Evolution of Pairs Lifts and Pairs Skating | Golden Skate

Evolution of Pairs Lifts and Pairs Skating

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
Hello pairs fans,



I came across the above videos recently. I was thrilled to find the pairs lifts evolution video. Granted, it is not a complete documentation. But it's just great to have something like this to look at. I was happy to see that they really included most of the main, important pairs teams known for either innovating new moves or demonstrating strong pairs lift technique. This is really cool. We see the basic beginning of lifts as we know them in pairs from the days of Belousova/Protopopov, who revolutionized pairs skating, and the discipline followed in their blade steps. Oleg and Ludmila were older and not very fast (but I don't think many teams were particularly fast in those days). Still, they had gorgeous technique, and they took their inspiration and creativity directly from ballet, dance, theatre. We see Moskvina/Mishin following Ludmila/Oleg's lead, et al.

Thanks to floskate and to The Skating Lesson for this video compilation. The silent sections are apparently muted due to music rights. This video is definitely a good guide to the trajectory of lift advancement in pairs. Clearly, exhibition skating (which is included) played an important role in innovation, in addition to adagio skating (which isn't covered in this video). Pairs teams I don't see, but should be included: Urbanski/Marval of the U.S., and Woetzel/Steuer of Germany. As well, the video probably would have included recent pairs like Liu/O'Shea who were tremendous with their lifts. They burst on the scene last season with that fun sp to Taylor Swift, giving us that wowza lift with Chelsea's long legs hooked around Danny's neck and twirling with her body extended straight out and Danny's arms behind his back. In the pairs lift video, we see Brasseur/Eisler doing a similar lift in an exhibition program with Isabelle's legs around Lloyd's neck, but he is also holding on to her body and one of her hands for safety. It was still spectacular back then, but L/S were absolutely boffo with the exciting updated version they performed, likely with the input of their choreographers Sinead & John Kerr (Adam Rippon is credited for the sp choreography); Sinead & John worked on choreography for L/S's fp, but I'm sure they had input on the lifts for both programs.

The best lift innovators: The Protopopovs (Ludmila Belousova/Oleg P); Bechke/Petrov with Tamara Moskvina (plus Moskvina's work with Ina/Zimmerman); Brasseur/Eisler; Evora/Ladwig; James/Cipres; Lubov/Dylan; Dorota & Mariusz Siudek; Great practitioners who furthered the advancement of lifts via their expertise and adding onto previous innovation: Starbuck/Shelley; Martini/Underhill; Sale/Pelletier; Denney/Frazier; Urbanski/Marval; Babilonia/Gardner; Rodnina/Zaitsev; Gordeeva/Grinkov; Woetzel/Steuer; Meno/Sand; Calalang/Johnson; Savchenko/Massot. Pairs teams with outstanding lifts would include every team in the video, but again some teams who were very good aren't included, and some got included because they were fairly good lifters and they happened to be World champions too. Savchenko/Szolkowy (not included in the video) were good with lifts, but are better known for revolutionizing pairs with innovative moves, unusual program concepts, costumes, music, and choreography, under Steuer's tutelage.

It is clear that innovation and growth happen via skaters emulating each other and then adding new features here and there. Today lifts are more extended; skaters are stronger and faster; there are intricate entries and dismounts, with position changes and combinations, etc. In the lift video, it is great to see Sale/Pelletier and Brasseur/Eisler with voiceover by Scott Hamilton giving a tutorial. When Hamilton is commentating the 1992 Olympics fluff feature, and he mentions that Mishkutenok is "a big girl, while Gordeeva is smaller," ummm, that should have been worded differently. While the man must be very strong if his partner is tall or carries more weight, it is obviously much more about technique, fitness, and the female's ability to do her part in the lifting with a strong core, plus trusting in each other, synchronizing timing and rhythm. Artur Dmitriev had no trouble lifting Natalia, there was just something off with their timing, or with his footwork or the handholds, when they had the mishap in practices. They aced the lift in the competition.

There's a lot to see and to breakdown, if interested. The video by Coach Julia, on the history of pairs is brief. It echoes information in the recent book by James R. Hines, Figure skating in the formative years: singles, pairs, and the expanding role of women. As women entered the competitive side of the sport, pairs skating began to evolve from the earlier leisure class practice of engaging in combined skating, and hand-to-hand skating.
 
Last edited:

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
Bonus:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcU7xUxpODw (wonderful lifts in this Liu/O'Shea program)



(I wish some team today would emulate the throw 2-axel from a knee slide, along with some of the other moves by U/M)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIl8k2bwdj4 Wow!

