Today, the only ice dancing spectators see is the ice dancing on television which is very different than social ice dancing.
This article explains social ice dancing and social ice dance sessions.
Social Ice Dancing Looks Like Social Ballroom Dancing:Social ice dancing is very similar to social ballroom dancing. Men traditionally ask women to dance, but in this modern era, women also ask men to dance on social ice dance sessions. Everyone who wants to do a dance lines up at each end of the rink.
Couples and Soloists:
One thing that might appear odd to a new observer of a social ice dance session is to see some people soloing dances. Those skating with a partner always have the right of way. Solo skaters must let all couples begin a dance first and stay out of the way of those skating together.
Social Ice Dance Music:
Different pieces of music are played on the rink's loudspeakers. Many times, a live or recorded announcement will be made before each dance that sounds like this: "The next dance will be the __________ dance."
Some people enjoy making "Program Social Dance" CDs or tapes. These pre-made CDs or tapes are great since a voice announces each dance. The music is usually cut short enough that the skaters can dance for the entire song without getting tired.
Various Levels of Difficulty:
Usually, the level of difficulty of the dances vary. An easy ice dance may be followed by an intermediate level dance, another easy dance may follow, and then a more difficult dance may be played. Some ice dance sessions may only play low level dances, while other dance sessions will play all levels of ice dances.
Social Ice Dance Session Guidelines:
Some social ice dance sessions require that all skaters do the dance that is being played. Skaters not doing the dance at a session with such a rule, are required to leave the ice.
Other social dance sessions have less strict guidelines. Private lessons may be allowed and skaters can practice certain steps that don't relate to the dance being played as long as they stay out of the way of the dancers that are doing the dance that is being played on the ice rink's loudspeakers.
Length of Social Ice Dance Sessions:Social ice dance sessions usually run for about an hour and a half. Some sessions are longer and some are shorter. Sometimes a session will run for forty-five minutes and then there will be a break for the ice to be cleaned by the Zamboni. Then, the ice dancers will skate for another forty five minutes.
Social Ice Dancing in the Past:Some of the larger cities, like Los Angeles, once had opportunities for social ice dancing every night of the week. On Monday night, skaters would skate at Iceland in Paramount; on Tuesday and Wednesday nights the same skaters would skate together at the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club in Burbank and on Thursday evening they'd all be skating in Anaheim! Then, on Friday, they'd be skating in La Habra. On Saturday evenings the skaters would be skating in Santa Monica or West Covina. It wasn't unusual for skaters to ice dance on Sunday morning in Anaheim and then be at the Sunday evening dance session in Burbank!
Sadly, only one social ice dance session exists in the Los Angeles area today. The San Francisco Bay Area has one regular social ice dance session a week. The "good old days of social ice dancing" are becoming a memory.
Many cities no longer have any true social ice dance sessions. Many rinks do have ice time set aside for ice dancing, but the skaters use those sessions to work on certain steps, take private lessons, or to do free dance programs. Very little socializing goes on at those dance sessions.
Reasons Social Ice Dancing is Fading:There are various reasons that social ice dancing is fading. One is that fewer men are doing figure skating. Many men that took up ice dancing as adults are now playing hockey instead. Another reason is that younger skaters don't ice dance today to socialize. They take up ice dancing so that they can compete in the glamourous Olympic sport they see on television. Many ice dance coaches don't encourage social ice dancing. Figure skaters of today are not being exposed to social ice dancing.
Ice Dance Weekends:
Skaters from all over the United States and Canada gather in different cities in the United States for Social Ice Dance Weekends. These ice dance weekends are like reunions for many. People travel great distances to attend social ice dance weekends. The weekend may include three of four social dance sessions, on-ice workshops, and dining and dancing off the ice. Many ice dancers today do all their social ice dancing at Ice Dance Weekends.
How to Enjoy a Social Ice Dance Session:
To enjoy social ice dance sessions, it is important for skaters to know the steps to as many dances as possible. Even if the skater feels he or she can't skate the dance correctly each time, it is encouraged on social ice dance sessions to at least give a challenging dance a try. By trying, a skater gets a chance to do a dance with a partner and will gain something from that experience.
The participants at most social ice dance sessions are adults, but children and teens can also have a great experience on social ice dance sessions.
Competitive ice dancers are welcome on social ice dance sessions, but they should not use social ice dance sessions to practice free dance programs. Social ice dance sessions are about doing compulsory ice dances. Freestyle is not permitted during social ice dance sessions.
Skaters with competitive partners are encouraged to dance with many different skaters during a social ice dance session and to not use the session just for practice and training.
Social Ice Dance Attire:At one time, ladies were required to dress up for social ice dance sessions. Skating dresses were required. Today, it is okay for ladies to skate in pants, but it is unusual. Most ladies will feel much more comfortable wearing a skating ice dance dress or dance attire with a long wrapped skirt. Men should not wear jeans, but no longer need to dress up for ice dance sessions.
Do not wear mittens or wrist guards on ice dance sessions. It is difficult for a partner to hold a skater properly with anything bulky on the hands. Gloves and a nice sweater are recommended.