Partner ice dance figure skating is a wholesome form of exercise for the mind and the body, and is very learnable by adults, with a sustained effort.
Figure skating is commonly seen as a sport full of jumps and spins, for preteen girls, that only a few with extraordinary talent pursue beyond their teens. And the initial push and enthusiasm end for all of them, except for those competing for the Olympics, or those who become professional coaches.
However, here I am presenting a totally different perspective: it is also an excellent sport for adults, especially for men, and especially once you reach a level where you can start skating with a partner, and when you can make it become for you ice dance figure skating.
I’m 48 years old and over the last 2 Saturdays, I passed my first 8 tests in figure skating.
On the one hand, it went really well, I passed 5 of the 8 tests with honors.
On the other hand, it’s not easy to go through the process of being evaluated as an adult.
These tests were the culmination of considerable sustained efforts, and I’m proud and happy of my accomplishment.
Here, I want to suggest to you that it’s never too late to get started in figure skating.
Recently, a video of a very flexible 87 year old fellow, André Cyr, was brought to my attention. (Note that clicking the link will take you to YouTube, and you will need to return to your browser to keep reading my article).
You can see him perform a “backward Y” figure, which requires a great deal of hip flexibility. Yet, you’ll hear that he got started with figure skating when he retired, in his sixties.
From this perspective, I have at least a 20 years lead over him, and I can contemplate another 40 years of happy skating.
I also recommend watching the inspiring story of a 90 year old figure skater.
Why figure skating?
It is a unique sport where you can learn to do amazing things.
It has a very long and progressive learning curve:
As a complete beginner putting on a pair of skates, you can move on the ice rink while supporting yourself with a metal structure in the shape of a goalpost, that you push around.
Afterwards, the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can learn and push yourself to try, limited only by the laws of physics, and sometimes you can get that awesome feeling that you are close to breaking these laws.
As a physicist, I have an awe about moving at good speeds in three-dimensional space while experiencing strange rotational forces: this is one of the central appeals of the sport.
Another appeal is that it uses your whole mind and body, and you have to maintain a powerful consciousness at every moment.
It requires a lot of precision, control and technique, good breathing and great posture.
Each time that after much previous effort, you learn to do a new figure or dance, you feel a great sense of accomplishment, that builds your confidence.
My Story (Continued)
It was a tortuous road that led me to where I am.
I was really bad in sports at school, nearly the last of my class.
I had poor coordination, I was small, weak, asocial and I was easily bullied, so I particularly hated team sports.
I learned some basic skating in my hockey classes, and my father was pushing me out of the house at times to go practice some hockey or some skating on the nearby outdoors ice rink.
I knew how to do a hockey stop, but I didn’t learn how to skate backwards, which is a very basic skill for hockey.
In my 20s, I discovered that physical exercise was good for me:
It produces endorphins and makes you feel good, which was a rare way for me to feel good at all in those years.
I experimented with many sports but I was easily disappointed with how bad I was, so it was difficult for me to persist.
I found out I had talent for running, so that became my main form of exercise.
Ice Skating in London
When I was 35, I had a Russian girlfriend who introduced me to figure skating.
I thought she was really good, but in retrospect she was just a beginner.
That was just right for me at the time: I bought some figure skating skates for beginners, and we shared some private lessons.
It was fun, I was progressing, doing a few basic single jumps, but it ended badly. We were skating on the overcrowded London ice rinks, and I had 3 accidents, the last one breaking my cheekbone, when my ice pick got jammed in the ice and I fell hard on my face, knocked out unconscious.
Ice Skating in Montreal
Another 5 years elapsed, I was back in Montreal, and now my niece was 7-8 years old and progressing quickly at figure skating, even helping with teaching younger kids.
With some hesitation, I signed up for group lessons at University of Montreal, where I worked as a researcher.
I enjoyed that very much, and pursued it for several years.
My progress was very slow, and my niece didn’t stay with the sport after a few years.
My path took a surprising bend when about 20 months ago, my university sports center made the decision to invest in a more qualified teacher, Lyne.
For the previous years, they had hired university students without real qualifications to teach skating.
This time, they recruited a professional figure skating coach.
After a few months of group lessons, I approached Lyne for private lessons.
At the time, I had an Iranian girlfriend who had never skated before, and I got her some skates and gave her some lessons.
That didn’t go too well, and I abruptly ended that relationship to begin one with Lyne, that has been quite wonderful since.
It is not easy to be coached by one’s romantic partner.
I had an enormous baggage of bad skating habits that she needed to chip at and hammer out.
This was a huge effort for both of us.
Sometimes we were very frustrated, but we persisted, worked hard, and I made a surprising amount of progress.
It was unclear to me how much progress I had made until our skating club added a new requirement to sign up for skating practice.
I now needed to pass some tests if I wanted the freedom to skate in certain times.
In the new Skate Canada rankings, I have just passed Star 1 in Freestyle Elements, Star 1 and 2 in Skills, and Star 1, 2a, 2b and 3a, 3b in Dance.
Encouraged by this nice success, I can see myself adding in the next months: Star 2 in Freestyle Program and Freestyle Elements, Star 3 in Skills, and Star 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b in Dance.
Indeed, I’m much more advanced in Dance than in other disciplines.
For adult men, this is probably the best strategy: Dance is much more accessible to an adult who probably has flexibility issues than Freestyle.
It is particularly difficult for me to progress in Freestyle because I make a big deal out of never falling.
I still fall sometimes, like a couple of times per year, but it is a rarity.
I can see myself progressing well beyond Star 5 in Dance, but not much beyond Star 3 in Freestyle.
