though….well, I guess ice dancing is better known in Canada but we do all sorts of things on the ice…

Disclaimer: Although I dabble in dressage (anything more is currently a cost issue) and ice skate recreationally, I have actually never tried ice dancing (my idea of ice skating is going to a public skate, turn off my mind/daydream and skate forwards around the rink for 2 hours,). I cannot really say I’m even close to being a “real” dressage rider either.  Highest level move I’ve attempted is a half-pass on a old stiff horse that didn’t really have a dressage background  (so we really weren’t getting the flexion) and I can’t really get horses on the bit with any consistency.

Closest to ice dance/figure skate I have ever  done is some 3 turns and maybe a mowhawk. Whoopee do. And I’m not sure if I can still do it (I haven’t had to guts to try lately!). Also: tripping on my toe pick. Apparently the toe pick is for jumps and maybe for some steps but all I’ve ever used it for is to trip. Many times. Way too many times. Besides, I have lost my ability to stop on ice skates….I can slow down though… All I can really do is forwards, backwards and crossovers (probably crappy crossovers at that too)…oh and slow down.