Thursday, December 14, 2017

Smooth Skating!

Over the years, the New Yorker magazine has used skating as a theme for its cover.  I'll post a few from time to time.  Enjoy this one which evokes the rink-side glamour of pre-war St. Moritz.  (Note the bent knee free-legs.  Was that a style thing for the era?  I'm sure Coach A. would tell me I need to extend more if I did this!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Back in the harness

That's "harness" figuratively.  No your old diarist isn't donning the jumping harness anytime soon.  Rather, the giddiness of passing my test last Friday has given way, the following Tuesday, to getting back to work on the remaining two pre-bronze dances.  Celebrations are like weekends and vacations--they're always too short!

Coach A. and I briefly explored optional opening footwork for the Swing dance, as I'm slightly mystified as to how and when she transitions from us both starting off facing forward in hand to hand hold, to her doing a 3 turn in front of me which will get us into waltz hold, with her skating backwards, for the actual start of the dance. We tried a couple different entries without committing to either.

We then worked on the rest of the Swing Dance pattern and finished the half hour lesson by revisiting the Fiesta Tango.  Coach A. is of the opinion that the FT might actually be the easier of the two dances for me to crack since in that dance the Mohawk's two edges are only held for one beat each rather than the SD's required two beats.  Think of the FT as a skill builder bridging (eventually) to the SD.  Besides, having just passed the Cha Cha, the cross in front/tuck behind steps found in the FT are still fresh in my muscle memory.  Additionally, there's less backwards skating in the FT, a point she drove home by finishing the lesson with me practicing the back chassé steps found in the SD.  As one can predict, my back chassés are better in one direction than the other.  I need to get over my back edges more so that the chassé curves enough to generate the correct lobe of the pattern--a lot for an old geezer to digest for what seems like a relatively simple dance on paper.

I'll leave you with a little eye candy that I found on youtube while searching for Swing Dance music.  Yes, yes, it's dry land dancing but amazing, at least to me, to watch.  If I tried to dance like that I'd be in traction (and probably on a ventilator) for a month!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Chalk one up for the old geezer

Today was a test session day for Bowie FSC.  The session itself was held at Piney Orchard rather than Bowie for reasons that are not know to me but no doubt had something to do with ice availability.  Since Piney and Bowie offer each other's skaters reciprocal treatment I didn't have to pay a "visitor's" fee like the last time I tested over at a rink near Laurel, Maryland.

With that bit of admin out of the way, I suppose I should mention that I was testing the Cha Cha, a Pre-Bronze level dance.  To me, the Cha Cha represents the last of the "easy" pattern dances; i.e. no turns and no backwards skating.  The end pattern is a little tricky with a cross in front immediately followed by a tuck-behind step.  These precede a sweeping inside swing roll, the momentum of which can take the dancing couple perilously close to the boards in the far corner as they attempt the two cross steps that mark the repeat of the dance.  But as long as one doesn't rush those steps, the dance itself is straight forward.  Having said all that, Coach A. constantly implores me to smile like I'm actually enjoying all this rather than hanging on for dear life--particularly when we're gliding passed the judges.  I occasionally humor her and manage a grimace.  Maybe when we test the Tango all this smiling and smirking can be put to rest...

Ice dancing seems to be on an up-tick at our rink.  Reviewing the final schedule I was gratified to see that ice dance testers outranked free style testers by a ratio of over 4:1.

Ice dances from Prelim to silver were being tested with the dancers split into three groups.  I arrived at the rink an hour before my group's warm up time and was informed that things were running about ten minutes ahead of schedule.  Coach A., my partner for the test, arrived shortly after that.  We were called to the ice at 12:58 for our six minute warm up.  I'm testing on the "masters" track (I'll take all the leniency I can get).  I need more like twenty minutes to properly warm up--and that should be followed by a sandwich, a beer and a nap. Six minutes!  I don't know what I'll do when I have to warm up for the harder dances which follow this Cha Cha.

Actually, they gave our group more like eight minutes since we were (a). ahead of schedule, and (b). one of the skaters was stuck in traffic fairly close to the rink.  She did make it.

So, after our brief warm up the testing began.  I was way down the skating order for my group and was scheduled to skate next to last (7th out of 8 skaters)--so much for the warm up!  There was a little drama when an early skater in our group had a spot of brain fade and "checked out" after two patterns of the Fourteen Step (higher level dances require three patterns plus a solo if one is doing the standard track).  Her coach/partner forged ahead, correctly assuming that they were going to start the required third pattern and as a consequence the skaters touched blades and he went down hard.  After he sorted himself out the judges permitted them to complete the dance. I didn't hear if she passed or not.

And then it was my turn.  At least the music was familiar.  During the second of the two required patterns I touched (my own) blades briefly but managed to stay on my feet.  After we got off the ice Coach A. said she was pleased overall but that I had skated with softer knees during warm up.  I always seem to put down my best efforts when it doesn't count!  There was nothing to do but wait for the runner to bring over my scores.  Much to my relief all three judges saw fit to give me passing marks--just barely passing marks--but a pass is a pass:



Zooming in on the judges comments:

"Knows the steps".  I certainly hope so!

Can't make out what the top comment is all about.  Something to do with the wide-step.  At least this judge liked the fact that my timing was ok and my dancing exhibited "some lilt".

"Slight rushing at times".  Almost got me in trouble when my blades clicked towards the end of the second pattern!
So, with the Cha Cha in my rear view mirror it's onward and upward with the dreaded wonky Mohawk required by both the remaining two pre-bronze dances.  Next up will be the Swing Dance.  My goal is to test that one before I turn 80.

Ta Ta and Smooth Skating!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Not today

Just me and my shadow.  A sunny blue sky, air temps in the low 60s and not another skater in sight.  But, sadly, the puddles of standing water said "not today bucko".  We went to the open air rink at Quiet Waters park this afternoon full of hope and the promise of "California" skating conditions only to discover that while skating had been in full swing that morning, the warmng temps caused a mid-day suspension of activities.  We went for a walk on the park's woodland paths instead.  I think the rink did reopen around 5 pm but we had other promises to keep. The season is young.  Next time.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Testing Times Ahead

So, before heading off to my lesson yesterday evening, I paused to check my club's website.  Earlier rumors suggested that there might be a test session in early December but that had not been confirmed.  My pause was rewarded; the word "confirmed" had replaced "tentative", so I printed out the registration form and brought it along to the rink.

