Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Achy Breaky Foot

Some people are gifted in skating. They can learn even complex skills in 3 or 4 repetitions. The may not be smooth, or graceful, but they've got the basics down.

I take 40.

Coach Cruella has a very methodical way of teaching edges, and particuarly turns. It's very structured and appeals to my need for rigor. She starts with step A and works through to G or F or Q.  I like this approach as it allows me to break a new skill down into pieces. By the time I've worked through the whole thing, I'm really solid and able to enter the turn even with a bad entry, or do things with leg and arm positions that are 'off kilter', or do it dance style vs. freestyle style.

I've found that it takes me about 40 repetitions to get the first few parts of a turn until they're at the 'don't have to think about it' stage. Then maybe another 40 reps, to get the last few skills habituated. But often that last arm position--everything I do seems to have an arm position thing at the end--eludes me.

Coach Cruella just reaches in and moves my arm while I'm moving. Aaaaaarrrgggghhhhh!!!!!! Nerve wracking!!!

Usually when I'm learning these new skills, I'm anxious (the whole falling thing) and I tense up. After the first few repetitions my toes are numb and my insteps are aching like they're on fire, which brings brings us to the point of this post. Cruella's recipe for fixing this is to bend the knees and raise the toes. Apparently, when stressed, people crunch their toes and this restricts blood to the arch of the foot, causing that achy breaky foot.

It seems to work. Although as the lesson goes on, I have to do it over and over. As I get comfortable with the skill, I usually stop the toe clenching and my feet feel fine.

So, in summary, to help with the achy breaky foot caused by tension not a boot defect (pain in the arch)

Stand on two feet. Bend the knees. Raise the toes in the boots. It will take a few seconds.

Hope it works for you!

Man, I've got like 4000 repetitions to get those CCW back edges. My toes will see the top of my boots plenty of times!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pretty in Pink

"You look good in pink," Dance Coach commented on my new skating jacket.

I hear that a lot. Now that pink is in fashion,  as a blonde, I do look good in pink. Other women have made that comment several times in the last week.

I just hate it though. I want to look good in black and be a dangerous femme fatale like Black Widow.

Here's the Black Widow doing the wide step from the Cha-Cha
Forty years too late for that; I have to settle for pink instead and be the sweet little old granma.

As an athlete in a performance sport that crosses over into entertainment, Dance Coach is more conscious of color and style than the other men (lunkhead engineers) I know.

So far I know about Dance Coach:
1. He likes my hair up (Last week he told me he liked my hair in a french braid.)
2. He likes a lot of makeup (Before my test, while I was wearing more makeup than I've worn in 40 years, I asked, 'Too much makeup?' 'More,' he said.)
3. I look good in pink. (True.)

So, for performance reasons I understand his comments. The up-do gives me a nice line on the neck. I'm not particularly swan necked, but it's a nice slender neck. The 'more' makeup is because blondes tend to look washed out on the ice. I've seen video of myself  skating; My face is a little white blob with dark pinpoints for eyes.

And the pink? Well, that heightens the color in my face and keeps it from looking quite so elderly. Always a good move.

So, next test-- hair up, lots of makeup, black test dress.

Puhlease... you didn't think I actually pay attention to everything he says do you?


If this Tony Cohen dress was made as a test dress, I'd wear it

Monday, May 28, 2012

Decepticon on Ice

Since I started taking lessons from Coach Cruella, I've skated deeper in the knee than ever before. It's really improved my skating. More power, deeper edges, greater stability.

Then, I get to back edges in waltz hold. Butt neatly tucked, down in the knee, looking at the right place over Dance Coach's ear. I'm mentally patting myself on the back. Then Dance Coach says.

"Deeper in the knees."

I goggle at him a bit, but just like a well trained dog I go deeper in the knee. At this point I feel like I'm about to sit down in a chair. I mean, I'm pretty sure I'm not chair sitting deep in the knee, but I'm deeper than sitting on a bar stool deep in the knee. Depressingly, I realize that 'deep in the knee' is the great deceptor. I have no clue where I am in knee bend after a certain point. Maybe because I'm a 'mature' skater, or maybe it's some defect in my head wiring. Don't know.

So for me, knee bend is the Decepticon of ice dance. It's never what I think it is.

Remember the Decepticons? And the Autobots? Transformers, remember those? From the 80's? Oh, and there were some movies too.

Anyway, what I need to do is skate like a red-eyed Decepticon, and not like the good guy blue eyed Autobots. My proof:


All the Decepticons are like this. Good knee bend. Lots of cool weaponry.

Plus, they convert into cars.

If they were smaller, and nimble, minus the weapons, they'd probably be able to solve the male ice dance partner shortage.

