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.


  1. What a lovely feeling! Congratulations!

    I'd love to have a go at the Zamboni too, but $200??

  2. It is a nice feeling to finally complete these dances. I had too--the laminated card with the Dutch Waltz pattern is starting to delaminate and I swore I wasn't going to make a new one!

    I agree, 200 bucks is a lot of $$$ which would be better spent on extra coaching sessions.

  3. Want to see picture of your highly rated 'nice expression'!
    Congrats. :-)

    Video of step behinds would be cool too.

    1. Thanks Babbette! I wish I'd have had someone taking a video so that I could see those things as well! Sadly I didn't have anyone to hand my phone to. As for the tuck behinds, I have had random skaters stop me to comment on them when I practiced solo. The consensus is that they look kool. They must look better than they feel! Those other skaters try them once and then back carefully away and never ask again! The tucks still feel spooky to me and they won't go away just because I've passed the RB--they show their heads again in other dances, sigh... I'm hoping that as time goes by I'll be able to do them without thinking about them.

  4. Oooh, not only nice expression but also you rocked the tuck behinds! That is totally exciting. So happy for you! Welcome to pre-bronze--and yes, while learning to drive a Zamboni is cool, having the money for the next set of lessons is cooler. Congrats!

  5. Thanks Jo! Started dusting off the Cha-Cha yesterday. My coach introduced it a couple months ago but then we backed off and concentrated on the dances I needed to pass at the Prelim level once a test date was announced. It's amazing how much can slip away if one isn't constantly reviewing! I've been watching Kseniya and Oleg's video today trying to recapture the wide step and slalom section. The cross in front step looks challenging!

  6. Thanks Gordon! It took longer than it should have, but I did have a lot of time off the ice after my head injury. Hopefully I'll be able to pass the Cha-Cha in a couple of months. The other two pre-bronze dances, the Fiesta Tango and the Swing Dance look much harder. We'll see.

  7. I'm going to take my first whack at the do Dutch waltz in March. I'm frankly scared to death but I figyre there's a first time for everything.

  8. You will probably do fine! For me the DW was difficult for a variety of reasons: first off I tend to skate some of the swing rolls a little flat. That has improved since I first attempted to pass this dance last spring but the judge still commented that I'm occasionally flat. I think this is because the dance is a 6-beat dance and one must hold the edge forever! I also until quite recently was having trouble with the end pattern of the dance. The main thing is to not be depressed if you don't pass the first time. If that happens, study the judge's comments and work to improve. Best of luck on your test!

  9. Woot! Congrats George! I'm glad you got to warm up right up to the test, that sounds very helpful, I hope you can arrange that for your pre-bronze tests too! You got some nice comments, it must have been a good test!

  10. Thanks Mary. Since I don't have a video I can't say how I looked, but any test you can skate away from with a "Pass" is a good one!

  11. Thanks Lori! I've finally managed to graduate from ice dance pre-school to ice dance kindergarten! Slow and steady wins the race...