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Brother-and-sister ice-dance pairs not weird

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It takes two to tango, even if — dude, is that your sister?

It might cause some sophomoric snickering, but four of the 23 pairs in Olympic ice dancing are siblings: Germany's Christina and William Beier, Great Britain's Sinead and John Kerr (pictured), Japan's Cathy and Chris Reed and Israel's Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky.

Considering what ice dancing entails, as the Wall Street Journal outlined it today, how can they do that? Especially when the compulsories at the Games involve — wait for it — the tango:

Ice dancing, arguably the most artistic of any Olympic sport, requires a certain believable sizzle on the ice in order to capture a medal. "The training is a sport, but the performance is an art," says Sinead Kerr, 31, of Great Britain, who is dancing with her brother John.

[It] blends elements of figure skating and ballroom dancing. Partners stick close together throughout the routine, doing spins as a team while holding hands. Ice dancers have to perform three times: a compulsory dance in which all the teams do the same moves and use the same music (this time, it's the "Tango Romantica"), a two-minute original dance to a set theme ... and a four-minute free dance of the team's choosing.

Ice dancers learn to become actors of sorts. "Our coach told us envision someone else's head is there," says Chris Reed, 20, who dances with his sister Cathy for Japan. "It's all an act."

Mr. Reed watches videos of his own performance, and uses mirrors to practice his moves and even his facial expressions. His tango look is "serious but endearing," says Ms. Reed, who is 22.

Mr. Kerr, 29, says that dancing with his sister means he is prevented from developing romantic themes in performance. (Their tango will be more like a fight between two people, he says.)

"On the ice, we don't think of each other as brother and sister," he adds.

There is a logic to sibling partnerships, which are common in other pastimes that involve elements that can be practiced at home, or where their other competitors may be few and far between.

It's common in ballroom dancing. Julianne Hough of Dancing With the Stars fame danced with her professionally good-looking brother, Derek Hough, when they were growing up. Freestyle wrestling has a long history of twin-brother combinations. Women's team sports have a high rate of twins; just Google "twins in women's basketball." The U.S. women's hockey team includes twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux. Switzerland's women's hockey team has two sets of twins.

So, really, it's not that unusual. Besides, as Michael Tunison of The Sporting Blog noted, it is not weird since "it's something that's been laboriously practiced for years and years. That and they're not 8-year-olds who will lose their mind if they are asked to dance with their sibling."

Still, people being what they are, some are going to be reminded of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler playing a creepy brother-and-sister pair in the Will Ferrell comedy Blades of Glory. Of course, the real-life spouses' characters competed in pairs, not ice dancing, so that doesn't apply here.

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