Going For It

Had what I considered a rough lesson last week, but Coach1 seemed happy with it.

From my point of view there were a number of wobbles on the Swing Dance, and I didn’t feel confident as a result. Coach said that she would rather see us ‘going for it’ and have those wobbles. Problem – I don’t really do ‘going for it’. It do analysis, choosing the best course of action, testing the waters and then acting on a set plan. Hmmm.

I understand where she is coming from, of course, but my natural caution, particularly when it comes to skating, says that stable is a really good thing!

On the up side, apparently I managed to look like I was enjoying the Dutch Waltz, which is an improvement over my normal expressions of either worried or petrified!

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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.

Hello Blog, Long Time No Post

So my last post was in December 2012. There were a few things that stopped me posting at that point, not all of them involving sheer laziness.

First the rink closed for planned maintenance. Then, less than a week after it reopened, there was a fire in a storeroom and it was shut again for just over six months. Of course arrangements were made for people to train at other rinks during that time, but these didn’t really work for me, for a variety of reasons largely irrelevant at this point.

Once the rink reopened, I’d missed a lot of time, and even now, almost a year down the track, I still don’t feel like my skating is back to where it was before the long break. A level of confidence (never great in the first place) has gone, along with some skills that were improving. To be more specific, Swing Dance mohawk has never consistently returned, and I can no longer do the Fourteen Step to proper speed. I don’t belive I’ve even attempted Foxtrot since I last blogged about it.  On the up side, I’ve finally got the hang of the re-start on the Canasta Tango.

I’d really been waiting till everything was back to where it was before starting to write about skating again, but it just hasn’t happened yet. So why now?

Well, my coach has decided to stop coaching. It wasn’t actually that much of a surprise when he announced it, but I was still sad. There was also a very strong pull to perhaps look at this as a sign, and decide this was a good time for me to stop skating as well. There was, however, the prospect of new coaches, and it certainly wasn’t a case of not enjoying the skating, so I was unsure of what to do. My final lesson with coach was quite a good one (even my twizzly things were pretty solid), which you’d think would make the decision to continue easy, but my brain doesn’t work that way. Instead I wondered if the combination of stopping when things were going well, and I had positve associations with the sport, was perhaps a good time to stop. I was still a mass of indecision.

Anyway, to cut a long story and lots of angst short, first lesson with new coach is coming up in a few days time. I suspect we’ll be going right back to basics (and it will be a very, very long time before anyone lets me play around with the Paso Doble again), and I’ll have to learn to do things on my own again without having a helping hand. At the moment I still have mixed feelings, but am prepared to give the new arrangement a go.

All of which is a long winded way of saying that, with a new beginning, it seems like a good time to start logging progress again. Let’s see how long it all lasts!

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.

Wednesday, 23rd November 2011

Lesson

Dutch Waltz: Apparently I’m using the wrong muscles when trying to stretch my free leg. Need to feel the muscles above my knees. Which I’m not at the moment. I’m not sure which muscles I am actually using, but apparently it’s not these ones. So extension is the lesson here. At least coach is picking on small things.

Canasta Tango: Nothing special. Not bad, not good.

Swing Dance: Terrifying on this session, as I don’t know what’s going on behind me going backward or what’s going on behind partner going forward. Anyway, now we have the mohawk sorted (finally), apart from the timing, we need to start looking at getting the character of the dance. And maybe making the edges actually cuve….

Spins: Coach seems to have given up trying to get me to do a decent two foot spin. I can get three revolutions, but they peter out after that, and I never get the feeling I can keep spinning. So now I have an exercise to start working towards a one foot spin. This should be good…ha ha

Practice

Three Turns: Blarg. Hopeless.

Cross-in-Front-Cross-Behind: Was doing these on my own as an exercise, although the cross behind wasn’t tucked properly. I guess it’s a start though.

Outside Mohawks: Practiced with partner behind me, so it felt more like I was doing them on my own. They still scare the bejeezus out of me though.

