jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Skating songs


I have been mainly working on particular basic ice dance elements (the sub-atomic particles of our sport) rather than focusing on compulsories or choreography.  (Though I try to spend at least the last half-hour of practice time daily on compulsories, just so I don’t forget how to put things together or lose my stamina completely.) This means lots of time listening to the radio, which is usually on during my practice time.

Anyone who skates during public sessions when the radio is playing is subject to developing earworms (you know, the songs that get stuck in your head). The rinks around here gravitate between contemporary pop hits and classic rock; once in a while I’ll hit a rink with country music, but that’s rare.

As you can probably see from earlier entries, I’m developing an alarming affinity for these pop songs. I was at my younger son’s middle-school choir concert last spring and realized, much to my chagrin, that I knew these songs: “Say Something” (A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera), “Let Her Go” (Passenger), “Pompeii” (Bastille). Maddy (a lovely and talented fourteen-year-old skater whose lessons on triple salchows happen to coincide with some of my practices) said today that she thinks of me whenever she hears Meagan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” and especially Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

In my own defense, music is really important even when I’m working on basics. Way back when I was working with Bert Wright in LA, he would have us step out patterns to any kind of upbeat music; I remember doing this in Bert’s living room along with George, a ice dancer from Korea who was another student of Bert’s. I think the music keeps me from clenching my muscles, especially when I’m working so hard on pushing into the ice.

But to try to give my soundtrack some variety, I try to come up with some older songs of varying tempos, styles, and moods. Here’s just a few to get things started. . . maybe friends and readers will suggest more.

  • Leonard Bernstein, “Something’s Coming” (from West Side Story). Between the rhythmic and melodic pulsing and the lyrics (“Something’s comin’, don’t know when, but it’s soon, catch the moon, one-handed catch”) you can’t help but feel Tony’s optimism, even though (no spoilers here) you know it will all come crashing down in the end.
  • Stevie Wonder, “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” Hug me. Please.
  • George Michael, “Faith.” Anyone with a pulse has to tap her feet to the guitar, tambourine, and percussion background. Plus just before the third reprise of “‘Cause I gotta have faith” there is that most excellent pause that makes you hold your breath: “‘Well I need someone to hold me but I’ll wait for something more. . . “
  • Jack Johnson, “Upside Down.” Just enough of a Hawai’i feel to make me feel all sunny inside, but not so much that I want to take my skates off and hop on a plane to somewhere where there are way more surfing beaches than skating rinks.
  • Michael Franti, “Say Hey (I Love You).” It’s the clapping. It’s the rhythm. No, it’s the lyrics–how can you not want to hear “I love you” over and over again?

It was George Balanchine who said “Dance is music made visible.” What a lovely thought.

Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

5 thoughts on “Skating songs

  1. Love it! I agree some good music makes the skating seem to click so much better. My rink has been stuck on a 70’s playlist for the last month or so for public skates and it is driving me crazy! But I had an hour of freestyle completely to myself and my itunes on Tuesday and it was a little slice of pure heaven.

    Don’t see how you could avoid knowing all those songs with a middle schooler. I have twin 9-year-old girls so I am very up on all the latest from One Direction and TSwift 😉


  2. Ahhh, that 70s music. I actually started listening to pop music again when I started skating in the early 80s, but there were lots of different 70s and early 80s songs playing at our rink. On the one hand, you had Billy Joel, on the other, Air Supply. I can still hear that last refrain of “I’m all out of love, I’m so lost without you. . . ” Hopefully that’s not one of the ones on your rink playlist.

    One Direction. Love those boy bands. You really don’t have to think too hard about what they are actually saying. That’s what makes you beautiful.


  3. Hahaha no Air Supply on this list! I might actually like that better! It is more like Rush and “Feel Like Making Love”… ?????

    I was never a fan of boy bands when I was the age I should have been but now I love listening to it with the girls in the car. Very happy stuff.

    Do you ever get to ice dance to any pop music? I have some playlists I put on an earbud when I get on a really empty public session. Has been helpful for trying to get Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango up to speed starting with slower tempo and moving up through the list.


  4. Ooohh, Rush. I feel your pain.

    As far as compulsories go, I wrote one of my coaches a note last year about alternative music for compulsory dances. Here’s my email to her (I’m not sure how many of these links still work):

    “You mentioned trying to find alternative music for compulsory dances, and I thought of Norah Jones. I played her albums incessantly when I was in London in 2010, the first summer after doing Nationals when all I could think about was ice dancing. Walking around the busy streets of Bloomsbury, on the Tube, skating on that disco-ice at Queen’s Ice and Bowl, her tracks were part of my soundtrack.

    Listening to them again tonight, I was reminded of some of the compulsories; the tempos might be a little off, but it’s fun to imagine how these dances would work:

    Hickory Hoedown:


    Swing Dance? (okay this is stretching, but these are two of my favorite songs):

    Her entire debut album is at:

    I really wanted to figure out compulsories to the waltz tempos of “Come Away with Me” and “The Long Day is Over” and especially the sultry song “The Nearness of You” but these are slloooowww and somewhat uneven. Maybe a slow European is the best one can do. Or sitting down after finishing the dishes and having a good glass of wine.”

    It would be fun to hear what’s on your list!


  5. Love, love the quote, “Dance is music made visible.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s