Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wake Up!

Good Morning, Campers! Up with the lark!  It's a new year.
A new year, filled with left over problems from last year, but also the promise of new challenges.  Of course there are those pesky resolutions, generally put forth by perky people with way more enthusiasm than I can muster after a long night with the widow Clicquot; let's deal with all that right up front:  I hereby solemnly vow to make better bad choices this year compared to last.

Not wanting to be part of the slacker brigade, your old diarist went skating on the achingly beautiful first day of the new year.  I knew I had a lesson with Coach A. on the 2nd and figured if I could stand up on skates New Year's day, (actually my hair didn't hurt all that badly) that the lesson wouldn't be a complete waste of our time.

Come the 2nd, we dealt with an old problem--my poor excuse for a  CC inside Mohawk and a new challenge--my poor excuse for back outside edges.  Both of these foundation elements are key to my progress with the remaining two pre-bronze dances which I've left untested.  Doesn't matter if I remember the steps.  Doesn't matter if I remember to smile occasionally.  Without a good foundation this show ain't goin' anywhere.

So, on the 2nd of Jan. I found myself going backwards in both open and waltz hold doing outside swing rolls at dance speed during a busy FS session.  To say that we terrified a lot of inattentive free-style pixies would be a fair statement but no blood was shed.  The good news is that all this concentration on swing rolls left almost no time for Mohawks!

Scrolling on to last night's lesson, the focus was the dreaded Mohawk.  Coach A. had me over at the boards pivoting on my right foot.  Why is this turn such a stumbling block?  After what seemed to be a mind-numbing length of time (must have been at least ten minutes) we switched to back outside edges, but this time performed on the red line at the end of the rink.  There were no great breakthroughs in either department but I now have a couple more practice drills for homework.

So, that's my start to the new year.  Future posts will probably get v. monotonous and whiny, so feel free to tune out for a couple months! 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Smooth Skating!

Over the years, the New Yorker magazine has used skating as a theme for its cover.  I'll post a few from time to time.  Enjoy this one which evokes the rink-side glamour of pre-war St. Moritz.  (Note the bent knee free-legs.  Was that a style thing for the era?  I'm sure Coach A. would tell me I need to extend more if I did this!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Back in the harness

That's "harness" figuratively.  No your old diarist isn't donning the jumping harness anytime soon.  Rather, the giddiness of passing my test last Friday has given way, the following Tuesday, to getting back to work on the remaining two pre-bronze dances.  Celebrations are like weekends and vacations--they're always too short!

Coach A. and I briefly explored optional opening footwork for the Swing dance, as I'm slightly mystified as to how and when she transitions from us both starting off facing forward in hand to hand hold, to her doing a 3 turn in front of me which will get us into waltz hold, with her skating backwards, for the actual start of the dance. We tried a couple different entries without committing to either.

We then worked on the rest of the Swing Dance pattern and finished the half hour lesson by revisiting the Fiesta Tango.  Coach A. is of the opinion that the FT might actually be the easier of the two dances for me to crack since in that dance the Mohawk's two edges are only held for one beat each rather than the SD's required two beats.  Think of the FT as a skill builder bridging (eventually) to the SD.  Besides, having just passed the Cha Cha, the cross in front/tuck behind steps found in the FT are still fresh in my muscle memory.  Additionally, there's less backwards skating in the FT, a point she drove home by finishing the lesson with me practicing the back chassé steps found in the SD.  As one can predict, my back chassés are better in one direction than the other.  I need to get over my back edges more so that the chassé curves enough to generate the correct lobe of the pattern--a lot for an old geezer to digest for what seems like a relatively simple dance on paper.

I'll leave you with a little eye candy that I found on youtube while searching for Swing Dance music.  Yes, yes, it's dry land dancing but amazing, at least to me, to watch.  If I tried to dance like that I'd be in traction (and probably on a ventilator) for a month!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Chalk one up for the old geezer

Today was a test session day for Bowie FSC.  The session itself was held at Piney Orchard rather than Bowie for reasons that are not know to me but no doubt had something to do with ice availability.  Since Piney and Bowie offer each other's skaters reciprocal treatment I didn't have to pay a "visitor's" fee like the last time I tested over at a rink near Laurel, Maryland.

