So, the piece is actually about ice skating — and Stravinsky’s Petroushka.
From the Art of the States web site:
“Petroushskates was commissioned by the Da Capo Chamber Players and the New York State Council on the Arts to celebrate the group’s tenth anniversary at a concert sponsored by the Naumburg Foundation. In an attempt to understand why figure skating, especially pair skating, was so beautiful and moving to me I discovered a musical correlary I had been working on for a while — the idea of a seamless action — something I had started to explore in Amazon. I also always loved Petroushka and wanted to create an homage to Stravinsky and that piece in particular. As it turned out, the figure skating pairs became a whole company of skaters, thereby creating a sort of musical carnival on ice.” [note by Joan Tower]
Her publisher site (G. Schirmer Inc) also lists:
The title Petroushskates combines two ideas that are related to this piece. One refers to Stravinsky’s Petroushka and the opening Shrovetide Fair scene which is very similar to the opening of my piece. The celebratory character and the busy colorful atmosphere of this fair provides one of the images for this piece. […] [also by Tower]
More about Joan Tower.