A Lyrical Twist: Figure Skaters Perform to Music With Words

In an attempt to attract a younger audience to a sport with flagging appeal – and to satisfy young skaters — the International Skating Union adopted rules allowing sung music after the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. (Ice dancers have used vocals since the late 1990s.) To proponents, lyrics help skaters tell a story and may attract casual fans with songs that are played on the radio, not just in symphony halls.

“Sometimes music with vocals, it brings out more passion,” said Han Cong of China, 25, who with his partner, Sui Wenjing, 22, is favored to win the Olympic pairs competition. They skate to K.D. Lang’s cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” in their short program.

“When the lyrics have some meaning, it may touch your heart more easily,” Han said.