Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Imagine my chagrin when I listened to another coach wonder out loud if it was time to boot some kid from a number, because he'd only been to one rehearsal out of five. I said he'd been at just about every rehearsal for the other number he was in, so perhaps doing two was a strain on the family schedule.
Then, talking with MsV in the booth one morning, she said they were dropping out of the January Comp, because the dual rehearsal schedules and holiday vacations (of Coach and herself) simply wouldn't give him time to adequately prepare.
I nodded and sympathized, but deep down I was patting myself on the back. Would I have liked to see Stitch in more than one number? Sure, but I don't want to kill him or make me crazy in the process. Perhaps someday when he has a solo for one night, then he can do those two numbers; his solo and the group. (Besides, with him in Act 2, he can hang with me for the first half and avoid the chaos of the dressing room.)
The show date presses closer and there's a lot to do. Rink Friends who read this: When asking where the Group Number costumes are, call the City Manager and ask him. He is the one who refused to front the money for them, and so they were ordered when all the checks cleared, which was late last week by my statement, so those outfits will be showing up maybe in time for dress rehearsal. Again, don't ask us, call the City Manager and bitch at him. I'll have his phone number handy for you. You can even use my cell phone, I have unlimited minutes.
In the meantime, soloist outfits and the costumes we do have are being repaired, bedazzled and tailored. I have two right now waiting at home. Honestly, they all look pretty good. Some more worn than others, but all in all, not bad. (But it's clear when someone had a pizza party in the dressing room, by the staining on a few choice white satin leotards.)
I'm glad I'm in the costume room, because I'm blissfully isolated from all the Coach Hopping talk going on in the Rink. Honestly, I just don't care. I feel bad for the Coaches who are being blamed, pared back, or left behind as their students seek to "go somewhere" (wherever that is) but I'm keeping us away from it. I've had enough rink drama for now, and I'm sure the next two weeks will be more than enough.
I stepped out for awhile to collect Stitch from rehearsal, only to find the Coach doing a Boy Practice. The boys were goading each other on, counting spins and jumps, teasing each other and being boys. It was a rare sight, and the Coach came over to explain things, "Just a little fun," he said. I told him to have as much fun as he pleased. Tell Stitch to report to the Costume Room when they were done.
Stitch is enjoying the notion that the frilly skating girls are really quite nasty. I told him about the crusty and stained leotards, which sent him into fits of laughter. One morning as we were heading out the door, I told him he would be spending the first hour with me in the Costume Room while girls tried on their outfits.
"Oh good," he takes a pad of graph paper.
"What are you bringing that for?"
"So I can make a Beauty Scale. You know, one hundred percent, ten percent, how pretty they are."
"Please, for the love of pete, don't do that."
"They have enough issues."
Monday, November 28, 2011
I've torn away the paper, trimmed all my threads, and now we're ready to reinforce the back with our flexible acrylic.
This is Rosco Crystal Gel, and I love this stuff for crafting. Unfortunately, they only sell it by the gallon, and it's $57.00 per gallon. A gallon will last me two years, just be sure and lay down plastic wrap over the unused amounts and always use clean implements, lest the nasties take over your supply.
But this is a sample jar. It's plenty for these purposes. (I've asked the manufacturer about smaller size containers, and I've been told no. The product is hand-decanted, and a smaller package takes away profitability, which is understandable.)
This polymer acrylic stuff is permanent, clear, flexible, stretchable, water soluble, dyeable, washable, and holds just about anything. I've gotten it to adhere to smooth finished stone, but it does have trouble with painted metals. After you use this, you'll forget all about Hot Glue (ouch!) or two part epoxies (toxic!) You can get this sample jar from a local Rosco dealer, find one at their website, http://www.rosco.com/.
Using a clean paintbrush, go over all the back stitching. The Gel won't go through the fabric, it's nice like that.
Find the knots, hit them well. A thin coat will dry to the touch in about fifteen minutes, and it's 24 hours to a complete cure. When it's dry, take some nail clippers and clip any tails sticking up.
Stitch claims that the threads still feel sharp, so an undershirt may be in the works for this one.
I used the Gel to stick on the red crystal, applying those when the machine sewing was done. Instead of a paintbrush, I used a small piping bag and tweezers for crystal.
And that's that. We're all done, and we're weeks ahead of schedule, which is probably a good thing since I'm currently drowning in sequins for Ice Show.
