Monday, December 21, 2015

Dance Class

(Apologies for the long absence. Work has gone through an upheaval and I've been very busy! But I am still skating!!)

In an effort to improve my flexibility, turnout, and choreographic processing skills, I decided to try a dance class. Most of the people in our rink go to a dance studio right up the road, and just my luck, there is an Adult Modern Beginner class on a weekday evening. I had my first try last week.

I was a little nervous, but figured how bad could I be. I got into my stretchy pants and best Alex from Flashdance getup, headed out into our weirdly warm winter evening and hoped I wouldn't be too terribly awkward. Remember, it takes me awhile to process movements. I went up to the desk, and was greeted warmly. "Oh, yes, that's a great class," said the desk person, wearing dance clothes herself. There was a long awkward pause.

"Do you need payment?" I asked finally. "Any information?"

"Yes, the computer is slow," she sighed.

Being a trusting person, I tossed her my ID and credit card, and headed back to the studio. Studio 4. I ran into some other adults taking the class, some who were longtime dancers, and some newbies like me.

The class ahead of us filtered out, all lithe and willowy kids in dance gear, and we adults wandered in. It was a typical dance studio; long mirror on one wall, barres on the other wall. A piano, marley floor, a box of random props. And I was in it!

The instructor came in, introduced herself to us and set up at the mirror. We paced through a few short routines, which I did with varying degress of success. I had a hard time with extension, and turning, which I expected and I kept reminding myself, "This is why you are here." In some ways I was glad to see that it wasn't just on the ice, it translated off the ice, too. I learned a few awkward ballet moves, and I had to smile when we did an arabesque and I saw my foot come up above my head. "No, no," the instructor came to correct me. "Head down, make a straight line with your body."

I tried it, but it seemed really weird. We did some neat kicks and leans and it was all terribly fun, even if I was having problems. "You're trying, I can see that," the instructor was trying to be complementary of my efforts. At one point she turned my whole upper body outwards in a leaning thing and I discovered new muscles in my ribcage.

Then we tried some running and jumping steps. "Run, Run, Run, jump up (ballet jump, ok) then turn around (Like a half flip, ok) Run back, back, and spin," she explained. Okay this seemed easiest so far, and I had it okay, until she tried to make us go the other way. And I had to try and jump and spin the other way. I could not do it. My body stubbornly jumped up and spun to the right. "Go the other way," she tried to gently correct. "Turn to the back wall, not the mirror."

"I can't! I don't turn that way!" I was really trying.

Then we tried the final routine, which she said was the hardest. Lots of plies, and roundy leg things, roundy leg behind you into an arabesque, then plie/lunge, "And then we do a handstand," she showed us a small handstand. "Then leg behind and start again."

"Wait a minute," I bit my lip. "This is the beginner class, right?"

"Just try it, you don't have to go all the way up."

"Don't worry." But I did try it. I was fine on my good leg, but my bad hamstring refused to let me get up off the ground, and I didn't want to push him.

We ended with a lovely stretching routine, and at the end of the class I was sore and exhilarated. I explained to the instructor that I was a skater, and was here to improve my skills, and there was a valid reason I had trouble turning to my left. "Yes, that explains a lot," she smiled at me. "Will we see you next time?"

Yes, absolutely, and next time I will wear dance shoes. The next morning I nursed a coffee and several milligrams of ibuprofin and watched Flashdance.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Your Costume Crew at Work

It's that time of year again! Holiday Ice Show and we've been at work in the shop for a month now. We've been cleaning and organizing, and now we're getting skaters in to be fitted for their soloist costumes.

And I thought a GIF post was in order, to best explain how things go in a Volunteer Run Costume Department.

What really happens when I say, "Let me think on it..."


What I'd like to do to people who make unreasonable requests...


What happens when I schedule Appointments for people and then dozens show up unannounced..


When we're trying to find polite words to say, "It doesn't look good on you..."


When everyone leaves me alone in the shop for the day and I decide to try on tutus....


