Cross at Cross Behinds

Really good lesson with Coach1 this week. One of those times when something a coach says suddenly makes everything fall into place. In this case it was “pressing down in the knee bend”. I’d of course heard “more knee bend” before (many, many, many times) and pressing down as well, but for some reason that particular way of phrasing things really helped my back swing rolls. They were more stable and even something approach the correct shape. Actual progress was made.

Picking on more small things in the basic dances now. A few small corrections on Canasta Tango, mainly on the end pattern and the re-start (although this is not the problem it used to be). Was also pleased that the mohawk in the Swing Dance turned out to be repeatable. I assume the next step is getting it in the right position on the pattern. Fiesta Tango is still quite dodgy. The end pattern is not particularly steady, and as for the cross behind….well it’s an issue.

And as it was an issue I decided I would ask Coach2 to help me with it. Oh my goodness, even more of a disaster than cross behinds are usually. Even stuck my toe pick into the ice (although I didn’t go down), which I haven’t done in forever. Needless to say we are completely changing the technique, and I just can’t get the hang of sliding my boot down my leg so it’s already crossed at the point I put my blade onto the ice. Just freaks me out. So a long way to go on that.

On the up side, back edges are showing incremental improvement, although of course I couldn’t reproduce the lightbulb moment from the back swing rolls when skating on my own. But apparently they were a bit more aggressive (or as much as anything I do in skating is aggressive), so that’s good. It’s mainly the outside ones that are the issue, the back insides are sort of coming, in that they get a bit bigger each week – just need to sort out the push between steps.

Anyway, pleased with the dances, not sure where I’m going with cross behinds, jury is out on edges!


Going Backward

So since my last post I’ve added Coach2. At the moment Coach1 will keep concentrating on the dances, whilst Coach2 has the unenviable task of trying to get my back edges and turns in order. Whether Coach2 survives this experience without going crazy remains to be seen.

Coach2 is currently reasonably happy with my forward edges, which I already knew just needed some solid practice and a few reminders regarding technique. I think they could still do with a bit more push, but they’ll do for the moment. Now the challenge is to translate what I’m doing forwards into backwards. If only it were that simple.

I think the back inside edges will come first, although again they need some work on the pushes, which I’m still afraid of doing properly. And haven’t even attempted the full circle at the end of the row yet. As for back outsides, “needs work” doesn’t even begin to describe them. Still, Coach2 is currently still trying to come up with new things that might, possibly, work. The jury is still out as to whether these will ever come good.

Moving onto turns, Coach2 is changing my mohawk technique so that they’re done all on bent legs, rather than rising in the middle.This seems to help, as I’ve started getting the mohawk consistently in the Swing Dance now. As for three turns, still pretty crappy, but I’m hopeful that they will improve with practice. Still having issues with holding the edge going into the turn, rather than just turning immediately.

Moving onto dances, we’re working on smaller tweaks for Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango, which is a good sign, such as position of the body in the cross roll at the end of the Canasta, and in the restart. Swing Dance is slowly coming. Have almost eliminated the braking before the mohawk, although the speed continues to bother me for now. We’ve also done a bit of work on the Fiesta Tango. Now I really don’t like the mohawk in that, as I know things will be bad if it goes wrong. But at least it’s progress from the first two dances. Other than that, the basics are going reasonably well, with a noticable improvement in forward crossovers in particular.

So the theory is that one day I’ll pass that edges test and then be able to move onto the dances. I think others have more faith in that idea than I.

Dancing Again – Lesson Wednesday 7th March 2012

First lesson in a while with partner, following him breaking in new boots.

I was quite nervous, as he’d been saying he wasn’t able to confidentaly stop on the new blades, and normally I rely on him to stop us both when going backwards at a faster speed than I’m comfortable stopping myself. It wasn’t the best lesson as a result. Although there were less skaters than usual on the session, the ones that were there were taking advantage of the space and were flying about like nobody’s business, so I could see potential collisions everywhere.

Anyway, I’m please to say that we stumbled our way around the Swing Dance without incident. The mohawk happened (twice!) although it wasn’t anywhere resembling on time and wasn’t pretty. Coach seemed very pleased with the second mohawk I did, but that didn’t make me very happy because I’d almost fallen on it from twisting my toe pick on the ice before the turn.

We skipped Fiesta Tango as we hadn’t done it in ages, and not at all with partner’s new boots/blades.  Opted for Canasta Tango instead, which was fine apart from having to avoid traffic (we were on the music and wearing the fluoro vests of invisibility). Coach would still like the cross-roll swing to be better, but it was mostly good.

Also did the Fourteen Step to slower tempo music. It’s still pretty crap, particularly the outside mohawk, but all the steps are there, so that’s something. We went through the shoulder position required for the outside mohawk afterwards, which makes it easier, if I can only remember in context.

