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Free Dance Guide

The Free Dance is the third and last segment of the Ice Dancing event.  It consists of seven elements and is nominally 4 minutes in duration, but can be up to 10 seconds longer or shorter.  There is a time deduction of 1.0 points for every 5 seconds or part thereof over the maximum or under the minimum.  If a program is more than 30 seconds under minimum the team gets no score and is withdrawn from the competition.  There is also a 2.0 point deduction for any extra elements beyond the seven permitted, with the exception of two optional elements noted below.

There is no prescribed rhythm or theme for the Free Dance and vocal music is permitted.

The seven permitted elements consist of the following:

Lifts (three different, and up to two additional optional lifts) 

Four types of short lifts are permitted: stationary (the skaters are not in motion over the ice); straight line (the lift moves across the ice in a straight line; curve (the lift rotates as it moves across the ice).  Short lifts cannot have a duration longer than six seconds.  Lifts that exceed the six seconds receive a deduction.

One of the three lifts may instead be a long (12 seconds maximum duration) lift.  Long lifts can be either serpentine (multiple bold curves across the ice), reverse rotations (a lift that rotates in one direction and then the opposite direction as it moves across the ice), or a combination lift.  A combination lifts consists of two types of short lifts combined together in a single lift no more than 12 seconds in duration.  For example, a straight line lift followed immediately by a rotating lift is a combination lift.  Most couples will include two short lifts and a combination lift in their program.

Dance lifts differ from Pairs lifts in that the man does not raise the woman over his head with fully extended arms.  In dance the woman cannot be raised above the man's head.  Pairs lifts are categorized by the hold used for the takeoff of the lift, while in Dance they are categorized by the pattern on the ice.

Dance lifts can have fairly complex positions with the lady draped over the man's body, legs, etc. in various intricate designs. Look for twisting, complex entries of the lady into and out of the lift to add difficulty to the lift.  As in pairs, look for a secure lift of the woman by the man, and pay attention to his feet to see that he move securely and cleanly across the ice with steady feet.  Changes in position in the air  should be neat and under control.

Watch the exit from the lift  to see that is is clean and under control.  When the woman is retuned to the ice, both skaters should flow out of the lift smoothly. and immediately into connecting steps as they continue the program.

The couples are permitted up to additional two optional lifts, but these lifts are not score as elements.  If executed, and usually at least one is, they are listed on the marks detail as Li+Trans, with a value of zero.  Credit for these lifts is included in the mark for transitions (Linking Movements and Footwork).  These lifts are not considered extra elements.  A third  optional lift, however, would receive the deduction for an extra element.

Step Sequence (two in dance hold)

This element is a step sequence with the two skaters hold onto each other in dance hold.  Most commonly these will be in waltz, foxtrot or kilian position.  Of these the waltz position is the most difficult since it requires one skater to state forwards and the other backwards.  Both these sequences must be executed in a dance hold, unlike the Original Dance where one step sequence is executed with the skaters not touching.

For the two sequences one must be chosen from a midline or diagonal pattern, meaning a straight line sequence that travels the length of the ice from end to end parallel to the long dimension of the rink, or from corner to corner diagonally.  The second sequence must be have a circular, s-shaped or serpentine pattern.

Both skaters will not execute the same steps, edges and movements in these step sequences.   The couples should skate close together, and can separate only briefly to change dance hold.  The closer the skaters a can skate together without bumping and pushing each other the more credit the sequence deserves.

Look for clean steps and edge, good positions under control, and a smooth flow through the element.  This element is scored using the principle of least common denominator; that is; the quality of the element is determined by the skater who displays the lesser skill.  Pay attention to which skater has the more difficult turns and steps.  Ideally the two skaters should have turns and steps of equal difficulty and contribute equally to the sequence.  If the skaters have unequal difficulty and quality of execution, the skater with lesser difficulty determines the difficulty of the sequence, and the skater of lesser quality determines the quality of the sequence.

This is a good element for evaluating the skating skills of the skaters, so pay attention to the difficulty of the steps and edges, the ability of the skaters to skate on all edges, and to turn clockwise or counter clockwise as they move across the ice.  This element is also a good element to develop the Interpretation component of the program, so pay attention to how the step sequence actually relates to the music and how it fits into the overall choreography of the program.

Dance Spin (one with or without change of foot, and one optional)

This element is now basically a pair spin.  In the past the spin had to be executed in a dance hold.  Currently, howver, a dance hold is not required and the couples executed the same spins as pair teams.  In dance, however, a change of foot is optional and not required as it is in Pairs.  Changing foot, increases the value of the spin, and the top teams will usually change feet when executing this element.  

In this spin, the two skaters hold onto each other while they are spinning.  The two skaters do not have to be in the same positions at the same time, band typically are not.

Look for a clean and controlled entry and exit, speed of the spin and strong position during the spin.  Watch for a clean change of foot at the same time from both skaters.  Count the rotations.  The team must execute at least three rotations in a spin without a change of foot, and three rotations on a spin with a change of foot.

The couples are permitted one additional optional spin, but this spin is not scored as an element.  If executed it is listed on the marks detail as Sp+Trans, with a value of zero.  Credit for this spin is included in the mark for transitions (Linking Movements and Footwork).  This optional spin is not considered an extra element.  A second optional spin, however, would receive the deduction for an extra element.  Most couples do not include the optional spin, and instead include one or both optional lifts.

Synchronized Twizzles

A twizzle is a type of turn that looks like a traveling spin.  It is executed on one foot and rotates several times as the skater moves across the ice.  Synchronized refers to the requirement that the skaters must do this element in unison.  Skaters who do not have facility with this turn might execute traveling three turns instead.  This is not correct and a serious error.

Skilled skaters will execute this element with high speed and arm and body positions that add to the difficulty.  Look for clean edges and precise control without the skaters throwing up snow, scrapping edges, wobbling the free leg, or worst of all, putting down the free foot.  The best skaters will execute these in a blur of speed, while lesser teams will struggle trough on the verge of disaster.

The skaters may include additional twizzles in the step sequences and/or connecting steps between the elements.  These additional twizzles are not marked as elements, but are considered part of the program's transitions and choreography. 

Copyright 2010 by George S. Rossano