Sad. They're the 'bad' guys. But can they do choctaws?

And here is one of the 'good' guy Autobots.

Note that he/she/it/whatever is as stiff in the knees as a first time skater in a pre-Alpha class.

Oh, and yellow--so 1998.

So Decepticons can skate. I happen to have some video of one skating at a top-secret test facility. And it is a Decepticon. Note the red eyes.

Listen, I'm so desperate for an ice dance partner that I'm trying to convert hockey players by telling them it will improve their hockey. At this point, I'd skate with a he could drive me to the rink!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Every once in a while, I flub something.

Flubbing is different than making a mistake. Flubbing is making a big, walloping mistake!


1. Tripping on my toepicks--mistake; Tripping on coach's toepicks by stroking in the wrong direction in hold--flubbing

2. Going to the wrong starting point for a dance--mistake; Doing the Dutch Waltz steps to the Canasta Tango--flubbing

3. Falling backwards--mistake; Falling backward and toepicking Dance Coach in the 'inner thigh'--flubbing
 Did that hurt, Dance Coach? Sorry.

Sometimes, I flub and coaches see it coming. They can then use that as a 'teaching moment'. This week I had two occasions of that. I can only guess that they see a flub coming and don't say anything because they want to see how I get out of it.

With Coach Cruella, I'm working on big, sweepy FO3. So I set up in position with a deep knee-bend T-stroke, and promptly do a FI3. Cruella saw it coming. She could tell by my arm position I was cross wired. So, I stroke, and then realize I'm in FI3--fortunately, I don't panic. I keep going down in the knee and do one, with only a minimum of bobble. So, Cruella's not correcting me forced me to think about my skating and not just reflexively skate. A neat little lesson.

In lesson with Dance Coach, he has me doing FO3 to landing position.  I do the troika, a big sweepy one, switch feet and skate backwards on the outside edge. Dance Coach is behind me someplace and I'm not looking. I don't have much control going backwards, so I ram blade first into Dance Coach somewhere between the knee and the thigh. Since I'm not looking behind me, I don't know where I hit--and I don't want to know. I put my free foot down, turn, and say accusingly, "You're supposed to move."
What I should have said
Dance Coach appears to be uninjured since I have no speed. He says nothing.  If he was off-ice he'd stalk to the new location and glare. Instead he skates in a rather ostentatious manner to a point in front of me and says in his glarey voice. "Do again, you were on the flat."

"Was not."

"Was. Do again."

The bickering balance of the universe restored, I do it again.

Why didn't he move? What lesson was I supposed to learn? Look behind me? Meh. I haven't got the control yet. Was he looking away for an instant and didn't see me coming? No idea. So this was a time where a flub may have been double flub! One for me and one for him. If I work hard enough I can do a flub that involves me, Dance Coach, and another skater. Trifecta!

Although ramming into your coach twice with your blade must be some kind of record.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Power Redux

So, you've read my whines about my power. The story now gets more complex.

I went skating with some ice dance couples I haven't seen since the Big Reunion. I didn't have a chance to skate with them then because I was in lesson. Annoyingly, no one commented on my skating, just 'Your coach is handsome' comments from all of the women and one of the husbands. A couple of days ago, was my first chance to skate with them on ice in a year.

So, I'm stroking around the rink with one of the women, Pre-silver dance, who I've always had trouble keeping up with. We're so deep in conversation that it's not until I get off the ice that I realized I'd been able to keep up. Not only just keep up, but skate on the outside of the curves and keep up without thinking about it.

I do have POWER! (Maybe)

I need to stop comparing myself to Dance Coach. He just keeps skating faster to get me to skate faster. I can never catch up with a guy 30 years younger. If I compare myself to him, it's not fair.

I need an outside reference point. How slow can speed guns detect?

" She's not as slow as last week"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Missing a Lesson

So what happens when I miss a lesson?

Nope, I'm not talking about canceling a lesson. I'm talking about having a scheduled lesson I don't show up for.

It's happened to me four times. So on average, about once every 15 months.

1. Car Trouble
2. Coach taught at several rinks, and I went to the wrong rink
3. Absolute kerfuffle about dates and times
4. Canceled at the last minute due to traffic tie up.

What do I do?

I offer to pay for my missed lesson.

In the case of the car trouble I was able to give my coach a few hours warning and he didn't charge me. In the case of the wrong rink, I paid. In the kerfuffle about dates and times, the coach had a student before me, saw I wasn't on the ice and went home, as I was last student of the day. She didn't charge me. When I had to cancel due to traffic, I paid.

My job to be there on time, ready to skate. If I'm not, I offer to pay.