Remembered to ask coach about inside three turns. I was mistaken – he does want the arm position to start the same way as I’m accustomed to, but then wants them to swing round with the turn, which is not something I’d encountered before. In practice afterwards it did seem to help.

After the lesson, we did do the Fiesta Tango twice through and nobody died, although it has of course gone backwards after the long break.

Did edges as well, but the less said about those the better.

Finding the Bubble – Lesson 11th January 2012

Coach says I need to develop a bubble around me to stop me paying so much attention to what other people are doing (translation: who is about to skate into me). Swears there won’t be a collision. I see too many kids/teens who NEVER look where they’re going, and too many synchro skaters who think they own the ice (I think they must issue an ‘arrogant’ pill when people start synchro at our rink). He can tell me that all he likes; it won’t give me any more confidence. That’s not something you can teach.

Having said that, I think it was a good session. It’s still school holidays here until the end of the month, so the figure skating sessions are relatively quiet, with only a portion of the normal number of kamikaze skaters.

We started with the dreaded back edges. Given the better skating conditions, I was able to make a better stab at these than I normally do, so there was a noticeable improvement. I still need to learn to strike in the right direction though (i.e. up or down the long axis of the rink) which is easier said than done. Still, a couple of times I was on an actual curve, so that’s something. Unfortunately we’re running out of time for these, as they must be tested before the test requirements change mid-year.

This was followed by more work on the up and downy stuff we were doing last week. Went over the Canasta Tango first, including doing it slowly to try and work on finishing off the edges properly, and getting some rise and fall. Of course it’s much easier to do the dance slowly, although I still don’t finish the edges properly (i.e. staying on the edge the entire way round the lobe). Had a bit of a disaster on one attempt at the Dutch Waltz when the radius of the curve was too much for me, I had to move to two feet, and that then put us on course with two skaters standing near the side of the rink. Kind of threw off the rest of it, not surprisingly.

I then asked if we could look at the inside swing rolls. Coach’s theory is that I’m either worried by blade will hit the ice on the back swing (I’m confident this is wrong – the issue is balance and why only on one side?), or that it’s the tighter turn I’m doing on the left swing when in killian. We tried it in reverse killian and it was more even, and I felt more balanced on both legs, so that seems more likely to me. Having identified the issue, I managed some improvement, although I also gather it doesn’t look as bad as it feels.

After the lesson, we did the end pattern of the Swing Dance – the inside mohawk is coming along. Might even get the timing right one day. Fiesta end pattern also much improved since strengthening the hold after the mohawk. Also managed one full sequence of this dance, and worked on cross-in-front-cross-behind in isolation. The tuck and next step on this feeling more stable now.

Tried both the Fourteen Step and Foxtrot in proper hold. Can only imagine how this looked to observers – probably like someone who had never skated before attempting to stroke before they can swizzle. The outside mohawk was problematic in both dances when attempted in hold, and I ended up unintentionally fighting against it. But at least I squeaked out the mohawk a couple of times, which was something anyway. And of course calling the back cross roll in my Foxtrot that is an insult to back cross rolls.

Still can’t spin.

Finished with a little work on the change of edge swing roll from the Fiesta. This is much easier to do in isolation than in the context of the dance (particularly as by that point I’m anticipating the necessity of the mohwak). I say easier, but of course not so easy to do well!

Not looking forward to school going back and the session filling up again!

Three-Hawking – Practice 9th January 2012

We had an excellent ice dance session on Monday evening. It was all adult skaters, so was very friendly and considerate as a result.

Started with some swing rolls as warm up. I am still not happy with my left inside swing rolls, as I can’t seem to extend the free leg for long enough after the push because I feel unbalanced and need to draw the knee in quickly to make the curve without landing on my backside. So I’m really only getting half a swing. Can’t for the life of me work out why it’s different on that side to the other side. I think I will get coach to look at this on Wednesday.

We were able to get through a couple of sequences of the Swing Dance. It has its issues, but at least it’s mostly all together now. I still have trouble striking in the right place when forward facing. I know where I should be striking, and I can do it without problems at a slow speed, but in the dance itself there’s too much speed for me to strike accurately when I’m also constantly rushing in the effort to try and keep the hold vaguely close. Which also means I lean forward on the push, so my body isn’t in the desired position for waltz hold either. But I did do the mohawk vaguely in the right tempo once, which I guess is something at least.

Tried the Fiesta Tango as well. Having had the correction with regard to strength of the hold during the back runs last week, that part of the steps now feels much more stable, and I think the timing should now improve as a result. The cross-in-front-cross-behind still needs to cross and tuck propertly though. Didn’t get time to work on this in isolation again.

