Not many were as sad as I to see the Compulsory Dance go. Lord knows I almost had a tear in my eye when Virtue and Moir skated the very last Compulsory Dance in Olympic history in Vancouver last year.
However, life goes on. Some of my fellow purists have refused to buy into the new Short Dance that has combined the Compulsory Dance with the Original Dance. But I thought the idea was fascinating and have enjoyed watching the teams deal with this new format this season. In essence, the Short Dance requires the skaters to combine a pattern dance (a Compulsory Dance pattern of yore) and a creative portion into one program. Think Dancing With the Stars and appeasing Head Judge Len. You've got to incorporate some of the old school moves while at the same time creating an innovative and entertaining number.
The required compulsory pattern in this season's Short Dance is none other than the dreaded Golden Waltz. It is universally considered the most difficult Compulsory Dance to be adopted by the ISU and was based on an Original Set Pattern created by 1992 Olympic Champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponamarenko (and their coach at the time Natalia Dubova) for the 1986-1987 season when the required rhythm for the OSP was the Viennese Waltz. It even caused trouble for the indomitable Pasha Grishuk on her way to her second Olympic gold in Nagano in 1998. And though it has been skated so often in the last few seasons, it made sense for the ISU to choose it as the first Compulsory Dance to be required as a pattern element in the new Short Dance, as the Golden Waltz contains "modern" movements not seen in other Compulsory Dances, e.g., spread eagles, shoot-the-duck, etc. The ISU chose to permit skaters to use a tango, foxtrot, or quickstep rhythm for the creative portion of the Short Dance in addition to the required waltz rhythm for the pattern dance portion of the Short Dance.
The highest scoring Short Dance of the season was delivered by reigning Olympic champions Virtue and Moir of Canada at the Four Continents. They chose to use a tango in addition to the waltz rhythm.
One of the most consistent and elegant Short Dances of the season, though, has been that of Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They went the operatic route, choosing pieces from La Boheme and La Traviata. The choice of La Traviata is particularly genius as the last time the waltz was the focal rhythm of the OD, Krylova and Ovsiannikov won over many a judge with their interpretation of La Traviata in the 1998/1999 season.
Other stand-out Short Dances have been those of Maia and Alex Shibutani (to the Carousel Waltz) and Natalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (to Dr. Zhivago).
Last week, the ISU officially announced that in its second year, the Short Dance will require the skaters to skate two patterns of the Rhumba. Now, the ISU's Rhumba should not be confused with the slow, sinewy rhumbas from the 1993/1994 season's OD or those seen on Dancing With the Stars. The ISU's Rhumba is essentially a fast Cuban rhythm that is almost Salsa-like. (For those wondering, Torvill/Dean's outstanding rhumba OD from 1993/1994 was long up for adoption as a new Compulsory Dance under the title Rhumba d'Amour, but alas, it never happened.)
Because the ISU's Rhumba is so quick (176 beats per minute), it is suitable to be danced to rhythms other than the rhumba. As such, the ISU is permitting couples to perform the Rhumba to any one to three of the following rhythms: cha cha, merengue, mambo, samba, and rhumba. For those fellow ice-dance nerds, yes, those are the same rhythms as permitted in the 1999/2000 season and the 2005/2006 Olympic season. And what can one expect from the Rhumba pattern? Read my lips: kilian holds and wide cross-choctaws.
The other intriguing new aspect of the 2011/2012 Short Dance will be the new requirement that the non-touching step sequence will for the first time ever be CIRCULAR. Recall the time in ice dance when skating separately was considered easy and a big no-no. That all changed when the ISU required the non-touching midline step sequence in the 1999-2000 Original Dance. The requirement was a huge hit, as it required both individual skating ability and unison. But for over a decade, that requirement has been a midline step sequence. How will the skaters manage a non-touching circular step sequence? The Original Dance always required that the skaters skate in a constant direction. With the 2011/2012 Short Dance's circular requirement, the ISU is allowing the skaters to divert from that constant direction should the skaters choose to, for example, perform a clockwise circular step sequence, when the remainder of the dance is performed in a counter-clockwise direction. Shocking. What would Judy Blumberg say?
Suffice it to say that many are already predicting that Virtue and Moir have a major advantage with this pattern dance and rhythm. Only time will tell, but hang on to your twizzles as next year's Short Dance is sure to be interesting.