jo skates

Skating in the key of life

No botox! Oppositional muscle tension


Watching my power pulls this week, Laurie commented that my free side was “botoxed.”

I just love how that woman teaches. Once I put some muscle action into the free side, those edges really came alive. It makes sense that you can’t create force through the skating side without having muscle tension on the free side. Ari has said before that you create extension by pulling your legs apart. But I’ve been thinking so much about what my skating side is doing that my free side has been just sort of hanging out. Like a tetherball. Or like Pluto.

So I tried this on my three turns, then on open mohawks. It is remarkable that just a little more muscle tension creates a lot more stability.

This is a basic principle in ballet, where balance is achieved by oppositional forces:

The concept of opposition enables the dancer to be less concerned with maintaining balance as the oppositional “pull” equalizes the forces acting on the body, lessens the weight of the limbs, and enables the dancer to use the musculature in the lengthened manner that prevents gripping. The head is always reaching upward, the arms and legs are lengthened–transmitting energy from the center (Anna Paskevska, Ballet Beyond Tradition, p. 54)

I’m starting to look for those oppositional forces everywhere! Here’s Robert Fairchild paying tribute to Gene Kelly:

And here’s the Shibutani’s free dance from this past season. I’ve always been impressed by Maia’s beautiful extensions, but have only just noticed how these are enhanced by the continuous action of her free leg.

Botox, begone! So this is another one of those “doh!” moments. I’ve been having those a lot lately–I can’t believe all these basic ideas that I’ve been missing.

In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, the imperious Lady Bracknell says that “Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone.”

Okay, my bloom is gone; I feel like I’ve definitely bitten into the apple of skating knowledge. Here are some other bits of knowledge I’ve been working on this week:

  • Three turns (getting better!) isolating core rotation and timing this rotation better with the rise on the knee; tension on free side (free foot is pointed, then heel comes down to allow body to become more erect).
  • My favorite! Back cross, edge pull change (turn free foot in, lean back into free foot, don’t let hips go out); these are getting super fun.
  • My “creepers” (no longer so creepy, even on the left side): three turn, change edge exercise, don’t let hips go out, head in correct direction. I’m liking this one too!
  • Foxtrot/tango open mohawks (first foot starts to turn, don’t let it scoot around, feet change underneath you, shoulders stay the same, new foot feels like it gets placed way underneath you).

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 “No botox! Oppositional muscle tension

  1. The Botox term is hilarious! What a fun way to describe stiffness in the body. My skating BFF has often been told to act like a wet noodle to loosen up. 🙂


  2. Caught between botox and a wet noodle–I love it!


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