Monday, August 13, 2012

May I touch you?

A long time ago, I had a coach who on my first lesson said, "Don't be shocked. I'm going to need to touch you occasionally to correct things. Is that alright with you?"

I come from a performance family. It's normal in singing, dance, and the theater for directors to touch you to position your arms, legs or move you physically around. Even when I was showing horses, the trainer would occasionally need to make an adjustment to my leg position, or my saddle while I was riding, or even boost me onto a tall horse. So, I'm comfortable with instructional touch.

Apparently, there are people that aren't.

Anyway, I gave the coach a stunned look. That's a look that can go both ways; Either, 'You're going to TOUCH me! Horrors!!!!', or 'You have to ask?'

The poor coach seemed to think I was going for the "Horrors!" version. She was looking uncomfortable so I gave her a grin, "Don't grab the tatas and we're okay." We got along famously after that.

In Ice Dance, there's a lot of instructional touch. Dance Coach used to shove bits and pieces of me around like a kid playing with a doll. "Arm here. Leg here. Shoulders back. Head turn THIS Way. Now skate like an ice dancer!"  I'm better now. The last time I remember an instructional touch was when he pressed one finger down on my left arm to put it in position on top of his right arm in waltz hold. Then he frowned at me with significant eyebrow action so I would remember to press my arm on his. I think the eyebrow thing is supposed to hypnotize me.
You will remember correct waltz hold arm position--will you not?
When  we start the pre-bronze dances I assume the doll-like shoving around will begin again--only backwards.

Cruella though, is in a class by herself. Not only will she reach in and move my arm during a turn, but a friend of mine told me she would reach in and correct him while he was in jumps!

Let me fix that arm position


  1. My favorite was the coach who told me "I'm going to touch you. But not in a bad way."

    My current coach doesn't do a lot of hands on corrections, but will occasionally.

  2. So true that I had to have a good little chuckle thinking about my own experiences! My coach said, "I touch ladies' butts all day long", and since I apparently require a lot of bodily adjustment, that's a touch I've come to appreciate! I suppose coaches can't be too careful these days, but it has never bothered me. Having always been athletic and around trainers, I am so used to other people's eyes and hands on me, and in that context, it is not nor should it be a big deal.

    I can certainly relate to the notion of my bits and pieces being shoved around like a kid playing with a doll, but I know that to my coach it must feel more like trying to re-sculpt a statue, albeit one that talks back. I
    am so nervous these days trying to learn the Silver Moves I practically freeze, and poor Coach has the difficult task of uncranking, repositioning, and otherwise beating me out of catatonic submission. It's gotten
    to the point where he has suggested that perhaps a glass of wine with a Zanac before lesson might be in
    order, and I confess it's really beginning to sound like a brilliant idea...

  3. Ah, that brings back the memories of a fellow adult skater. Once she was struggling with the turns (3s or mohawks, don't remember) and as I was explaining torso rotation to her, without thinking took her hand - oh my goodness! The horror look she gave me! The woman absolutely could not stand being touched.

    I, on the other hand, don't care at all. Last lesson, working with the coach on the end pattern of Foxtrot, it was ALLLL shoving, pushing, repositioning, tugging, molding me, in other words (and molding my body to his). Didn't help that one of his (male) adult students was watching off-ice standing right by the plexiglass, and coach was putting on a comedy show for him.

  4. My young daughter skates pairs. When she was starting lessons with a new (male) pairs coach, he said to me, "I'm going to need to touch her to coach her, is that ok?" I said yes, of course -- but I was left wondering what on earth he planned to do in a *pairs* lesson if I had said no?!

  5. I spent the whole of last week being either prodded in the hip, or having my arm forcibly lowered. Repeatedly. Apparently I am not a quick learner when it comes to body position!

  6. You all have some really funny stories!

  7. The ballet mistress at the school that I dance at will just pick up my leg, and put it much higher than I think it can go- on the one hand it has taught me that yes, my leg can go higher. On the other hand my leg does not go as high as she wants. She also has some kind of eyebrow action thing that is supposed to make my leg go higher by her will and the power of her eyebrows. I admit, sometimes, it works.
    Anonymous, after a bad experience in my teenage years I tend to jump or flinch when touched, especially by a man. If someone took my hand I might have a horrified look too before my brain registered that I was not in danger. You just never know why someone can't stand being touched, except that it's probably bad.

  8. Yes, there are people who are not okay with being touched, so it's a good thing to check. Maybe that means this isn't the sport for them or maybe they just need a different style of instruction/instructor. Either way, it's something that's good to establish at the outset.

    And, even if people are okay with being touched, I think it's polite to give a heads-up. I'm fine with being touched -- especially if that's the best way to make the correction/accomplish the task -- but I'm not going to be thrilled if someone just ASSUMES it's okay to touch me without bothering to ask.

    It costs nothing to ask and ensures that everyone is comfortable with the format/situation. Given that, why wouldn't you ask and explicitly check in before proceeding?!