I'm rather astonished by the stories I hear from coaches about parents and their skaters who don't show up for lessons, sometimes for weeks in a row. I'm a little shocked by these stories. First off, that adults would think they can engage a professional then not treat them professionally; second, that coaches put up with it. But, none of my business how a coach conducts their business. I treat my coaches the way I'd like to be treated. Pay up if I show up or not, unless the coach is nice enough to give me a pass.

Well, maybe coaches don't need to be this tough.

Maybe coaches need Accountant Cat to keep parents in line

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rink Tips

Sometimes I come across a tip that's so amazingly simple that I gasp at how foolish I was to miss it in the first place. And yet, the simple tip solves some annoying off-ice issue that bugs me.

Soakers go missing.
I get off the ice, pull my shoes out of the bag and can't find the soakers. I open the end pockets of the bag and find one, then find the other one on the floor across the boot area. Meanwhile I've got one boot on and one boot off, so I have to limp across the rubber and get my feet wet.

Put the soakers in your shoes before you put them in the bag.
I know. I mean, amazingly simple! Problem solved!
(I got this one off

My gloves, rags, stockings, arm warmers, and wrist guards not only float around the bag, they go to visit the soakers on the other side of the rink. And sometimes stuff disappears.

I bought one of those zip-up mesh lingerie bags used to wash bras. I can stuff everything in there, and not only does it dry out in there, a couple of times a month when I get home I just toss it into the washer and wash everything in the cool cycle along with my clothes.

Gloves don't match.

Well, you can always buy gloves of all the same color, but I don't even bother. I solved this one by not worrying about it. If I'm down to one glove I just go get another glove of any color out of the glove box at home. If I find a glove floating around the house, I toss it into the glove box. Yes, nothing says figure skater like the fact you have a 'glove box'.

You have to take your gloves off to use your phone.

You can buy expensive special gloves, or even conductive thread, but an alternative is to buy the cheapest special gloves possible*. I've used theses and they work as well as the expensive gloves. You can sometimes find them in the 5 And Below stores in the winter. And if you've established a reputation as a glove rebel, it won't matter if one glove doesn't match. You just keep one at home as a backup.

Got a tip? Please share the wealth!

* If you look carefully, you'll see you can get these for $4.50 from 'other sellers'.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More Power!

So this week's lesson had a lot of power issues in it. I'm old and I'm slow and --shall we say--past my prime?

Dance Coach is in his prime. So let's compare where he is on the power scale, vs where he wants me to be, vs where I am.

Dance Coach Power

Where Dance Coach wants my Power

Where I am


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Biting My Tongue

"You need to hold on to me harder." Dance Coach said.

It's been decades since a man said that to me, popped into my brain but I wisely decided it wasn't the time for even mildly naughty jokes, so I just said, "Okay." We'd been skating in Killian and I'm occasionally casual about the strengh of my pressure on his hand on my right hip. Dance Coach likes my left arm straight and firm across him, and my right hand strongly pushing his hand onto my hip. I  like to just lightly rest my hand on his, which is a no-no. He wants strong connections.

This week, he's all yappy about my power. Or my speed. Or my ability to keep up. At one point in the lesson he abruptly skates away from me while talking. I call out, "Whoa, slow down." He glances over his shoulder, "No, you speed up."

I narrow my eyes. "I'm elderly!" I whine as I try to catch him. All I get for that is laughter.

I Canna give you more power, Captain.    
Anyway, at this point I have to assume that now that the whole 'more power' thing is raising its ugly head yet again, he's emphasizing my holds because when we're skating fast, I'm pretty much a side of beef being driven around the rink.  Okay, that's an exaggeration. But I intuit a strong hold makes it easier for Dance Coach to lead me in the dances and keeps me tucked in neatly in the right position, so he can stop me from falling in the event I catch a toepick.

Or my legs collapse in exhaustion.

We zip through the first half of the Canasta Tango on public then a kid runs into him.  Dance Coach  recites the Russian alphabet under his breath to keep from swearing as we skate back to the starting point for the CT.  When he explains this to me, he asks, "Don't you have words like that in English? So you don't swear?"  I didn't have to think about that. I was brought up in a strictly non-swearing family. I've got dozens of non-swearing  expressions. I pick out a couple. "Geeze Louise." I said, "And Fudge." As I step into Reverse Killian hold I hear him murmur, "Fudge. I get that." I take a deep breath before he starts counting. "I never use it, of course." There's a snort from Dance Coach; if I'm frustrated I've been know to tear off some fearsome full metal jacket swear words.  This always shocks him. According to a skater I know, who is a fluent Russian linguist, Russian men don't like to hear women swear.

Too late.

