Four of the ice-dancing pairs competing in Vancouver are siblings—and this year, there's a compulsory tango routine. How they get around the awkwardness.
Vancouver, British Columbia -- When Alexandra Zaretsky takes to the ice in Olympic ice-dancing competition Friday, she'll look deep into her partner's eyes as they skate the "Tango Romantica."
But not too deep. That's because her partner is her brother, 26-year-old Roman Zaretsky. "We try to find ways to kind of look through—or look a little up, or a little sideways," says Ms. Zaretsky. "Hey, you gotta act."
They're not the only ice dancers in this particular pickle. Four of the 23 ice-dancing pairs competing at the Vancouver Games are brother and sister. And this year, they're all required to complete a compulsory portion of competition by doing the forbidden dance.
How do you tango with your sibling? "We get that question a lot," says Israeli Ms. Zaretsky—as do all of the siblings competing here.
Ice dancing, arguably the most artistic of any Olympic sport, requires a certain believable sizzle on the ice in order to capture a medal. "The training is a sport, but the performance is an art," says Sinead Kerr, 31, of Great Britain, who is dancing with her brother John.
Ice dancing, which was added to the Games in 1976, blends elements of figure skating and ballroom dancing. Partners stick close together throughout the routine, doing spins as a team while holding hands. Ice dancers have to perform three times: a compulsory dance in which all the teams do the same moves and use the same music (this time, it's the "Tango Romantica"), a two-minute original dance to a set theme (this year it's folk/country), and a four-minute free dance of the team's choosing.
Ice dancers learn to become actors of sorts. "Our coach told us envision someone else's head is there," says Chris Reed, 20, who dances with his sister Cathy for Japan. "It's all an act."
Mr. Reed watches videos of his own performance, and uses mirrors to practices his moves and even his facial expressions. His tango look is "serious but endearing," says Ms. Reed, who is 22.
Mr. Kerr, 29, says that dancing with his sister means he is prevented from developing romantic themes in performance. (Their tango will be more like a fight between two people, he says.)
"On the ice, we don't think of each other as brother and sister," he adds.
Ruling out romance also forces them to be more creative, and act out different sorts of roles on the ice, he says. In 2008, they performed a routine dressed as space aliens. In the Vancouver Games, they are dancing one segment to Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" with Ms. Kerr dressed as a truck driver and Mr. Kerr as a hitchhiker. They will be telling the story of a driver who picks up a rider and then the two swap stories about their many adventures.
Even nonsiblings can have a hard time learning to express sizzle all while spinning and lifting their partner off the ground at dizzying speeds.
"Sometimes you need to emote those kinds of feelings like you are in love with her," says American skater Evan Bates, who has been ice dancing with his partner Emily Samuelson—to whom he is not related—for 10 years. Yet "it is so hard to develop that when you are 10 and 11 years old, and you are grossed out by girls," says Mr. Bates.
All ice-dancing relationships are strange, say athletes, because they involve spending countless intense hours with the same person, while trying to maintain a professional partnership. Sharing a family bond can smooth over disagreements about music, practice or career path. It has been proved to work before: During the 1992 Games, the French brother and sister team Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay won silver.
Sibling ice dancing is more common than one might think. Noriko Reed, the mother of Chris and Cathy, says it wasn't her idea to pair her son and daughter. "It was just the luck of the ice dance coach that put them together," she said. A third Reed sibling, Allison, is also competing in ice dancing in Vancouver, for the Georgian team with Otar Japaridze.
Siblings can certainly fight. "Other couples also fight, but the way they do it is different," says German skater Christina Beier, 25, who competes with her brother William, 27. "We know exactly what you have to say if you want to hurt the other one."
After an injury, last season they even gave a try to dancing with new partners. "With others, it was harder," says Ms. Beier. "It is from nature that we move together. When we got back together, it was like we never split up."
For one dance in Vancouver, they will represent their own brother and sister relationship—starting with skating together as kids, then stretching to their breakup and reunion. "This is our story, so it is easier to tell," says Ms. Beier.
sorry about the first one mods.
bolded as well.