Ice Dance Technical Elements: Dance Holds

Someone over at asked me to put together a guide to ice dance for new fans, so I’m going to give it a shot - I can’t answer everything, but there will be enough for everyone to sound like an expert the next time they want to start kicking off about #collusion and #thefix.

I’ll start off with the basics of ice dance, then go through elements & dance patterns & finally finish up with requirements for levels. Inspiration for the layout comes from ms. eggplant’s amazing guide to elements in singles.

Ice dance draws from ballroom dancing, & although rules have relaxed since the inception of the sport, couples are still expected to spend the majority of a program in a dance hold.

Hand in hand hold: This is the most basic type of hold. Side by side hand in hand holds are not encouraged at the elite level, but holds where the partners face in opposite directions (either towards each other as one skates backwards & on forwards, or both partners facing outwards as in the gif) are acceptable.

Kilian hold: The partners face in the same direction with the woman to the right of the man and his right shoulder behind her left. The left arm of the woman is extended across the front of the man’s body to hold his left hand. His right arm crosses behind the her back. Kilian hold can either be open, with the woman’s right arm extended away from her; closed, with her right hand placed over the man’s on her right hip; or crossed with the man’s right arm extended in front of the woman’s body instead of behind. In the gif, Nathalie moves from closed hold with her hand on her hip to open hold with her right arm extended. The final variation is the high kilian hold. The basic positioning remains the same, but both right hands are extended above the woman’s head. Any of these holds can also be reversed - the man is instead on the woman’s right and the arm positions are the mirror image of the ones outlined above.

Waltz hold: This is the nearest to a traditional ballroom position. The partners directly face each other, so one is skating forwards & one back. The man places his right arm on the woman’s back, and she places her left arm on his shoulder. The free arms are extended at shoulder height. Ideally, partners should have their torsos close together.

Tango hold: Similar to the waltz, but instead of directly facing each other, the woman is offset to the left, so the partners are hip to hip rather than chest to chest. To maintain good flow & speed in this position, partners have to be further apart than they would in waltz hold.

Foxtrot hold: Again, very similar to waltz hold, but both partners should angle themselves so they are both skating forwards. In the gif, Elena & Nikita are skating in open foxtrot hold, with their hands at each other’s shoulders - in a closed foxtrot hold, Nikita’s right hand would be on Elena’s right hip & vice versa for her.

The name of the hold doesn’t 100% correlate to the name of the dance being done, so you wouldn’t see a foxtrot pattern being done in only foxtrot hold, or only see a waltz hold done in a waltz. To gain anything more than level 1 on an in hold step sequence in the free dance, dancers are expected to demonstrate 3 changes of hold & at least 3 types of hold (not including hand in hand). This is also true for compulsory dances & the patterns you see in the short dance. For example, within one circuit of the tango romantica, the holds are foxtrot - tango - reverse high killian - tango - killian (changing between reverse & normal) - tango - foxtrot.


"Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence."

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince