Monday, July 30, 2012

Skating on Sharp Blades

So I went to the rink to skate on public and break in my new sharpening on my dance boots. This was my experience:

It felt like tentacles were reaching up from the ice and grabbing my blades, pulling me down, down, down, into a living hell.

Fortunately, I have pictures:

Evil Picture

Rising from the Cthulu mythos, come the cursed slime tentacles of the Evil One. Arms of of the Great Gods , they slide between the grains of sand until they merge into ice, creeping into the breath of the good earth, reaching into steel of the mystic edge blades of the ice dancer.*

* Yeah, I wasted some brain cells in the 60's reading Lovecraft.

Banal Picture
"Crap, I'm stuck"
Fortunately, after an hour of tooling around, the blades are manageable. Stops are still a bittch though.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sharpening the Blades

Normally when I go into get my blades sharpened everyone rolls their eyes.  "They're still sharp enough!" they say and laugh.

So this time, I waited.  And waited. For about 80 skating hours.  Until I couldn't hold an edge.

Are my blades dull enough yet?
This time my skate tech's reaction was:
"These blades are dull!"
Anyway, he told me this story.  When he was skate tech for the Tom Collins Champions on Ice in 2008, he was approached by one of the Russian pro skaters. "You sharpen blades?" the man asked.  "Yes," my tech replied. The man handed the skates over. They were in awful condition.

My tech, greatly shocked, asked, "When was the last time you had these sharpened."



Pro skaters, they are different than the rest of us.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Run Down to the Nasty; Starting the Swing

So two minor disasters today.

First, I missed the deadline for the test application by one day. Ugh. So I had to pay a late fee and drive over to the other rink to drop the application off.

Second, my blades are at the end of a sharpening. I can barely hold an edge. Fortunately, as I told Dance Coach "I'm getting them sharpened tomorrow."

As  usual,  Dance Coach goes immediately into his typical Mr. Suspicious third degree interrogation. It must be a Russian thing. Maybe it's in the genes. The Cheka, NKVD, KGB, FSB have a lot to answer for.

"Who sharpens your blades?"
"I have them sharpened by Mr. X"


I was coy. "He does Evan Lysacek's blades, and used to do Johnny Weir's, so I guess he's good enough for me."

Dance Coach gets a laugh out of that. Then he starts pumping me for Mr. X's location. So, score one for me.

With the dull blades (the right one is completely dead) I just can't get any depth on my edges in the Canasta Tango. It takes three times to get a clean pass.  I don't want to tell you the lectures I got. I finally said defensively, "You know what they say, bad dress rehearsal, good performance."

From the furrowed brow, frown, and piercing eyes on Dance Coach's part, apparently they don't say that in Russia.

We did start on the Mohawk pattern in the Swing Dance. Of course, the mohawk is on my weak side.  Still, I'm able to step through it without a. falling, b. embarassing myself. "Not awful, needs work." Dance Coach said. I threw up my hands in disgust at them. But although they're a tiny bit hoppy, they have nice crossed tracings and I maintain posture throughout the turn.  So, 'not awful, needs work' is probably true--along with the unstated 'needs more power'.

The problem is in the back swingrolls. I'm supposed to turn my head to the opposite way to the leg that's swinging. And swing my leg. And skate backwards.  And do it again on the other side.  After a couple I feel like this.
I'm pretty sure this is not an approved Swing Dance position.
Two week countdown to Canasta Tango test! Crossed fingers the sharpening is all I need!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pretty Forward Stroking

Coach Cruella has been working on smoothing some things out in my mohawks, FI3, and backwards mohawks (turn forwards) so I didn't have anything really new from this week's lesson. So, I decided to write about the approach she took to get me to get better posture in forward stroking. (Although one other coach tried to fix my problem stroking, I forgot her lesson. I'm not made of memory!)

My tendency was to put my free leg so it was behind (trailing) my skating leg. I thought this was the proper way to do it. In trailing my free leg behind my skating leg, that made me ever so slightly turn my hips so they were canted off from the line of travel.  Anyway, with my hips out of line, I couldn't get upright posture.