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Silver MIF; Things get fast

Back when I started skating I referred to Silver and Gold in joking terms. "If I ever get to Silver..." I'd laugh like it was some improbable thing in some far flung future. "Gold Moves?" I'd ask of fellow skaters. "As if!"

Well, the future is now, and Silver MIF is on my plate. Coach Fab and I started with the big beast that is the 8 Step Mohawk sequence. I suppose for those gifted with open hips, this poses little to no challenge. But for us closed hip marvels, this is scary and painful. This is not an inside mohawk, it's an outside mohawk, both directions. I can do it, but I have no rhythm to it. I hold the crossover forever, mohawk fast and step again... steps two through four happen quick and the rest of it I drag out. And of course my left side is better than my right, to the point where my right circle is slow and small and the left side is big and bold and nuts.

Cross-strokes, or Crossrolls, are next. Forward Crossrolls I always found horribly romantic, so I've tried these since day one. These are pretty good. Backwards crossrolls are smaller and need help. I know I look down a lot and I ride up on my toes which slows me down.
Which brings me to the true beast on this test.

FO/BI and FI/BO Three Turns.

Now, I have been playing with back outside threes for awhile. I could get them to work on a good day. But now we need them to start being controlled and consistent. And that means solid edges. Further, the lobes are your standard size with four forward and four backwards lobes on each side of the rink. Coach Fab was sure to count and check to see how big I had to be. And when I tried it, I was too slow. Silver simply doesn't have time for my chickenshit.

Back Inside threes terrified me, I hadn't even bothered, but when I gathered my wits about me and set my jaw, I found I could kinda do a LBI3. This morning Coach Yoda had me drill Back Insides and I did one (ONE) solid right back inside three. I was... amazed. Frankly, it's not so bad. As Coach Yoda says, "It's trust."

But once I set them on the FO/BI pattern, I was again too slow. My lobes were small and uneven, and I know judges are looking for consistency at Silver.

Edge Pulls? Again, the secret is speed and confidence. I'm way better at edge pulls backwards than I am forwards. I can't explain it. I can do backwards edge pulls until the cows come home, but forwards I can only make it halfway down the rink on my left foot and a quarter on my right.

Outside and Inside Spirals? Speed. They're just safer if you're faster. I read somewhere that this is the thing that holds Adults at Bronze... because the free leg has to be at hip height. Well, I guess all that time obsessing over it has paid off. When Coach Fab asked to see them, I did a set and he gave me a rare, "Wow. I'm impressed. I don't need to do anything with those." Even the insides, which I was sure were not great, he didn't feel the need to tinker with.

In short, Silver is Speed. Pre-Bronze you could get away with slow. Bronze you could still be a little pokey. But at Silver you have to move. It just doesn't work otherwise.

And we're looking forward to Gold MIF. We played around with Brackets one morning, and I've been doing double threes just because I can as I wind up a Patch Session. It hit me one morning during power class as we were doing fast tempo crossovers... "This is on Gold Moves. Take this seriously." Back Figure eights.. I have the outsides okay but Insides are tough.

Progress is happening. I feel like I’ve been on a plateau for a long time now, but we’re slowly chipping away at these hurdles that have been holding me back. Now if only I could start to get that Back and Sit spin under control...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Open Freestyle; Doing the Hard Thing

I have an Audition Program. We put it together in late winter to use for my ISI FS1 test and Spring Show auditions which never happened. The format changed and I got a solo without doing an Audition. But I had this program, and I did consider just using it as it stood for Holiday Show auditions. I looked at my drawing in my little notebook and then I skated the steps. Too Easy. I'd improved in the six months since working with this program, and it didn't reflect my current skill level. If I skated this, it would be more than enough to meet the stated requirements for an Adult Skater Solo. While I could most certainly do that, it wouldn't follow with my Mantra of Do The Hard Thing. Plus, I want to impress Coach Fab a little when he gets back. So I added a few things.

The Lunge - I made it into a slide and turn lunge. I have about a 50% success rate with these, and only at a controlled speed. When I put it into the program, I hit the lunge about 100% faster than what I'm comfortable with. The trick is to lower the knee to ensure that the blade doesn't strike the ice upon turning to backward. And commit. If it fails, it fails, but commit either way. And frankly, I need to fall when I've got judges on me. If I fall on this, I won't fall far.