The second Canasta Tango, at first only one rep, goes smooth as silk. There's absolutely NO YAPPING! I even get praise for my presentation glide. The third time around, we do the dance in full test pattern. I briefly see myself in the glass. I'm not 'hinching', and during the presentation glide my butt's not sticking out.  I takes improvement where I find it. Even when I can't see myself, I know my posture is right because I can effortlessly push my shoulders back lightly into Dance Coach's supportive left arm.

I have to give Coach Cruella some credit for that posture improvement. While Dance Coach has told me how to get my posture and practiced with me; Cruella manhandles me into the right position.  Cruella just reaches in while I'm skating, shoves my hips around and makes blunt woman-to-woman comments about how to place my chest that no male coach would ever dare do. So, one guy/one woman coach, working out for me.

We do a few more elements from other dances. I am able to do three turns in waltz hold consistently, and my forward and back edges in waltz hold rate approval and only one comment--"sit down on the edge, more". Okely-dokely.  

So, I didn't learn anything new today. But I got approved to test in August.


I'm going to nail that dance.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Death takes a Holiday on Ice

Well, another ice show practice this week and I got to pick out my mask. I'm going with the Jason Voorhees look since I will be appearing in a zombie number as Death--Destroyer of Worlds.
Tremble in fear all ye under 7.
Except that I'm a foot and a half shorter than the fearsome Jason, and wielding a hockey stick instead of a machete, and a 60 year old chick, I am terrifying.

So, my mask selection easy and done in two seconds. While everyone else was sorting through the alien, skull, and zombie masks, I was tooling around on the empty, open ice between Adult2 and Learn to Play2. I worked on my hockey stops. Then, overwhelmed by the open ice, I did a spiral while holding my hockey stick.

I was baaad. Naughty. A rapscallion. Totally off the reservation. The mask. The mask took over. Suddenly, I was on a nice edge on good ice and doing a good spiral, while headed directly at a tall guy stumbling around in LTP2. The hockey stick twirled by itself in my hand like a drum major's, and just before I hit the guy, I dropped into a hockey stop. And my out of control mouth said,

"Hey, baby, how you doing."

Yes, the mask is haunted by the spirit of Joey Tribbiani.

I retreated to the ice show area, and behaved like a nice little, old lady for the rest of the practice.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Mohawk--Again

I really want to get my mohawks smooth and....well, I can't say 'sexy' because with my short legs I look like a frog when doing a I want smooth and not awful. How about that? Good enough goal?

So Coach Cruella eyes my mohawks. All I can say is after my 'bad fall' I've got mohawk PTSD. She's been working on it for a couple of weeks. I don't panic, and I'm more comfortable, but not smooth, not safe.

For my case, Cruella's approach is start in a strong T-position, assume the depth of kneebend to hold the 'basketball' between the legs. Make sure the hips are pointing forward, not turned to the side of the back foot. (Open hips or closed hips? I never can get that straight) Put my weight onto the back foot. Stroke onto an inside edge, hold it, bring the free foot forward to the inside of the arch of the skating foot while going deeper in the knee, then go even deeper in the knee while looking in the direction you're skating towards. Switch feet and simultaneously bring the back arm slightly up, go deep in the new skating knee and keep the chest up.  * And make sure the new free foot is in the 7 o'clock position.

Oh, and there's the not falling part going on too.

Yeah. That last fraction of a Mohawk. Like this

*There may be one too many 'deeper in the knee' in there someplace.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stuff I Don't Put Up With Anymore

Part of learning from a coach is the business side of learning. I'm paying by the minute, I  expect attention by the minute. I practice, I show up on time, I'm ready to go. The coach should be too. Dance Coach is particularly good about this. If for some reason he has to step out of my lesson, when he returns he adds the missed time onto the lesson since I'm the last of the day. But I've had other coaches that either took advantage of me, or were unaware of their distractedness. I'm prepared to be businesslike about this.  Here's stuff I don't put up with anymore.

1. Making or taking phone calls in lessons.

Early on, I had a coach early on who had 'family emergencies' every lesson. She was always on the phone. I don't mean one phone call a lesson, I mean 2 or 3 every lesson. Which she would then describe to me--during lessons.

Coaches must love clueless beginners.  She was always apologetic for the calls, and I tolerated it. I wouldn't tolerate it now.

I have some 'only in my head' snappy replies that  I'd never use ("Every minute on the phone is a minute I'm not paying for.") But really, if this were to happen with a coach now, I'd do the math. If I think  I'm learning from them, then I'd have a businesslike talk with them. "I'm learning a lot from you. But you spend a lot of the lesson on the phone. You need to fix that."

The other option, is that if I didn't feel I was learning from the coach (and phone chatter on the coach's part can be indicative of that in my opinion), I'd now quit the coach.