This is how I forward stroke now based on what I learned from Coach Cruella.
1. Take a strong forward stroke on a deep knee.
2. Bring the free leg to the '7 o'clock position'. This is, not trailing my skating leg, but off set just a little to the side. The thighs may be slightly separated. (Well, my thighs are like easter hams, so there's still touching. You may be genetically luckier than I am)
3. I make sure my hips are square to the line of travel
4. Now here's what I found. If I'm not careful during the stroke the knee of the free leg is pointed directly to the ice. What I have to do is keep the free leg straight and gently rotate it in the hip socket, so the knee sort of turns away from the ice. (Not so much that the knee points forward, just a tiny rotation so it points less down). I don't move the hips, just slightly rotate the leg in the ball joint of the hip.  Oh, and point the toe.
5. At some point in the rotation (it's doesn't take very much), I find my upper body popping into good posture, and I stop the rotation. I think this motion rotates the top of the pelvis back. It seems to gently pull the butt under, tucking the abdomen in and BINGO! the chest and shoulders pop up.
6. After I do a couple of these both sides, my body settles into that as my normal stroking method. But I have to do it a few times and concentrate every time I start a session.

I think I look nice in the glass--not perfect, but the posture is good, and my dance coach doesn't bark anything worse than "Bring the free leg higher!"  Sorry, Dance Coach, that's a Y.O.W.L issue. I need to be younger or weigh less.

Anyway, Coach Amazing taught me a nice stoking exercise last year that's helped improve my balance. Stroke. Bring the skate of the free leg to the ankle of the skating leg. Extend the free leg to the clock positions, one at a time.  So, stroke, tuck, extend to 1 o'clock. Stroke, tuck, extend to 2 o'clock. etc. Sometimes I can get two in: stroke, tuck, extend, tuck extend. Three o'clock is a bear to do without leaning over. The challenge is to do this slowly so I stress my core muscles, and my balance, as well as the free leg.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Circle

This is a post about skating terminology a lot of coaches use. I thought I'd introduce it for the skater who may hear something in a group or private lesson and not understand it.

Most of skating is on curves. Very little is on straight lines. It's a convention that the curve you skate on is called 'the circle'. It doesn't matter if you're not actually completely skating in a circle. What counts is that you're skating on a curve that is part of a larger imaginary circle. The term 'the circle' for curves originates with compulsory figures, where skating was done on large joined circles.

Sometimes your coach may say something like, "Face into the circle," or, "Put your free leg in the circle in that turn." What does the coach mean?

Fortunately, I was able to find a photo that can help illustrate that point.

Here's what facing 'into the circle' looks like.

This picture of a synchro team shows the circle, and it shows each girl facing 'inside the circle.' It doesn't matter if they're skating clockwise or counter clockwise, when they skate with their chest towards the center of the circle, that's 'facing inside the circle'.

If you were to see this picture with the girl's backs to the circle, that's called 'facing out of the circle.'

Note that their arms are 'on the circle'.

Suppose your coach wants you to put your forward arm 'inside the circle'? If you're skating clockwise as the girls are in the picture above (I think they're skating forward, though the more I look at it they may be skating backwards--just assume for argument they're going forward), you'll move your left arm so it points at an angle away from the 'line of the circle,' but towards the center. Most times coaches don't want you to point directly at the center of the circle, but just to put your arm inside the circle a little.

What about 'outside the circle'?

One of the prominent places where 'outside the circle' becomes most obvious is when a skater does an 'outside spread eagle'. They will actually appear to be leaning into the circle, but facing out of the circle.

So, there's your little skating terminology tip for the day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Semi-Perfect Day

Ever have one of those perfect days where your skating skills are 'on', the ice is perfect, the coach is in a good mood and happy with your skating? Then stuff goes wrong?

Let's call this kind of day "God's Little Joke." And I went to early morning confession before going to the rink, too. I just seems so unfair somehow. I was in a state of grace and a kid still managed to skate into me.  Dear God, doesn't being first in line for confession count for anything?

It turns out we have a non-US elite skater training for his nationals at the rink, so the ice has really been nice for the last couple of months as the rink ups its ice cut game. I don't know if this little suburban rink has plans to be a training rink, but it's nice being the beneficiary of good ice. When a freestyle skater and I stepped on the clean ice for public, we both went, "Oooohhhh."

Then the public showed up. First thing first, a 'man of size' took two steps on the ice and slid right through the center ice. Fortunately, when I told him that area was reserved for advanced skaters, he was nice enough to spend the rest of the session plowing into helpless little old ladies and kids around the perimeter.