Coach A. and I have been focusing on the Cha-Cha as well as ironing out my wonky right forward inside Mohawk for for the better part of a year now.  I'd really like to get the Cha-Cha tested and in my rear view mirror so we can (hopefully) make progress on that Mohawk and thus move on to getting the other two pre-bronze dances test worthy by--maybe by this time next year?  Yes, yes, compared to over achieving young skaters my goals are rather modest--stay injury-free and occasionally pass a test every now and then.

With that in mind and with a submission deadline of this coming Friday looming, we devoted most of last night's lesson to the dance in question and used the last five minutes or so on the Mohawk. 

Bottom line: Coach A. told me it's time to put the dance out there and see what the judges think.  We spent a lot of time last night working on extension, toe pointing, keeping feet tidy, etc.  You know, picky, judgy things.  In the absence of a total brain freeze I know the actual steps required and can produce the tricky bits--the cross in front/tuck behind/inside swing roll which forms the end pattern.

After the session ended we filled out the form and ticked the box that indicated the "masters" track--I have no sense of shame; at my age I'll take all the leniency that I can get!  This morning I wrote the check and dropped the envelope in the mail.  The test date is the 8th of December.  Pass or Re-try?  Stay tuned.

As for that Mohawk, it is getting more controlled, but it comes and goes as it pleases so I'm a long way from claiming ownership.  It'll get there.  In the meantime, have a great Turkey Day, or Chicken Day, or Rock Fish Day, or (fill in the blank with your favorite celebratory meal) Day and give thanks that you're not yet too crotchety to skate another day!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I got the beat...

Apologies in advance to the Go-Go's.  What I've really got is a new toy:  a Korg model IE-1M in-ear metronome.  I'm not all that musical so I'm hoping that this little gizmo will plant a sense of timing within my thick head.

It comes nested in it's own little box.  The unoccupied slot in the foam on the right hand side is for the button battery.  Yes, the battery is included.  This photograph was exposed after I'd taken it out and futzed with it a bit.

This pix shows the overall appearance of the gizmo.  The grey round wheel looking part allows for adjustments which I'll touch upon later.

The hardest part was getting the black stretchy speaker cover in place.  My fingers were too clumsy.  Had to get my wife involved.  In the middle one can see two small push buttons.  The closest one is the on/off switch.  The other button is a mode button which allows one to toggle through the various settings for the IE-1M, which include beats per minute (adjustable from 30 to 252 in steps of  one beat), beats per measure (from 0 to 9), rhythm (quarter notes are the default) and loudness (either low or high).  In this pix I have the ear clip in the open position.

Here, the ear clip is closed.  The round speaker can swivel through a limited arc to accommodate different shaped ears.
In this pix I've used the mode button to toggle to the beats per minute position, and then used the grey"jog switch" (the wheel shaped part that lives between the black and white halves of the metronome) to set the bpm to 108.  Perfect for the Swing Dance and Fiesta Tango.
In this pix I've moved on and adjusted the beats per measure to 4.  Again, the Swing Dance and Fiesta are 4 beat dances.

If one is practicing a 6 beat dance such as a waltz, the adjustment is easily accomplished.

This shows the rhythm set for 1/4 notes.  There are other rhythms available but I'm not musical enough to sort through that yet.

Finally, here's a pix showing the loudness adjusted to the highest of the two settings available.  I have not tried the metronome out yet during a skating session, but I suspect if a trumpet player can blow a horn and still hear the beats with this gizmo in an ear then it should work for ice dancers as well.
Those interested can read more here:

The little gizmo even retains its settings after being switched off rather than going back to some default collection.  Bonus!

I ordered mine from Musician's Friend.  Prices vary quite a lot and also note that Korg makes other in ear metronomes for other uses.  The IE-1M is the cheapest of the range.

Will it help keep me on time?  Will it stay on my ear while skating?  Will the itty-bitty buttons drive me crazy?  Don't know yet--stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy today's earworm!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Where did two monhs go?

I clicked on this blog and realized that my last post was back at the end of August.  That's what happens when my sailing events ramp up.  As for skating it's same old, same old.  I'm still polishing the Cha-Cha with the possibility of testing on the 8th of December--so that's a bright spot.

The other two pre-bronze dances, namely the Swing Dance and the Fiesta Tango are waiting for my right forward inside Mohawk to report for duty.  It's still wonky, if slightly improving.  It's a road block.  Progress won't happen until I can routinely control it.  I have a beautiful left forward inside Mohawk but like NACAR, pattern dances go CC.  Oh, I suppose sooner or later it will come up to scratch, just like the Rhythm Blues tuck behinds did.  Will I live long enough?  Good question.  Watch this space.

Meanwhile, tonight is Halloween and Coach A. has canceled all her lessons so she can hand out goodies to the kiddies that come by her door begging for treats.  We'll see if I still remember how to tie my boots by next week.  Ta for now.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bobbe Shire RIP

Bobbe Shire coached over at the Gardens in Laurel, Maryland and was a well known Spin coach. Several times I wrestled with the urge to go see if I could book her for a few coaching sessions but hesitated because I didn't feel that my skating was good enough for such an advanced instructor. I missed my chance and ironically my name is George!  iCoahskating has made this iconic video of Bobbe coaching available for viewing free of charge, at least for now.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Well, yes, like most statements here on the Thin Ice blogspot, the title of this post is a bit of an overstatement.  More correctly, "the sun is cooling!" "the sun is cooling!";  But Chicken Little didn't say that so I'm using a small pinch of poetic license.  Our sun is approaching the end of an eleven year sun spot cycle.  Fewer spots apparently mean less solar flux and distinctly cooler temperatures in North America and Western Europe.  Maybe not enough to cause the Thames to freeze hard enough for Londoners to hold ice fairs, as was the case a few hundred years ago, but maybe enough to provide an up-tick in outdoor skating opportunities at a pond near you.  But don't take my word for it, I'm no expert.  Read about it here or it you prefer a more sensational version, read this one .

OK, enough science for one post.  More to the point--what's been happening with your old diarist since the last posting of blather?  For one thing I've been hard at work practicing the Cha-Cha and perfecting my wonky CC forward inside Mohawk. For another, ice dance Coach A. and I finally had an alignment of stars and respective schedules/agendas such that miracle of miracles--a coached lesson took place.  It was the first since the 25th of July and the first on my newly reopened home ice for the new skating season.