An old video of 1961 U.S. national junior pairs champions, Vivian & Ronald Joseph (brother/sister team):
The Josephs were very good. I've seen their names before. It's nice to see actual footage of their skating. They were Olympic bronze medalists in 1964, and World silver medalists in 1965

So there were rudimentary lifts and lift variations being done prior to Belousova/Protopopov taking lifts to a unique place with a more balletic emphasis. There were swing lifts and brief head high lifts and waist high lifts, but pairs were more focused on synchronous skating, footwork, some spins and single jumps on occasion, until double jumps in pairs began, and later triples. Death spirals were invented in the 1920s by show skater Charlotte Oeshlagel and her husband, and expanded upon in the 1960s by Belousova/Protopopov.
 

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
In the lutz corner of GS, someone was asking about videos demonstrating basic pairs lifts. The PSA's Dare to Pair series with Jim Peterson, Amanda Evora, Isabelle Brasseur, Rocky Marval, Robin Szolkowy, Plazas/Fernandez, et al, provides demonstration of basic lifts and other pairs elements, in addition to training practices on and off the ice:



In the above link, you must hit the back button when the video ends to get the rest of the series, or start with the below link which auto plays through the series out of order from later videos to earlier videos:

 

gkelly

Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 26, 2003
Thanks for the educational thread.

Here's what I could quickly find for pre-1960 pair lifts:


At 1:50 there's what looks like a proto-5ALi (half revolution and not overhead)


Group 2 lift at 32 seconds, and more at 1:19
Group 1 at 44 seconds, and more at 1:29 (missing the takeoff of the first one)

See 1:30 for two full lifts in opposite directions, with group 1 (armpit) hold in both but different takeoffs by the woman.

Not all with as much revolution as would be expected now.
These takeoffs/holds aren't used in elite competition these days, but they are used at lower developmental and adult levels.
 

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
^^ Thanks @gkelly for sharing these videos. I've seen the ones with Joly/Brunet and the Nicks siblings. But the others I haven't seen before. It's so interesting to see the skating of teams whose names I've only seen listed in historical results references. It's rather cool that one of the commenters on the Dafoe/Bowden video happens to be a granddaughter of Dafoe, who was grateful to see her Grammy skating. I'm sure she was aware that her grandmother was a pairs skater, but probably she'd never seen actual video footage previously. Dafoe/Bowden are, of course, a Canadian pairs team. Notice how back then, the man's name was placed first, ahead of the female partner's name. LOL SMH.

I remember previously viewing footage of the 1961 U.S. National championships, which is so poignant and melancholy in many ways, since all of the top competitors would die months later in the air crash (on their way to the World championships in Belgium, which was cancelled after their deaths). Maribel Vinson Owen's older daughter (named after her), with her partner, Dudley Richards won pairs. Below is a full video of their program. It repeats many of the type of moves seen in some of the videos you posted, gkelly, which are from a slightly earlier time period to 1961. The Protopopovs, I believe, broke onto the scene in 1962, and pairs skating was changed forever. But in the Owen/Richards performance, there are two actual overhead lifts, so the lifting had advanced to direct overhead. Owen is spread out in a flat overhead position with her legs spread apart on both of the lifts, which of course are up for only a few seconds before a quick dismount.

Looking at these videos, it's important to place ourselves in the mindset of that time period, when what these skaters were doing was state-of-the-art. The moves done today had to start somewhere, and then the boundaries kept being pushed further and further. The death spiral that is performed by Dafoe/Bowden is only about 1 1/2 revolutions with the dismount happening at the beginning of the 1/2 revolution. The technique is very similar by the female and the male to what we see today, except that the male partner, Bowden, does not bend as deep down into the ice, and Bowden also appears to be leaning slightly forward toward Dafoe, instead of leaning back with more tension. Perhaps a deeper knee bend and leaning back with more tension in the gripping of hands is what's needed to get more speed and more revolutions.

The basic hand-hold (with the male partner's arm behind the female's back, seemingly similar to ice-dance) features the partners skating quickly forward to build up speed. We see this hand-hold done by all of the pairs skating during this time, with lots of spirals. I guess this began to change when Belousova/Protopopov came on the scene. I believe it is the Owen/Richards video that shows them doing a double spread eagle facing each other, and they also separate from each other more than some of the other early pairs teams in these YouTube videos. It is interesting to see how Owen/Richards perform the entry into their combination spin. Also, as the winners, their scores seemed to be in the low range (higher on tech content mark with a 5/8 and a 5/7 along with 5/6s, but mostly 5/6s on the second mark with no score higher than that).


As a contrast, check out where pairs skating moved to with the advent of Savchenko/Szolkowy and their influential innovations. Space age energy, quickness, and non-stop difficult elements:

 
Last edited:

SubRosa

On the Ice
Joined
Mar 22, 2004
Country
Canada
A thread after my own heart!