With that bit of admin out of the way, I suppose I should mention that I was testing the Cha Cha, a Pre-Bronze level dance.  To me, the Cha Cha represents the last of the "easy" pattern dances; i.e. no turns and no backwards skating.  The end pattern is a little tricky with a cross in front immediately followed by a tuck-behind step.  These precede a sweeping inside swing roll, the momentum of which can take the dancing couple perilously close to the boards in the far corner as they attempt the two cross steps that mark the repeat of the dance.  But as long as one doesn't rush those steps, the dance itself is straight forward.  Having said all that, Coach A. constantly implores me to smile like I'm actually enjoying all this rather than hanging on for dear life--particularly when we're gliding passed the judges.  I occasionally humor her and manage a grimace.  Maybe when we test the Tango all this smiling and smirking can be put to rest...

Ice dancing seems to be on an up-tick at our rink.  Reviewing the final schedule I was gratified to see that ice dance testers outranked free style testers by a ratio of over 4:1.

Ice dances from Prelim to silver were being tested with the dancers split into three groups.  I arrived at the rink an hour before my group's warm up time and was informed that things were running about ten minutes ahead of schedule.  Coach A., my partner for the test, arrived shortly after that.  We were called to the ice at 12:58 for our six minute warm up.  I'm testing on the "masters" track (I'll take all the leniency I can get).  I need more like twenty minutes to properly warm up--and that should be followed by a sandwich, a beer and a nap. Six minutes!  I don't know what I'll do when I have to warm up for the harder dances which follow this Cha Cha.

Actually, they gave our group more like eight minutes since we were (a). ahead of schedule, and (b). one of the skaters was stuck in traffic fairly close to the rink.  She did make it.

So, after our brief warm up the testing began.  I was way down the skating order for my group and was scheduled to skate next to last (7th out of 8 skaters)--so much for the warm up!  There was a little drama when an early skater in our group had a spot of brain fade and "checked out" after two patterns of the Fourteen Step (higher level dances require three patterns plus a solo if one is doing the standard track).  Her coach/partner forged ahead, correctly assuming that they were going to start the required third pattern and as a consequence the skaters touched blades and he went down hard.  After he sorted himself out the judges permitted them to complete the dance. I didn't hear if she passed or not.

And then it was my turn.  At least the music was familiar.  During the second of the two required patterns I touched (my own) blades briefly but managed to stay on my feet.  After we got off the ice Coach A. said she was pleased overall but that I had skated with softer knees during warm up.  I always seem to put down my best efforts when it doesn't count!  There was nothing to do but wait for the runner to bring over my scores.  Much to my relief all three judges saw fit to give me passing marks--just barely passing marks--but a pass is a pass:



Zooming in on the judges comments:

"Knows the steps".  I certainly hope so!

Can't make out what the top comment is all about.  Something to do with the wide-step.  At least this judge liked the fact that my timing was ok and my dancing exhibited "some lilt".

"Slight rushing at times".  Almost got me in trouble when my blades clicked towards the end of the second pattern!
So, with the Cha Cha in my rear view mirror it's onward and upward with the dreaded wonky Mohawk required by both the remaining two pre-bronze dances.  Next up will be the Swing Dance.  My goal is to test that one before I turn 80.

Ta Ta and Smooth Skating!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Not today

Just me and my shadow.  A sunny blue sky, air temps in the low 60s and not another skater in sight.  But, sadly, the puddles of standing water said "not today bucko".  We went to the open air rink at Quiet Waters park this afternoon full of hope and the promise of "California" skating conditions only to discover that while skating had been in full swing that morning, the warmng temps caused a mid-day suspension of activities.  We went for a walk on the park's woodland paths instead.  I think the rink did reopen around 5 pm but we had other promises to keep. The season is young.  Next time.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Testing Times Ahead

So, before heading off to my lesson yesterday evening, I paused to check my club's website.  Earlier rumors suggested that there might be a test session in early December but that had not been confirmed.  My pause was rewarded; the word "confirmed" had replaced "tentative", so I printed out the registration form and brought it along to the rink.