I then warmed up and practiced my mohawks. After a half dozen duffers, I suddenly could consistently get them with the nice crossings (on one side), so there's hope for m yet in the swing dance. I was in heaven---sort of.

When Dance Coach shows up he runs me through a few warm up exercises, then we go directly into the Canasta Tango.

We did 6 run throughs.

Only two were any good. Here's the reason four of them weren't:

1. Blocked by a couple who decided to  abruptly stop in our path and kiss. Slam on the brakes.
What? Are we in your way? Sorry.
2. Avoiding traffic, I was headed straight to a cone. Dance Coach went right, I went left. We were so locked in hold that his superior weight and strength pulled me back and I bounced my head on his shoulder. "I should have kicked it out of the way," I said. "Yes, you should have." Dance Coach agreed. With my luck that day, it would have blinded the rink guard.

 3. A kid ran into Dance Coach, bounced off him, stayed on his feet, crossed in front of us, then immediately ran into me. And stayed on his feet.
This is the only explanation
4.  Five or six hockey boys decide to have a play fight in our path and they were too big a crowd to skate around or through. "Run 'em down," I joked under my breath. Dance Coach laughed and pulled up instead. The never even noticed. Oh, to be male, 11 and invincible.

I don't care if your mother loves you. GET OUT OF THE WAY!
 The other two run throughs went pretty well. The only comment from Dance Coach was, "You're not showing Tango Expression." With gritted teeth I gestured at the crowd, "Trying not to kill someone."I need those laser eyes on the crowds ahead of me every second. I don't dare not look up at the ceiling like Tango Expression dictates. What if I had skated into that cone?
This could have been me!
Still, God gave me some sweet mohawks today! Swoon.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Shocking the Neighborhood

I got off freestyle today, and unexpectedly ran into Dance Coach. Maybe it's the Russian tonality of his voice, but whenever he runs into me at the rink outside of lesson it sounds like I'm being grilled by the FSB.

"What are you doing here?" he asks with suspicious undertones, as if I'm smuggling state ice dance secrets out of the country.

"I took the day off to practice." I take a seat to get out of my boots and smile at the woman seated facing me across the narrow lobby. She's my age and looks timid and hesitant. I turn to Dance Coach. "I practiced the Nasty and the Blues. I think I have them down." I bend down to untie my boots.

Dance Coach mock arrogantly says, "We'll see about that tomorrow."

My head snaps up. I give an exaggerated gusty laugh. "Oh-ho-ho! So is this evil Russian ice dance coach talking? 'You talkin' to me?'"

We banter back and forth like this for a minute, settling some rink business about some boots I need to pick up and my music, then Dance Coach leave to change into his coach suit. I shove my boots into my bag, and glance across the short distance to the older woman facing me. I swear, she has a look of horror on her face as I walk out of the rink to put my boots in my car.

When I come back to pick up the boots Dance Coach brought in for me, I see him speaking to the shy woman.

Oh, God. She's his student! And from her shyness, she must be a new student! And she's witnessed the two of us bickering like crows, no wonder she had that look of horror on her face! She's wondering what's she's got herself into!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mohawk Mambo and Three Turn Tango

Mohawk Mambo and Three Turn Tango--those sound like great dances, don't they?  But what they are is the feeling I had after my lesson with Coach Cruella.

I felt like dancin'.

How I feel about my mohawks
 The last little bit of the Mohawk has slipped into place, and I'm comfortable with them now. My problem was that when I was practicing, I was checking at the wrong point. Without Cruella there when I practiced, I wasn't catching my error. Once she fixed that she made me chant my way through a mohawk just to prove I had conscious knowledge (as opposed to mere physical sense) of what I was supposed to do through the mohawk. I think this verbal step through is a good check on a student's knowledge. I had to do it for the instructor when I was learning to jump out of planes. It really cements the steps in your head, and reassures the coach that you are conscious of all the steps, as opposed to just getting lucky during lesson.

Then we switched to FI3. I hate these. I've had so many close calls that my practices were next to the boards. And eventually, after having the short chunky ones, I got out of the habit of practicing them so they disappeared. Cruella  had me doing big, sweepy ones inside 15 minutes. Okay, she had to steady my back hand but it was a light touch and I barely need it. But there was no wobble, no forward panic.

After 5 or 6 good solid, sweepy ones, I covered my face with my hands, shaking my head in disbelief. "Do you know how many hundreds of dollars I've spent on these?" I said, dropping my hands.