I soloed the Cha-Cha for her and she said that it looked pretty good.  I was more or less on the expected pattern and the end of the dance (a forward outside swing roll immediately followed by a tuck behind step and a forward inside swing roll) looked smoother and less hesitant than when we last worked on it.  So--practice does lead to improvement!

We then looked at my CC forward inside Mohawk.  It's still a work in progress but at least it is progressing.  And that's a good thing as we next worked on the Swing dance, which requires that tidy CC Mohawk.  After yesterday's lesson I now have a better understanding of pattern placement leading to that Mohawk and also where the immediate back edge and back swing roll which follow the turn should be.  Next we practiced with me skating the backwards skating steps of the dance and also the hand change that occurs at the Mohawk (see video above).  In the "guys rarely skate backwards department", I need to remember to open my shoulders during those back swing rolls so that they really swing around, rather than to make the upper body adjustment by bending my elbows when in partnered mode--that and a lot of other things!  My goal is to be as smooth as the guy in the video (some year).

Ice dance coach and her sister are zooming off to follow the eclipse next Monday and whether she'll be back in time for a Tuesday lesson is uncertain.  As for me I'm staying home and practicing all this stuff and maybe it's a good thing that the next lesson is up in the air--more time to digest yesterday's lesson and work on stuff.  Besides, you want totality?  Just get outta bed at 3 in the morning and look outside--same thing.  Dark is dark.  No, really, it is.  Don't argue with me.  Put your skates on and get to work. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

And so it begins

The 2017/18 skating season at Bowie Ice Arena finally got underway this past Saturday after replacing one compressor and repairing the cooling tower.  Better late than never.  As per usual, I was otherwise engaged on Saturday and so the beginning of my new season had to wait a day.  Better late than never.  At the start of a new season I like to look back, one last time, at the old year.  How many times did I skate?  What, if anything, was achieved for the money spent and time invested?  The number of times I skated is easy because I keep track of each session I skate by sticking the ice pass to the wall of my cube at work:

NB: my desk is rarely this tidy.  Thirteen columns x 9 rows = 117 times on the ice.  The lion's share took place on home ice, the remainder were at two other rinks  My high water mark is the 2014/15 season.
The last time I posted this picture was at the end of the 2014/15 season. I managed to skate 128 times that year.  The 2015/16 season was the one that included my recovery from a bad fall and so wasn't even half the total of the benchmark skating season.  In hindsight I should have posted that year's sticker wall.  Just returning to the ice was the major accomplishment.  But, as impressive (at least to me) as my great wall of ice passes may seem, if one divides the totals from either "good" year by 52 it comes out to less than three times per week.  Three times per week would require 156 outings on the ice. Three times a week for a guy who has to cram skating into his work schedule--can I sustain it?  Don't know, but something to aim at.
The 2017/18 season begins.  Will this little fellow find 155 friends before they melt the ice in June?
Along with "quantity" one must include "quality", i.e. whatever "progress" was made.  In my case, last season's major milestone was that I managed to stagger past a USFS judge well enough to complete my Prelim ice dances.  Goals for this year?  I keep them modest.  I'd like to pass the Cha Cha, which seems like a reasonable goal.  But what about the Swing Dance and the Fiesta Tango?  The goal here is to finally conquer my wonky CC forward inside Mohawk required of both dances and clean up my back edges so that the back chasse and back swing roll steps are good enough to at least practice those dances in their entirety.  If Coach A. thinks that they're test worthy by spring that will be icing on the cake. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Almost back up and running

The photos that follow show different stages of repainting the rink's hockey lines, face-off dots and circles before building the new sheet of ice.  This is where the rink staff were roughly a month ago, before the cooling tower failure.  Current thinking is that the rink might reopen by this coming weekend.  Fingers crossed!  Meanwhile, Coach A. and I have a lesson planned for tonight's Free Style session over at Piney Orchard.  I haven't had a lesson since the end of April.  We'll see if I remember anything.  Let's review some notes from the last lesson: "TGIF".  Humm what's all that then?  Oh yes--I remember: "Toes Go In First"!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

For the want of a fan, the kingdom was lost

So close...  (photo credit:  Derek Rabold, BIA)
The above photo is what a newly formed sheet of ice looks like after a cooling tower failure.  Our rink has been closed for annual maintenance since the beginning of May.  It was due to reopen this coming Saturday.  The cause of the meltdown is hoped to be a relatively inexpensive fan.  But even it that's the case, it will take at minimum, an additional week to clean up, repaint all the hockey lines, dots, etc. and build the sheet again.  So, your old diarist is still in ice tourist mode.  Sigh...

Friday, June 9, 2017

A matter of alignment

Long suffering readers of this blog may recall that my skate tech and I have invested a fair amount of energy over the years tweaking the geometry of my left skate blade in an attempt to get me and my aged spine/hip/carcass in an alignment that had some hope of me being able to do things with my left leg that could be identified by the casual observer as "figure skating".  That all worked well until I climbed high enough up the ice dance ladder to need a decently controlled CC inside front Mohawk and solid, confidence inspiring left inside and outside edges.  Edges for back swing rolls, back progressives, back chassés; you get the point--anything requiring a solid back left edge. My blade alignment was not optimized for these new demands.  I was like an old car that had been driven carelessly down one too many pothole-filled roads.  After struggling with limited progress I decided that it was time for a change.  Perhaps as a skater, my left side was now strong enough to get by without the crutch of an abnormal blade setting.

Nearly useless factoid:  chasse, without the accent aigu, means casket or reliquary in French.  Hopefully an improving back chassé will keep me out of a "box" and if any "elevation" is required, then perhaps it will be up on the podium...

So, let us look at some before and after pictures of what transpired.

Before repositioning.  Note how far the front of the blade is "toed in".  Two years ago I complained that I couldn't hold a single-foot straight line flat on my left side without veering off on one edge or the other.  This extreme positioning cured that but did so at a terrible cost to my left foot elements.

It's hard to see, but the heel of the blade was also positioned well inboard.

After repositioning, the toe of the blade is now in a more "neutral" orientation.  Compare this photo with the first pix.  It might not seem like much of a change but trust me, this is big.

The heel of the blade was also moved more towards the center of the boot's heel.

