Then just 19 years old, figure skater Jason Brown dazzled the audience (and judges) at the 2014 US National Championships with a virtually flawless routine that won him first place in the free skate. His choice of music wasn’t an obvious one, but there’s no question it worked: “Reel Around the Sun” by the Irish step dancing group Riverdance.
What makes Irish step dancing so distinctive is the way the dancers keep their upper bodies rigid while letting their feet do all the work, with speed, precision, and unbelievable intensity. The story, which may or may not be true, is that in the Ireland of yesteryear, the only option for people who needed a dance floor was to remove a door from its hinges. Naturally, such a tiny stage didn’t leave a whole lot of room for maneuver, so all that energy had to be let out by the feet. Irish step dancing has enjoyed a huge revival thanks to the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest (held in Dublin, incidentally). A group called Riverdance put on a spectacular performance that was a big hit with the live audience and the 300 million people watching on television.
If Jason had done actual step dancing, he’d have bored a hole in the ice, so he had to create an adaptation that would work on skates and include the figure skating moves that are expected to be part of any routine. Formulating the routine was a real struggle until his coach Kori Ade came up with a story line: a hero saves his village by repelling an invader in a dance battle and then celebrates the victory. The audience loved it and so did the judges. In fact, when the scores were announced, Jason couldn’t believe how well he’d done.
Check out the video and let us know what you thought of Jason Brown’s step dance on skates in the comments section below. Be sure to like and share, too!