Monday, November 7, 2011


As a beginning skater I was able to get through learn to skate with only a moderate amount of extension and toe point. Then in ice dance I ran into the screeching wall of EVIL DEATH called the Rhythm Blues.
It is the third in the beginners dances, all forward steps, with one little trick to it. In the end pattern you skate forward and step behind your skating foot with your free foot.

See 00:15 for the beginning of the EVIL Step Behind

The picture to the left represents my expression the first time I did the step behind. OMG, there's so many things that can go wrong. Let me count the ways:
1. You can step on the blade of the skating foot--and fall backwards
2. You can jam the free foot toe pick into the ice behind the skating foot--and fall backwards
3. You can be moving the free foot behind the skating foot--and fall backwards
4. You can just raise your free foot up a tiny bit and fall backwards.

Then I went to Lake Placid Adult Skate Camp and took a lesson from Coach Amazing. She had me doing the step behind in 15 minutes. The points that I took away with me were: keep the thighs together (no wide stepping, no swinging) and when you bring the free foot forward POINT. THAT. TOE!  Suddenly I was doing the step-behinds. After a half hour they ceased to be scary. What was going on?

I did a little experimenting with  this. First I exaggerated flexing the foot. I stood on one foot, bringing the free foot forward and FLEXed the free foot. I felt a pull up the back of my free leg, through my glues and to my lower back. Since my center of mass is just below my belly button, that leg is acting as a lever arm pulling me backwards. Don't want to go there. I point the toe, point it with all my heart. Now the pull is on the front of the leg and up to my core. The pull  is now pulling me slightly forward over the middle of my skating foot. That's where I want to be.

Here's what I think is going on. When I point the toe I'm  keeping my balance forward over the blade because all the muscles in the front of my body are active and the muscles in the back of my body are more relaxed. Being centered and stable reduces stray movements that can cascade into losing my balance and falling backwards when I move the free foot back. I could certainly do the step behinds with a flexed foot, but as  beginning skater I would end up very subtly rocking to the back of the blade, thus creating a potential for falling backwards.

So the test for me was to use POINT. THAT. TOE. on inside swing rolls. The first time I tried this (pointing my toe with all the fierce force fervently forward) I sat on that inside edge like I was riding a rail. Excellent! I was channeling Maia Usova!

Now when my foot is forward or back and extended, my toe pointing is as hard as I can make it.  So far so good. At some point I may run into a case where POINT. THAT. TOE should be point. that. toe. but by then my skating skills will be better and I'll be able to judge what level of effort to use.

Fierce. Foot. Fervently. Forward! And beyond!

1 comment:

  1. I can do the step behind well on one foot (the one you do once), and very very slowly on the other (the one you do twice). The problem is, the dance is not very very slow :(

    I've given up my thoughts of testing ice dance due to this dance. A bad step behind (I think I stepped on the blade, but I essentially kicked my leg out from under myself) threw me into the boards, caused a labral tear in my hip, and ruined my spirals (and chance at silver moves...)

    Stupid dance.

    I never bothered testing the first two, because what is the point of testing two if you can't pass the test entirely?

    Good on you for getting this! I don't understand at all why it is on a beginner/encouragement test.