Star 4 Freestyle includes the Axel and Star 5 includes some double jumps.
Now I’m working with a harness, but I don’t see how I’d get good enough on the harness to want to try the double jumps without.
How to Get Started
At first, there can seem insurmountable hurdles in getting started with figure skating, and indeed it might be quite unrealistic in your particular situation.
Still, I’d like to suggest a few angles to help reduce some of the hurdles.
- There is no ice rink in my country, or near where I live.
Well, you can move.
For example, when I lived in Santa Barbara or Texas, it’s true that ice rinks where not on my radar.
But 6 years ago, I moved to within a 400 meters walk to an ice rink, part of the sports complex of the university where I worked.
Of course, I could have found more affordable accommodations elsewhere.
But being close to the ice rink was one factor in my choosing this flat, along with the central reason of being within walking distance to work.
- Figure skating is really expensive: the equipment, the coaches, the cost of access to a skating rink.
Indeed, that’s all true on average, but it is not necessarily so.
For example, you can shop for rarely used skates at bargain prices.
You’ll find that more advanced skaters are quite happy to give you good quality explanations for free.
For access, your best bet is probably to join a figure skating club.
In our case, we even have access to one rink where we can skate for free once a week.
- Figure skating practice is at odd impractical hours.
It might well be that if you’re working a 9 to 5 job, it’s difficult to attend practice times that are set up for kids that finish school in the middle of the afternoon.
I’ve definitely been enjoying my work freedom that allowed me over the past years to be available at the most convenient times.
However, I now realize that even if I were working 9 to 5, there’d be options.
For example, you can search for a skating club specifically for adults.
Typically, they’ll have very late skating hours, like 9 PM to 11 PM, which will require you to adapt to doing exercise at a late hour.
Some rinks will also have very early figure skating, like at 7 or 8 AM on a weekday.
- There is an absolutely no figure skating policy on my ice rink.
The normal remedy to this problem is to join a skating club.
- Figure skating is very hard to learn.
Here the advice is to take the long road. Be persistent, go back to the basics, watch some of the excellent videos on YouTube.
The Different Skating Styles or Disciplines for Adults
While most people putting skates a few times per year will only go around the ice rink counterclockwise in a circle, there is a lot more obviously that you can do with skates.
Here are some of the styles or disciplines you can get interested in.
- Ice skating improvisation.
As I recommend in my overview article on creativity, it is good to approach a new activity in a creative way.
If you are just starting with skating, being told a lot of technical details is not helpful.
Just moving around and discovering what you can do is more important.
And if you’re more advanced, you can also enjoy skating improvisation tremendously.
Here is a troupe called Le Patin Libre (who are friends of ours) specializing in that for shows around the world as well as teaching groups of skaters how to do it. It is a lot of fun!
Again you might run into the difficulty of finding an ice rink that will allow you to do such improvisation.
It’ll be OK in certain periods with a figure skating club.
- Just like being part of a band or singing in a choir, skating as a group in an organized manner can give a much more powerful experience than doing the same activity solo.
Synchronized skating is extremely difficult, but is a thrilling challenge as the adepts of the sport will tell you.
You will need to acquire fairly advanced skating skills before you can join an adult synchronized skating team.
- More accessible is to dance on ice, and it is definitely thrilling too!
This is what I would recommend as a realistic goal for adults to maximize their rewards/costs ratio. See below for links.
- Freestyle pairs, especially with lifts, is breathtaking but it is not realistic as a goal for beginning adults, unless you have some exceptional skills or perhaps come with a circus acrobatics background.
- Freestyle single.
This is a lot of what you see on ice rinks when adults are practicing their figure skating. Usually, they will be adults trying to reproduce skills they were much better at doing when they were kids.
This is why if you’re starting as a beginner, this would be the last discipline to consider.
Some Inspiring Videos
I have plans to add some videos of myself on the ice rink. For now, here are some excellent videos to watch.
- Oleg Altukhov’s channel. Oleg has produced over a hundred videos explaining basic to intermediate skills.
He has videos of most of the standard dances.
- Skate Canada’s channel features examples of tests for Star 1-5.
The Star 6-10 (Gold) tests will probably become available in the coming years.
- I’ll especially recommend the pair dancing of Scott Muir and Tessa Virtue.
A Few Practical Tips
1. Where to see live figure skating shows?
We were amazed at the shows during a Royal Caribbean cruise.
We saw two different shows, and the second one twice.
At no extra cost.
2. How to get skating boots?
Ideally, you buy them in a specialty store.
The boots will be heated and molded to your feet.
For beginners, this is not essential, and you can buy online.
3. What to wear for men?
Black Nike golf-style pants that stretch well have been ideal for me.
Nearly anything will work for the top.
4. How to play music?
To practice dances with music, I find it very convenient to have a small bluetooth speaker in one pocket of my light jacket, operated by my iPhone in the other pocket.
5. Do we train in the spring and summer?
Definitely! It’s difficult to start again after a long break, so it is better not to stop!
There are fewer rinks in operation, and the schedules are different, but often there are also fewer people, so it is more pleasant.
Conclusion: Partner Ice Dance Figure Skating for Adult Men and Women
Figure skating is an addictive sport that one can unwittingly become passionate about.
It can be quite safe as long as one is really careful.
It is a discipline to train you to become extremely aware at every instant, a bit like someone practicing walking on the tightrope, what we call here on this website “Powerful Consciousness”.
If you can overcome the hurdles to getting started and persisting in this sport, it might wonderfully grow on you!
I’m happy to hear about your experience with it or your questions in the comments below.
Social tagging: Dance > Figure skating