jo skates

Skating in the key of life

A very long to-do list


Another great day on the ice. No new exercises in my lesson today, but Ari has been talking more about the size of my circles and counting (in the European waltz, every “one” of “one-two-three” is a push), so that’s a change. And a couple of weeks ago, we worked on getting more extension on this exercise: back crossover, then back push back into one of those Positions Not Used In Everyday Life (PNUIELs). I’m supposed to aim for 90 degrees, but Ari has said that he will settle happily for 45. (See Meryl Davis at nearly 180 or so. More on PNUIELs in my next post.)

Meanwhile, Laurie has me doing lots of turns. Outside-outside open mohawks like in the Fourteenstep and Viennese (remember that the leg comes in as if you are doing a ronde de jambe). Outside-outside closed mohawks like in the Foxtrot and Starlight (allow the skating leg to turn out underneath you, then bring the leg in under; on the Starlight, keep your head checked in the back edge position after the second three turn, allow some body turnout underneath for the mohawk). Blues choctaws (do you have the correct–right–arm forward on the inside edge? Where is your back facing? It should come all the way around into the exit position; then you just pass through third position to change your feet).

I feel like I am slowly moving on from just doing basics now. But I am adding also lots of details to my list of basic skills. There are so many things to try to keep in my head while skating! Because all this SiSoS (Study in the Service of Skating) is hard to keep track of, I’m just going to write some of the bigger concepts down here so I can revisit them periodically.

So here goes.

(Alternative: For those of you gentle readers for whom all this skating talk translates into blah-blah-blah, I will add a link to one of my favorite skating songs so that you can just enjoy this adorable bulldog (so enthusiastic, just like me!) instead of slogging through this non-ice-dancer-unfriendly list.)

  • Conserve energy. One circle at a time, please. There are dances that ask for wide-stepping (like the Rhumba) but you are not working on them. Basically, the aim is simply to move from one edge to another while preserving the flow. That means not rocking in and out of the curve and not falling from one edge to another. That also means that on a number of turns (like mohawks and choctaws), your body lean and back/head position should already be in the new circle by the time you transfer your weight.
  • Push. Don’t just hang out. You will rapidly lose energy if you don’t push. In order to really push, your pushing foot actually has to exert force against the ice and against the circle. On progressives this means turning your foot out when going forward and turning your foot in when going backwards. You need to initiate your push sooner on forward cross strokes. Push sooner on that exercise that you like so much (you know, the one that goes back cross, back inside change outside, in which you should also work on keeping the free leg turned in on the inside edge and keeping your shoulders facing out of the circle). Push on every possible transition of the European waltz (especially on the inside edge after the three turn and on outside-outside edges or cross strokes…which is all there is to the European).
  • Rotation is what happens. Stop fighting your circles; let them be circles. Rotation is your friend! Take three-turns, for instance:  if you are on a good edge, it’s just a matter of releasing the check to allow rotation to happen.
  • Let your boots be your guide. Speaking of edges, get your boot laces pressing into your ankles so you know you are bending your knees.  Your knee comes forward so your body can stay aligned over your skate.  Also, feel the pressure of the side of boot into your ankle so you know you are really on an edge. The edge is created by your ankle and foot, not by arcing your upper body over or (ack!) dropping your hip into the circle.
  • Hip check! This reminder is just for me to pick up my free side by activating the hip muscles on my skating side. And to really stabilize my left side through my core.
  • Use gravity and your centers of gravity. Hips forward when going forward. When you are going backwards, lead with that part of your back under the shoulder blades, whatever it’s called.
  • Hear the music of your blades. No high-pitched sounds, please. Forward skating is in the front of your heel, backwards is behind the ball of the foot.
  • Think of your legs skating right through each other, not going around each other. You are not an elementary-school model of the solar system.  Your free leg is not Pluto.
  • Spread the work around your pattern. Don’t shortchange certain edges in favor of others. True of progressives. Very true of the Kilian.
  • Use the right amount of force. This is true in the moment and over the long run.

Patience, effort, trust, joy. Balance. Speed. Beauty. Love.

The list goes on and on.

Pink? Purple? Who's up for skating?

Pink? Purple? Who’s up for skating?

Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

2 thoughts on “A very long to-do list

  1. “Your free leg is not Pluto” – I love this! I wish I could apply it to my jumps because my free leg never wants to hang out with my skating leg. I need some type of invention to just strap my legs together so they don’t come apart. Maybe Velcro pants or a straightjacket for the legs?? 🙂


  2. Thanks, Eva! I don’t remember how it works on jumps, but in my dancing it has to do with how I imagine my free leg coming in. If I think of it just as my legs coming together, I tend to let the skating leg move towards the free leg, which changes the circle I am making. The movement of free leg then pulls me slightly off my edge and lessens the amount of speed I get. If on the other hand, I aim the free leg right for the skating leg as I bring my legs together, it tightens up the edge and accentuates the circle. I would think it would be the same on jumps, that you want to use the free leg movement to increase the speed and rotation around the turning point of the skating leg. Not that I have anything against Pluto, mind you…


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