The Difference Between Ice Dancing and Pair Skating

Ice dancers Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia

Tim Bradbury / Staff / Getty Images

Ice dancing and pair skating look similar to ice skating fans, but the two figure skating disciplines are very different.

Ice dancing, at one time, resembled ballroom dancing on the ice but has become more and more athletic. In pair skating, the man lifts the lady above his head and the pair does difficult acrobatic moves. Spins are done together in both disciplines, but in pair skating difficult solo jumps and spins are also done in unison.

Ice Dancing Can Be Done Alone

Ice dancers do intricate footwork sequences to music and must skate to a certain beat. Ice dancing can be practiced and performed by solo skaters, but pair skating requires a team of both a man and a lady.

Pattern Ice Dances

There are several pattern ice dances, which include set patterns and set steps, that figure skaters can learn and master. Pattern ice dances can be done with or without a partner.

Ice dancing can look easier than single or pair skating, but actually, can be more difficult. For that reason, some ice skaters don't like ice dancing.

Free Dance - The Fun Part of Ice Dancing

It takes quite a bit of preparation to be able to do free dance, which is what most young skaters interested in ice dancing want to do. Figure skaters must first learn some ice dance basics and master and pass pattern dance tests.

Free dance is the most entertaining part of ice dancing. The skaters choose their own rhythms, program themes, and music. Creativity is encouraged. Certain elements are required that include step sequences, dance lifts, dance spins, and multi-rotation turns called twizzles. Several hand holds and positions are expected.

Most ice dancers enjoy doing free dance. Figure skating fans also enjoy watching free dancing since it is very interesting and beautiful to watch. Free dance and pair skating can look similar to ice skating fans.

Similarities Between Pairs and Single Skating

Pair skating is a variation of single skating. Two skaters, a man, and a woman, or a boy and a girl, skate together. The jumps, spins, and footwork that are part of free skating occur in pair skating, and the two skaters do lifts as well as additional pair spins and throw jumps.


The music used in free dancing at competitions can include vocal arrangements. In pair skating, only instrumental music is allowed in competition, but that will change in 2015.

Adults Like Ice Dancing

Doing pattern ice dances does not require jumping or spinning, so ice dancing is popular among adult figure skaters. Social ice dancing and ice dance weekends are popular activities among adult ice dancers.

Ice Dancers and Pair Skaters Are Excellent Skaters

Some pair skaters also do ice dancing, and some ice dancers also do pairs. In the past, skaters who did not like to jump chose ice dancing, but in recent years that is changed. Both disciplines require strong skating and athletic skills.