Cruella gave a sympathetic smile, "When [a former student] told me of your 3 turn problems years ago, I told him to have you contact me."

I looked up, "And I did! But that love god of a husband of yours kept getting you pregnant!"

We both got a laugh out of that.

I don't feel like I have them solid yet. I have them where I'll start practicing them again, and work on them independent of a coach. Still, looking good! But what ties my mohawks and FI3 together? It's that inside edge.  I never had strong ones until I learned good edge control from Cruella. I'm not perfect by any means, but I'm much, much stronger than I was before.

 Anyway, here's where I feel I am on the Three turn as expressed as a tango. An old tango. Not an exciting one, but still it's a Tango!
I'm just starting out again on FI3 (c. 1915)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Test Dress Disaster

My perfect test dress is no longer in production in my size.

I am not a happy kitty
I originally ordered this dress.
Sooo perfect for the busty adult ice dancer
Either, I have to lose 10 lb between now and the test to get in the smaller sized dress, or I have to order something else. There's a probability I'll lose 4 lb between now and the test, but my skater's butt is not where the pounds are leaving from. (Man, and this dress was perfect. But, I have ordered it in the smaller size for future tests.  It's been three weeks since I've tasted chocolate--I will get down to that dress. . . Eventually.)

So I'm substituting, this skirt:

With this top in plain black with nude sleeves:

And since it's a Tango, I'm wearing a red lace bolero, that I ordered from FunkyDiva in the UK (along with some of the cutest skating skirts).

And I have a fake bun the size of a supermarket bagel.

So, if everything goes well, I'll look pulled together.
After all this trouble Dance Coach better approve this costume

Monday, July 16, 2012

What you see depends on where you stand

How Freestyle skaters view Ice Dancers

How Ice Dancers believe  Freestylers think

How everyone else sees synchro

How Coaches View the Lot of Them
How kid skaters view adult ice dancers
My view of kid skaters

What Rink Management Thinks About the Skaters

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Final Rundown to the Canasta Tango

One of my many, many skating nemesis is back edges in waltz hold. There's a trick to getting a curve in the turn that I wasn't able to master until this week. In previous posts I explained how Dance Coach would use his right hand on my back to turn me like a side of beef, because I simply couldn't get my leg-body coordination to work.

Then this week, I was able to turn my upper shoulders, while holding my obliques and transverse abdominals strong. This puts some curve in the edge. After a  backwards set of edges in waltz hold while skating through the scary crowds at public, I said, "I can feel I've finally got the back edges down don't I? You're not turning me. I'm skating it myself."

Dance Coach towers over me. "That's very good. You are able to tell what your partner is doing."

I beam up at him in return, happy with the compliment. "I used to show horses. I'm used to feeling what a horse is doing, and they can't talk to me. Same thing in dance."

I can see a twinkle in Dance Coach's eye. "So you compare me to  a horse?"

I missed an opportunity to score major points with Dance Coach. I really, really should have said, "You are a stud."  You know, I'm kicking myself right now. Instead I muttered something about horses and balance.

We ran through Canasta Tango in the usual Canasta Tango Obstacle Course. Bad weather outside so people came to the rink for public. Let's just say I'm getting really good at skating around people. When we come out of the second pattern with the presentation glide, Dance Coach says, "You are not skating with Tango Expression. Head up, chest out. You don't need to smile, is Tango, but you need to keep your head up." He demonstrates so that he looks like he owns the ice. That all eyes must be on him.

"Right, right," I said, "I need to skate like a slut. Chest out, head up." Dance Coach remembers this comment from a few weeks ago and rolls his eyes.  We do the Tango again, and I get a pat on the back for my 'expression'. Then I tell him, "I've ordered a dress for the test."
Free Flo Ballroom Dress by Bodywrappers
Mr. Authoritarian rises to the surface. "I must approve the dress. Do you have a picture?"

"I'll send you one. I'll put some red lace at the neckline. Make it all tango hot."

Dance Coach makes one of his dry jokes, "Oh, yes. If there is a male judge, you must flirt with him."

Next time round the pattern, I give the imaginary judge in the hockey box a wink and an air kiss.

It was just a bonus that the box was occupied by 13 year old boys. They stayed well away from me for the rest of the lesson.