Did some more work on the Fourteen Step trying to get the timing right (still at a much slower tempo than the ‘real’ version of the dance). The outside mohawk started to go awry when we tried it at even a slightly faster tempo. As I can barely stand up on it anyway, getting it on the right beat at a slower pace is a major achievement. At a faster pace I believe I invented a new turn, which I have dubbed the ‘three-hawk’, as it’s the bastard child of a three turn and a mohawk. Needless to say, this is a habit I want to break very quickly, before I lose the ability to even do my poor version of an outside mohawk. Coach put on some music for us at one point, but it was too fast for me. I was actually getting most of the steps, but I balked at doing the outside mohawk at the speed required (was having one of those ‘if I do this I will die’ moments).

We did some beginner work on the Foxtrot as well, which I’ve tried before, but haven’t done in a while. The first part isn’t so bad – even the killer forward cross roll into three turn is manageable. It’s the backward cross roll that is the problem. I’ve never actually been taught these (mainly because solid back edges are essential first), so that was really woosy and not resembling a cross roll so much as a vague backwards cross behind. And of course there’s another outside mohawk. But I stumbled through it a few times, although it went severely to pot when we tried it in Foxtrot hold (I was in completely the wrong position for the outside mohawk – entirely my fault, but couldn’t seem to adjust in time).

So on the whole it was a good session, made more enjoyable by not having to keep out of the way of flying teens. Could do with more like that one, as I felt some actual progress was made. Now if I could just make progress on the things I actually have to work on for testing sooner rather than later!




Ups and Downs – Skating Lesson 4 January 2012

We started the lesson with the Canasta Tango, as usual. Coach consulted one of the local judges who happened to be at the barrier and had been watching. I of course picked today to do the worst Canasta I’ve done in ages. It wasn’t because the judge was watching (I didn’t know, and that wouldn’t particularly bother me anyway), something just felt ‘off’. Anyway, the upshot of her observations was that we needed more rise and fall and more lean on the edges.

So a lot of the subsequent lesson was therefore about knee bend. At least it made a change from edges.

Spent a lot of time going up and down in the knee (for which I’m paying today – with knee pain every time I climb stairs). We reviewed rising and falling on swing rolls, edges with skating leg bent and free leg extended, hip position, and the relative position of our backsides to the ice at any particular time whilst going up and down in the knee. There was also an exercise on the circle, which was crossover, chasse, edge, which I did’t actually manage to achieve, as by the time I’d done the crossover and the chasse I was in no position to hold a steady edge, at least whilst in hold.

I am also under instruction to do squats at idle moments during the day to help build knee strength. The suggestion was to do this whilst making coffee. That should cause some comment in the work kitchen. I also have to do a brief warm up before getting on the ice, which I’d be good with, except I always arrive at the rink in a tearing hurry from work, and can’t leave any earlier to give me time for a proper warmup.

As for leaning on the edges, that’s still a problem for me, as I don’t trust I won’t go blade over head. Not much cure for that except more practice, unless I suddenly grow some courage.

After all that, coach wanted to know what ‘fun stuff’ we wanted to do. I suggested Fourteen Step – clearly I am deranged. Anyway, coach found another slower piece of music for us to use rather than the proper music. And after me saying last time that I’d like to start trying to do this in proper hold, that’s precisely what we did. It didn’t feel as bad as I thought, except some of the man’s steps were skipped in the interests of keeping me upright. My timing was way out again though, although I’m not terribly worried about that at this point, and I don’t think any of my steps had discernible edges. The timing on the outside mohawk is particularly tricky, as the turn/change of feet is on the second beat of four, whereas I prefer longer to establish the forward edge before having to turn to backwards. It was improving by the time we’d done the sequence a few times though.

After the lesson, as it was a quieter than normal session, we were able to do both the Swing Dance and Fiesta Tango in full, which was good practice. Nice not to have to worry about small children barrelling into us whilst going backwards for once. Swing Dance still needs work on leaning on the edges, but it’s a bit of a compromise between speed and pretty at the moment.Spent a bit of time on the end sequence of the Fiesta to correct the timing issues I have with rushing the cross in front/step to forward. Was pointed out that I’m letting my hold weaken at this point, making the last step of the back run feel unstable. And indeed, keeping the hold firm was all that was needed to begin to rectify this issue. Now just have to remember that for the future!

Did some further work on the cross-in-front-cross-behind from the Fiesta (specifically, although this is used in many other dances). That’s a bit of a fix one thing and another breaks for me. I only just found out a few weeks back that I’m meant to step onto the outside edge on the cross-in-front (wish someone had told me that about 8 months ago when we started learning this), so I’m now at worst stepping flat rather than onto an inside edge. Then when I do the tuck behind the skating foot right, putting that foot down again feels really clunky and unbalanced, which I don’t want, given that I have enough hangups about cross behinds to start with. But if I put the foot down too far behind the skating foot, then it doesn’t cross properly. So that’s rather three steps foward, one step back at the moment (is there a dance step in that somewhere?).