If anyone wants a sewing tutorial, a more detailed bead tutorial (what kind to buy for best results) or a sequin tutorial, let me know in the comments!
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
But it's touchy. People are at odds with each other and I am loathe to take sides. Coaches are complaining that they are being accused of favoritism, parents are complaining that the rehearsal schedule is being switched around, and kids are being kids.
In the Costume Room, there is a particular heated debate going on over the nature of Winter Show, and how that affects the costuming of the skaters.
Last year, I noted that most of the soloist costumes were the same, which made sense to me. The ones that didn't have a similar costume to the soloist in the same role the previous night, I figured that there was not a costume of that type in her size, so the costumers were making do.
I was only half right.
Costumer A comes to me and says that Moms and Daughters are being overly picky about the costumes being assigned to them. Costumer A says that "This is the role, and this is the dress for that role."
Costumer B says, "If you don't like the dress, feel free to choose something else. We want you to have a good show experience here!"
I stand with Costumer A, and here's why:
Spring Show and Exhibition are a series of fun skating numbers strung together. In a show of this kind, sure, feel free to wear whatever looks good on you. That's fine. You're not telling a larger story, you're not performing with others, you're just you. Please, by all means, look as good as you can.
Winter Show, however, is telling a story. Specific characters are supposed to do specific things and look a specific way to further the story. Remember the "performer" bit, where everything you do adds to or detracts from the Performance? Yeah, that applies to what you're wearing, too. If you're a Housemaid, then maybe you aren't supposed to be cute and frilly. You're cleaning the stupid house. Only women in Pledge commercials look cute and frilly while housecleaning. Real people look a bit dowdy. Now, of course a "dowdy" outfit at a skating rink will be all black sequins with silver trim, so take that with a grain of salt. If our ingenue showed up one night in heavy purple eyeshadow, false eyelashes, overdone rouge and fire engine lipstick, (because she thought she looked good in it,) that would be completely inappropriate for the "Young Child" role she was playing.
But Moms and Daughters are coming back with their assigned Winter Show outfits, complaining that they don't like them and would like to choose something else. This has Costumer A in fits, Costumer B scurrying to the racks to find something "suitable," and my fellow Skating Mom and I in hysterics. (She's new, too, and also a Theatre Person.)
We will be patiently explaining to Moms and Daughters that this is the outfit for the role. You wear it or don't. And when we say "don't," that means you can forfeit your solo to one of the dozens of eager little girls who would be happy to have it (and the dress.) They're right outside, I can go get one of them now.
In a Real World situation, a skater in a professional ice show is going to have no say at all in what she wears. ("You're in the giant Nemo head," sparked some rather lively laughter.) An actor in a play has very little say about what they will be wearing. I don't know about competitive skaters, but I would imagine the same holds true for them: They may get some say, but the final decision rests with someone else. (Any Pro Skater stopping by, please fill us in!)
Kids, this is all part of being a Professional. A Professional doesn't waste time whining about their costumes. They put them on, play their part, and years down the road they will laugh with their friends, "You wouldn't beleeeeive the crazy thing I wore for that show!"
But what do you think, Readers? Do you think an Ice Show that tells a story like a play should allow the skaters to dress themselves? Or should we keep wardrobe in the hands of those who are seeing the larger picture and not just individuals? Take the poll in the sidebar!
Thursday, November 17, 2011
For all this time, I've dictated the practice schedules, which have always been, "skate whenever he gets a good chance." But lately that's led to some resistance on Stitch's part. He simply doesn't see the value in skating so often. There's been some quabbling over the matter of How Often to Practice, and I was debating how to handle this.
MsV approached me over the whole Parenting Thing. "I don't know what to do, he fights us over every little thing! But I'm reading this book, 'Parenting without power struggles,' and I'm hoping that will do something. Its very highly recommended, you should read it!"
Power struggle? Is that what this is? The light came on.
Kids start to assert some demand for power over their little lives from age two. I've always ascribed to the method of allowing limited choices where appropriate (what clothes to wear, what to eat, what activities to do.) But for some reason the skating had slipped from "limited choice" to "non-negotiable," on the same plane as homework.
Last night over dinner, Stitch and I had a chat.
"Okay, so you've got this new program to work on and a competition in January."
"How often do you think you need to practice?"
