Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A new to me Ice Dance book

Books dedicated to figure skating in general are thin on the ground.  Books about the sub-topic of ice dancing are even scarcer.  Oh, of course there are any number of fictional books dealing with teary, star crossed romances, nasty back stabbing competitors, unfair judges and the like.  And then there are coffee table books with glossy photographs of competitors both current and ancient, and finally there are those books which wade through the history of ice skating starting off with bits of bone lashed to one's feet.  But instructional books?  Not so much.  Of those few books devoted to instruction, one which I've recently added to my collection, is  Ice Dancing Illustrated by Lorna Dyer with Harry Brandt.  This book  dates to 1980.  Yes, that's 37 years ago.  I wondered if the contents would be useful or completely dated.  I posted this question to my fellow listees on but received no feedback beyond requests for a book report if I decided to splash out and purchase a copy (used copies on Amazon started off at $3.15 with a  total shipped cost of $7.14).  Since this was the only example of a "how to" type Ice Dance book that I'd tripped across, I decided to take a flutter. Yes, yes, whoot, whoot, big spender...

 In the fullness of time I rec'd my copy.  No, Amazon didn't bother to drop it on my head via a speedy drone; they used one of the parcel services--no doubt the lowest bidder--but it did arrive.  If one waits 37 years what then is a bit of shipping delay?

At first glance the book is very detailed.  How useful all this detail actually is remains to be seen as I'm still in the process of reading/digesting and to be honest most of the advanced dances are probably outside of my lifespan time horizon.  But enough of that.   After a brief two page introductory chapter, Chapter Two, entitled "General Instruction" dives into the following:  Posture, Lean, Lead, Flow and Stroking, Back-to-forward transition, General Technique, Unison, Introductions to dances, Comments on patterns, Tracking and tracker, Knee action, and Etiquette.  Other Chapters provide incite on Dance Positions, Dance Steps, Dance Turns, Beginning Dances; NB: the RB and the Cha-Cha are not listed which is a reflection of the passage of time since this book was published in 1980, but there are  youtube videos of those dances so, at least for me, these omissions are not deal busters.  Other chapters feature Intermediate Dances, Advanced Dances, International Dances, plus Dance diagram abbreviations and symbols and a Glossary.  There is a blizzard of small photos which attempt to capture key technique elements--it is always dubious as to whether or not authors of any book are able to convey the flow of complex movement with a series of still photos, but hopefully these authors occasionally succeed.  Close examination will reveal whether they did or not. 

While no book can replace good coaching, if I learn a handful of small things or just clean up a bit of fuzzy coach-to-student logic by reading, then it will have easily returned the purchase price.  My hard bound copy came with a little card from the publisher indicating an error in this first edition involving the transposition of two figure captions, but if that's the only production goof made then they are well above average and at least they took the time to point out the mistake.  So, at first impression, this book while dated, is dense with information that will no doubt require careful reading and rereading.  I'm not worried that the information is 37+ years old; pattern dances, like the ice we skate on, probably haven't changed much--and at this juncture "Ice Dancing Illustrated" is the only book addressing the subject of compulsory dances that I've tripped across.

My recommendation?  If you're a beginning ice dancer, like me, or even a mid-level ice dancer then you will probably benefit from picking up a copy of this book.  OTOH, if you're way up the ice dance feeding chain and are working on your Intergalactic test level dances, then probably not.  The subjects of free dance and original dance are also not covered.  Bottom line:  get a copy now while they're cheap and easily available.  It may be another 37 years before anyone produces another instructional ice dance book.  That's a pity.  This book could be updated and expanded.

It seems that there was a time when figure skating enjoyed a "boom" of enthusiasm which is reflected by the number of books offered between oh, say the mid-1960s and the late 1990s. No doubt the lack of current books for niche recreational pursuits is due to the general public's short lived love affair with a given activity (bicycling experienced a similar boom and bust period during the 1970s) and books are also impacted by the internet.  But as great as IT is, a google search quite often doesn't produce what one is searching for.  I also like books because for me it's easier to pick up a book and read or reread a small section than it is to stare at a computer screen.  IT is impacting printed books but I think at least for the near term Herr Gutenberg can rest easy wherever he may be--just don't expect a flood of new instructional books any time soon.

Below are photos of the book and its Table of Contents.  You can decide for yourself whether or not to add it to you library.

Sorry, I cut the page numbers off on this photo of the last page of the Contents.  The book runs to 297 pages.  The author's background can be read here.


  1. Oooh, George, because of this post I just bought a copy for $10! (almost $14 if you count shipping and handling). It will be fun to hear what you get out of it. And I like real books too.

  2. Hi Jo: The thing that surprises me the most is how long it took me to discover this book. I came back to skating about 6 years ago and have searched and bought skating books since then but this book somehow has slipped below the google search radar. No one in my limited number of off and on-line contacts mentioned it. My original post to skatingforums. com is starting to generate comments along the lines of how much ice dance has changed over the years. Perhaps it has but I still think, at least for pattern dancers, there's plenty of "meat" to chew on between the covers! Hopefully you'll agree. I'll be interested in hearing what others think once they actually have the book in their hands. After reading the second chapter I feel like my purchase has paid for itself and I still have hundreds of pages to go!

  3. How fun is this book? Let us know what you get out of it! I'm curious to see how much of the material is still relevant and if any of the contents can complement what you'd learn from a coach.

  4. Eva: In the two weeks since I started talking about this book on skatingforums there have been over 500 views of the conversation. This demonstrates that there is a small, but never the less, pent-up demand for a book of this type. This is not the type of book one can read in a single sitting. I've read small sections, taken notes and have attempted to apply that information while on the ice. I plan to show the book to my ice dance coach after I have had the chance to read a bit more of it. I think the section dealing with leading and tracking while skating partnered, will for me, be worth the price of acquisition.

  5. Does your copy have the errata notice pasted inside the front cover?

    1. Babbette: My copy came with the card just loose in between a couple pages in the book. Maybe mine got unstuck or maybe they broke down and bought a bottle of paste by the time your copy was made.