2. The coach who talks to other coaches and doesn't pay attention to me

Yeah, this can happen occasionally. Even if my coach is talking to another coach (rink business) I think he or she should keep an eye on me. It's not deliberate inattentiveness. The coach is trying to be polite to the other coach and their attention is divided. Time flies. Suddenly, 5 minutes is gone and they now have their back to me.

I have one solution and I've only had to use it once. At the start of a lesson, after a couple of rinkside meeting incidents.  I told my coach, "Are you aware that when other coaches come up to talk to you, you don't watch my skating. Sometimes for minutes at a time?" The coach was shocked. It never happened again.

3. The group coach who focuses on one student

I was in a large adult group of 10. There was a coach and 3 assistants (older teens) for the class. It was a pleasant experience. Then one day the coach and all the assistants spent 10 minutes watching and encouraging one of the adult students in her sit spin. I quietly took the coach aside after the lesson and used the "Are you aware...." approach. It worked.

 I've never had a coach who denied what was happening. "Oh, I can keep my eye on you and talk on the phone." "No, Just because my back is to you I can still see you." "It's none of your business how I conduct my group classes."  But if I did get a coach like that: Vote with your feet, baby, Vote with your feet.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Flying with Skates

I've traveled with skates a few times by air and I think it might be useful to share my solutions.

First off, the big question: Can you take skates on board?

In a complete turn around from last year, the answer is "Yes".  I'd take a copy of the web page and have it book marked on your smart phone, just in case you get told "No" at the gate. (edit. Gel shoe inserts are NOT permitted. Scroll down to the bottom of the reference page. I don't know how picky TSA is about this--anyway, you've been warned.)

Recommendations from other sites say to keep your on-board bag free of junk to make it easier to get the skates through. 

Making their job easier, makes your trip easier
 I'm a fragile and delicate flower, so despite the TSA's policy change, I still put them in the belly of the beast--yes I check them. Just too heavy for a long trip.

I prefer a hard-sided suitcase that's not too large. The one I have is a few years old and is about 20 inches long. I prefer hard sided luggage for my skates to keep them from getting warped or the blades bent if something's dropped on the bag. Unlikely, but better safe than sorry. My experience is that with a larger suitcase, the skates make it too heavy to tool around the airport.  I travel with a small suitcase plus a small carry on. This allows me to carry my skates plus professional clothes for  a week's conference--yes, I do take a lot of black. I've been known to wear black skating pants and plain skating jacket to meetings. My carry-on doubles as my skate bag.

Tip 1: Skate bag is the carry-on.
Tip 2: Hard sided luggage is preferable

How do you pack your skates?  I clean my blade guards, dry them out, then put them on the blades. I put the soakers on over the guards, then I use twist ties to tie the soakers on. TSA security will sometimes search your luggage (they leave a nice little note BTW). You don't want an inspector nicking his hand on your blade because a soaker or a guard fell off. Lawsuits have been made of less. I've never done the following, but I think it's a good idea, take a picture of your skates in the bag for insurance purposes. You don't want to be sued for negligence.

Tip 3: Really, really make sure your blades are secured

I pack the inside of my skates with small stuff:  underwear mostly. My skating equipment (pads, wrist guards, etc) go in a zippered net bag I got at a Dollar Tree. It makes it difficult to pack around that lump of stuff, but I lost a wrist guard once because I tried to 'neat pack' with everything in little crevices. Just not worth the risk.

But unless you're on vacation and want to take your skates, there's other things to consider. If it's a business trip, most rinks don't have either evening public or evening freestyle. If you want to skate morning freestyle, even that can be problematic in order to shower and dress in time for a conference or meeting.

I don't take my skates on business trips any more, and even on vacation it's not worth it (unless it's a skating vacation). I'm usually fully booked with other obligations, so just not worth the effort.  I'd suggest you truly look at rink schedules and your time available before you pack your skates.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Facing Down the Line

So at my last edge class, no one showed up but me. (The weather was horrible, but that's no excuse for missing the Mass or a lesson.)

The result was, Coach Cruella had me all to herself. She said, "How would you like to do swingrolls?"

Not much.

I've been exposed to Cruella's swingrolls before. She's extremely fussy about body position, edges, depth of knee bend, leg position. While she tells me pretty much the same stuff Dance Coach does, he seems to be a little more easy going.  He takes the long view. "You need to work on X." he'll say, "It will come". He's got issues with my power, and patterns and stuff to move one to. Cruella is more like "We're going to fix your swingrolls now." So, it's working out well for me.  As I've said elsewhere, I like the way my two coaches scope their lessons  differently.

Anyway Cruella wants me to do swingrolls facing down the line. Up to now I've been doing them facing the direction I'm skating. Now, Cruella wants me to face the axis of the swingroll pattern and continue to face in that direction, while the swing rolls rotate around my body.