He also added a shim under the outside edge of the front stanchion.  One can just see the white cross weave of the shim material peaking through the unoccupied screw holes.  After all these changes I expected my skates to feel rather alien but much to my relief, when he put me out on the ice for a test skate, they actually felt reassuring and familiar rather than evil and back-bitey.  And I could still skate a single foot flat as well as get over the outside edge on the left skate. After a brief consultation at the boards, the decision was made to stop where we were.  I got off the ice and he gave the blades a sharpening, which also they needed.  There was a FS session on the rink's schedule starting a half hour after I paid my bill.  I decided to stick around and get some ice time on my newly adjusted and sharpened blades.  It seemed like a better bet than launching into the thicket of cars which is homeward bound rush hour traffic on route 301.  Besides, with Coach A. off visiting relatives in another state, coupled with various rink maintenance closures I hadn't had any ice time in two weeks.   By the end of the session I knew that my left forward outside 3 and my CC forward inside Mohawk, while not perfect were much better controlled.  I even got a compliment from a coach with a free style pupil on the ice; she leaned in as I went by and said  "It's nice to see an ice dancer out  here for a change."  I was instantly gratified to hear that whatever it was that I was doing, when she happened to watch, was recognizable as "dance"!  How good is that?!  By the time I left, the rush hour traffic had rushed away and the drive home was peaceful.  Hopefully I'll be able to find some more ice time somewhere before my rink reopens on the 8th of July. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

HD Ice Halo: A preliminary report

Hello, and thank-you for attending today's briefing.   I've now worn my new Ice Halo HD during a pair of public sessions, and I must say that it certainly seems to be more comfortable than the standard model with the Velcro closure (ie: my head didn't ache and I wasn't fooling with the head gear at the mid-way point of the session in an attempt to make it feel better).  In fact, today I forgot to remove my green beanie until I was outside the rink at the end of the session, heading for the car.  I contrast, the standard version of the Ice Halo is the first thing I remove after getting off the ice--usually I can't wait to take it off.

Nor did it slip out of place at any time during my warm-up, lesson, or apres-lesson practice. Full disclosure:  I don't do triple or double or even single jumps.  Jumping, on the part of your diarist, is strictly limited by SWMBO to half-rotational jumps--at the most (think Waltz jump and half-flip).  So, big impressive jumpers--your mileage may vary (but unless you're doing Surla Bonaly back flips, I doubt it).

Obviously, more wearings will be required before stepping up to the microphone to make a definitive statement, but  I think this is going to be a relatively short-lived trial, sort of like a medical intervention that's is so overwhelmingly positive during the early stages that the researchers are compelled to suspend the trial early for the ethical benefit of the placebo group.

The unresolved  $64 dollar $95 (well, that's Canadian, so roughly $70) question is: is it as safe as or, better yet, safer than the standard version?   I just don't know.

My ice dance coach immediately (and positively) commented on the sea foam green aspect.  "That color's coming back", she opined.  Alert the press: your old diarist (and big bands) are coming back.

So, at first blush we can tick off three out of five of the big questions: Comfort, (yes) Fit, (yes) and Style (yes!) are all in the plus column.

The unanswered questions of durability and safety are ones which are resolvable only by time for the former and misadventure for the latter.  As we say in the biological sciences, or when taste testing something yummy in a relative's kitchen, "while current results are highly promising, more research is required".

Of course, independent confirmation by other current standard edition Ice Halo wearers would strengthen these observations.  Any stepper-uppers in the on-deck circle?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sea Foam Green is the new Black.

Ice Halo has two versions of their head protective gear.  there's the standard model which comes as a flat strap with a Velcro closure that one wraps around one's head.  The Velcro permits size adjustment within a given range.  A newer model called the "HD" for the high(er) density foam material comes as circular or donut shape that one slips on like a ball cap.  The HD model requires slightly more careful head measurement prior to ordering.  I wondered if the HD would be more comfortable, less prone to slip and offer a tad more protection.  I posted these questions to and while I did get some feedback I didn't get a definitive answer since nobody owned both versions and so a direct comparison could not be made.  There was nothing in it but to bite the bullet and order one.  So I did.

The HD comes in a range of colors.  Being a child of the 1940s/50s I'm a sucker for Sea Foam Green.  As can be seen, the HD really isn't one-piece construction but rather two pieces joined in the middle on either side  I'm not sure how the sections are joined.  It would take a bit of deconstruction to find out.  Maybe my curiosity will overcome my resistance after it's not brand new.  For now that aspect will remain a little mystery.  Note that the back part of the HD kicks up slightly in the part which protects the back of the head.

The Ice Halo company really wants you to know which part is back and which side is up.  Like all things Canadian, this product is bi-lingual.  I can now spell Spandex in French--bonus!
One difference between the standard and HD models is that one can request the standard version with the company logo hidden away on the inside.  When you wear an HD you become a billboard for Ice Halo.  At least the logo button is discrete.
Standard (black) and HD ice halos.  The red band around the Velcro closure on the standard edition is an old ice rink wrist band which wasn't long enough to go around my wrist guards. In this photo the wrist band suggests that the Velcro has become worn.  In actuality, the Velcro, after two years of constant use, is as good as new.
I plan to wear the HD for the first time today when I have my next ice dance lesson.  One reason for buying the HD is to see if it is more comfortable to wear than the standard model.  If I get the Velcro closure snug enough to keep the original ice halo from slipping it tends to become uncomfortable mid-way through a two hour public.  Will the HD go the distance?  We shall see.  As for the relative merits of safety, it may be a while before I can report on that.  I have "crash tested" the standard model twice and both times the ice halo spared me another ride in an ambulance.  Hopefully the HD will be as good if not a tad better.  While I don't plan to go out of my way to "test" it, one never knows when the next head slamming fall will occur. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 1, 2017


Has anyone experienced this?