Aaaargh!!! That old lady air kissed me! Aauuuggghhh!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Sweet Spot (Edited)

(Edit) I had a lesson with Coach Cruella a week after I wrote this post. I found I'd misunderstood her in a lesson, so now I'm correcting this entry.  Yeah, it's a little confusing that I'm editing an old post, but I didn't want to leave a bad process floating around on the net.
So I'm still working on smooth, swoopy mohawks with Coach Cruella. I can occasionally get these on my own, but they're not to the level of Russian Freestyle perfection that Coach Cruella wants. This week, I'm a little bit closer.

So, I've written before about Coach Cruella's pedagogical method for teaching mohawks to adults.
1. Start from a T position, with the weight on the back foot
(edit) 2. Check the forward shoulder by moving the forward arm in front of your chest (I think of putting it over the boob)
3. Bend the knees so a metaphorical basketball (!) can be held between them
4. Push off with the back foot (the strike) onto an inside edge and onto the 'sweet spot' of the forward skate.
5. Skating forward (the checked shoulder will do this for you), bring the free foot to the arch of the skating foot while going deeper in the knee (edit) and check the forward shoulder.(end edit)
6. (This next part I DO NOT HAVE consistently yet) turn the skating foot (Edit) As a result of the check, the skating foot will turn inside the circle. Step down with the free foot, and sort of push the skating foot away while  placing the free foot on the ice, while going down in the knee some more (!). (edit--after I started doing step 5 correctly, I now have the step down for the mohawk solid)
7. Raise the arm that was formerly in the checked position. Smile for the audience.

I've left out all the stuff about leg position that we worked a whole lesson on.  This is not something you can learn from reading a blog post.

Anyway, this week I finally figured out about the 'sweet spot' she was talking about. I figured it out, because I was leaning to far forward in step four, the strike. Cruella fussed at me and made me do the strike over and over. If I was leaning forward she told me I was skating on the ball of the foot, which left me no place to roll forwards.

So, the 'sweet spot' in this case is towards the back of the foot, but not at the heel. For me I feel it's just under the back of the arch of my foot. My body is nicely balanced with good posture (don't look down). I can hold my free leg with nice extension going into the mohawk (exiting the mohawk--still have issues), and I can get a nice 'x' on the ice where the exchange of feet takes place.

Then we started improving the exchange of feet, by turning the first skating foot inside the circle before I drop the exchange foot in.

I got nuzzink for that unless I just get lucky.

I've seen people learn mohawks in a single lesson. I've been working on these for weeks. Mucho frustrado. (Edit from a week later--not frustrado anymore!)
Does this never end?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Get Taller. It's a Miracle!

A coach I hadn't seen for almost a year spotted me skating at one of my rinks the other day. I got a message from her over on skatingforums. "Have not seen you since last August -- how many inches have you 'grown' since then? All the hard work you have been doing on your dance posture has made you TALLER!! Good work dearie -- Lookin' mahvelous!"

I only have to work at it every minute of every day.

Thirty+ years ago I was thrown off a horse at the canter depart. It resulted in three crushed vertebrae. "You'll have arthritis when you get older," the orthopedic surgeon warned.

He was right. In my fifties the back pain started bad and got worse. Then I took up ice dance.

It wasn't that the skating itself made the back pain go away, in fact I used to ache from head to toe after an ice dance lesson. My on-ice posture wasn't getting any better, no mater how hard I tried. And trying to hold dance posture resulting in eye-watering pain.

One day at work while I was hunched over my keyboard a pain shot through my back. In response, rather than go to the doctor and get some painkillers, or contemplate surgery, I decided to sit up straight. I forced myself to do all those things that the posture nazis recommend. I adjusted my chair, fixed my keyboard, and got up to walk around (even if only to the printer) every hour. I stopped IM'ing or emailing people. I got up and walked to their desks. I threw my shoulders back, sat and stood up straight, and kept myself moving. I also started doing 40 minutes of stretching and flexibility exercises every day during lunch.
Bad Posture

Good Posture
The first six days were pretty miserable. The pain actually grew worse. Then slowly, over a period of about six weeks, it gradually disappeared.

When I started taking lessons from Coach Cruella, she was able to give me techniques to translate good off-ice posture into on-ice posture.

IT TOOK TIME. But it worked. I now have no pain in my back when I skate. If I hold an awkward position for a long time I'll feel a crick, but not pain. My dance posture is pretty good for an elderly recreational skater. In Killian I have my shoulders touching my partner's supporting arm. In waltz, not only is my back straight, but my butt is tucked down so it doesn't stick out (and I've seem some recreational skaters that are better than I am, that don't do that).