That doesn't make sense does it?

So, the video below, is NOT NOT NOT the Cruella way:
See how she is always facing the direction she is skating? The Cruella way, the skater would be facing the camera the whole time!

Did I just hear you go, "Eeek,That's hard!" Yes, indeedy, it is.

There's a quick but not jerky switch from one shoulder forward to the other that begins just as I approach the longline of the swingroll pattern. Also, I have to swing the swinging leg to pass next too the skating leg, and cross in front of the skating leg, ending up with the heel pointing inside the circle.

After a half hour I can do the facing down the axis thing fairly well on outside swingrolls. Inside ones? Meh.

Cruella swears this will delight Dance Coach when I show him.

Am I sensing competition in the invisible partnership? Mmmmm, what fun!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dance Coach vs the Test Dress

A while ago, just as my lesson was beginning I said to Dance Coach, "Now that I'm not having a test until August, I'm thinking of having a test dress made."

"Finally," Dance Coach murmured, in what I am sure is his 'did I say that out loud?' voice.

I gave him the eyeball. Lots of women just test in slacks. "I have a picture on my phone. Would you like to see it?" He assents so I pull out my phone and show him The Perfect Test Dress.

"Yes," he grunts. "Is okey."

"And I thought, I could fix it so that it matches the theme of the dance." I scroll down so he can see the bolero for the Tango, and the gloves for the Blues, then the idea for the Cha-cha.

And in one of the rare times since I started skating with him, his eyes light up with enthusiasm. "Yes, I like very much."

And it strikes me, he must have the soul of an artiste. So many students just gliding through the dances to pass tests (he had fifteen to partner last test session) and just showing up in trousers or an old freestyle dress, it must become just a job.  The occasional student like me, who wants to play dress up for compulsories, maybe he actually enjoys tooling us around like it's a little performace. Or maybe he's pleased that we show respect for the dance. I guess I'll never know.

Over on someone asked the question, "At what level in compulsories do you have to wear a dress to match the dance." The answer was 'never'.

Bucking the trend! (Besides, it will give the judges something to look at other than my feet!)

Look at my dress, please, not my extension, toe point, posture, power,....

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Hockey Stick

Coach Amazing gave me a kid's hockey stick to practice with for the ice show during show practice. Her words were, "We'll build you up to a regular stick though."

I ham it up quite a bit 'directing' the zombies in time with the music, slapping the stick onto the ice to cue the next skater to do her bit (so far all girls), and generally try not to fall on the thing. I've been warned not to carry it 'high'. Really that seems the safest place for it.  I don't want it out in front of me where I can fall on it. But carrying high appears to violate some hockey 'safety' rule, so I have to push it around with the blade on the ice while I weave around the show skaters. That terrifies me.

For once I'm allowed to hunch over and skate with a wide stance. No one's yapping at my heels about 'extension' with a russian accent.  The stupid stick though disrupts my balance and arm position. I really feel uncomfortable doing quick turns, even two foot ones unless the thing is carried over my shoulder. Still, I'm at least getting some experience with it. Hope I don't whack someone with it. One of the freestylers strayed into show practice ice while I was looking at Coach Amazing. I could have taken him out in a heart beat if I hadn't heard his skates clatter.

Too bad I still can't do a hockey stop. It's not something that comes up in ice dance.
Thank God.
Small but fierce

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Perfect Skate Bag

The perfect skate bag is winging its way to my humble abode.

What makes a bag perfect is a matter of personal discretion. Serious skaters with lots to haul to comps and to the rink everyday started using Zucas. Soon 8 year olds craved Zucas because 'just everyone' (the good skaters) has one. (Maybe there should be a rule 'No zuca til you get your axel')  Other skaters have other needs. Coaches use suitcases.  There's the tote bag contingent. The no bag group. And the Transpackers.

I'm a duffel girl.

But not just any duffel. It has to meet my strict engineering standards. It's a functional object not a fetish.

a. It's a duffel--just the right shape for carrying boots
b. Pockets on each end--to put my protective gear
c. HARD BASEPLATE--to keep the bag from sagging in the middle when I carry it with the boots inside
d. FEET--to keep it off the floor, saves wear and tear on the bottom, and keeps it above wet spots
e. U shaped opening for the middle section--big enough to put skates through
f. No less than 22" long and 11 wide and 11 " tall--that's what my present bag is, so those are minimum dimensions. No bigger than 25" long-it gets too heavy
g. Costs less than $30 (USD)

I can't tell you how many times I trolled eBags, and Zappos, and Amazon.  At one point I was this >< close to buying a Hartman club bag (it was perfect) but it violated rule g.

Anyway, the other day I was trolling around eBags. I don't remember how I found it (unlike Zappos ebags won't let you search on terms like 'duffel feet') but I found the perfect bag!