He thinks. "Twice a week."
That's once more than what I thought his answer would be, so I'm encouraged. "Great. Your options are Friday night Public, Saturday Night Public, Sunday Afternoon Public, or Sunday Night Practice Ice."
"I don't like Public Ice. It's too crowded and distracting."
I almost fell out of my chair, one for the honesty and two for the cost. "Thank you for explaining that to me. Do you prefer the Tuesday morning ice over the Wednesday night?"
He sighs as though he hates to admit it. "Yes. It's much less crowded."
"Good. So, let's make a plan. I'll take you to practice on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons or Sunday night whichever you prefer. As we get closer to winter, the Sunday afternoon public will fill up, so we may call it quits and do Sunday nights. Okay?" Plus on Sunday nights he can get his music played.
Stitch agrees that this is a good plan. A good plan that he had a big hand in setting.
I then laid out his options for the evening; TV time, video games or a board game. He opted for video games, and I gladly spent the next hour being his Legend of Zelda Coach. "Go in there, target the spider and hit it! Ignore the heart beeping, you'll come back, hit it!"
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Coach and I noted his good work, I packed him up and took him home. I gave instructions for school and set off for work, happy.
Imagine my shock when I got an email from Teacher D, telling me Stitch had just lost focus completely during a writing assignment. He had thirty minutes to work, but turned in a totally blank sheet of paper.
When he got home, he got out his math homework and gave me a whipped puppy look before telling me "You won't be happy with the math test."
I let that sit until dinner was done, and then I looked at it.
And we had a talk.
"Stitch, tell me what happened with the writing assignment today."
"We didn't have one," he evaded.
"Yes, you did. Mr D tells me you weren't focused, and then you had trouble with the writing portion of it. You didn't write anything at all."
"Well," Stitch is thinking. "Mr D said to write nothing, so that's what I did!"
"You wrote nothing, even when everyone else in the class was writing something?"
"Yes! But Friend S told me to write what I knew about the Native Americans..." he's thinking.
"Stitch, did you zone out while Mr. D was giving instructions? And when it came time to actually do the assignment, you didn't know what to do?"
Stitch is crestfallen. I've seen right through him. "Yes."
"Hm," I say patiently. "This seems to be a recurring problem. It happens in class, it happens on the ice, and it happens at home. So what can we do to help you focus on the task at hand?"
"I don't know," he says unhappily. "But sometimes things are just not interesting! Like math."
"That may be, but you still have to pay attention in school. Like this Math Test. These are really simple concepts; measuring to the nearest half inch, and perimeters. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do this, yet you got all of them wrong. Were you paying attention when Teacher D explained how to do this?"
"Stitch, you'll learn at school, or you'll learn at home, but you will learn these things. I advise paying attention and learning in school, so you have time for fun things at home. Okay?"
So, after he had done his regular homework, I printed off some worksheets to reinforce the concepts he'd missed on his Math Test. And, as I suspected, it was simply a matter of focusing on the subject matter and listening to what I was saying. Once he understood, he got it handily.
Last Friday, I stepped in for the last few minutes of the Workshop. Stitch was having something new thrown at him, a Flip. And he was struggling mightily, doing his best, but it was escaping him.
He came off the ice, frustrated. Coach came over to chat with me, and I asked, "So, what can we do to help this happen?"
She stepped Stitch through an off-ice jump, showing me a finished product. Stitch struggled, and I could see that there was a lot going on with this jump. Stitch simply needed to get each piece before he could see the finished product.
A day later, in the courtyard, after Spiral stretches and Shoot the Ducks, I asked Stitch to jump up and turn around. Stitch immediately tried the full Flip and failed.
"No, no," I stopped him. "Just jump up and turn around on two feet. You've done this."
He jumped up and turned around a few times.
"Okay, now hold your arms in and do it. Just like Coach shows you."
He laughed and did this a few times.
"Okay, now push up with your foot, hold your arms in, turn around and land on two feet."
Things got fun as we slowly added each physical element to the mix. We got to "Push up with your foot, hold in your arms, turn around, land on your left foot and put your arms in landing position," and that's as far as we got. We're still working on it, but by breaking the element down into manageable bites on dry land, Stitch was doing better. If he keeps this up, by the time the Workshop starts again in four weeks, he should be in good shape to try it on the ice.
