Saturday, March 22, 2014

Meanwhile, at Mrs. K's Dancing Academy for Wayward Figure Skaters...

It seems like my ice dancing effort has planted a seed at Bowie Ice Arena and that seed has produced a tiny shoot.  At last week's lesson I heard the familiar music for the Canasta Tango coming over the rink's sound system and for the first time saw three kid-couples practicing that very dance.  I was momentarily jealous--I never get music over the speakers when I dance!  The kids were practicing the three preliminary dances in preparation for the ISI conference competition which I think is to be held in Chicago at the end of May.

Another sign that dance is making a comeback at our rink is that V., one of the synchro team ladies, expressed an interest in dance and asked if she could join us.  Another student was most welcome as far as coach K. and I were concerned. 

Now, for your diarist, this is kicking things up a notch.  Up to now, discounting one trip around the rink with coach K, I've been solo dancing.  That's probably a good thing in as much as I'm a slow learner and at least in the beginning it was enough to master the steps, the timing and (more or less) the on-ice placement of the pattern for the three preliminary dances without the added complication of partnering. 

Let me tell you:  skating pattern dances while hanging on to another skater is a BIG step.  The best way I can describe it is to say it's like the difference between arithmetic and calculus.  Most peeps can add, subtract, multiply and divide but being able to integrate and differentiate opens the door to a whole 'nother universe.  And so it is with partnered ice dance.  One still must concentrate on remembering the steps to each dance, the timing specific to a dance, and the placement of the pattern on the rink, but now one needs to do all that while maintaining "pair unison".   This introduces an extra layer of complexity.

Coach K. started off by having us simply stroke around the rink just to get used to the experience of skating as a pair--kinda like training a team of horses.  No progressives, no swing rolls, just stroking.  This was good because I soon found out even the method for forward stroking, the simplest of all skating elements, is different in dance hold compared to that used by a freestyle skater.  Freestyle skaters push the blades to the side for an elegant line that emphasizes full extension.  Do that in dance hold and you and your partner will have bloody legs and/or tangled skates.  One must push back and not to the side.  However, one also must NOT push with the toe.  This is accomplished with more ankle flex than your diarist is used to.  In ballet there's a word for this: relevé.

Thankfully the Dutch Waltz doesn't require the amount of ankle flexion demonstrated in the video above, but you get the idea and your partner will thank you for that.  The take home message is: flex the ankles, stay the hell off those toe picks and don't side push.

Coach K. ever mindful of the ticking clock for our rapidly dwindling freestyle pick up session told us to do it again but this time to incorporate swing rolls on a six count.  Did that.  Next she dialed in progressives and chassé steps and voilà we had all the elements required for the Dutch Waltz.  

V. proved a very quick study and was able to digest the pattern well enough for us to stagger around and ice in a rough semblance of the dance.  While doing this a strange transformation occurred:  I've been practicing this dance and several others with coach K. for a couple months now, but until today I've been invisible to other coaches and students.  Suddenly, now that I was clinging to another skater, we were on everybody's radar screen. As we glided by I heard one coach say "Oh, another dance couple, how nice!"   

The next thing I heard was the music for the DW over the rink speakers.  V. and I queued up behind the three kid couples at one end of the rink.  We were stacked up like airliners awaiting permission for takeoff.  The kids launched into the dance with 10 or 15 seconds between each pair and we followed.  We managed three repeats of the dance before the music ran out.  We did this without falling or shedding blood so I'm calling our first dance, shaky as it was, a success.  

Enough time remained for our coach to introduce V. to the steps of the Canasta Tango but we had to get off the ice before we could skate it.  Next week.

V. and her significant other are heavily involved with sports car racing, so as soon as the local tracks heat up she will abandon me and coach K. for the intoxicating allure of burning Castrol R and high octane motor fuel.  Our dance pairing is thus destined to be short and sweet.  Also at the end of May the rink will melt the sheet and close for its annual two months of maintenance.  We'll need to make good use of the time remaining.  It will be interesting to see what if anything I'll remember when the ice reforms in July.  C'est la vie.


1 comment:

  1. I love reading your blog. But you can't get rid of me so easily. I can still come out and practice during the work week and not every weekend is a race weekend! Getting on the ice during the hot summer months is a treat. See you Saturday!!!!