Also did some forward runs on the circle, concentrating on knee bend again, and back crossovers. I like to keep practicing both of these as I worked really hard to get them (at one point both were ‘I’m never going to get this’ moves), and don’t want to lose them again. Made myself do some three turns on one of the lines as well, as it was quiet enough to do so for once, and I need to get my three turns aways from the wall again. Entry edge still maddeningly short. I just can’t get that mystical ‘at some point you HAVE to turn’ thing that people talk about.

Still think I sould probably give up on any idea I might have of being able to spin. They just never seem to improve, and the concept of being able to spin until you want to stop remains a complete mystery to me. As I couldn’t even spin when I first had lessons as a teenager, I don’t even have any idea of what this is meant to feel like. Ho hum. Everyone swears all the different bits and pieces I need to do are there, but I can’t put them together all at the same time.

Hope my knees will recover in time for the next lesson!

First Skate of the New Year – 2 January 2012

The rink reopened today after the Christmas break. Not sure the rink was completely ready to reopen, as there were sections coned off near the barriers at one end where they clearly hadn’t finished doing maintenance. Upon closer inspection there was a sharp dip right next to the boards (i.e. a 5cm hole). Nevertheless, there was skating. We arrived early, as the normal Skate School session was not on due to school holidays, which turned it into a regular figure skating session, followed by the usual Monday evening dance session.

I can’t say it was my best skate ever. It wasn’t the break that was the issue – it was only a week and a half after all, and that usually doesn’t affect me (let’s face it, there’s not a lot to affect…). Just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I think the return to skating had snuck up on me before I was ready.

The fresh ice did feel good to skate on though, nowhere near as hard as it usually is, so it felt more secure. I wish it was like this all the time!

Warmed up with some forward edges then did the Novice Foxtrot as an exercise (i.e. very slowly, just doing the steps). For those not in the know, the Novice Foxtrot is a beginner dance unknown outside the UK, and is ‘just’ progressives followed by swing rolls all the way around the rink. Fitting in the end pattern is tricky until you get the hang of it (and sometimes after you get the hang of it). It’s relatively easy when done slowly, but ridiculously difficult when done to the music, which makes me grateful that I will never have to do it to the music again. Unlike Rhythm Blues, however, which is also not in the Australian ice dance syllabus, I’m still happy to do the steps as an exercise, as it’s quite handy for practicing things like doing proper progressives and moving the arms into the correct position. Once I’d done that I did some three turns and mohawks near the barrier to get my eye in (or feet in, or something like that).

Moved on to practicing the edges for the Preliminary test. As I’ve no doubt said before, these are just rows of edges across the rink, starting as three consecutive lobes, followed by a full circle (with cross over at the half way point if needed), then two lobes coming back the other way, followed by a full circle on the other foot. My forward edges are fine in this regard (as they should be, given how much work I did on them with previous coaches), although they’ve been better in the past. My backward edges are still a disaster zone, and I really do despair of them, given how long I’ve been working on them – which must be going on about five years, admittedly with a long break before we moved countries. They just don’t feel safe – there’s really no other way to describe it. If they felt in any way secure I’d be a lot more confident in them. Did have a minor breakthrough with the back insides when told to lift my free hip, which made the lobes larger, but I fear these may not be ready for testing quickly (particularly as I was meant to have them test ready by Christmas, which they clearly are not).

Anyway, we moved on to doing the mohawks from the Swing Dance and Fiesta Tango. It does bother me that we never really do the Fiesta as a dance, we just do bits of it, which makes it much more problematic on the rare occasions when we do run through it in full. We do Swing Dance more often, but that’s easier to do in halves and put together.

Looked briefly at Fourteen Step, which we’re still doing hand in hand. I think I will make it an aim to try and look at doing this in proper hold by mid-year. Also looked at European Waltz three turns. I do not like the speed the builds up in that dance, or even just doing three turn, step forward on the circle. I just don’t like throwing myself into a three turn without being sure I’ll come out the other end.

As the session was quiet, we did the Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango to the music, which went much as usual. I think we’ve now been doing these so long that I feel a bit stale, and it’s difficult to make further progress. Of course, maybe if I could get past that wretched Preliminary test, I’d be able to test these and put them behind me, but for now we have to keep them in order.

We also did a few other little things, like forward cross rolls, first in open hold, then in killian and then in foxtrot hold (hard!), and finished the session with some Russian stroking in killian hold, which I hadn’t done in ages, and actually quite enjoyed as a result.

All in all, not a great skate, but I guess it was adequate, and also very necessary with a lesson coming up on Wednesday.