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Creating A Music Programme For Ice Dancing

Rob Colling
Published March 2018
By Rob Colling

By specialising in programmes for ice dance, Rob Colling has perhaps hit on the most niche career in music!By specialising in programmes for ice dance, Rob Colling has perhaps hit on the most niche career in music!

With arbitrary tempo restrictions to contend with and Olympic glory riding on every cut, adapting music for ice dance represents a unique editing challenge.

It’s 28 September 2017. The scene: the Nebelhorn Trophy, a high-level international ice skating competition and the qualifying event for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Top British ice dance team Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland have just finished their short dance. It’s the first time they’ve competed internationally since a horrifying fall in mid-2016 smashed Penny’s knee into eight pieces, and commentators had begun to dismiss a comeback as unlikely, but Penny and Nick have just skated the best short dance of their career. They’re about to win the competition by a huge margin and qualify to skate at the Olympics.

In Eastern Finland, a slightly scruffy music editor from Middlesbrough is whooping and hollering, jumping around his living room with his hands in the air.

Freeze frame. Yup, that’s me. You might be wondering what I’m doing in this story. More to the point, you’re probably wondering why an article in Sound On Sound has begun like an unusually sequin-embroidered episode of Quantum Leap. Well, as it happens, the story of Coomes & Buckland’s short dance music is a bit of a time-travelling tale. There will be modular synths and dancing cats, there will be VST plug-ins galore and a makeshift mastering studio in an ice rink. But let’s start by rewinding a few years.

Ancient History

In 1994, a decade after winning Olympic gold with their famous free dance to Ravel’s Bolero, British ice dance legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean returned to the Winter Olympics after many years away from competition. Their rhumba, set to a big-band version of the classic song ‘Historia de un Amor’ re-titled ‘History of Love’, scored higher than any other team’s original dance and stunned fans with its elegance.

In the UK, a slightly scruffy student from Middlesbrough was… well, it would be nice to say I was watching Torvill & Dean on TV, but I was probably jamming with my mates in someone’s garage, with a cider and black balanced on top of my Roland D5.

Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland in action.Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland in action.Photo: Robin RitossSome time later, a girl...

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Published March 2018