Swing Dance End Pattern: Worked on getting the back edge after the mohawk to actually be on a back edge.

Why is skating so hard?

26th October, 2011

Lesson

Managed to make the end of the lesson despite the best efforts of the trains and nutcase road users.

General Warm up: Have to remember to stretch and bring feet together when just stroking in hold. Tend to be a bit slack on this when I’m just warming up. Coach happy with back crossovers though.

Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango: Coach says these are both getting better and better, and his criticisms are now about things like stretching the legs, not dropping or twisting the shoulders etc. By the time I pass that wretched preliminary edges test, these dances should really be ready for testng as well.

Swing Dance: Managed the whole sequence without stopping, sort of to the music (which we hadn’t done for some time). Didn’t put my foot down before the mohawk, although the timing of that was too quick. Still, that’s progress, and can be worked on.

Practice

Fourteen Step: Only did one quick mini-sequence of this to keep in practice with the steps. Is feeling easier, but still not doing it in proper hold at this stage.

Foxtrot: Went through this in sections, and then a couple of times trying to get through the whole thing. Tried it in correct hold as well, with both of us doing the steps. Not as bad as it could have been is probably an accurate assessment. Of course, never having been taught back cross rolls (for obvious reasons) is a rather major issue with this one, as that’s one of the steps…

European Waltz: Did this in an open-ish hold (i.e. facing each other holding hands). Only had a couple of tap downs before the ‘wrong direction’ three turns. Really difficult to do three turns on command rather than in my own time. Still, I didn’t die!

Silver Samba: Why oh why oh why is this so low down in the test structure? It’s considered an international dance in the US. No way it should be on the third level anywhere. I can only struggle through the easier side of this, and am unlikely to come anywhere near even attempting the rest of it for some time.

Fiesta Tango: Practiced the mohawk plus following steps, and the change of edge plus preceding steps in isolation, but didn’t do the dance as a whole.

General: This meant we did each of the first three dances either in whole or in part. Pretty good for a busy session. I think it was a pretty good session on the whole, despite having a lot of skaters around, including many small ones who seemed to be constantly underfoot. Or maybe I was just relieved not to have to do any back edges!

Monday, 24th October 2011

Instead of the evening dance session I decided to go to the quiet Monday morning session this week. Normally this session had about 4 or 5 skaters on it, which means it’s a lot easier to get worthwhile practice in. Everyone pretty much stakes out their own area and sticks to it, so you only need to keep a general lookout instead of being worried every second about what’s going on around you.

This morning? No. There was some sort of skating clinic happening, and the session was packed with guys warming up with double jumps, before moving onto more difficult jumps and footwork. That was in addition to a couple of other skaters having lessons, and the other regular skaters. The up side was that these skaters were good enough that they were both willing and able to move around large slow moving objects (me!). I kept a good look out and didn’t get in the way, and they went around me when necessary. The Wednesday evening kamikaze skaters could learn something from these guys. So it wasn’t a total wash out.

The whole purpose of going to the ‘quiet’ session was to get in some solid practice on my back edges in preparation for testing them in December or January. I was able to get in some work on them, and proved that when I’m not constantly worried about what’s going on around me their quality does improved.

Forward edges (outside and inside): Solid and controlled. Could look nicer, but they will be sufficient to pass.

Backward insides: These at least have some shape now, even without much power, and feel reasonably stable to me. I do need to learn not to be afraid to push into them though.

Backward outsides: These are still a bit of a disaster zone, but not so bad as they look when I have a lesson. If I remember to do everything I need to do – bend the knee, get all my limbs in the right positions, have shoulders and hips in the correct orientation – then they do work, but that rarely happens. The lobes are also very shallow, to the point of often being straight, and therefore on the flat of the blade. They still feel rocky.

Will try and take the video camera next time I do this session and film me doing the edges for my coach to see – if only to prove they’re not always quite as crap as they are in lessons!