jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Get back, Jojo


So I tried my best “oh woe is me I have new blades and can’t really skate” excuse with Ari on my lesson today, and for a while it I thought it just might work. After all, I can be quite pitiful when I want to be.

We started the lesson with some basic forward and back progressives in a circle. I felt pretty strong on the forward progressives, even with the inevitable adjustments: turn out the free foot more, sternum over the blade, make sure you are really on an edge. We worked on posture (drawing the upper body and head up to create space for the hips), bending the knee forward of the toe, articulating my ankles, and really leaning in the direction of the free foot.

I suggested that we use the pole harness for back progressives, but Ari willfully assumed that I was just kidding so I had to just do them unassisted. Lots of adjustments needed here. I am not quite on the right part of the blade yet, especially on the left side. My weight tends to sneak up towards the balls of my feet, which makes me pitch forward.

There are other things that would help these back progressives, like making sure my forward arm is lower than my back arm. Or allowing my new foot to contact the ice and then drawing it in underneath me before I transfer my weight, instead to just stepping down.

As soon as the back progressives looked a little better (or maybe he’d just had enough), Ari was ready to move on. I thought we might try some swing rolls or something equally basic. Instead, Ari said, “Show me a Kilian choctaw.”

OMG. It’s been a long time since the name of any compulsory dance has passed his lips during one of my lessons.

Hearing that, I just went ahead and did an end pattern (though I’m always confused as to whether steps 5 -14 actually count as an end pattern). And since going through the motions of the Kilian has become my skating equivalent of doodling, the choctaw itself was not half bad.

What needed major reforms were the steps leading into the choctaw. I have been doing something akin to contortionism on these edges.


If you look at this video of Maya Usova doing choctaws, you’ll see these different positions in action.

Steps 5- 7 (Maya 32-33 seconds in) progressive. Arms/torso in neutral.

Step 8 (Maya 35) cross in front. Left arm in front and torso turned clockwise. Free foot comes in behind at what feels like an acute angle but is really parallel.

Warning: Among other bad things, I have been letting my left hip open up and get stuck behind my right.  To get in the correct position, I have to lift out of my hips, and feel as though my left hip is actually leading the circle, even though I am on my right outside edge. I also have to allow that right thigh to move inwards against the clockwise rotation of the torso–now that I know how to engage my adductors, this is less mystifying than it sounds.

Step 9 (Maya 36) inside edge. The left inside edge is placed beside the right, not behind it; right foot slides out in front. Left arm is still in front and torso turned clockwise; belly button towards inside of circle.

If I do all this, I can much more easily and immediately get on a solid left inside edge. Then the choctaw is relatively easy peasy (I just have to remember to do a weight shift towards my left hip on the outside edge coming out–see Maya at 37 seconds.)

Of course, Ari wants this sequence in both directions: “Ice dancers do things in both directions” (nyah nyah nyah nyah). So it’s time to work on reverse Kilians, which I have tried before. This will be my secret weapon, at least in my dreams.

The new blades have made this an exciting week. I am really jazzed to be working on steps of the Kilian again, as well as to get some insights into basics. One big thing to remember, which Ari underscored at the end of the lesson, is that I must get my weight on the correct part of the blade. This is really important, especially since on my new blades there are dire consequences for being on the wrong part of the blade.

By dire consequences I don’t just mean annoying scratchy sounds or a slight bobble here and there. I mean the kind of ungainly maneuvering for balance. Even worse, it can lead to Pain. Not the psychic pain that can lead to an existential crisis (“Why ice dance? Even when you get better at it, you just keep going around in circles?”) I scoff at that kind of pain most of the time, except when I’m feeling particularly down in the dumps. But I mean actual Pain, as in the pain in my left knee and foot, which went beyond the merely annoying to the noteworthy and Advil-worthy phase this week.

I haven’t had this kind of Pain in a while, so I attribute it to the new blades, which don’t let me get away with much. It may have been all that walking I did over the holidays as well. The knee pain is going away, but I am more concerned about the foot pain, which I worry might be a recurrence of my tendonosis/tendonitis. I wrote a post about this around a year ago, though I think I misidentified the affected tendon. I’m pretty sure have posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, which affects the tendon that runs from the calf to the bones of the inner foot.


At any rate, I have been working on strengthening exercises for the foot as well as continuing to work on better alignment overall. Hopefully getting back on my blade will help this.

Here’s a Beatles favorite to underscore this.

Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back Jojo. Go home.


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 “Get back, Jojo

  1. Oh no – I am sad to hear about the pain! And of course your coach wants you to do the elements on both sides. Seems like we always hear that line, huh? Hope your pain subsides soon and that you are able to get those Killian moves soon!


  2. Thanks for the sympathy, Eva. My aim is to get pain free in the next few weeks. Hope you’re back to feeling pretty good this week too!


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