Saturday, February 21, 2015

Unexpected find.

I'm a casual Olympic pin collector; mainly sailing (summer games) and of course skating pins from the winter games.  I was idly trolling "flea-bay" about a week ago and spotted this unrelated pin:

The seller though that this was a pin issued to and worn by ice dance judges.  However I think a more likely explanation is that this pin was awarded to skaters after they passed the tests for the three preliminary dances (Dutch Waltz, Canasta Tango and Rhythm Blues).  Today I showed the pin to one of my coaches and although she has never seen one of these, she agrees with my guess.  I wonder how old the pin is?  I'm guessing perhaps it dates to the 1950s.  Can anyone reading this post add to the story?

The pin is extremely well made and features a stick pin and moveable lock rather than the "tie tack" stud and keeper common to more recent pins.  I attempted to read the maker's stamp on the back but my eyes aren't good enough.  I think part of the mark reads "New York".  I'll take it to work and look at the stamp with a tissue culture microscope in my lab.  After showing this to my other coach next Tuesday, I will add the pin to my pin board and not wear it until I pass those three dances.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Taking it outside

Today the temps in Maryland hit 60 degrees in many locations.  It was too nice a day to go to a crowded indoor public session, so diaristdaughter and I decided to head to a nearby outdoor rink in Annapolis at the Quiet Waters Park.  I reverted to my old skates since I have a dance lesson on Tuesday night and wouldn't have a chance to have my blades sharpened if the grit on the ice was bad enough to dull the edges.

We arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon.  Quiet Waters is a very pleasant county park, popular with walkers and cyclists.   The rink wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be.  We paid our fees and laced up our skates.  Diaristwoman and her mother went for a walk.

As is normal with outdoor rinks, there were a lot of compression ridges in the ice as well as standing water in places.  It took me about a half hour to get comfortable with the feel of my old skates.

You can see the standing water in the center of the rink.  The far end was also a tad on the swampy side.  You didn't want to fall!

The ice was very slow.  I tried a couple of spins and quickly gave up.  The mushy ice just wouldn't permit the blade to spin.  I limited myself to forward stroking and swing rolls with a few Mohawks and 3-turns just to keep things interesting.  After an hour and a half my legs were beat.  Mother-in-Law suggested dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant.  It didn't take much arm twisting.  I'd like to try this rink again when conditions are more favorable.  I plan to have the blades on my old skates moved to match the location of the blades on my new boots so that I can transition between new and old skates with minimum foot reeducation.  That way the old skates will be perfect for outdoor adventures.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Reshuffling the deck. Warning: some rambling will be encountered.

After the start of the second month of the new year I came to the realization that my skating progress was going backwards rather than forwards.  I've been taking group ice dance lessons since last September when the rink offered them after a long hiatus of not offering dance at all.  At first only myself and one other adult, a lady, signed up.  We had a wonderful set of semi-private lessons, given by a top notch coach.  But, as any number of melancholy songs remind us, after a glorious September the days grow shorter and grimmer as winter tightens its grip.   Indeed, after the September lessons, there was a coaching change and with that came a horde of kids.  My adult lady skater fell hard during the first session of the next flight of lessons and withdrew from the group. This left me as the sole representative of humans over four and a half feet tall.  The new coach was fine and I learned a few things but frankly the kids had attention spans even more limited than my own.  Our poor coach spent a large part of lesson time goat roping and attention refocusing.  Additionally, it seemed like the group acquired a new kid or two at each lesson and thus we'd plow the same ground over and over in an attempt to bring new students up to speed.  When we did finally return to dances other than the Dutch Waltz, I found myself blanking in mid-dance as to what the next steps were--these were dances that a couple months earlier I knew stone cold.  So, although I wanted to support the rink's efforts in ice dancing, I came to the conclusion that the group lesson format just wasn't working for me. So, at the conclusion of the current set of lessons I elected not to sign on for the next set.

Besides, as we head deeper into the calendar I know that I would have been unable to attend many of the Saturday classes.  Even in this month of February I would have missed two Saturdays and it gets even sketchier after that as the weather warms and other demands cut into the weekends.  Since I also take private lessons early on Saturdays I had a heart to heart talk with my long standing private coach.

Coach K. took a full time "regular" job back in the fall and currently is available only on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings.  Additionally, recent changes at her husband's work now prevent her from teaching during the Tuesday evening FS session that is a fixture on our rink's calendar.  Kids--somebody has to watch 'em.  After discussing our up-coming schedules, Coach K. and I agreed that I'll continue to take privates from her when I can and that she didn't object to me seeking another coach with a possible mid-week time opening.  Long story short: I contacted Coach A., a relatively new coach at our rink.  She's a Gold test level ice dancer who still competes, and she had an open slot during that early Tuesday evening FS session.

A problem I've had with ice dance lessons, regardless of them being private or group, has been the lack of opportunities to skate with a partner.  I did at one point have a partner, V. but long term readers will recall that she deserted me for a horse.  Pattern dances take on an entirely different personality when skated "two-up".  For one thing, paired skaters, because of the fact they're holding on to each other, have less freedom of motion than single skaters.  At the same time they barrel down the ice with roughly twice the momentum.  Managing all that in a manner that whispers a soupcon of grace and elegance offers up an interesting challenge.  Layered atop this skating confection is the notion that the two linked skaters should be capable of exhibiting "pair unison".   If you don't skate regularly with a partner you don't get to practice those aspects of the sport.  To review:

  • the pair of you have less control than a solo skater
  • the pair of you have more speed than a solo skater
  • both of you are supposed to be doing things like leg extensions and toe pointing to the same extent, at the same time while maintaining nicely arched backs (no slouching, no breaking at the waist!) and crisp elegant lines.

