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Long considered a form of freestyle skiing, ski ballet once enjoyed the status of being included in Olympic competitions. In spite of the fact that it is no longer performed at the Olympics, the sport still has legions of fans. Many credit Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee with the invention of the form. Chaffee first performed the intricate series of spins, jumps, leg crossings, flips and rolls that make up the choreography associated with it at the 1968 games.
Originally performed with little or no musical accompaniment, ski ballet did not really have a limit on the amount of time that could be devoted to the routine. However, once the form caught on and became a staple of the competition at the Olympics, the performance was limited to 90 seconds with background music included.
Chaffee, as a noted freestyle skier, continued to promote ski ballet or ski dancing outside the Olympics. Incorporating the technique into the exhibitions she would provide at skiing events around the world, she did a great deal to popularize the concept. As time went on, enthusiasts formed local clubs of ski dancers and began to develop their own routines based on the foundations created at Olympic competitions.
The period between 1972 and 1984 was perhaps the era when ski ballet had its highest public profile thus far. Owing partly to the popularity of Chaffee, but also in part to the fact that it was both a demanding as well as an artistic form of skiing, ballet began to find new mainstream audiences outside the Olympic competitions. No longer a sport for either ski enthusiasts or Olympic fans, people who had never been near been near a pair of skis began to take notice and found that the art form was indeed worth watching and following.
By the late 1980s, the place of ski ballet as a regular competition at the Olympics was beginning to wane. In 1988, it was presented simply as a demonstration sport rather than as an event. The same was true with the 1992 Winter Olympics. Still, the art has continued to thrive in many parts of the world. Now renamed acroski, the art form continues to find new devotees, creating even more clubs around the globe. As an example of grace as well as skill, it is sure to be around for a very long time to come.
This is what ski ballet of the 21st might sound like.
Let's bring this sport back to the Olympics!
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