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!