A few weeks ago I saw Dance Coach coaching one of the freestyle girls in Fiesta Tango. She had that lean forward freestylers tend to have. I realized I had better posture in hold than she did, even though she was a much, much better skater.

Then in my last lesson Dance Coach put me in Killian and faced us toward the glass to look at our reflection. "Looking good," he said.

All it takes for me to get good ice dance posture: I work at it every minute of every day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dance Hold Bickerathon

I know several ice dance couples. One of the things I observed early on was that ice dance consisted of three minutes of skating followed by five minutes of bickering.  A marathon of bickering. The bickerathon.

There's a lot that can go wrong in an ice dance: timing, steps, speed, posture, arm position, turns, head position......  Lots of opportunities for 'vigorous discussion' of trivial errors at the end of a pattern.

Since I'm a lowly student and Dance Coach is a godlike being whose pronouncements come down from on high like the Ten Commandments, there's not actual bickering. There's me asking stupid questions and Dance Coach giving me the answer. I'm naturally bossy and Dance Coach is naturally bossy, it just kills me to not be the bossy one. I get nervous at new skills, or faster skills, and bark at him; I have to say one thing for Dance Coach, since he's top dog, he barks right back at me. To the uninitiated it just looks like bickering.

It goes something like this.

"Is my butt sticking out?" I asked during waltz stroking with me going backwards. 

"Is it my job to look after your butt?" Dance Coach asks in return.

"Yes, it is." At $30 a half hour. This.

"No, is your job to look after your butt." Dance Coach plays the 'responsible for your own skating' card.

I trump him with an 'ace of whiny old lady'. "Man, I can't tell." True. I get a crick in my back if:
 A. my shoulders are in the correct position, or
 B. My butt is in the wrong position.

By this time we're at the end of the rink, the 'conversation' ends.

Recently, I got enough head-body independence to check out our skating in the glass when I'm going backwards in waltz hold. "My butt is not sticking out." I announced at the end of a pattern.  "Good," Dance Coach snaps. God only knows what someone overhearing this thinks.

Then there's the "You're not holding my hand tight enough in Killian position," incident. This has been going on for weeks. I'm negligent about pressing down firmly on Dance Coach's right hand in Killian. "I tell you this over and over, why can't you remember to press down on my hand?" He's in uber-bossy mode.

I snap back at him waspishly, "I don't know. I'm not made of hands." I slap my hand down on his, promising myself 'Next, time I'll remember.' But, I never seem to.

Every lesson has something like this in it. I suppose if I was a kid skater I'd be all passive, and well-behaved, with worshipful eyes staring up at Dance Coach, not ask questions, and just do as I'm told. But I'm an adult skater, I want to progress faster, skate better, and pass my tests. I have LOTS of questions. I'm TENSE when I skate.  Despite my best intentions, this stuff just erupts out of me. What Dance Coach thinks I have no idea. I hope inside, he's laughing.

Please tell me I'm not the only one with lessons like this.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Coat of Power

One day I was at the rink, my head bent down over my boot while I was tying it, when someone came up to me and said, "Hi!"

I looked up. This 15 year old boy was smiling at me. "Who is this?" went through my brain. Nice looking kid, T-shirt, baggy shorts, run down tennis shoes. Then he started yapping at me, and I realized it was Dance Coach.

In my defense, I'd only had one lesson from him, and I'd never seen him in anything but his coaching jacket.  The face was the same, but the whole impression was not of a man, but of a boy. Put his coaching jacket on and he became A Coach.

The difference between a coach in street clothes and in the Coat of Power is really amazing. Once a coach puts on that jacket they become a different person. Tiny little women you might mistake for a child suddenly seem taller and stronger. Easy going guys suddenly become commanding.

It had never been obvious to me before how important that coaching jacket was as a uniform.  It gives coaches an instantly recognizable identity and authority on the ice. Like a policeman's uniform it gives kids on public a sense of 'the guy that's in charge.' Little kids who he knows come up and hug Dance Coach on ice. When he's off ice in 'civvies', only the parents approach him.  The little kids don't seem to recognize him. I guess that means I'm a child at heart!
Without Coat
With Coat
Amazing change, isn't it?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Thrill of Speed

Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.
--Hunter S. Thompson
At the beginning of the lesson Dance Coach said, "Today, I shake you up."
I hate moments like that.