Voila! The Calpak 22" Hollywood duffel.

 It meets every requirement! I never thought I'd find one which would!

Some nice things: there's a handle on the end for pulling the bag out of overhead bins or the trunk, some extra small zippered utility pockets for small stuff, that wavy ribbon in the front will come in handy for clipping pens and my carabiner clips or hair clips to.

Extra bonus. No interior pockets (they get in the way). Doesn't have one of those stupid shoe pockets either.

Total with shipping: $23.95.

My little bag junky soul is satisfied


Monday, May 7, 2012

Ice Dance is not for Sissies

I once heard Dance Coach lay down the law.

The (metaphorical) descendant of Russian soldiers who held off the Nazis in WWII and Napoleon, when Dance Coach is wrathful, it is a mighty wrath. In a voice that would have made Gregory Zhukov proud he tore into a half dozen 20 year old hockey boy slackers who were sitting on the boards and disrupting his lesson. He had told them to get out of the hockey box and off the boards once; when he went back the second time his voice had the bite, force, and threat of a high quality top kick. He would have made an excellent sergeant.

(And this is the same man who complains when I use my command voice to get some kid to wake up and move out of our way.)

There cannot be too much military history and military minutiae in figure skating blogs. Just sayin', you want the twinkly little princess shtick go read another blog. This blog here is for serious grownups who are serious skaters.

This is ice dance--we take no prisoners. SKATE OR DIE!
(Oooh, Nice extension there on the grenade throw. )

Uh, sorry, got carried away there for a moment.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dr. Death is waddling into the Building

As part of the spring ice show, I have been selected to be Death--Destroyer of Worlds. Since commercial costume sizes run very small I have to wear a Plus size costume. Right now I feel like Muffin---Destroyer of Waistlines.

We had our first practice last week at Big City Rink with the director, Coach Amazing, going over the basic dance steps for the block of skaters. Recruiting is still going on and we don't know how many adults will participate.  My role as Death---Destroyer of Worlds, is to use a hockey stick  to lead the zombie orchestra, and use the stick to 'sweep' the star performers into their turns as their time comes up. It's a character role. I skate around a lot and wave my arms.

My job is to be a ham.

I can do that.

The problem is the hockey stick.

I've done this role before at Lake Placid and I practiced with the stick there. But my role was very small. I hung around the boards and shook it 'evilly' at people. Then at cue one  I skated in the center, did a slow two foot spin and slammed the stick down on cue two. This time there's more skating.

But no place to practice with that stupid stick. The stick is sized to the player. Do you know how tall most players are? How short I am? I need a child's stick. Not very threatening.

So I'm a little concerned with the stick. Under the press of time, I consulted Coach Cruella who said 'hold it this way' then 'no, this other way'.  And in the end I was no more certain than before.  I may end up having to consult Dance Coach at HockeyTown Rink who apparently skates on the 'losingest' recreational hockey team in the HockeyTown area. Other hockey players at the rink rave about his skating. "OMG. It's amazing the stuff he does!" They'll say then go on to describe some trivial figure skating thing--like a three turn into some mohawk to a back three into a power crossover. In their eyes he's this amazingly fluid hockey skater instead of an amazing fluid ice dancer in a jersey.  I asked him about this one time. "So, does your skating background make you good at hockey?" He rolled his eyes, "No stick skills." 

But do you know how to hold one?

Coach Amazing wanted me to wear a hockey jersey over my costume. So, NO. First off I'm paying for the costume myself and hockey jerseys cost Real Money. And don't come in petites. I said I'd make a fake jersey and put a fake emblem on the back.

Then we were stumped. We skate at the Big City practice rink for an NHL team. Which is better (politically)? Put the local hockey team's emblem on the back or a rival hockey team's emblem on the back?  Coach Amazing grabbed Notable Bob to ask his opinion.

He said, "Well, there's the Flyers. We have a rivalry with the Flyers. And the emblem is black and white." a pause. "Or the Penguins."

I was a little surprised by my visceral reaction. "I am not skating as a Penguin. I already look enough like a penguin!"

They do have the most adorable emblem though. It makes you want to go out and hug a hockey player.
Hug a Player.

So back of the costume, still undetermined. Pretty sure though, I'm not going to waddle away in my Plus sized costume with a penguin on the back.

Edit: For those interested, there will be a skull on the back......Maybe.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Invisible Partnership

I have fallen into a perfect partnership between my ice dance coach and my edge coach. And yet they've never met. If they were to meet and form an instructional team, they could probably write their own tickets with adult ice dancers. Yes, together they're that good, and I'm that lucky.