I skated the mid-afternoon public yesterday.  The ice was just crowded enough that you could only sneak in a complete dance pattern every now and then--which by it's self is not that unusual.  So anyway I retreated to a corner to work on stuff that one does in the corner (Mohawks, 3-turns, a few back swing rolls,  alternating back chasses down the red line, etc.).  After a while I noticed that I had two kids shadowing me: I'd do a Mohawk and they'd attempt to do one,  I'd do a 3-turn, they'd attempt to mimic it in an untutored kid kinda way.  It was a little humorous but at the same time a little frustrating because they were right. on. my. heel! Often only about a blade length or two away.  The ice was heavily rutted from the hockey match that preceded the public and I was a little concerned that if I caught an edge I'd flatten a kid!  I skated away from them to the opposite end of the rink and set up camp in one of those corners.  Quick as a flash, my two little disciples were right there!  I decided to skate laps doing alternating forward progressives in the hopes that I could wear 'em out or at least make them bored, but nope, they trailed along hot on my tail like sea gulls following a fishing boat.  My strategy didn't work--well actually it did--they wore me out!  I got off the ice a half hour early.  They were too funny but I hope I never see 'em again!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cross Forward / Tuck Behind (Cha Cha Cha)

Skating refinements seem to come when I least expect them.  Case in point is the somewhat tricky right cross-in-front step, immediately followed by a left tuck-behind which in turn feeds directly into a CCW forward inside swing roll at the tail end of the Cha Cha.  Knowledgeable students of pattern ice dancing already appreciate that the cross in front step is optional.  Following the time honored K.I.S.S. system, that's the way Coach A. had me approach this segment of the dance. The notion being that it would be easier for a geezer skater to master.  Easy, Ha!  Easy for Meryl and Charlie.  For your old diarist?  Meh, not so much.

It didn't matter whether I skated solo or partnered.  Coming off that big swooping CCW swing roll with lots of speed  and then putting that left skate down on the ice was distinctly hit or miss.  During practice I could pull it off maybe 75 percent of the time.  The other 25 percent?  Can you say "Bawk, buc-buc, Chicken?

Scrolling back in time to a lesson a week earlier:  Coach A. queued up the next song on her smart phone.  We pushed off, more or less in time, onto the four intro steps of the dance.  We safely negotiated the opening strokes, the chasse and wide-step and plowed our way past the BK and slalom steps.  Psychologically I knew that tuck behind was out there, waiting for me.

We steamed down the ice with Doris Day ironically crooning "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" over the blue-tooth speaker on Coach A's left arm.  After the swing roll I slid my left skate down the inside of my right boot and was promptly rewarded with the sound and feel of a toe pick attempting to augur in as the blade touched the ice on too acute an angle. Whoa Lordly! Somehow I managed to reverse my foot and we stayed sunny side up.  Visions of Monty Python flashed before my eyes--no, not his entire life, just the bit about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.  I did want to blurt out "Run Away!  Run Away!"   Did Doris know something I didn't?  There just had to be a better way.

The following Saturday found me at a lightly populated Public session. After looking at the Cha Cha pattern diagram I decided to try the cross in front step which leads to the tuck behind.  It's basically a forward cross roll and who doesn't like doing those?  Cross rolls are a feel good kinda element for me.  They're part of my warm-up routine.  I figured that the tuck behind might feel less spooky if both skates where already on the ice.  I gave it a go and much to my surprise the tuck was easier to pull off if one does the cross in front step before hand.  I confirmed this over and over.  Ha!  A minor breakthrough.

Last night we had another lesson.  I soloed my new found proficiency and after she nodded in approval we quickly got into partnered mode and skated the dance against every Cha Cha tune she had on her phone--Doris included.  She told me that if I made the proceeding swing roll a bit swingier (might be a word) the cross forward and tuck behind would be even easier because my direction of travel wouldn't be so  flat. 

So, I've mastered technicalities of all the steps.  Now I'm down to her nit-picking on style issues: think about free leg extension, think about toe point, think about keeping your feet closer together--she was quick to point out that not every step of the dance is a wide step--just one. 

Our club has a test session in mid-May.  The filing deadline is the 2nd.  Not much time to tidy things up.  We discussed whether or not I should test and she said "Well, you could put it out there and see what happens.  It would be good experience. "   The translation of that statement from coach-speak to English is "If you don't have a total brain freeze in the middle of the dance and if the judge is blind you might get lucky.  Otherwise it's good but expensive experience."  I think I'll wait and let her nit-pick polish me a bit more.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A hot & steamy day at the rink

Today featured big T-storms, more so in the afternoon as the temps shot up to the 80s and made the air unstable.  But it was Friday and I decided to burn a couple hours of leave and go skate the late afternoon public.  The clock is ticking.  Our rink closes for two months at the end of April.  Gotta skate while there's ice...

When I walked into the lobby it seemed a little warmer than usual.  Then I looked out at the rink.

I could barely see the stick and puck guys through the condensation on the dasher board plexi and fog swirling around their legs.

57 degrees and 91 %.  Any higher humidity and I would've needed foul weather gear and an umbrella.

The rink manager said that the condenser was down and the system was so old that the company was having to have the required part made.  They should be able to supply it by Tuesday--ironically it will probably get installed just in time for the rink's annual shut down.  Over the weekend the outside temps are supposed to bounce back to those more normal for spring in this neck of the woods, so hopefully that will take some of the stress off the system.  She went on to say that they did have little stalagmites on the ice this morning from the drips coming down from the rafters and hockey banners.  Glad the Zamboni was able to shave those down.

I'd bought my ice pass so there was nothing to do but get on with it.  The ice was predictably slow--especially noticeable if you were doing spins, but very forgiving for jump landings--yes, yes, Madame skating director, no jumps above Free Style 3 during a public!

I caught a toe pick while practicing dance tuck behinds and landed flat on my butt.  Didn't hurt a bit.  This leads me to Adult skater observation Nr 1;  How to tell if you're old:

If you fall in front of a bunch of people and they laugh and make derisive comments, then you're still young.  If they get panicky looks on their faces and start rapidly skating towards you, then you're old.

Could've been worse.  At least I didn't flop down in a puddle.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

From the plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose dept.

Not being content to having me methodically master one dance before moving on to the next, Coach A. currently has me working on bits and pieces of all three pre-bronze pattern dances.  While this does eliminate boredom, it tends to increase my already messy attempts at mental processing.  Ever catch yourself doing the "Swingo" rather than either the Swing Dance or the Fiesta Tango?  Yes, it can be done--especially if you're a member of the short attention span brigade like a certain old diarist...

Oh, and I do have a bit of bad news for those in the audience who are struggling with the RB's tuck behind steps:  they don't go away.  Two out of three pre-bronze dances (Cha Cha and the Fiesta Tango) have cross-in front steps, in addition to cross-behinds.  At least the cross-in front step is optional in  the Cha Cha.  The Swing dance has a potentially tricky (but optional) slide chasse a couple steps before of the end/repeat of the dance.  Why do the choreographers of these dances always seem to add a "zinger" right at the end?  If they're doing this for my benefit, they can knock it off.

