Thursday, April 23, 2015

The essence of dance.


I've been taking ice dance lessons for about a year and half.  One would think I'd be better at it by now.  Instead, I'm like the annoying eight year old kid in the apartment directly over yours who practices his trumpet each afternoon at precisely those times when you're trying to nap.  Every day that brat runs through the scales and hacks his way soullessly through the same handful of simple tunes but he just doesn't seem to be improving.  On the rare good days when you're sober and he's at his best, you listen and decide that yeah, OK, his playing is technically proficient--but it lacks emotion.

And that's where I am with ice dance.  After a year and a half of work, like the kid upstairs who knows the notes and timing requirements of the different pieces of his limited repertoire, I know the steps of the three preliminary dances and have a notion of their required timings and where the patterns must be on the ice.  On good days I can even execute the steps in such a way that my coach can watch and (a). realize that I'm skating a pattern dance and (b). not have to squint too hard when attempting to guess which one.  But something is lacking.  That something is emotion or essence or perhaps the best word is expression.

What is dance expression?  Trust me, if I knew the answer this post would be entirely different.  For one thing, I'd be all braggy about how great my execution was and probably I'd be salivating over the prospect of conquering more complex dances.  Sadly, this is not so.  I'm just a slow learning clod hopper from the country without much musicality. 

Now before I totally paint myself in a corner, I'm not totally clueless.  Even I grasp the fundamental differences between a Waltz, a Tango, and the Blues.  The Tango demands crisp movement with "attitude" while the Blues is "swingy" with big easy curves, smooth as molasses.  The Waltz is slower than the Tango or Blues and requires a more elegant and refined approach.  The question is, how does one incorporate these differences into skating elements?  A progressive is a progressive regardless of whether it's done during a Waltz, a Tango or a Blues dance.  How does one shift gears to make a swing roll a Waltz swing roll rather than a Blues swing roll?  I don't have an answer today but at least it's dawned on me that I should be thinking about it.  Hopefully I'll figure some of this out before I'm too old to dance!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A small epiphany.

So it's been three weeks of multiple chiropractic adjustments per week, plus a long and growing list of back/hip/leg exercises with a stability ball every day.  And while it's early innings I can't resist looking cautiously if somewhat pessimistically for signs of improvement on the ice.  Last night I got the first hint when I wasn't looking.

I was warming up my legs during the opening thirty minutes of a busy freestyle session prior to my weekly ice dance lesson.  There are still a few events left in the competitive season and so both our home skaters plus ones from surrounding clubs were out in force getting their licks in before the next fixture on the calendar.  As anyone who has skated one of these sessions knows, being on a collision course with one or more skaters is fairly common.  As I rounded one end of the rink I noticed a young diva heading my way on a beautiful back spiral.  Without thinking, I shifted my weight to my left skate and raised my right skate off the ice in anticipation of a last minute change of course.  In the end we passed each other by a comfortable margin; no foul no penalty.

And then my brain telegraphed this little whisper into my consciousness:

"Dude--you're gliding on a left flat AND YOU"RE NOT VEERING ALL OVER HELL"S HALF ACRE!"

In a "pinch me, I must be dreaming" kind of way, I purposely repeated that left flat glide several times in a row.  Yep, it was the real deal! Fingers crossed that it's here to stay and not one of those skills that seems so solid one session but is MIA the next...

For those of you reading this who have their Axel, Gold MIF test, double jumps, and quiver full of achingly beautiful spins ticked off the list, being able to glide in a straight line on one foot may not seem like a big deal.  Well it is to ME!  Especially if we're talking about my left side.  I can glide effortlessly, with control on my right flat 'til the cows come home but no amount of blade shimming or position tweaking on either my old skates or the current ones could solve that issue when gliding on the left skate.  After the last session of blade tweaking proved unrewarding, Mike Cunningham looked at me and said "There's not much that I don't understand about ice skates or ice skaters, but you're one of them."

So, yes it is the skater and not the equipment.  At this stage of the game I kinda knew that.  But finally an answer and   a glimmer of hope.  Today I can glide on a left flat.  In the future, as the left side of my body responds to continued treatment and exercise, who knows?  I might just be able to confidently commit to a deep back edge on the left blade.  Some day in the distance future I too may posses a scratch-free CCW inside forward Mohawk.

Will I eventually need to have my left blade realigned to a more neutral position (currently that blade is set with the toe well towards the inside)?  Can't predict.  At this stage I'm just thrilled to be able to track down the ice on that leg in a straight line.  I feel just like a wide track Pontiac, fresh from the alignment shop after a long dull winter of potholes!