Coach was exasperated again a week or so ago, "He's so gifted, he could do anything if he'd only focus!"
"I know," I said. "You're not alone, it's not just you. It's all his teachers and me. So, stay with him, slow down. We'll get him to see himself."
As I'm working with Stitch on Staying Focused, what runs through my head is a scene from Star Wars...
Those sequins came from behind!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Then it got pointed out to me that the same thing happens with boys, just in different forms. A boy got passed over for a leading role in the Holiday Show, not because he couldn't skate, but because he wasn't cute enough.
Well, a Prince has to be cute. Our cultural expectation of a Prince is that he's cute. (And interested in Princesses.) There's a name for this, and it's called Typecasting.
Now, don't get me wrong. At a publicly owned ice rink doing their yearly pageant, by and for the local community, I roll my eyes at typecasting a "cute" Prince. But in a truly professional situation, only the Cute Guy is gonna get that role. You can teach skating (acting/dance/whatever). You can't teach cute.
As a Performer, every niggly detail of what you're doing or wearing adds to or detracts from the total picture. If a dancer is performing a graceful rendition of Swan Lake, and she does some pirouette and the audience can pick out a run in her tights, loose wisps of hair and a big W on her butt from her UnderRoos, she's not a Swan anymore. She's a disheveled wanna-be Wonder Woman. Big difference. It doesn't matter that we "shouldn't be looking at her butt," it's on display and we're going to see it whether we want to or not. Doesn't matter that her regular hairstylist was out of town and the CVS was out of tights. It's too late. The spell has been broken. She's a mess, and she won't get cast again because of it.
I fully grasp and understand why Typecasting is done. I've done auditions where an actress was cast because she had "the look" of the part. "She just looks like our character," we'd say, and I'd agree because she did. I could easily see this person as a villainess/ingenue/whatever.
But this isn't theatre. This is a sport. Right?
It's a sport that blurs the lines between athleticism and art, so much so that some people can't, won't or just have a hard time discerning the difference, and I think this mentality can be damaging.
A Coach showed me a picture of his dance team, and I noted the boy's very red cheeks.
"He has rosacea," the Coach explained.
And without even thinking, I said, "Oh, some foundation will fix that."
In hindsight, that response didn't come from any skating experience, it came from my expectations of a performer. I don't like my dancers to be too red in the face. His red cheeks had nothing to do with his skating, yet my instinctual response saw them as a "problem" to be "fixed," because I'm stuck in a mindset that appearance matters.
And it's not just sheer lookism. There's attitude and stage presence. Note how when a lady exudes a strong presence on the ice (something else that is hard to teach), the commentators will laud her. Yet, when a guy does the same thing, just in the "wrong" way, there's a collective cringe. Johnny Weir is one of the most exciting skaters to watch. He owns not just the ice surface, but the whole arena and demands to be watched. It's fantastic. But... he smacks his rear on Camel Spins. I think it's great, but it's definately over-the-top for some. And I think the great quality of Johnny's skating gets overlooked because of it.
Caution; Opinion Ahead!
If Figure Skating wants to be taken more seriously as a true Sport, then I think it has to start moving away from such heavy emphasis on Typecasting Appearances, what The Skatekeepers think Skaters should look like, behave like, or be in general. If that means Team Uniforms, similar to what's used in Gymnastics, so be it. If it means everyone gets similar music, or a de-emphasis on "performance" marks, okay.
There's plenty of room for Typecasting in Ice Skating Shows, Exhibitions, and Theatre on Ice, but when we're talking Strictly Competitive, I just don't see a place for it at the table.
This outfit alone makes a tight case for a Skating Uniform.
Monday, November 7, 2011
The Back Spin improves, slowly but steadily. He's getting there, and this added time is a blessing and a relief from the pressure he's been feeling.
Nonetheless, he was bummed about not passing. "I knew I would do terrible."
"You did great," I said, very happy about things. "That Dance Step was good, and you just need to get those toe loops off the ice a bit more. You're doing fine!"
"No one passed," said Stitch, as the idea dawned on him that maybe this isn't easy for everyone but him. It's hard for everybody.
"That's okay, too," I shrugged it off. "More time to learn things, get them right and polished. Let's go home to change clothes, I've got a skate sharpening appointment for you today."
