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Ice dancing? It's enough to melt hearts -- and minds

CHRIS ERSKINE

Ice dancing is the sort of sport Barry Manilow might've invented. It's like a giant Olympic Hallmark Card, except that after it's done, you just sort of want to shoot yourself.

February 21, 2010|Chris Erskine

From Vancouver, Canada — Know what I like? Ice dancing -- the elegance, the artistry, the physical contact. I used to express myself by cursing politicians on TV or swearing at other drivers. Now, ice dancing has come into my life.

Ice dancing is the sort of sport Barry Manilow might've invented. It belongs in Las Vegas, except it would all probably melt. Then it would be water dancing, which doesn't sound so bad. Just imagine what NBC would do with a "skin cam."

Right away you're probably thinking, "Oh, this dude's writing about ice dancing, he's going to make fun of it." But that's not my way.

Matter of fact, in a world of instant messaging, quick hook-ups and Jiffy Lubes, I salute the time-defying old world elegance of Olympic ice dancing. Besides, we can always use more forums for funny little Bavarian marches.

What they do at ice dancing, as I'm sure you've seen, is to relate to one another in beautiful and heartfelt ways. Ice dancing is like a giant Olympic Hallmark Card, except that after it's done, you just sort of want to shoot yourself.

Obviously, the budget for these things is not ginormous.

The other night, during the compulsory round of this arcane event, they played something called "Tango Romantica" 23 times. The first dozen or so times, I was OK with it. After that, my ears began to bleed. Let me just suggest that fans who sat through three hours of "Tango Romantica" deserve gold medals of their own.

So I'm sitting there with blood trickling out of my ears. It's freezing, because they keep the ice rink here at temperatures that cannot sustain human life (it's the law). And I'm freezing, like I said, sitting on my hands and stuff, when one of the dancers -- I think it was the guy -- takes off his jacket. And he has no sleeves.

Yow.

Now, nudity at skating events is nothing new. These kids always show up as if they're headed off to high school -- half dressed, shirts open, lots of cleavage, the men more than the women. But this stunned even veteran ice dancing followers like me. When this guy took off his tux jacket and he had no sleeves, a gasp swept through the entire Pacific Coliseum.

I don't know if you've ever been through something like that, but sometimes big arenas like this can be united by one great collective thought -- the same notion occurring to everyone universally. In this case, the collective thought was: "Holy spit, the French guy has no sleeves. Somebody call the maitre d'!"

Then the guy put on his jacket and the dancing resumed.

When they finish, their fans hurl things onto the ice in celebration: stuffed animals, some roses and I think a squid. There's also a black jock-strappy kind of thing that I don't want to think about.

Needless to say, ice dancing offers some unique parting gifts.

The next performers/exhibitionists are an American pair, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. That Charlie White has a head of hair on him, let me warn you -- it looks like a small cocker spaniel hat.

The Americans are a handsome couple. He's very fair and she's darker. They use this to their advantage and skate well in these compulsories, moving into first place.

Up next, a Japanese couple: Cathy Reed and Chris Reed. I know, that didn't sound very Japanese to me either. I guess diversity is catching on everywhere.

When the Reeds are done, another couple comes out -- I think they might be vampires. Or maybe they're just Russian.

What makes it so hard to tell vampires from the regular skaters is that many of the women -- and no doubt some of the men -- are wearing what the kids refer to as "heavy raccoon makeup."

Believe me, this is pretty goth stuff. If any raccoons were watching at home, I'm sure one raccoon turned to the other and said: "You know, Audrey, even for me that's just way too much eyeliner."

Anyway, this is a celebratory piece about ice dancing, obviously, so I think it would be good to end it on a high note.

On Sunday, they're holding yet another major stepping stone in this majestic event, something called the "original dance." Plan your day accordingly.

Just my luck, I have hockey tickets.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

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