Fortunately, once he explains, I'm all smiley face. All he wants to do is alternating crossovers in Killian hold.  I do these solo  all the time. 

Then comes the shocker. He wants to do these at speed. And not what I think is 'speed', but what Dance Coach thinks is 'speed'.

My idea of speed
Dance Coach's idea of speed

And ladies and gentlemen, I nail it. 

It's taken a year plus, to get to this speed. It's not 'kid speed', or 'competitive speed', but Dance Coach told me it's much better than 'adult speed'. And it's speed with good edges and posture. Where this ends I don't know. Maybe here:

I'll have blades of dilithium crystal
The only amusing thing is, Dance Coach skates me to the very end of the open space, then since he's on the inside, he peels off to the center, leaving me to work out how I'm going to stop without slamming into the boards. Technically, I suppose I'm supposed to skate like a nice little partner, and stay with him.  But as he releases me from hold, just holding lightly onto one hand, I just stop how I want. There's probably a rule for this, but /shrug/ if I've been told it, I forgot it.

Did I ever tell you I have this funny looking stop at high speed? Drag one foot into a two foot turn, slide backwards and do a backwards stop. I can't stop on a dime, but I'm in absolute control of where I'm headed.

The first time Dance Coach ever saw me do this, his jaw dropped. Now he just ignores it. Today, he skates me into the corner more than once and I don't have time to do my beautiful T-stops. Crossovers, swingrolls, waltz holds, I turn and stop backwards. I hit the wall once, but I do  my best to make it look like a casual slide into the boards, so I can pause gracefully with my hands resting on the edge, to glance up at him and ask, "What's next?"

I'm in complete....control
Canasta Tango is looking good. We do a single pattern to warm up, then the dance as it would be for the test.  No yapping. Dance Coach is looking awfully smug, so I guess I'm living up to his expectations.

Then Dance Coach says, "I think we may have you do a little entrance into Tango."

I'm so excited, I can't wait. I can really ham up a Tango. "So, where's my music so I can practice?" The test is in less than a month and I paid him a month ago for the music cut. We had this conversation two weeks ago and there's only 4 practices left.

For once Dance Coach looks sheepish. "I forgot. You need to remind me."

I'm now supposed to text him and remind him. I guess I'll send him the picture and message below.

Please, don't forget to cut my music

 But, still, I'm all excited about skating entrances to my dances. Excellent! Something to have fun with.

And I have speed that's much, much better than old lady speed. Lookin' good!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Take Care of Your Feet

I'm lucky enough that I don't have really bad feet. I have a hockey coach podiatrist, so for those rare occasions when I have to see a podiatrist, I have one who skates.
Lucked out there.

What does he emphasize for daily foot care?

Moisturizing my feet.
Happy Feet!
The best time to do this is right after a shower or bath. As for product, I've not had good luck with stuff squeezed out of a tube. Too thin. Moisturizers work by blocking water from evaporating from the skin. For my feet I don't want something that wears off in a heartbeat; I want something that will stay on my feet.

I've found Burt Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream to be excellent. I also use a Bee Bar from Honey-House (online only). In third place is Bag Balm. The first two of these have just the right stickiness to stay on the feet long enough to do some good. The last is not perfect, but good in a pinch (mostly because of the smell).

As for trimming calluses and keeping my toenails trimmed I've found that an industrial strength cuticle trimmer does double duty. It takes a bit of time, but I've got perfect control of whatever I'm trimming. Like most old ladies I have toenails that could be used as construction material, regular toenail clippers are pretty useless. Cuticle trimmers allow me to put more power on the nail I'm cutting and precisely cut even small calluses.

A nice pumice stone is also useful for occasional use during a shower or bath.

When I'm skating I like to put some regular moisturizer on my feet and hands. Here I use whatever I buy in a tube from the dollar store. I think this keeps my stockings from sticking to my feet, and the moisturizer does keep my hands feeling nice.

This moisturizing, trimming, and pumiceing  prevents problems like impacted sweat glands. It's one of those things that is just part of good health habits.

It pays to take care of your paws--er--feet.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Awkward Phase

I'm at that awkward stage. Too fast for public; Too slow for freestyle.

Freestyle skater

Public Skaters
Me: not fast enough for freestyle, but look at that posture and edge!