Ice dancing is a sport that practically encourages fan 'shipping. So are the Olympians actually romantic off the ice? Well, it's complicated.
Acting — sometimes like you're in love — is an important part of many ice dance programs. It's convincing enough that skaters are often asked if they're dating in real life. Ice dancer Colin McManus, who placed seventh at nationals, tells The Wire, "The population of ice dancers are ice dancers because they love to perform." Teams work with specialists from the world of theater, former competitive dancer Pilar Bosley explains. "There has to be a definite connection that the audience and the judges can connect to as well between you and your partner," Bosley says.
The fact that sometimes the connection is romantic can raise eyebrows when there's a brother-sister team like Maia and Alex Shibutani competing. Bosley said the Shibutanis are "pretty wise with what they choose," but brother-sister teams are limiting. "It's hard to do something sexual or sexy with your brother," Johnny Weir said during the short dance commentary. But these two former ice dancers told The Wire that behind the scenes, dancers' relationships are often more like siblings'. Not sexy.
With the free dance airing on NBC on Monday night — if you want to know who won click here — attention has obviously been lavished on the relationships of American team Charlie White and Meryl Davis and Canadian team Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. A Tumblr called "virtuemoirlove" is dedicated to GIFs and photos of Virtue and Moir with moon eyes at one another. Another posted excitedly when Virtue and Moir admitted to dating — when they were just little kids. The Canadians revealed their childhood romance in a 2010 Toronto Star article, which basically served as fan fiction. The Star said their romantic connection isn't "faked," even though they don't dance: "There is almost wistfulness in his voice, a hint of possibilities." A Sunday BuzzFeed post was headlined, "U.S. Ice Dancers Charlie White And Meryl Davis Are Basically A Real Life Disney Prince And Princess," a sentiment that's also found on Tumblr. Jodie Jill of the Examiner.com wrote a story titled, "Meryl Davis, Charlie White dating? Olympic ice dance couple looks in love," only to reveal in the course of the story that is not actually the case.
White is actually dating Tanith Belbin, a former ice dancer, who is working for NBC Sports during the Sochi Olympics. But their relationship is purposely kept quiet, he told Yahoo Sports. "We don't really talk about it," he said. "As an ice dancer, we take our on-ice relationships so seriously, and that's really the way we like to go about it. [Davis and I] are just presenting ourselves as a team, and all the rest of that [with Belbin] can wait for later." That led Bustle's Martha Sorren to compare Davis and White's relationship to Katniss and Peeta's in The Hunger Games — an act for the cameras, without, of course, the threat of imminent death. Interestingly enough, despite the fandom, Davis and White's emotional connection is something they've needed to work on over the years. Davis and White look like they have "a business relationship," The Skating Lesson's Dave Lease told The Wire's Elspeth Reeve in an earlier interview.
McManus told us that he totally understands what White is talking about, since he's been dating his partner's sister, an ice dancer herself, for almost five years. "It doesn’t feel romantic to us because it’s business," he said of his relationship with his partner. "We’re totally committed to portraying the character." He did say, however, that people ask if he and his partner are dating "all the time," even though he considers her more of a "sister."
Bosley also used the brother-and-sister analogy to talk about her relationship with her partner. "I have friends and know skaters that were skating with people that they ended up falling in love with," she said. "I think sometimes it's just natural because you spend so much time with that person — so much intimate time — so if you have a connection with that person it would be difficult to deny it." It's not unusual for skating pairs of any sort to end up together, but McManus said "the general consensus is that you usually don’t want to date your partner." He posed it this way: "If you have a bad day off the ice with your girlfriend how are you supposed to have a good day on your ice with your partner when it’s the same person?"