The Fiesta Tango and the Swing Dance introduce left forward open Mohawks and for the first time, a transition from forward to backward skating steps--and this is exactly where things remain the same for me:  my left forward inside Mohawk is not now and has never been a thing of beauty.  After watching me demo the Mohawk in both directions Coach A. opined that it was a shame the dances don't call for a right Mohawk--if they did we'd be in great shape.  Sadly they don't and so your old diarist must come to grips with not only an unreliable Mohawk turn in the unfavorable direction but weak back skating skills (more pronounced on the left side) as well.  My difficultly with the CC forward inside Mohawk is  controlling the exit edge.  We'll not even talk about the complications of somehow sliding from the reverse Kilian to the "regular" Kilian dance hold position during that Mohawk.  For those looking at the pattern this all happens at the top of the Fiesta Tango's dance card. 

Beyond that, I'm not sure what my problems are with back swing rolls and back inside chasses. Everything these days seems to be a work in progress.

In an attempt to help me (or at least stifle my whining), my skate technician set the toe of my left skate blade well in from the center when I bought new boots and blades almost three years ago.  This immediately helped me skate a straight line going forward on a flat rather than to veer off on one edge or another.  But I'm beginning to wonder if it's time to revisit the geometry of that left blade and move the toe of the blade back out to a more neutral position.  If we do that in small stages it may make counter-clockwise FI Mohawks better and may improve my left FO 3-turns as well.  Another idea to fix the CC Mohawk might be to shim the left blade on one side to introduce a little "negative camber" into the mix--potentially making it easier to get on and then control the required exit edge for that Mohawk, which of course happens on the left blade.  All this talk about toe in and toe out, camber and castor adjustments, etc. makes me feel like an old car that's been driven hard down one too many dirt roads.

Now that I'm doing more backwards skating I'm noticing that it's easier for me to control right back swing rolls and left back inside chasses than their opposite side/direction counterparts.  One way or another, I need to address my directional weaknesses.  In ice dancing, as in NASCAR, one needs to put the pedal down hard and (mostly) turn left...

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ice Dance Music

Ice Dance Music.  Dare I touch on this subject?  For many it's like tossing a box full of shotgun shells into a campfire--no matter how quickly you evacuate the area there's bound to be some casualties.   Some say (and you know who you are) that ice dance music is so bad that it "makes your ears bleed".

At the start of a new group of dances, Coach A. presents me with a disk with music for each of the three dances at that level.  Eighteen tunes, six for each.  She doesn't indicate the song titles which I find challenging if not a little annoying. She did this same thing to me when she supplied Preliminary Dance music.  I was able to ID some but not all of those tunes.  Around that same time my wife had a dinner party for her mother and several of her mother's friends.  I slipped the disk into my computer and asked these ladies to see if they could "name that tune".  They asked "what's in it for us?"  After lubricating their collective memory with an extra bottle of wine, they confirmed my suspicion, and supplied verifiably correct titles (who says youtube doesn't have it's uses) for each and every song on that disk.   Yeah, it cost me, but it was so worth it.

Now, I could delve into a discussion about ice dance music and it's target demographic but (a). I think that discussion would run down a very obvious and ultimately unprofitable path, and (b) it's already been whined about numerous times before and probably with better effect.

So, last week I got the Pre-Bronze dance music.  Same deal. We met in a quiet ice rink lobby. She wordlessly slid a disk across the table.  It was cryptically numbered "Track 1" through "Track 18".  Handwriting on the disk indicated that the first six tracks were Swing Dance tunes, the next six were for the Cha Cha and the remaining six were for the Fiesta Tango.  I returned her steely glance as I quietly slipped the disk into my coat pocket.  As I got up to leave, I turned around to ask her one more question about the disk.  The lobby was empty.

Once back at my computer I got to work, carefully listening to the various tracks, and was able to ID some of the more obvious:  Track 1 turned out to be "Red Sails in the Sunset".  I had no clue about Tracks 2 through 4.  Track 5 is "Once in Love with Amy",  Track 6 is "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime".  Moving on to the Cha Cha: no clue about Track 7; Track 8 is "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps".  I awarded myself a +1 GOE for also correctly IDing the vocalist (Doris Day).  Moving on, I had no clue about Tracks 8, 9, or 10.  Track 11 is a nice instrumental version of "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White".  Listening to that song I could envision timing the sweeping wide step of the Cha Cha to drawn out  phrase of the trumpet.  Track 12, in what I assume is a gesture to the "youth" of ice dance, aka 30 somethings, is "I need to Know" by Mark Anthony.  Moving on to the Tango selections I had more luck.  Track 13 is the "Jealousy Tango" (Coach A. refers to it as "Celos Amigo" but I'm going with my title).  Track 14 is "A Media Luz", Track 15 is "Cumparsita", Track 16 is "Adios Muchachos".  The remaining two tracks were unknown to me.  Maybe I should have played the disk backwards...

Night after night I wracked my brain trying to break the code of the remaining mystery tracks.  I had nothing. But then she took pity on me--right before last night's lesson Coach A sent a tightly worded email revealing all the song titles.

First, the mystery Swing Dance tunes.  Track 2 turned out to be "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" but the tune has been so ruthlessly massaged to fit the required beats per minute of the Swing Dance that no one this side of an ice dance judge would ever recognize it--not even my M-in-Law's wine loving pals would have cracked that nut.  Track 3 is simply entitled "Schottische".  The Schottische is a specific type of Nordic folk dance which my wife, originally from Sweden, would be familiar.  I'll have to see if she recognizes it, and if so what title she gives it.  Track 4 turned out to be "The Object of My Affection".  The mixture of vibraphone and pan pipe makes this tune so irresistibly cheesy that of the six Swing Dance tunes on the disk it's my current favorite!  Kseniya and Oleg use this same tune on their Swing Dance video so it's no doubt a good thing that I kinda like it--it's probably inescapable.

On to the Cha Cha.  Track 7 is "Sweet and Gentle"; Track 9 is "Enjoy Yourself"--again the tune has been tweaked beyond reasonable identity so that it fits the needs of the dance.  Track 10 is "Bodeguero" which has a pleasant Latin beat.

Finally, the two Tangos which I failed to ID are Track 17's generic "Tango Time" and Track 18 "Yira Yira".  They'll probably grow on me with enough repetition.

