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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ice dance reacts to the 2002 Olympic judging scandal : a study of skaters' movement practices under the new ISU judging system van Veen, Stephanie Anne Delouw


After an international judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, International Skating Union (ISU) officials introduced an entirely new system for judging figure skating performances. With the goal of increasing the objectivity and transparency in the judging process substantive changes occurred in the performance requirements and evaluation criteria for all skaters. Focusing on the ice dance discipline, the purpose of this research was to analyze ice dancers’ movement practices and the ways in which they have been influenced by the new judging system. Additional analysis also considered the role of gender in ice dancers’ potentially changed practices. With these goals in mind, I draw upon Massus’s (1973) notion around ‘techniques of the body’ and Bourdieu’s (1992) concept of ‘habitus’, which suggest that by looking at the movement practices of ice dancers we can see how they are influenced by the social relations in which they are embedded, including historical and cultural traditions, and by authoritative groups such as the ISU. Considering the role of gender in ice dancers’ movement practices, I also examine the social construction of masculinity and femininity in skaters’ movements and how these embodied gendered practices are influenced by the new judging system. Furthermore, using Foucauldian theories of power, normalization, rank, and self-regulation I explore how ice dancers are disciplined into performing particular movement practices, performance narratives and skating styles and the ways in which they are reinforced. Data collection included a documentary analysis of the ISU judging system focusing on the technical rules in regard to the ice dance discipline as well as semi-structured interviews with figure skating experts and skaters themselves. Interviews with the skaters also included a video analysis component on one of their competitive performances. The findings revealed the dramatic changes in ice dancers’ movement practices under the new judging system and how these changed practices have contributed to a more athletic discipline where there is now a strong focus on technical requirements. Additionally, the findings highlighted the conservative and stereotypical displays of gender in skaters’ movement practices and performance narratives, which continue to prevail under the new judging system.

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