“It’s not for everyone,” Meryl Davis conceded.
Davis — along with partner Charlie White — is an Olympic champion in ice dancing, a type of figure skating that sometimes gets a bum rap.
Unlike other figure skating disciplines, ice dance doesn’t involve jumps so it may seem kind of boring in comparison to the triple Axels and quad Salchows of freestyle. But, as the 2014 champs explain, it’s really not. Here’s why:
Ice dancing tells a story
Unlike freestyle skating, ice dancing focuses on the artistry and theater of the sport — and every program tells a story.
“Pairs is skating is a lot more technical — they focus a lot more on the tricks and jumps and have a lot less emphasis on the skating and the storyline of the program,” White said.
“Dance is a lot more comparable to ballroom dance.”
As dancing-based shows are growing in popularity, the basic idea — the combination of artistry and athleticism — that underpins ice dancing is getting more airtime.
“I think ice dance is culturally relevant right now, with shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’”
It’s actually pretty dangerous
It doesn’t involve jumps, but the lifts that ice dance requires can be just as dangerous.
“Skating in close proximity with another person and having to do lifts can be quite dangerous,” he said. That means that even the best of skaters can get hurt — with blade slices, concussions and more.
“Of course we’ve had our fair share of tumbles and cuts along the way,” he said. “We’ve definitely skated over each other and cut each other.”
Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform in “Paul Mitchell Shall We Dance on Ice.”
The lifts are really cool
The rules governing ice dance lifts have evolved quite a bit over the past decade — and at the same time, the lifts have become harder.
“Physically the lifts are becoming increasingly difficult over the last eight years,” White said. “Almost every top team will work with acrobats.”
There are intense rivalries
As in any competitive discipline, part of the thrill is the race for the top and rivalries it creates. In recent years, one of the big rivalries was between Davis and White and a Canadian team, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
“We had a pretty good rivalry with them,” White said. “They won the Olympics in 2010 and we came back and beat them in 2014 and in the years in between it was back and forth.”
White said that sort of rivalry is good for the sport as a whole. “It got a lot of people invested when it really came down to the wire in 2014.”
It’s becoming more popular
As a whole, skating gets less attention now than it did in the 90s, in the aftermath of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan drama. According to Davis and White, though, ice dancing’s popularity is on the rise.
“Ice dance has been getting more and more popular over the last few Olympic cycles and it’s now one of the premiere skating events,” Davis said.
Although Davis and White won the Olympics, they’re still deeply involved in the sport. On Saturday, they’ll be appearing in the Colgate Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular that airs on ABC at 3 p.m.
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