Latin dances such as the Cha Cha and Tango are pretty much tethered to specific music--and for the most part that music is good and there's enough variation so that the music doesn't need to be completely disemboweled to work with the ice dance in question .  As for the Swing Dance you'd think by now someone would have come up with some good alternatives to remixed tweaks of ballads from the 1950s.  Perhaps someone has.  Coach A. mentioned that US Figure Skating has a list of dances which serve as standards for solo competition.  I'll have to check these out to see if there are any Swing Dance winners.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a clip featuring K & O skating the Swing Dance to "The Object of My Affection". (Fritz, Fritz--turn off der bubble machine vhile I dance mit die Champagne Lady.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Is it muscle memory or is it all in my head?

Last night I had my weekly ice dance lesson during an extra public session which our rink typically adds during the last two months of the skating season.  I wasn't feeling particularly perky on Tuesday, my regular lesson day, so we moved things around.  In truth this was good because at least for now, few members of the "public" have discovered this session and so one gets nearly empty ice at a bargain rate--perfect for an old geezer attempting to learn a dance.

I've been working or the Cha-Cha for about six weeks and although I have the steps pretty much memorized I just couldn't get my head around executing the first chassé step which is immediately followed by a wide step.  At the end of last lesson I could do those steps.  At the beginning of last night's lesson the feel of them had departed to where ever such bits of information go.  If they decided to slip off to the Keys I wish they'd taken me with them...

So, Coach A. and I burned the first fifteen minutes of my lesson reviewing those steps.  She'd demo them, and then I'd go through the motions--wrongly, but couldn't sort out how to correct the mistakes.  Finally instead of counting the beats while I skated she instead said: "PUSH, CROSS,  CHAAAA--SAY, WIDE STEP."  I can't tell you why, but somehow I could suddenly (and properly) execute those four opening steps and after being released from their grim grip, I could get on with skating the rest of the dance, including the pesky tuck and slide which makes up the Hors d'oeuvre  part of the end pattern.  In my limited and somewhat painful experience, if you make it pass that tuck behind and slide then you'll have no problem with the final step of the dance, which is an inside swing roll.  After that you either repeat the dance or take a bow.

People yap about muscle memory and yes, in order to capture the above mentioned steps I spent the remaining part of the session after my lesson trying to get the rhythm of her voice ingrained in my legs.  But--the initial part of learning is way too quick for muscle memory.  It's mental.  However, to consolidate a skill and make it stick I've got to move what ever I've just learned from my brain down to my legs or it'll be off in the vapor before I can take off my skates and go through the lobby doors on my way to the car.

We skated the dance a few times partnered and I made a mental note that next week's lesson will need to address that tuck and slide thing.  Yes, I can stagger through it but it's not a thing of beauty.  She'll need to coach me on upper body positioning so that I have my weight correctly placed to make those steps to happen without the sensation that I'm stepping on a banana peel, but that's next week's breakthrough.  And of course there's timing, pattern placement on the ice, extension, toe pointing and expression to polish.  I might have this thing test ready by Christmas.

We finished the remaining few minutes of the lesson reviewing the opening steps of the Swing Dance up to the Mohawk turn, after which I'll need to skate her steps going backwards.  That's fodder for another day.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Now these Kats kan dance!

This is not on topic for skating but, my oh my, I could watch the Nicholas brothers all day.  I wonder how many piano lids they tapped their way through in a season?  Anyway, watch and enjoy their great tap routine, which starts about the 1.32 minute mark.  Don't forget to click full screen.

I'm still working of the Cha-Cha and the Swing dance.  The Swing will force me to refine my wonky right forward inside Mohawk and get comfortable with back edges and back swing rolls.  I'd better double down on more padding!

If I watch this a few more times I might, as Cab Calloway suggests, start"liking my eggs on the Jersey side".

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

Still here.  Been busy racin' boats down in FLA.  You can read about all that over on my sailing blog if you want:

Back on thin ice I'm still chipping away at the Cha-Cha.  Just couldn't get my head around how the first chasse step flows into the following wide step or how to transition from the final slalom/chasse step into the RFI edge which starts the end pattern of the dance.  Last Tuesday Coach A. and I picked up where we'd left off before I disappeared for a week with me trying to verbalize that which I didn't understand and she trying to demo the bits.  That approach was going nowhere fast so she told me to just follow her as she did the dance.  After a couple go-rounds things finally started to click.  We did the dance partnered and then she wanted to have me skate it solo so she could watch my feet and see how far off pattern I'd get.

The Tuesday evening Free-Style session during which this weekly lesson takes place tends to be busy-busy.  Folks in military circles would refer to it as a "target rich environment."  Some may remember my post about how my rink was finally adopting the convention of the skater with the right of way wearing an orange vest.  Sadly that appears to have been a passing fad.  Last Tuesday night music was playing, skaters were skating, but no orange vest was to be seen to indicate who was "in program" (i.e. who had the right of way).

I pushed off on my solo skate.  Somebody's music was playing, but who's music?  Who knows?  I had just started the slalom section of the dance when I suddenly felt contact from behind.  In my surprised state it took me a few seconds to figure out (as I accelerated from the push) that another skater and I had collided back to back.  For a minute I thought we'd be able to stay on our skates and ride out the momentum but in the end we both slid down to the ice.  As I went down I found myself thinking "you'll soon find out who's music that was."  My "assailant" turned out to be M. a young, powerful adult lady who was practicing some advanced field moves pattern with lots of power 3-turns and backwards skating.  I was going forward, she was skating backwards at the time of contact.  Thankfully neither of us sustained injury, her probably due to being young, strong and flexible, me by virtue of  lots of D3O padding.  We scrambled to our haunches, offer joint apologies and continued about our respective business.

I don't think twice about wearing padding.  A man of my considerable gravitas needs all the padding he can lay hands on.  I am totally beyond such questions as "Tell me the truth, does this Ice Halo make my head look phat?"

One question I am wondering about is: do I need rear view mirrors or maybe a signal which beeps when I back up?  Perhaps mirrors like the ones cyclists clip onto their sunglasses could be incorporated into my next Ice Halo.  Or maybe I could get Volvo to design a wearable "BLISS" system.  How Volvo gets the acronym BLISS out of Blind Spot Detection System is anyone's guess but I suppose it does have a cheerier ring than calling it the "BS Detection System".  Maybe Volvo could incorporate all that into goggles with a head's-up display giving me coordinates indicating how far off pattern I am in a given compulsory dance, the range and bearings to nearby "targets", "objects of interest" on collision courses and so on.

