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In dramatic shift, figure skating will allow music with lyrics

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plushenko figure skating (Paolo Bona /
plushenko figure skating (Paolo Bona /

The ongoing Winter Olympics in Sochi may be the last time you see figure skating in its traditional form. From next season, the singles and pairs programs will allow the use of music backed by vocals, thanks to new rules agreed on by the International Skating Union. Although lyrical music is already commonplace in the ice dancing discipline, which requires couples to skate to a backing track with a beat, most singles and pairs contestants opt for classical accompaniment.

The New York Times has taken an in-depth look at the reactions and implications of the change. "We have to innovate," said Katia Krier, a coach with France’s figure skating team. "Our sport is already losing viewers, but we have to give people the desire to watch us. I think this could help. We have to be careful not to go over the top, but if music with lyrics is used well, it can really bring something more."

But not everyone is so optimistic. "I’m all about inclusion, and all about diversity, and all about hip-hop. I mean, that’s me," said Kori Ade, coach to Jason Brown, the American skater who used music from Riverdance as a backing track in Sochi. "But I think that there is something so regal about skating that might not carry with Top 40. I think it’s going to come off really corny. And even though people don’t have to do it, I’m afraid people are going to attempt it poorly, and then it will make the sport look even stupider."