Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sort Of Historical Thursday: Dick Button

In an effort to educate myself about the art, science, sport and cult of figure skating, I bought Dick Button's book, "Push Dick's Button." I downloaded it after my morning practice session, between changing clothes, wolfing down some breakfast and running for my commuter train. I finally got to tap it open once I was settled into my seat, and I spent the entire twenty five minute ride in a fit of giggles.

This guy is hilarious. He has a bit of a love affair with parenthesis, but once you overlook that, it's funny beyond belief. Dick goes into Performance, Costumes, Music, "Wilting" (or choking, however you phrase it) and the nitty gritty of skating. He talks about his own performance history, even daring to show us a picture of himself in a tuxedo jacket and black tights. Tights.

This is one of those books I'm going to plow through within a day or two, and then have to go back to re-read and fully digest. Books, unlike desserts, allow for some re-enjoyment while you fully taste them. I'm halfway through it now and just getting to the part about scoring, which is where everyone is getting their tights in a twist. Apparently South Korea filed some kind of complaint to the ISU to strip Sotnikova of the gold medal and give it to Yuna, and this isn't the first time I've read of strange scoring results. Like I said, I'm trying to learn, here.

So far this book is a wonderful view into skating history from a first hand perspective. How does one skate figures on an outdoor rink? I can't find my tracing in the halogens in the studio, I can't even imagine trying to see them in a sunny glare. And what about ice that goes mushy during the day, and you're supposed to compete on that? And how does the music play out there? Dick talks about his experiences with all these wonderfully terrible things and then some, all with the kind of humor that keeps one alive during the most difficult of circumstances.

My response after the tragic fall during last year's Spring Show.

He also goes into some detail about good skating. Now, remember what Charlotte said about good skating; it's difficult undertaking. Dick talks about what makes a good Three Turn:

"When doing a three turn, the skater changes from the forward outside edge to the back inside edge precisely at the center of the three, leaving an open space the width of the blade. The change of edge should not occur before the exact tip of the three, nor after."

I kept this in mind and gave it a few shots this morning on an Edge/Figure/Turn session. Sadly the best images I got are mostly whited out, but here's one you can see:

How am I doing, sir?

Aside from looking like I took a butcher knife to the ice, not too shabby. Coach is showing me how to better control the Inside Edge Check Out. Note that I did not photograph my Inside Threes, nor my attempts at Backwards Threes (which are still wallbound but progress is happening.)

Dick Button reads like someone I'd love to skate with and then go out for burgers and beer afterwards, just to hear him talk Skating. Fortunately, this book is just that. It's written conversationally. I might just have to get a cheeseburger this weekend while I re-read and notate. So, while I have no Full On History post today, I am thoroughly enjoying Dick talk to me about his past experiences in Skating. Should you get this book? Absolutely.


  1. Dick Button is going to be at the ISI Conference out in Rosemont at the end of May. I'm really looking forward to hearing him speak.

    Also, it's really hard to do a truly clean three turn in freestyle blades going with speed. It's much easier in patch blades (no lower tooth on the toepick) while skating figures. We used to get down on our hands and knees (at Crown) to see if our turns were totally clean.

  2. Totally agree with you. Excellent entertaining and informative book. I loved it.