If you have an interest, I have a bunch of playlists on YouTube of early pair skating footage. Here is the earliest, pair skating from 1904-1932:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfWdQlGZg2FQk9sclvcOZ2_hFWPPc1jek

(Warning, I've tried to put things in chronological order, but the playlists are still a bit of a hot mess and need curating.)

I also have links to around 100 non-YouTube videos, from poking around in various historical video archives. Ask me anything, I am happy to share.

The question "who invented the twist lift" came up on another skating forum a couple years back. This inspired me to start locating pair skating footage, in hopes of answering this question. Something to occupy my time while Covid restrictions were on.

I don't for sure know who invented the twist lift, but suspect it was Herber/Baier:



Their twist lift took off from a loop entry, rather than a lutz. A single twist isn't terribly impressive, the woman is only airborne for half a rotation, so blink and you miss it, and I don't know for sure if they ever used it in competition. It may have been just for exhibitions.

The earliest video record of twist lifts in competition are from the 1957-1960 quadrennium. Wagner/Paul had three different twist lifts in their winning Olympic program in 1960: loop entry (3:05), lutz entry (5:30), and one of their own invention, where the woman is caught on her back instead of her waist (3:45):



Later in the '60s, there were double twists, also axel entry twists (Moskvina/Mishin), even twists that were landed forward in a stag position (Kauffmans).

I've taken to calling the mid-'50s to the '60s the Cambrian Period of pair skating evolution, because Everything Changed, there was much innovation in twists and death spirals, the ban on overhead lifts was lifted, throws were introduced; it was the birth of modern pair skating.
 

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
^^ Thanks for your contributions to this thread @SubRosa -- ! It's great to be able to view these old performances, which provide such great insights into the development of pairs figure skating. 😍

I had done some additional checking into the origins of the twist lift and I uncovered more definitive answers. It's just taken me awhile to get back to this thread to provide links to the fascinating details about the twist lift and the early development of pairs skating. Perhaps this thread should be merged with the general pairs thread. Just a thought to make this thread discussion more easily accessible, since otherwise the thread will fall off the first pages in Edge when it stops being frequented.

In any case, many cool pairs moves were created via experimentation and innovation by show skaters. That may be in part the case with the twist lift. Ryan Stevens of Skateguard blog (an excellent resource for learning about figure skating history), devoted a blog post to discussing the origins of particular pairs lifts. He discusses how the twist lift possibly originated! 🥰


Ryan cites a book written by Rosemarie Stewart and her husband, Robert Dench (they skated together in the Ice Capades):

"1936 Olympian Rosemarie Stewart and her husband Robert Dench, who emigrated from Great Britain to California ... penned a 1943 book called Pair Skating And Dancing On Ice. It is one of the earliest books that offers any sort of concise glimpse into which elements pairs teams were including in their programs during this era."

Ryan believes the couple's description of the Stewart Split Lift (a full turn split lift, which Stewart first performed with a former partner), is the best indicator of how the twist lift developed. Ryan goes on to say that "it wouldn't be until the fifties that Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden [of Canada] would introduce the first true lasso and twist lifts into the skating vocabulary."

So, it would be interesting to check whether Herber/Baier were contemporaries of Dafoe/Bowden, or whether they came before or after them in terms of their separate skating careers in pairs. As we know, innovation of elements can sometimes be attributed to more than one creative experimenter. Development of new moves always comes via copying, emulating, and adding onto what athletes see their contemporaries doing. That's the natural and inevitable process of innovation and growth.

I also have to laugh at how in the early days most athletic innovations in figure skating were always criticized as too acrobatic, i.e., any move which involved leaving the ice and taking flight!

I don't know if the books Ryan mentions are still in print, but it's worth checking out. Another great recent addition to pairs skating history is by James R. Hines, Figure Skating in the Formative Years: Singles, Pairs, and the Expanding Role of Women (2015).

Another treat for those interested is a discussion Ryan had with P.J. Kwong in December 2020, on one of her skating podcast episodes, about the Edwardian era in figure skating when the increased involvement of women led to experimentations that culminated in the development of pairs and ice dance. Enjoy listening: 😍

 

labgoat

When will someone do pull arabians in dance?
Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 3, 2007
Country
United-States

ladyjane

Medalist
Joined
Jun 26, 2012
Country
Netherlands
I just had a great evening in watching the juniors at Ostrava. More pairs than I expected, really nice to watch them. And an excellent presenter as well. What a night! Sorry, excuse me. The lifts were good too.
 

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
^^ Don't excuse yourself @ladyjane. Ostrava pairs was fun to watch. Seeing all the young couples in pairs and ice dance underscores just how much fs is in a full-on transitional phase at the moment.

The talent we see among the youngsters at Ostrava, bodes well for the exciting future of pairs competition! 😍
 
Top