Waltz Jump/Mazurka - I want to make this a Waltz Jump/Toe Loop combo. Even if I botch the toe loop a little, I will have put my entire jump repertoire into the program. Plus it will make a nice slower step forward into the Bunny Hop.

Back Edges: I don't need these anymore. So I'm replacing them with a Back Outside Spiral. The problem for me with this is Control. I lean too far and make too tight a circle. So right now the program is never ending in the same spot, or a twenty foot radius of the same spot, ever.

With the Back Edges gone, I'm replacing the final Waltz Jump/Spin with a Salchow, stepping forward into a RI3 and a Back Outside Pivot.

Ideally, I would love for the Spin to be a Sit Spin, but I know not to hope for too much.

My success rate with these changes? Not too great. I'm having trouble with transitions, breathing space and timing. But I want to work through this myself and see if I can solve the problems on my own. If I get really stuck, I have Blanket Permission (from Coach Fab) to work with whoever I like. But I'll give it another day or so and see how I do.

I also pulled up the FI/FO3 pattern from the Old Adult Pre-Bronze test and worked with that a little. It makes no sense that FI3's got abandoned by the Pre-Bronze test, only to resurface as far away as Silver MIF. I realized I hadn't worked with these at all since Delta, and they have a nasty habit of leaving me from time to time. So I am working to solidify them before we start work on Silver MIF.

Also Back Outside 3's. These are coming easier, the trick is knee bend. "Soft knees," as Coach Fab said while watching a skater on her MIF test doing back threes. So I worked to make my knees soft. Knee bend, turn to the point of pinch in the waist, commit and bend again. And get off the toepick. GET OFF THE TOEPICK.

I worked on a few other things, enjoying the relative freedom of doing what I wanted for a little while. I saw my penchant for being lazy, working only on things that were easy for me, and decided to make a list of harder things I remembered from lessons.

It occurred to me that just two years ago, Ice Show auditions were the biggest thing on my skating radar. I remember the sheer terror of having my name on that signup sheet, and the horrible pressure I had been under to skate perfectly. I realized that this year I'm planning to use the Audition Process to challenge myself in a relatively safe environment. Can I fall catastrophically out of a lunge and save the rest of the program? Here's to finding out!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Open Freestyle

I skated this morning and debated warming up with Bronze Moves. Then I thought "NO" and made up some random steps and crossrolls, edge pulls and back inside edge drills. And then I worked my program for a half hour. The Rink Friend who had video'd me gave me a copy, and usually I hate watching videos of me skating anything "real." But I made myself do it and it was valuable. I could see what needed tweaking or fixing. So I tweaked and fixed.

The Basic Skills Competition serves the purpose of getting you in front of judges, and putting on a little pressure. Not much. In the hierarchy of Competitions, it is the lowest of low level comps. Which was funny when I went to put on a little more eyeliner and found a girl sobbing in a bathroom stall. I wanted to knock and say, "Sweetheart, it's not that serious." The goal isn't to win, it's to skate well with a little heat on you. And I did just that, so I was proud of myself.

But next weekend is a higher level comp. So I needed to put on some polish and make things... bigger. And sparklier. I decided my costume needed a little more pizazz. And I need red nails.

After that... I played around. It hit me that Sunday morning's practice would be completely unscheduled, which would be weird after months of structured "Gotta do, no ice time to waste" mindset.

Coach Fab is taking off for an extended family vacation once this next comp is done. He's given me blanket permission to "Have Fun" while he's gone. So, I decided I'd revamp an old program to use for my Winter Show audition, casually work on Sit and Backspins, and back threes with the help of Coach Yoda to prep for Silver MIF. I also want to get with a great Coach to teach me off-ice jumps again, and a little conditioning to do while I'm on vacation and off the ice entirely for a week.

I'm seriously looking forward to a month of playtime on the ice, and some time off from the ice. My own little "Off-Season," as it were.

I will also be playing Video Games.