Figure skating 101 - Dec. 28

Pair and dance spins

Example of a dance spin.
Example of a dance spin. (Jo Ann Schneider Farris)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(12/28/2007) - Both pair skaters and ice dancers do spins together around a common axis. These spins are not the same as the side by side solo spins that are also done in pair skating where the man and lady perform spins individually and simultaneously. When a pair team or a dance team does a pair or dance spin, the spin is done as a unit and as a team. Two spins become one. Figure skaters can be very creative when they do these spins together.

There are many creative dance and pair spins. It is common to see the man spinning in a sit or upright position, while the lady spins with the body arched and with the free leg extended back. The lady might try to touch her free skate's blade to her head or the lady may lay back. Sometimes, both skaters spin with bodies held horizontally together in the same direction or do spins where the free legs point in opposite directions, but the skaters face one another.

A pair or dance team might also not stay in one position for the entire spin's duration and may execute the first part of the spin with the bodies in one position and then change to a different position for the second part of the spin. When the team changes positions during a pair or dance spin, the team does what is called a combination pair spin.

At the higher competitive levels, the teams will change feet while spinning and push from one spin right into another. Both skaters must make pair or dance spins work, but the man must generate much speed and control to keep the spin rotating. More credit may be given if the skaters are able to do certain body positions while spinning together. The number of revolutions that the positions are held while spinning can also affect the team's score.

Skaters wishing to do pair or dance spins should work on individual spinning techniques before attempting to spin together as a unit. Once you feel confident spinning by yourself, find someone to spin with.

To try a simple pair or dance spin, you and your partner should first pump around a common axis. Face in opposite directions and stretch out the arms. Next, the two of you should glide on one foot around a common axis with each of your free legs slightly extended back. As you gain confidence, stretch the bodies into a horizontal spiral (arabesque) position. Try to hold that extended position as long as possible. After doing that simple spin, begin to experiment and try different spins in various positions.

Spinning with a partner can be fun!

For more information on the fundamentals of figure skating visit the U.S. Figure Skating's Basic Skills Program