WHAT Were Those Judges Seeing?

We all think we know better than the judges – of course our favorites skated/performed/posed/smiled better than the scores from those judges! Did they leave their glasses👓 at home? Were they sneaking peeks at each other’s paddles while our favorite team was skating? Seriously, so what if our favorite team fell three times – obviously, they got up with more flair and aplomb than any prior team in Dancing On Ice history! And, that wretched Jason – WHY does he have to be so freakin’ mean to the BEST (aka My Favorite) team?

Ah, the joys of being in the most reviled role in figure skating history – The JUDGE. It doesn’t matter if judges are judging tiny tots, solo ice dance, adult competitors, Nationals or the Olympics – or, most critical of all, the celebrity reality show we all know and love, Dancing On Ice. The judges are Never right, so we say when we disagree, and they are always right when we agree. ARRRGGGHHHH!

The pressure they must be under 🤯 Being a judge wasn’t my favorite part of skating, but I did learn a lot – and I also learned that the questioning of your scores never ends, be it as part of your judge training or from coaches and parents. Here, the intrepid and unflinching Dancing On Ice judging panel has to endure intense questioning across a plethora of social media platforms. I wish them the best of luck 🍀responding to it all.

As long as they do not answer like this song from the German Art Students:

Provided to YouTube by CDBaby Disgruntled Figure Skating Judge · The German Art Students Kissing by the Superconductor ℗ 2002 The German Art Students Released on: 2002-01-01 Auto-generated by YouTube.

Dancing On Ice uses a 10-point scale, with the “dance” versus “skating” judges presumably focusing on different factors. In practice though, during general viewing, the celebs just get an overall score while the judges provide some commentary for context. The fun part is that gives all the viewers lots to argue about…well, that’s also the bad part, as we don’t really know what led to the final score.

Cue Whining: “Why, oh why, do Jayne & Chris score the same, like, all the time?”

On the other end of skating, the truly competitive end, we have this complicated ISU judging system that requires hours to years of ongoing training to comprehend and which maybe rivals the US IRS Tax Code in complexity. No way a TV show is using something like that…plus Jason’s 2.5s would be like .000025 under the ISU system. 😲

Where’s the middle ground? There’s a show in the US, World Of Dance, with Derek Hough (Dancing With the Stars pro), J Lo and Ne-Yo as judges. Have any of you seen it? I like that they each have their areas of expertise, but that they judge by selecting scores up to 20 in each of 5 areas, for a possible maximum total score of 100. The 5 areas, regardless of style of dance, are:

  • Performance

  • Technique

  • Choreography

  • Creativity

  • Presentation

I think this gives viewers a greater understanding of what each judge really liked and why their opinions vary. The system gives context in a manageable format.

This led me to think of what criteria I’d apply to judging Dancing On Ice. I’ll try to explain them here, and use them to explain my opinions of the team’s future skates. Let me know what criteria you would add or remove.

Skating Technique

Skating Skills: edge quality – is the celeb really using the edges of their blades to move over the ice? Do they understand how to use different edges to gain power, speed & GLIDE? Do they use their edges to enter and exit skating elements or are they just stepping about on the ice? Are they executing actual skating turns? (And, as they are all generally beginners, are they improving in this area?)

Skating Elements: are they executing any actual skating elements, such as spins, backspins, spirals, lunges, jumps (Waltz, Salchow, toe loop, etc.)? How difficult are the chosen elements & how proficient is the execution? (e.g., a camel spin is harder than a scratch spin – I’d likely mark a decent camel spin higher than a scratch spin that looked better on TV, unless it was an exceptional scratch spin.)

The Infamous Issue of Lifts: Let’s be clear – and, this, coming from a guy pair skater: women in lifts are NOT “just being carried about the ice.” If the woman doesn’t enter the lift correctly, which is to say actively, the lift won’t go up unless the guy dead-lifts her overhead. If she doesn’t hold her position and make transitions to new positions correctly, the guy might be able to save it, but the lift can also go horribly wrong. It is true that the man needs to be solid on his skates and the ice. If he isn’t, that can be very dangerous for the woman, so this adds some pressure for the male celebrities. In general, though, lifting is a 2-person job.

However, on a show like Dancing On Ice, there does need to be a balance (yup, pun-ny again) between lifts and actual skating, and the man is doing the actual skating in the lifts. For this show, I think lifting crosses from Skating Technique to Presentation and Performance because how well the lifts fit depend upon the overall program choreography.

It is also easier to “cover” mistakes and technique limitations with BASIC dance lifts (advanced ones can be quite difficult) and mini-lifts than with full overhead lifts of the type you see in pairs skating. So, just keep in mind, not all lifts are created equal.

One additional point about lifts: they do show viewers a bit about the partnership. There is a lot of trust involved in lifts, from both partners. Watch how the teams improve in lifting over the course of the show.

A point about technique: please don’t, just don’t, tell me the celebs – even the ones who win – are “just as good as the pros.” I’ll just put it this way:

1 – A pro’s job is to make their celeb look good, isn’t it? Think about it – if the pro were doing their best, it’s likely the celeb wouldn’t look so great because most of the celebrities are beginners.

2 – A big part of true figure skating, with deep edges and quick switches among edges using varying turns, etc., using those edges to enter and exit elements, takes time to learn – hours and miles on the ice. It isn’t happening in a few months, no matter the talent level. And, you just aren’t seeing that level of complexity on a TV show.

So, please don’t take this as any offense to your most favorite, most amazing celebrity ever, but please don’t offend those hard-working pros either. 😉


Performance & Presentation

This is a big part of the score on a TV show like Dancing On Ice, and it will forever be subjective and the subject of many social media disagreements. A great skate can have great performance value, but great skating technique can also be presented in a completely bland way. (Think how fun it wouldn’t be to watch the celebs skating compulsory figures. There’s a reason they don’t have those on televised competitions anymore!) Also, every once in a while, one of those celebs sneaks in a fab, hugely popular performance that – now, don’t get offended – really has very little skating in it at all.

We’ll likely all agree on the programs in the 1st group, but the rest…

You like potato and I like potahto

You like tomato and I like tomahto

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto

Let's call the whole thing off 


 Have at it!


I love the creativity of choreography, but I’m of a mixed mind about it being part of the scoring. Why? The celebrity doesn’t choose the music nor, in most cases, do the choreography (though some have dance experience that allows them to contribute). Some celebs have access to others to help with the choreography, but who they have or when they have them isn’t balanced or “fair” in any way.

On the other hand, if one is scoring the team, including choreography is relevant – except for the latter issue, as it’s not “fair” when one team has assistance from well-known choreographers but others don’t. However, adding that element of assistance presumably makes for better entertainment, so it’s probably just another opportunity to remind oneself that this is simply a TV show.

At the end of the day, I’d give choreography a lower value than skating and performance portions of the total.

What do you focus on when deciding who to vote for?  Do you feel you apply the same standards to your favorite team as to the other teams? Or, do you just vote for your favorite?

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below. I’ll do my best to reply. However, nasty comments, spam and such will be deleted – my discretion. I’m happy to engage in dialogue, but you won’t find me trash talking Dancing On Ice, the celebrities or skating professionals here, and I won’t have that on my website.

Thanks for reading!!

Matej Silecky9 Comments