Although Coach K. has a dance background, she hasn't partnered in about ten years and is now a trifle hesitant to do so, especially with a student who might probably pull her down.  In all the private lessons I've had with her we only tried it once and actually during those early lessons I had enough to think about just remembering the steps and patterns of the three beginner dances.

Coach A. on the other hand has none of those fears.  We started our lesson last night with her watching me skate solo so she could gauge exactly what I was bringing to the party and then before I knew it she took my hand and said "Let's do some forward stroking and swing rolls in Kilian." I was immediately told to bend my knees more and also told that I needed much deeper edges if I expected to have any hope of staying on pattern.  What?  The fact that deeper edges (which are derived from deeper knee bend) contribute to staying on pattern had somehow never been pointed out to me in a way that made the penny drop in my brain.  I thought I had reasonably deep edges.  Apparently not.  It suddenly dawned on me that the take home message was this: if my edges are shallow, then the lobes which I skate during say, a forward swing roll will be bigger and in turn, move me off-pattern in certain instances.

An example that comes to mind is the final swing roll in the end pattern of the Dutch Waltz which occurs right before the last two steps.  Your dancing partner will no doubt resent it and probably have a lot of very unkind things to say if, as a consequence of your shallow edged swing roll, the lobe skated is a bit larger than the amount of ice remaining and, in turn, you scrub her off against the boards at dance speed as the two of you desperately attempt to make that last pair of steps in the dance happen.

Back when V. was my partner we always had trouble right at that very part of the DW, probably because of shallow edges.  In hindsight, perhaps all those near misses with the boards were what made horseback riding seem so appealing...

So, anyway, coaching value for money spent, straight out of the box.  Our thirty minutes soon ended.  Coach A. moved on to her next student and I left the ice with this thought: "that young lady is going to beat the demons out of my sloppy skating--either that or a certain old man on ice skates will soon be in traction."  There it is then.  Elegance or the Emergency Room. Deep edges or Deep Doo-Doo.  It'll be one way or the other. 


Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Inspirations

This past Saturday found your diarist on the Jersey shore.  Of course I brought my skates along and as luck would have it, I was able to make the 12:30 to 2:30 pm public session at a rink in Atlantic City.  As is the case at most rinks this time of year, the Flyers Skate Zone was heaving with skaters, mostly either in rentals or hockey skates.  Crowded though it was, one could sneak in useful practice by being patient and being positioned in the right place at the right time.  I worked on single foot spins either in the center circle or just outside of it.  After a couple of wind-ups the kids with EZ-skaters tended to give me a wide berth. 

The population density was high enough that rink management decided to do an ice cut at the halfway point.  I took this pause as an opportunity to retie my boots.  I found a seat in the lobby and was attending to that task when I overheard a conversation between a 12 year old boy and his father.  The boy had on skates and was nagging his dad to rent some and come join him on the ice.  Father: "Na, I'm too old for that stuff.  I don't wanna fall and get hurt."  Boy: "Dad, come-on, you're not that old; I mean like there's this really old man out there.  He's waaaay older than you are and he's doing pirouettes and stuff."

"Pirouettes" indeed.  Sounds terribly balletic when applied to a stiff geezer skater.  Sigh, it always warms my heart to learn that I've been an inspiration for someone!

Which leads me to inspiration Nr 2.  Upon returning home and going through the accumulated newspapers I found the following article in the Washington Post's KidsPost section.  Perhaps you can share it with a young skater or two:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/2015/01/15/1d49ec7a-977d-11e4-aabd-d0b93ff613d5_story.html

Friday, December 5, 2014

Finally.

Although I passed Ice Dance level 1 way back when (been so long I'd have to re-read my own blog to remember exactly when) and passed level 2 at the end of September, it took forever for the rink to order the badges.  I finally got 'em this afternoon at the start of a public session.  Better late than never!
Beyond that I can report that after putting slightly over 20 hours on my new boots and blades my single foot spin finally reported for duty this afternoon.  It was drunk and disorderly but at least it showed up.  My new boots are a half size smaller and the new blades are a quarter inch longer than the old equipage so the location of the spin rocker is in a slightly different place alone the blade.  I still haven't jumped in the new boots since the blades are still on the temporary screws; I haven't quite decided whether or not I'm happy with the blade position but I guess I'm growing accustomed to the place (sorry, couldn't resist).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Punching out.

I now have a little under twenty hours in my new boots.  Most of the pressure points associated with new, stiff boots have worked themselves out but there are still a couple areas, namely around the pinky toe of each boot which continue to annoy me.  I asked Mike to punch out those areas.  For those reading this post who are not familiar with the process of "punching out", it's basically a way of removing pressure points in boots by locally stretching the offending area. Figure skate boots have to be stiff and close fitting in order to support the ankle during jump landings and spins.  At the same time, the ankle must be able to bend deeply in order to get and hold the strong edges required by most skating elements.  It's not exactly a mutually exclusive scenario but sometimes it can feel that way. Bottom line: if the boots are eating your feet, you're not a happy skater.

My right boot getting punched out on the outside edge near the toe box.  My pinky toe is much happier now.
Want to see a boot punch in action?  Check out this youtube video: