Popping and locking at the Winter Olympics?


Breakdancing will debut as an Olympic sport in the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. But hip-hop has already come into the 2022 Winter Olympics in many of the programs, including via the rhythm dance event, the ice dance short program in Beijing at the team event Feb. 4 and again at the individual event on Saturday.

Street dance is one of rhythms from which ice dancers may choose to skate this year. The International Skating Union defines that as “hip hop, disco, swing, krump, popping, funk, etc.” The other options are jazz, reggae, and blues, and couples must select at least two of the four.

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Many people think of figure skaters as performing in short, glitzy skirts to organ music. But this extremely popular Olympic sport has embraced pop culture in recent years, resulting in more contemporary programs featuring music from such artists as Rihanna and Britney Spears to Black Eyed Peas and Backstreet Boys.

On Wednesday night, American Nathan Chen became the men’s Olympic champion by skating to Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” He opened his program by launching nearly into space with a quadruple flip-triple toe loop combination, and ended with a step sequence to a rapped remix of the 1972 hit.

And while many skaters still choose classical music or Broadway show tunes as a backdrop for their jumps, spins, and footwork, interesting choreography, fun music, or a strong theme can catch the judges’ eyes.

French skater Adam Siao Him Fa skated his short program to music from Star Wars and his long program to music from electronic music duo Daft Punk.

His teammate, Kevin Aymoz, is such a fun skater that he could perform to screechy static and still impress. But his short program was to “The Question of You,” by Prince which includes a move in his step sequence that is all but an aerial cartwheel, which hovers on the right side of being a legal element.

Dancing the blues

While ice dancing is based on ballroom dance, it’s also generally the most theatrical discipline of skating. Because of this year’s theme, most of the programs are current and entertaining by nature.

Viewers may notice skaters slow down and take longer glides during the Midnight Blues pattern in order to complete the required steps. Key points the judges look for in the Midnight Blues include changing the edge of the skating blade, performing turns, and holding an edge for several beats.

But after the slower portion, there are lots of hip-hop moves and rocking it out.

Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue went with hip-hop and blues to “Nasty,” “Rope Burn,” and “Rhythm Nation,” by Janet Jackson. All of their movements are strong and sharp, some based on Jackson’s music videos. They performed a turn into a deep backward edge into knee slides. They also do an amazing rotational lift in which Hubbell flies into position, balances one blade on Donahue’s skate, and lies parallel to the ice.

Their teammates, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, chose blues and hip-hop for their smooth and sometimes staccato rhythm dance to “Myboi,” “Therefore I Am,” and “Bad Guy,” by Billie Eilish.

Italian dancers Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri replicate Michael Jackson’s choreography, emphasizing every funk and disco beat in a medley that includes “Human Nature,” the songs “Smooth Criminal,” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”

Disco was the name of the game for Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who specialize in fun, modern programs, skated smoothly, and then rocked out to Donna Summer’s “ Love to Love You, Baby.”

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, of Canada, chose disco, skating to Elton John, like Chen. Their loud orange jumpsuits (Gilles substituted hers with an orange dress during the team event) alone announced their theme.

And Chinese skaters Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu found the blues in the music of Elvis Presley, using “Trouble” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” Yes, Elvis is still a popular choice all over the world.

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Modern music

All genres of American music are popular with ice dancers. The ice dance competition includes a skate to Nicki Minaj by siblings Natalie Taschlerov and Filip Taschler of the Czech Republic. Spanish dancers Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz use Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” And Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain perform to the rock band Kiss, with a disco beat.

The French team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillame Cizeron won the ice dance Sunday night. Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov got the silver, and Hubbell and Donahue earned the bronze. Chock and Bates were in fourth.

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Many of the women are still skating to mostly conventional music, with plenty of Puccini arias and piano concertos. American Karen Chen is skating to Butterly Lovers violin concerto performed by Takako Nishizaki while Alysa Liu has chosen Tchaikovsky. U.S. champion Mariah Bell is skating to k.d. lang’s cover of “Hallelujah.”

The Japanese skaters Wakaba Higuchi and Kaori Sakamoto are bringing movie sound tracks from The Lion King and Gladiator, respectively.

The women’s short program was set to begin at 5 a.m. Tuesday Philadelphia time.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared Russian skater Kamila Valieva to compete, although the doping charges have not been resolved. The International Olympic Committee said there would be no medal ceremony if she finishes in the top three. There will also be no medal ceremony in the team event, in which her team got the gold, the United States won the silver, and Japan earned the bronze.

Going into the Olympics, Valieva was heavily favored to win the gold in the individual women’s event.

In the pairs event, which starts at 5:30 a.m. Friday Philadelphia time, the Chinese team and gold medal contenders Wenjing Sui and Cong Han found short-program inspiration in the music from Mission Impossible 2.