by Jacquelyn Thayer

ISU 20logo 20colThe ISU’s 54th Ordinary Congress convened in Kuala Lumpur from June 11-15, deciding upon new proposals and rule changes for next season and those immediately following. Shortly after the Congress’ conclusion, the ISU issued a press release noting some key changes and has since released more detailed technical information for each discipline.

Several proposals centered on changes to the minimum and maximum age limits from novice up through senior, and most passed. The maximum age limit for junior males in dance and pairs has been lowered from 21 to 20, intended to go into effect with the 2014-15 season. Though this grace period is good news for the older or higher-ranking junior teams of today, it is concerning for the challenges it may pose to developing partnerships (particularly those with significant-enough age differences) and to those teams for whom an additional year of junior experience is simply beneficial.

At the same time that junior limits were lowered, however, novice teams received some good news: the maximum age for novice dance and pairs males has been raised from 15 to “not yet turned” 17.

For the 2012-13 season, proposals concerned with technical changes were passed unanimously. The notion of choreographic required elements – elements carrying a fixed base value, rather than a level – has been introduced to both the short dance and free dance, though further elaboration will be provided later. At the novice level, the pattern dance will now be divided into sections, with each section receiving a level. The tempo of short dance or pattern dance music will now be measured, and, if in violation of the designated tempo, penalized.

Other rules regarding the short dance have now been brought into line with those of the free dance. A two-point deduction now applies to a music choice that fails to reflect the required theme or rhythm. However, short dance music can now remain without an audible beat for the first 10 seconds of a program, also reflecting harmonization with free dance rules. Finally, the free dance itself must now demonstrate a change of both tempo and expression; previously, only one was required.

One proposal impacting the entire sport also impacts its largest audience. In a measure to bring Olympic rules in line with those of the ISU, only 20 dance couples will now qualify for the Olympic free dance, effective with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Previously, all couples who entered in the Olympic ice dance event qualified to compete in each segment, although the number of competitors varied (from 12 at Lake Placid in 1980 up to 24 at multiple Games).

After only two years as part as the ice dancing competition at the World Figure Skating Championships, the Preliminary Round has been killed, effective with the 2013 World Championships in London, Ontario, Canada. (Ladies and men’s singles have had to deal with qualifying rounds on and off for many years.) The ISU has yet to announce how qualifications will proceed, with possibilities including simply featuring a full-roster short dance/short program round or, more likely, introducing the requirement of a minimum score in order to qualify for entry, as with the Grand Prix. In light of the present uncertainty, Skate Canada, host federation of next year’s event, has delayed sale of single-event tickets.

More detailed information on the ISU Congress’s decisions for both ice dance and figure skating in general can be found on the ISU website (www.isu.org).