Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine
Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders
In April 1933, an ice dance competition open to both amateurs and professionals was held at the Westminster Ice Rink in London. Married couple Eva Keats of Great Britain and Erik van der Weyden of Belgium took home the gold. Two months later, a competition for professional ice dancers only was held at the Queen's Ice Club in London. Perhaps controversially dancing with a woman other than his wife, van der Weyden and Elsie Heathcote won this particular competition.
Things got much more organized in 1936. The British Ice Teachers Association was founded that year as the Ice Teachers Guild. It was one of the first coaching associations formed in the world and played an important role in organizing competitions for professionals both pre-World War II and after, under the name the Imperial Professional Skaters Association. That year, before Great Britain even had an amateur ice dance competition, a professional competition for ice dancers called the British Pro Waltz Championships was won by Lesley Turner and Robert Dench. Skaters like Hope Braine, Nate Walley, Pamela Prior, Joan Dix and pairs team Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders took home titles in singles and pairs skating during this period. In April 1937 at the Harringay Ice Arena, Pamela Prior was the only entrant in the women's event but was still expected to achieve specific scores in both compulsory figures and free skating to earn the crown. She was only seventeen years old.
Mostly show skaters competed in these events from early on but many bigger names like Cecilia Colledge and Swiss brothers Jacques and Arnold Gerschwiler dipped their foot in the water. Also competing were Herbert Alward, Marilyn Hoskins, Ronnie Baker, Len Liggett and Pamela Murray and Muriel Roberts and Walter Gregory, the inventors of the Rhumba compulsory dance. Often, the Championships were held in conjunction with other events organized by the National Skating Association, such as amateur junior competitions.
These events came to a halt during World War II. Some rinks remained open, others were taken over, damaged or closed and the ones that were opened served double duty as bomb shelters with gas masks in the cloakrooms. By 1946, the Professional Championships had returned.
Moira June MacDonald, Open Professional Champion in 1949, 1951 and 1953
George Miller preparing for the Open Professional Championships in 1957. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.
Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine
The judging system was revamped, with six judges (five in dance) and marks given on a 10.0 scales. The total points, not ordinals, decided the winners, and each judge presided over one aspect of the skater's performance. In singles skating, there was a judge apiece for spins, jumps, steps, general performance, musical interpretation and artistic conception. In pairs, judges looked at spins, jumps and lifts, steps, performance, musical interpretation and artistic conception. In compulsory dances, they assessed correct edges, correct pattern style, correctness of footwork, rhythm and timing and interpretation of music, and in the free dance contents and difficulty, rhythm and timing, unison and co-ordination and musical interpretation. The competition were then titled at the World's and British Professional Championships. "Skating World" magazine noted, "Should a British competitor place first in any event, then he or she would become both British and World Champion. The highest placed British skater would take the national title in any event, regardless of World placings."
A hugely important development for the competition came on May 31, 1958, when the BBC televised all four disciplines of the event held at Nottingham Ice Stadium, allowing television audiences in England their first glimpse at professional competition. With Alan Weeks and Max Robertson as commentators, this television coverage continued well into the sixties.
Carol and Michel, Rosina and Raymond Lockwood and Peri Horne and Basil Cudlipp-Green, pairs medallists in 1958. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.
Betty Loach and Howard Richardson, Marjorie McCoy and Ian Phillips and Gillian Thorpe and John Phillips, ice dance medallists in 1966. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.
In 1969, another pair of four time World Champions, Diane Towler-Green and Bernard Ford, won the event - now billed as the W.D. and H.O. Wills Professional Ice Skating Championships at Wembley - defeating Yvonne Suddick and Malcolm Cannon and Vivienne Dean and John Phillips for the win. Perhaps the most compelling winner that came out of this event was 1965 pairs winner Marianne Althammer of West Germany, who tours later would spend eighteen days in jail in Poland after getting into a fight with Warsaw police while touring with Holiday On Ice.
The men's podium in 1970: Michael Edmonds, Donald Jackson and Paul McGrath
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