What's the Difference Between Ice Dancing and Figure Skating? Olympian Evan Bates Explains

The Winter Olympics are here and buzz surrounding the worldwide competition is heating up.

For many fans, figure skating events are an Olympic highlight, but every four years many people seem to have the same question: What’s the difference between figure skating and ice dancing?

The short answer is that ice dancing falls under the broader umbrella category of figure skating.

Leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics, PEOPLE sat down with 2018 Olympic ice dancer Evan Bates, whose partner is Madison Chock, to clarify some of the differences between figure skating and ice dancing.

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“Ice dancing has more restrictions,” Evan Bates explained to PEOPLE. “We can only do lifts that are below the head so I can’t raise my hands above my head, which is a really easy distinction when you’re trying to differentiate between pairs and ice dancing.”

According to Shape.com, ice dancing places more importance on having a graceful and entertaining routine compared to figure skating, which focuses more on jumps, lifts and spins. Figure skaters are scored based on connecting their footwork for all of their various moves, but ice dancers are evaluated by the precision of their moves.

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“We’re really more like ballroom dancers,” Bates explained. “We’re interpreting music, putting a lot of emphasis on the connection between the couple and on the connection to the music.”

Ice dancers work together in pairs to complete their routine, and the music that they dance to must have a steady rhythm for skating.

San Diego Ice Arena coach and former ice dancer Justin Ross told NBC San Diego that while pairs figure skating is recognized by its throws and jumps, ice dancing pairs are scored more on how they move together as one. For example, if one dancer moves or spins at a slightly different pace than their partner, it could mean huge point deductions.

Ross continued to explain that pairs figure skating is all about the heavy lifting and jumps, placing an emphasis on over-the-head lifts, triple jumps and throws — all things you won’t see in an ice dancing routine.

The 2018 Winter Olympics will air live starting Feb. 8. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.