jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Power of suggestion


It’s interesting how perception plays a part in movement. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the right outside to left outside closed mohawk. By “a lot,” I mean that the last time I had a lesson on it with Laurie, she didn’t even recognize what I was trying to do. Ack!

This is the mohawk featured in the Silver Tango (also called the Harris Tango). It happens after the swing (which makes it a swing mohawk).

This is a dance I passed years ago; in fact, it was the first silver compulsory dance I passed (and on the first try!). I passed it at the standard level, which meant I did it both solo and with a partner. Not only that, but it was one of the compulsory dances that I did in competition for two entire seasons. So I’ve had a lot of mileage on this turn.

Alas, in the past few years it seems to have taken a turn for the worse. (Okay, bad pun, but I have to laugh about it.)

So yesterday I decided to stop trying to do what I think is this mohawk. Instead, I thought I’d work on it as if it were an entirely new move, one I had never done before. I’ve been watching that video of Alexander Zhulin demonstrating these in the other direction (like in the Rocker Foxtrot), and I thought that I would just call it the “Zhulin.”

And what do you know, it worked. Zhulins in both directions up and down the rink, no problem. I even asked Kari what the outside-outside turn looked like, and she said, “a mohawk.”

No, it’s a Zhulin. A right outside to left outside closed Zhulin.

I’ve also had some success with another idea from Eric Franklin, whose awesome book Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery has been my bedtime reading for about a year (some things can’t be rushed).  Franklin tells us to imagine the heads of our femurs as buoys floating on the water. As we bend and straighten our knees and ankles, or as the leg moves in the hip socket, the buoys move gently up and down in response to the level of the water. The important thing for me (Miss Misaligned) is that they stay at the same level in the water.

Franklin suggests using this buoy idea for the head as well. The difference in using Franklin’s imagery, as opposed to simply saying “hips forward” or “head up,” is that it helps reinforce how movement is continuous and constant, rather than interrupted by sudden changes of position. It is also a positive rather than negative correction. Much better than telling myself not to be a bobbing bird.

Plus it’s fun, being at the cold rink (getting colder, now that it’s September and fall weather is upon us) and imagining a warm summer day out on a boat or at the beach.

The idea of floating in the water works for both gentle and more vigorous movement. This past summer we saw several duck families hanging out by the rocky coastline of Reid Beach State Park in Maine. The waves were quite large for the little ducklings and they would get washed up and pushed down by the action of the water. A few of them would be submerged for a while, but they always popped up looking none the worse for wear.

Lobster trap buoys.

Ducks and ducklings at Reid Beach State Park (Maine).

Ducks and ducklings at Reid Beach State Park (Maine).

It’s a buoy! It’s a duck! No, it’s my femur! Floating through a Zhulin!

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.

4 thoughts on “Power of suggestion

  1. How frustrating to have had the mohawk at the standard level and to have to re-learn it now. I’m still working on the mohawks earlier on in the dance series– right now on the ones in Fourteenstep and Foxtrot. The Fourteenstep one is scary, I’ve gone down on it more than once.


  2. That 14-step mohawk is a killer, especially with regular freestyle blades, and I think the partnering makes it worse. Working on all kind of mohawks out of the context of the compulsory dances (for instance, doing them in exercises in both directions) does help. Calling them Zhulins is good too, but maybe I’ll switch to “Usovas” this week and see if that makes them even better.


  3. I like that you are calling those outside mohawks something different. It’s a great way to trick your mind! My training partner and I do the same thing for our freestyle elements. For example, on an axel, I’ll tell her to do a waltz jump so she remembers to jump up and out. Otherwise, if I say “axel,” she will pre-rotate and flub the jump. It is pretty amazing that renaming an element can make such a big difference!


  4. Wow, that’s amazing that she can hear “waltz jump” and do an axel. My axel would have immediately turned into a waltz jump!


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