When Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the 2010 Vancouver Olympic gold in ice dance, they competed in three phases. The compulsory dance was “Tango Romantica,” followed by the original dance, which was a “folk/ country dance.” In the free dance, music and themes were left up to the skaters – Virtue and Moir chose "Symphony No. 5" by Gustav Mahler, arranged by Ryner Stoetzer.
The original dance was condensed into a new “short dance” the following season, and the compulsory dance was incorporated to the short dance as required pattern dances.
When Virtue and Moir earned silver at the 2014 Games, the short dance was a quickstep in the style of the foxtrot, Charleston, or swing.
This season, for example, the required pattern for all teams is the Rhumba. The rhythms in the short dance this season are the following Latin American rhythms: Cha Cha, Rhumba, Samba, Mambo, Meringue, Salsa, and Bachata.
All the competing teams will aim to capture the look and feel of the Latin rhythm, which could result in many programs feeling like they overlap. The free dance music and themes remain the choice of the ice dancers, so there appears to be more variety for the audience.
Maia Shibutani told NBCOlympics.com that the Latin rhythms should make the short dance “really entertaining.”
Brother and partner Alex said that the direct comparison between executions of pattern dances is good for ice dance, and especially their team.
“Combining the compulsory dance with the original dance to create the short dance gives us more opportunities to show separation between us and other teams, and highlight what we do well,” he said.
2014 Olympic ice dance gold medalist Charlie White explained the condensing of the original and compulsory dances, and how it affected the sport:
“It’s so that there is a direct comparison and also the root to ice dancing remains a part of the sport,” he said. “It’s just like in freestyle, everyone’s doing the same jumps, everyone’s doing the same spins. Everyone’s basically doing the same footwork sequences. You have to put your own little spin on it and that’s where the judging comes in. It’s good for the fans to see side by side comparison, especially in ice dancing because it is so hard to say which team is better if you’re just a general fan. But if you can see one team do it and they have way more speed, they continue the character all the way through every technical element, then you can have a better understanding of what you should be looking for.”
Was the choice to have a short dance and a free dance better for skaters, instead of having to create three programs? White’s partner Meryl Davis weighed in:
“It’s better for training time,” she said. “When we were doing the compulsory dances as a separate entity, we were having to dedicate a separate amount of time and a separate training session to the compulsory dances. So now that it’s integrated into the short dance, I think it allows us to focus more on those two routines and to make them the best we possibly can. So from that perspective, I definitely think it’s an improvement.”