The International Skating Union (ISU) has announced that they are dropping the Compulsory Dance from the Ice Dancing competition. Bad move, but hardly surprising given their history.
Don’t get me wrong–I find the Compulsory Dance just as mind-numbingly boring as all but (perhaps) the most ardent Ice Dancing aficionados. But it served an incredibly important purpose for judging teams: everyone had to do exactly the same dance so they could be compared on their technique. Simple as that. Then you had the Short Dance, where the competitors needed to stick to a theme, and then the Free Skate where the skaters had creative freedom.
So, why drop such an important component to rank various skaters? Because its boring (more to the point: it’s boring television). The athletes find the quest for technical perfection to be onerous. Perhaps most importantly: it doesn’t sell tickets.
The same thing has happened before. “Figure Skating”. At one point, the compulsory figures counted for as much as 60% of the final score. This, admittedly, was way too much for a technical aspect, but it shows that the ability to have mastery of the equipment–the skates–as well as the control to closely shape and retrace figures was considered to be important. Since dropping the figures completely in 1990, I think skating has suffered. Oh, there is more leaping now than ever before…and that’s my gripe. Watching the 2010 Winter Olympics Men’s competition…there wasn’t a lot of anything else other than setting up for jumps (<cough>Plushenko<cough>). The overall mastery of the ice has been lost.
The ISU goofed. They should not have eliminated the Compulsory Dance but instead reinstated the Compulsory Figures to the other disciplines. Instead of flash trumping competence, we could return to virtuosity trumping the merely common.
(Photo: Uwe Langer; Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license)