Coach A. and I have been focusing on the Cha-Cha as well as ironing out my wonky right forward inside Mohawk for for the better part of a year now.  I'd really like to get the Cha-Cha tested and in my rear view mirror so we can (hopefully) make progress on that Mohawk and thus move on to getting the other two pre-bronze dances test worthy by--maybe by this time next year?  Yes, yes, compared to over achieving young skaters my goals are rather modest--stay injury-free and occasionally pass a test every now and then.

With that in mind and with a submission deadline of this coming Friday looming, we devoted most of last night's lesson to the dance in question and used the last five minutes or so on the Mohawk. 

Bottom line: Coach A. told me it's time to put the dance out there and see what the judges think.  We spent a lot of time last night working on extension, toe pointing, keeping feet tidy, etc.  You know, picky, judgy things.  In the absence of a total brain freeze I know the actual steps required and can produce the tricky bits--the cross in front/tuck behind/inside swing roll which forms the end pattern.

After the session ended we filled out the form and ticked the box that indicated the "masters" track--I have no sense of shame; at my age I'll take all the leniency that I can get!  This morning I wrote the check and dropped the envelope in the mail.  The test date is the 8th of December.  Pass or Re-try?  Stay tuned.

As for that Mohawk, it is getting more controlled, but it comes and goes as it pleases so I'm a long way from claiming ownership.  It'll get there.  In the meantime, have a great Turkey Day, or Chicken Day, or Rock Fish Day, or (fill in the blank with your favorite celebratory meal) Day and give thanks that you're not yet too crotchety to skate another day!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I got the beat...

Apologies in advance to the Go-Go's.  What I've really got is a new toy:  a Korg model IE-1M in-ear metronome.  I'm not all that musical so I'm hoping that this little gizmo will plant a sense of timing within my thick head.

It comes nested in it's own little box.  The unoccupied slot in the foam on the right hand side is for the button battery.  Yes, the battery is included.  This photograph was exposed after I'd taken it out and futzed with it a bit.

This pix shows the overall appearance of the gizmo.  The grey round wheel looking part allows for adjustments which I'll touch upon later.

The hardest part was getting the black stretchy speaker cover in place.  My fingers were too clumsy.  Had to get my wife involved.  In the middle one can see two small push buttons.  The closest one is the on/off switch.  The other button is a mode button which allows one to toggle through the various settings for the IE-1M, which include beats per minute (adjustable from 30 to 252 in steps of  one beat), beats per measure (from 0 to 9), rhythm (quarter notes are the default) and loudness (either low or high).  In this pix I have the ear clip in the open position.

Here, the ear clip is closed.  The round speaker can swivel through a limited arc to accommodate different shaped ears.
In this pix I've used the mode button to toggle to the beats per minute position, and then used the grey"jog switch" (the wheel shaped part that lives between the black and white halves of the metronome) to set the bpm to 108.  Perfect for the Swing Dance and Fiesta Tango.
In this pix I've moved on and adjusted the beats per measure to 4.  Again, the Swing Dance and Fiesta are 4 beat dances.

If one is practicing a 6 beat dance such as a waltz, the adjustment is easily accomplished.

This shows the rhythm set for 1/4 notes.  There are other rhythms available but I'm not musical enough to sort through that yet.

Finally, here's a pix showing the loudness adjusted to the highest of the two settings available.  I have not tried the metronome out yet during a skating session, but I suspect if a trumpet player can blow a horn and still hear the beats with this gizmo in an ear then it should work for ice dancers as well.
Those interested can read more here:

The little gizmo even retains its settings after being switched off rather than going back to some default collection.  Bonus!

I ordered mine from Musician's Friend.  Prices vary quite a lot and also note that Korg makes other in ear metronomes for other uses.  The IE-1M is the cheapest of the range.

Will it help keep me on time?  Will it stay on my ear while skating?  Will the itty-bitty buttons drive me crazy?  Don't know yet--stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy today's earworm!