Goggles with such a display probably aren't happening during my skating life time.  As Mark Knoffler would say:

"Sometimes you're the windshield 
sometimes you're the bug; 
Sometimes it all comes together baby, 
sometimes you're just a fool in love."

Say, maybe a version of this tune might work with the Hickory Hoedown.  

Final observation:  Afterwards, I asked Coach A. whether or not I blurted out a stream of profanities as M. and I death-spiraled down to the ice.  This is a concern--after all I am a sailor and so have a reputation to think about.  She said "Not that I heard."  I swear that woman massages the truth.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dusting off the Cha-Cha

It's been two weeks since I passed my last two Prelim dances.  During that time my old computer died and took all my bookmarks to the grave, but regenerating all that will no doubt be a good workout for my aging brain--kinda like Sudoku or a crossword puzzle--but with a useful purpose.

Coach A. and I have been working on getting me reacquainted with the Cha-Cha and also working on my wonky right forward inside Mohawk in anticipation of those steps in the other two pre-bronze dances, the Fiesta Tango and Swing Dance.  Those in need of a refreshing peek at the Cha-Cha pattern can find it here.

After a brief struggle with the inside RFO chasse and following wide step she decided to have me work on the end pattern of the dance (steps 10 through 14)--but without worrying, at least for the time being, about the tuck forward or tuck behind bits.  Little by little I'm stitching the beginning, middle and end parts of this dance back together in my mind.  Transferring all that mindfulness to the ice is of course a different kettle of fish.  It's both comforting and daunting to realize that the Cha-Cha is the last of the "easy" pattern dances to master: familiar Killian dance hold, only fourteen steps to think about, no turns or backwards skating.  Both the Fiesta Tango and the Swing will be much more challenging.  The Swing Dance in particular will be twice the work because each partner has to learn the other's steps.  Unlike dances up to and including the Cha-Cha which have around 14 or 15 steps, the Swing has 30.  Also, unlike the earlier dances, both the Fiesta Tango and the Swing Dance bring transition steps and backwards skating to the party.  Dear Constant Reader:  prepare yourself for lots of reports of "retry" test results!

This weekend marks my rink's annual Valentine's Invitational Competition.  I'm sitting this one out but will be at the rink as a registrar and to watch friends on the ice.  Also this afternoon one of my nieces is visiting from Georgia and we'll no doubt get over to the rink for today's afternoon public.  This is one of the two nieces responsible for re-interesting me in the sport (after a 30+ year lay off) seven or so years ago.  So far her fascination with ice skating has cost me two busted arms and a brain hemorrhage (!) but also countless hours of satisfaction and good exercise, which in turn, has led to this blogspot.   She loves to skate but lives in an area of her state far removed from ice rinks.  We try to bake in some ice time whenever she visits. 

So that's about it.  Nothing too exciting, nothing to prove here at On Thin Ice.  Just chipping away at the next dance, doing my duty with the ISI annual comp, and going skating with the niece.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Until next time, ~Ta.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

All in good time.

People keep telling me that I need a cute little clock like this:

I tell them the only time of day device I need looks more like this:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Free at last: wherein your old diarist finally escapes preliminary dance purgatory

For the short attention span brigade:  Yesterday afternoon, I finally passed the two remaining dances to complete USFSA's preliminary ice dance level--and so onto the pre-bronze level dances.  Next up:  the Cha-Cha.

For the rest of my faithful readers (both of you) I'll drag things out a bit.

The test session was held at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Maryland.  This is a multi-sheet facility with an NFL sized sheet, an Olympic sized sheet and a curling rink.  I think there's also a small outdoors rink as well. The building is too long for my phone camera to capture in one pix.

Here's the Curling part which would have been to the left of the photo above.
I arrived early and was immediately diverted by this distracting sign.  Two hundred bucks is kinda spendy just to ride a Zamboni, but....tempting none the less.
First up were skaters testing Moves and Free-Style tests.  After an ice cut Coach A. and her coach started off the ice dance testers with the midnight blues.  Sadly she was scored "retry" which was surprising to me but then I'm just a low level tin horn who no doubt doesn't appreciate the intricacies of that level of dance.  None the less the result was a disappointment.  We spoke afterwards and she pointed out that there was an on-going free style session on the other sheet and knowing how long it takes me to warm up, and since I had thirty minutes before my group's time, that I should take advantage of the opportunity.  "Just keep an eye on the clock." was her parting remark.  I paid up, laced up,  got on the ice and warmed up my two dances--the Dutch Waltz which I'd been scored "retry" back in the spring and the Rhythm Blues, the last dance in the preliminary group.  It seemed I'd no more that settled in to practicing when I heard someone yelling my name.  "Hurry up!  They're ahead of schedule--we're on!"  Yes, Ma'am.  Where did twenty minutes go?

We clomped across the lobby in our skates to the other sheet and just caught the last couple minutes of my group's official warm up.  With just enough time to plow through the two dances, I felt fairly good, particularly so with the trickier RB.  This was almost my undoing.  When we were called out for the test I suddenly felt kinda jittery.  We skated the two dances with lots of awkward scratching and clumsiness on my part.   I came off the ice knowing that my practice dances were much better that what I'd just skated in front of the judge. I silently cursed and wished that I could somehow swap them.

And yes, that's judge singular.  This test session had just one judge rather than the three judge panel that was in place when I tested back in the spring at Piney Orchard.  Apparently if the judge is highly accredited, only one is required.  I don't completely understand that, but that's how Coach A. explained it.  Getting back to today's test, after leaving the ice I figured if I passed the DW I'd be lucky.  I was mentally preparing myself for "retry" scores for both dances.  We clomped our way back to the lobby and took off our skates while waiting for the runner to bring the results from the judge to the registrar's table.  In due time they came. Coach A. went over and picked them them up and then showed them to me:

Technical comments: "unison is nice, occasional flat edges, good extension and posture" Timing/Expression comments: "nice expression."  Somehow I not only passed the Dutch Waltz, but...

against all odds I somehow managed to pass the Rhythm Blues as well.  Technical comments: "nice x-behinds, decent edges, got ahead at the start but got into sync." Timing/Expression: "nicely expressed."

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  The Brits have a word to describe this sort of amazement:  Gobsmacked.  I was totally gobsmacked. I was convinced that I'd blown the test and skated my best effort during warm up.  But the judge saw things differently.  So after a long, slow slog I'm finally finished with prelim dances and can now contemplate ones at the pre-bronze level.  Pre-bronze--I guess that officially makes me a stone-age dancer.