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
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.