ISU adds more creativity, new compulsory

Next season, dancers will show rhythms from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold in dance at Canadian Nationals.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold in dance at Canadian Nationals. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(05/05/2008) - Hot on the heels of its revised scale of values for single and pair skating elements, the International Skating Union (ISU) has issued Communication #1496, featuring ice dance requirements for the 2008 - 09 season.

Skaters will have a wealth of choices for their original dance, which must feature one or two rhythms from the 1920s, '30s or '40s. Within this broad category, dances from the Charleston and Shag to Lindy Hop and Swing are fair game; only the tango is off limits. Unlike the past season's country/folk dance, orchestrations do not have to be original, although they must reflect the style of the period.

"There are a lot of options," world silver medalist Tessa Virtue said.

"We're trying to tackle a couple of different dance rhythms," her partner, Scott Moir, added. "We're not quite sure what direction we're going to take. We're trying on pretty much all of the moves, including the Charleston and Lindy Hop, to see which ones fit us. Then, we'll work on program ideas."

The communication also serves up a few rule changes, including:

Heeding calls for more creative freedom of expression, ice dancers can now execute lifts in both the original and free dances that will not be assigned levels. In the OD, of two lifts, the second will receive grades of execution from the judges according to how well it fits the character of the dance.

In the free, in addition to four different lifts that will receive levels, one lift of up to six seconds will be permitted, without requirements for levels.

In the OD, sequential twizzles are not permitted in the midline not-touching step sequence.

In addition, for the first time in more than five years, the ISU has added a new compulsory dance, the Finnstep, to the CD rotation along with the Viennese waltz and Paso Doble. The dance may be selected for competition at the 2009 ISU Four Continents, Europeans or World Championships.

The Finnstep was adapted from the quickstep OD competed by Finnish champions Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko to a catchy tune from the soundtrack of the 1970 film, Borsalino. They performed it in winning the 1995 European dance title.

"We've never seen it, but we've heard it's more like an OD [than a compulsory]," Moir said. "I think it's a good direction to take. Skating has changed in the past few years so its good compulsories are changing as well."

When the Finnstep was presented at the 2007 European Championships in Warsaw, Rahkamo and Kokko were on hand to explain the dance's important features.

"When you think of this dance, I'd like you to think of sparkling champagne and crystal clarity," Kokko told the assembled press. "The steps themselves aren't very difficult, but the timing is crucial. It's hard to do it properly. For example, the footwork is fast and precise, but all the movement is coming from the knees while the upper body remains stiff. The holds have to be strictly maintained throughout the entire dance . . . its very ballroom."

As Kokko wished, the ISU guidelines for ice dance judges specify that the dance should have "a happy, joyful presentation" and be "as fun to watch as it is to dance."

Rahkamo and Kokko, who are married with two children, have both gone on to successful business careers. Rahkamo is a change management consultant and president of the Finnish Skating Federation; Kokko is the country manager for Google Finland and Sweden.