Sometimes I think I'm the only person in the rink who isn't in a rush, and who isn't interested in holding the class levels as a ranking system. And even as I was happy Stitch would have more time for instruction in things that he needed to work on, I was anxious lest others judge him for what they might perceive as a failure.
I've given up judging other kids. I just don't care anymore. My view has become focused as a laser on Stitch, and so long as he's doing well in relation to others in his peer group (as in, everyone seems to be on par with each other) I just don't care. But I know others don't think that way, that there are people who may hold this against him in some way. He's just a kid. Be catty at me all you want, I'm used to it, but don't look at my kid.
At any rate, I cut music and costume pieces, I delivered CD's to Coach and we rescheduled the weekly lesson time to morning.
That's right, we're on for Tuesday mornings. After watching two girls collide on two backwards spirals one Wednesday evening, I decided I'd had enough of crowded ice, grumpy monitors, oblivious skaters and irritable coaches. Stitch isn't pleased with the idea of getting up that early, but I told him it's just one day a week and I'd do whatever he needed to help him with the early hour.
I'm seeing a lot of pancake wrapped sausages in my future.
Stitch would walk through fire for one of these.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
I cut the pieces for the two shirts; a white collared long sleeve for the solo program, and a blue velvet short sleeve affair for compulsories. What won't be sewn for awhile went into a storage size ziplock bag to keep it pressed and clean. After talking with another Coach who gave me this look of, "don't even try it in nonstretch," I changed my mind and decided to go with a lycra for the white shirt. Maybe with some good pressing I can get a clean look.
The thing to remember in sewing stretchy things is not to stretch them while sewing. This means no tugging, pulling, or coaxing it through the feed dogs. Just let it feed itself, watch it close, and go slow. When you are called to stretch the fabric while sewing, think of it the same way as crossing the streams with a proton pack.
It can work, you just have to be careful.
I don't have a serger, so I overlock everything and I get great results. But we're not sewing today. We're getting the bead embroidery started on the back panel.
Here's our paper design basted onto the back panel. There's a bit of puffiness towards one edge, but I'm not worried. The beading will take care of things as we go, provided we pay attention.
Here's all my beads and materials. My beading thread is a white Nymo, size B, a smaller gauge of the stuff they use to make shoes. Everything is packed up in baggies so I can easily take it with me, and I don't carry all the beads of the colors around, lest disaster strike and I spill a bag. (It's happened.) I only carry manageable amounts. Keep it organized, and work only with one color at a time to save your sanity, not going through multiple bags for one bead of one color and two beads of another.
Here's the back view, and the knot. Don't worry too much about knots not holding, we're going to secure every stitch and knot when the entire piece is done with a flexible acrylic.
Flip it over and look at the back every now and then. The back does matter. You want it clean and neat. Places where the thread has knotted, gathered, frayed or whatever else thread does to irritate you means weak points in your beading. Weak points mean things can fall off, and that means disaster. When you make mistake, (this is going to hurt) rip it out and start again.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
How do like those apples! Don't buy soakers! I find them to be a waste of time, money and effort, and sometimes even counterproductive.
I know. I know. Stitch has soakers. Worse, he has the Bunny Soakers. You know why? Because Rink Culture dictates that the kids need Soakers. Rainbo Sports has an impressive array of bejewled, bedazzled, cute, and stupid soakers. I bought them in a moment of weakness, and he'd been begging since we bought his first pair of skates.
I once had a vendor at a comp spend ten minutes detailing the soakers she made by hand, made with terry cloth of such high quality I swear she was making them out of towels she swiped from the Hiltons she stayed in. I passed. Because I hate Soakers.
I know what you're thinking; I need something to absorb the moisture off my cold blades when I come off the ice.
Soakers need to be removed from the skate blade when you get home, and put out to dry, or else the blade develops a film of rust and the soakers mildew. Frankly, there's enough gross stuff in that Zuca, the last thing I need to do is add something else to the mix. Even worse, the larger, puffier soakers trap moisture against the bottom sole of the boot, which appears to hasten its demise. (Unless you have a Starter Level skate with a Vinyl sole.) Also, the more fluff, bling and doodads on the soaker, the more disgusting they become. I can't begin to describe the horrors I've seen on a "tricked out" soaker showing its age.
That having been said, you're going to get scammed into buying Soakers. So, what kind should you buy?
They're all terrible. Just buy whatever the kid hands you.