jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Lean in!


So yesterday at my lesson we worked on two exercises.

One was something I had done before: swing roll, change edge, inside mohawk, rise and hold, then back outside, step forward. I am still doing choctaws on my left side (part of my aversion to the left forward inside edge), so I have to make sure I really do the change over to an inside edge before the mohawk. Then if I bend both knees and think of a first-position plié in mid-stream, the mohawk is easy peasy. Another refinement (I was going to say “correction,” but refinement feels more positive) is to make the back outside and step forward short; this emphasizes these as pushing steps. Ari does a push back on the back outside, which helps.

I also got a new exercise: forward outside, forward inside (first two steps of a progressive), change inside to outside, chassé and repeat in other direction. This is a good one to practice the rise and bend of the knee to facilitate changes of edge, and of course to make sure I don’t pitch forward. (Kari caught me doing the bobbing bird on this one towards the end of the session! Oh no!)

On the second exercise, Ari pointed out something that I need to work on: lean. He said that instead of really leaning into the circle and getting the advantage of that extra oomph (my technical term, not his), I was doing the ol’ familiar thing: just trying to stack up the parts of my body in some semblance of balance. So my task in the coming weeks is to work on my lean.

I found a basic skating book that talks about this very thing: Karin Künzle-Watson’s Ice Skating: Steps to Success (gotta love that title, so positive!). Künzle-Watson talks about what she calls “body-box rotation”; if you picture your torso as being a rectangle, and then rotate the entire box (not just the shoulders) into the circle you are making, it creates opportunity for a greater lean.

This allows you to concentrate the centrifugal force created by skating a curve directly onto the edge of the blade. it also allows you to obtain a steeper angle of the blade relative to the ice and a longer leg extension with each push.

This is related to Laurie’s idea of “hugging the ball” or Ari’s comparison with a turning bicycle. Leaning in means that your body is no longer really over your skate. This is relatively easy to see in the way that skating photos always look a little bit skewed.

Again, here’s Künzle-Watson:

With rotation of your body-box, the center of your sternum shifts from being directly over your skating foot to a point inside the curve being skated. This shift in the relationship of your sternum to your skating foot in combination with body box rotation when skating on a curve is the fourth basic principle of skating, which we call the “medallion principle” . . . . The distance between the skate and the point within the curve will vary depending on the speed and size of the curve. With faster speeds and tighter curves, the lean into the circle will be greater. To help understand this principle, imagine a medallion hanging around your neck. If you lean to the inside of the curve, the medallion would hang free and point to the spot on the ice alongside the skating foot, directly under your sternum.

So if you see me out on the ice with a huge medallion on, it’s because I’ve decided that my imagination is inadequate and I need a little extra help here. Of course, I have lots of other help, like coaches supreme Laurie and Ari, plus friends like Kari who have become my bobbing-bird police!

It’s become a corporate cliché now, but I prefer the skating version: lean in!

And speaking of someone with a mean lean, here’s me and Kristen, who just passed her Cha Cha Congelado.


Kristen is ready for the Silver Samba and the Tango Romantica!

The Cha Cha Congelado is an International-level compulsory (abbreviated as CCC: Crazy Cool Compulsory). Wicked impressive, Kristen! For those of you who’ve never seen it, here’s the video:

If you watch this enough times and you’re really sleepy, you can just see those medallions hanging inside the curves!

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 “Lean in!

  1. The lean in skating freaks me out when I try it. I am afraid that I will wipe out!!


  2. If you can do that great axel, Eva, you can lean in! I know you can!


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