Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cleaning up fuzzy logic.

My "dawncing" partner is off motor racing with her leading man so it was just me and coach K. for this week's lesson.  This was actually a good thing in that it allowed me to at least partially clear up some poorly understood concepts.  Things like what exactly does a coach mean when (s)he talks about "flow" or "power"?  You hear these terms all the time but nobody defines them.  Defining things is an adult preoccupation.  Kid skaters don't bother worrying about definitions.  They just get on with skating.  But I'm adult (regardless of what my wife might say) and definitions are important to how I come to understand stuff.  With that in mind, we invested five minutes at the beginning of today's lesson talking over a few concepts.

"Flow" in simplest terms equates to smoothness.  It's one of those qualities that's hard to describe but you know it when you see it.  A skater glides effortlessly across the ice, blades noiselessly skimming the surface with one skating element seamlessly blending into another without discernible beginning or end.  A component of Flow is "power".  Without power, flow doesn't happen.

"Power" equates to the ability to accelerate.  That's not to say that power is all about speed.  Speed without control is not "power".  The genesis of power is found within the push.

In ice dance one must push back rather than to the side in order to avoid your partner's legs.  Poorly executed back pushes do not generate very much power.  Since I began skating with V. I've been compensating for my reduced push power by engaging in the dreaded "toe push" style of stroking, no doubt subconsciously trying not to trade kicks with my partner.  Today coach K. worked hard to correct that.  Pushing back at first felt very awkward and didn't generate much power but as she got me to introduce more knee bend my pushes started to produce more glide.  This felt great as long as I was straight line skating and didn't have to think about turning, but as soon as I started to dial progressives or swing rolls back into the picture the wheels fell off my "flow" wagon.  Clearly it's going to take a good bit of work to hoist your old diarist up the flow and power charts.  Not to worry--I'll get there.

We next talked about the subject of "Leading" verses "Tracking".  Coach K. started drawing little x marks on the ice to represent Synchro skaters in a line.  Coaching Synchro is one of her other assignments at our rink.  After a while, sensing that I was glazing over, she dumbed it down to just two Xs side by side, a la a dance couple.  In ice dance it's not always about the man "leading" the lady during the dance.  The roles of leading and tracking tend to change depending on which partner is on the inside and which partner is on the outside of a lobe (for the non-dancers in the audience, you can equate the word "lobe" with "curve").  For simple elements like progressives or forward swing rolls, the skater on the inside "leads" slightly, while the skater on the outside "tracks".  This relationship changes quite often even in the relatively simple preliminary dances.  The Dutch Waltz is an example:

At the start, in Kilian dance hold, I would be to the left of V.  After our four optional entry strokes we would enter the first lobe of the dance which calls for a CCW progressive.  I would be on the inside of the curve and hence be leading V. slightly.  After step three of the progressive our roles would reverse with V. leading and me tracking as we execute the second lobe, a 6 beat swing roll to the right.  We would continue to swap leading and tracking duties all the way around the pattern.

This will no doubt become second nature but for the moment there's a lot of push-me-pull-me stuff going on due to the combination of our lack of pair unison, weak technique and the centrifugal inertia (pulling us apart) and centripital force (pushing us back together) generated by skating the lobes of the dance, even at the modest speed required by the DW.  It constantly renews my respect for pairs who skate these dances with flow and power (you knew I'd some how complete the circle didn't you?).

But don't take my word for it; I'm no expert.  Lace up your skates and get out on ice.


  1. A great read George, I have a kind of intuitive understanding of what these terms are but it was nice to see them better defined.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully I didn't screw up and put too many words in our coach's month in my attempt to communicate what she told me. Sometimes dyslexia gets the better of me when I start to talk about directional stuff, so any inaccuracies are mine not hers!