I'm perfectly satisfied with the way Dance Coach teaches me. He focuses on the dance skills, and works to get my basic skating skills, particularly power, up to par. I chose to go this route because fixing my basic skating skills was getting dead boring. I had so many things wrong; I needed something more than just relearning stuff. I needed a motivation.

So I told Dance Coach I wanted to test. Since then he's focused on building my skills around the dance tests. As I wrote about in an earlier post, learning to ice dance is a good introduction to skating.

So Dance Coach is my Macro coach. He's teaching me dance skills and how they fit into a pattern dance. Rather than learn going around in a circle, I'm learning by going the length of the rink, developing my skating skills and my stamina and power at the same time. The lessons are not boring. They are full of variety. It keeps up my interest in skating.

But with Coach Cruella I get a Micro Coach. She is quite willing to work me on a single element for 20 minutes.  Her lessons are focused, exacting, detailed,  and fun. If this was all I was doing, it might be boring. Instead, because her skill building is improving my ice dance, I'm immediately able to translate her coaching lessons directly into my ice dance.
So, Dance Coach is directing me into the skills that have me sweeping across the ice, changing elements with every stroke, building into skills that have me covering the ice with power and fluidity. Coach Cruella is taking elements and breaking them down to the atomic level so that I develop ever precise control over every edge, rocker position, and posture element.

Over the last two months since this invisible partnership formed, my ice dance has leaped forward. Dance Coach hasn't been this happy about my skating since the Big Warmup. My edges are nice and even the scary left inside swingroll has become a deep and powerful curve. My posture is now natural and erect. My power has improved. There's still things to be fixed. There's no perfection in figure skating; but I can see a future where I can get the outside mohawk and the choctaw--and the rocker too!
Rocker Foxtrot

What can I say? I fell luckily into a great partnership with two coaches who don't know each other and never met each other. Right now I feel like the luckiest skater in the world.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Strike

In my old figures books, what we now call a push off or even just a push, used to be called 'the strike'. Doesn't that have a powerful sound?

"Set up for your strike." the older coach said, "You can absolutely dominate your opponent with the quality of the strike." He paused drawing on his pipe, while his eyes darkened with memories of figures past, "Do it for America."

So begins the never to be written figure skating novel dealing with with the vicious competition at the 1960's Olympics cold war fought on the figures ice. Yep---that's a best seller.

Dick Button
 Anyway, Coach Cruella is not the only coach to lecture me on my strike, but she's the only coach to keep after it and get me doing it correctly.

I know how to do a strike. You set up in the T push position, then put all your weight on the inside edge of the back foot. As little weight as possible should be on the front foot.  Bend your knees and push off.

Only, it never worked for me. I would be hunched and bend forward, or my kneebend wouldn't be enough. Good posture is necessary so I can get the weight on the back skate. Hunched over, or bent forward meant no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get my weight solid on the back skate. So in previous posts I've discussed Coach Cruella's rules for getting good posture:
  1. Put 'the girls' on the table
  2. Shine the headlights (in my language 'assume the position of the sitting trot')
  3. Pinch your shoulder blades towards each other
Good kneebend is necessary to get a good push. She introduced her one rule for kneebend with the hyperbole:
  1. Bend your knees so you can hold a basketball with your legs
Unfortunately, I'm naturally more of a bend your knees so you can hold a whiffleball girl myself. What she's trying to get accross to me is that I need a lot more kneebend than I think I do. It's been hard to make the basketball mindset a habit, unless someone is there eyeing me. I know it's the right thing to do, but my body forgets.

Not long ago I had a bad fall doing a mohawk. The kind of thing where I thought I wouldn't get up from without two coaches lifting me.  But after I stopped sliding on the ice, I clawed my way up, and skated away from it.

"You fell," Coach Cruella told me, "Because you didn't have enough kneebend on that first push."

Right. I'm permanently motivated. That fall was scary. BEND THAT KNEE! EVERYTIME!

Now I have the upper body positioned so I can put my weight solidly on the back skate, and the kneebend so I can hit the sweet spot when I straighten the back leg. The strike is looking good!

Power and control together. Perfect.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Skating Trousers

Well, I did the laundry this weekend, and I have 4 pairs of stretchy slacks I wear for skating. Four pairs!

Most of them are old and beat up--and due to weight loss--don't fit.  One pair even has a hole in one thigh where I fell on the heel of my blade. So I have to buy new ones.

And like every other woman's, they're all black. It's fashion tyranny! Don't go with 'just wear black'. Be daring. Be edgy!

I'm going to go out on a stylistic limb here---I'm going for NAVY!

.....Sorry, antiphrasis took over there for a minute....

I do wish a pretty outfit plus a Zuca bag would make my skating better. Life would be so much easier.

And I'd be 8.