What is Figure Skating?

Figure skating is a unique combination of ice skating and ballet. It has been around for a very long time. Each year during the Olympic season, many artists compete in the disciplines of this fascinating field of dance. How figure skating was introduced, and what are different aspects of it? Let’s learn.

A Brief History of Figure Skating

Jackson Haines introduced the field of figure skating. He combined the two classics of ballet and skating and produced this masterpiece. Although he couldn’t make a big deal out of it in his life,long after his departure, people realized the true potential of this art and gave it the status which it verily deserved.

Some people report that Haines used to screw skating blades on his boots and performed the moves of ballet on ice. Many of his famous steps include turns, jumps, spins, and leaps. He was fond of music and art. But sadly, people didn’t understand his acts and called it the international style of skating.

Time passed, more and more people considered joining this new style, and soon it became a thing. Finally, in 1914, the first competition of the international style of skating was held in the US Olympics season.

At first, it was considered to be a male sport. But later, it became gender-inclusive when a woman named Madge Sayers competed against men. Even though it caused a lot of controversies, it still managed to open up this door for females. And finally, a proper system for figure skating was established for both men and women.

Why is it Called Figure Skating?

In the early days of figure skating, dancers used to skate in a manner that left imprints on the ice. It mostly included numbers like eight or zero. But soon, the artists evolved this concept and started producing complex structures like stars, rosettes, etc.

It looked cool and gained the attention of judges. And since it played a great role in scoring, the sport got named after it.

Difference between Figure Skating and Ice Dancing

Although ice dance is included in the disciplines of figure skating, both are very different. Figure skating includes tricky moves like jumps, spins, and high lifts. On the other hand, there is no such thing as lifts in the ice dance.

These moves are very crucial in figure skating. It is all about jumps and spins. In pair skating mostly, male partner lifts around the female in different ways.

But if you look into ice dances, you will see that it is highly formal and completely inspired by ballroom manners. In ice dancing, the partners never leave each other. And unlike figure skating, it is all about rhythm and music.

The Disciplines of Figure Skating

Figure skating has two disciplines, Olympic and non-Olympic. Both of them are further divided into different sub-categories. For better understanding, let’s discuss them separately.

Olympic Disciplines

There are three disciplines of figure skating in the Olympics, which are given below:

  • Singles

This category is based on the solo performances of dancers. In this program, every participant performs an act in front of the judges and audience.

  • Ice Dance

This is a team performance and involves male and female partners. In this specific category, the jumps and lifts are avoided. Also, the partners are supposed to hold one another at all times.

  • Pair Skating

This discipline, again, includes a couple. But as opposed to ice dance, jumps and lifts are necessary for this one. It is basically a team version of singles. It involves tricky jumps and intricate moves that make this type stand out.

Other Disciplines of Figure Skating

The non-Olympic branches of figure skating are mentioned below:

  • Four Skating

As the name suggests, this type of figure skating involves a team of four dancers who perform the classic intricate moves of figure skating for the audience.

  • Special Figures

This is the classic style of figure skating. In this type, figures that are produced on the ice are far more important than the acts performed by the artist.

  • Ice Theatre

It is a complex combination of theatre and ice skating. It involves a group of artists that perform several moves using props and theatrical equipment on the ice.

  • Adagio Skating

This is a common style seen mostly in ice shows. In this particular type, a pair of artists perform different acts while skating. Unlike other categories, this one doesn’t involve tricky moves.

  • Synchronized Skating

In this type of skating, a huge group of skaters performs in a synchronized manner. It is a kind of ice dance but includes more people.

  • Acrobatic Skating

As the name shows, this type of figure skating focuses on acrobatic moves that are done by the artists. It can range from simple acts like juggling to complex gymnastics.

Scoring Method

The scoring method of figure skating is based on two scoring systems, Total Element Score, and Program Component Score. To understand the concept, each component should be discussed separately.

Total Element Score

Every element of the act is judged by professionals separately. Sometimes, they replay the acts and performances to determine the correct positions. After that, scoring is decided on a scale of +5 to -5 with +5 being the highest and -5 being the lowest. On the other hand, 0 is the average score.

Program Component Score

Other than elements, all the aspects are scored under the category of different components that are discussed below

  • Skating Skills

This component is based on the overall look of the performance. All the aspects, including the poise, flow, rhythm, and even balance,are judged in this field. One can say that it is the defining component of any act of figure skating.

The scoring is decided based on different rules like how one uses his skating skills or whether partners performing pair dance are compatible or not.

  • Transitions

This includes all the moves that spice up any performance. The complex acts and intricate use of skills define whether the participant is dedicated or not.

Transitions can be short or long, depending on the pace of the music. The scores are decided based on variety, uniqueness, and difficulty level.

  • Performance

This component is based on the involvement of the performer with the dance physically and intentionally. It determines whether a particular move is delivered with the required dedication or not.

Moreover, the clarity and carriage of different steps arealso judged in this component. The scoring is done on the criteria of completion and efficiency of certain moves.

  • Composition

This component is all about the choreography. It determines whether the artist has efficiently used his personal space or not. It also judges the overall movement and chemistry between the partners in pair performances.

  • Interpretation

It determines whether the artist can seamlessly translate the music in his moves or not. Just like any other art, figure skating needs proper delivery. And this component judges the power of delivery of every participant.

Moreover, it judges the finesse, connection, and body language of the performance. In other words, this component can be a game-changer for any dance.

Unlike the total element score, component scores are given in the range of 0 to 10, with 0 being the lowest and ten being the highest. Meanwhile, 5 is the average.

In the final score, marks from both the systems mentioned above are added, and the final ranking is created.


Figure skating is a combination of ballet and ice skating. It has many disciplines, out of which some are included in the Olympics while others are there for entertainment purposes only. It includes tricky moves and seamless acts that are enjoyed by the audience.

Every year, many aspirants compete to gain expertise in the field of figure skating, while thousands of admirers come to watch their favorite artists performing live.