I’ve gotten a peek behind the scenes at the U.S. Nationals, and it’s been really fun. Seeing well-known national competitors past and present backstage has been a thrill. I even ran into Richard Dwyer coming out of the elevator, to a chorus of “We love you, Mr. Debonair!”)
In addition to celebrity sightings, I also have spent quite a bit of time watching some really good skaters practice this past week. Hopefully, some of it will rub off through osmosis, though I’m pretty sure that’s a different physical process. So in case that doesn’t work, I have a list of random insights from watching competitions and practices.
- Alignment. You can really tell who is just kinda over their skates and who is most excellently positioned over their blades. It’s good to know that I have been on the right track as far as identifying and tackling these issues.
- Arms. There is using your arms intentionally in an expressive manner, and there is waving them around, which is less effective. Both are preferable, though, to wild and unbalanced flailing (which, y’know, I really need to stop doing).
- Music. I was talking with Fran, another volunteer who does a lot of skating music at various competitions. We agreed that certain pieces (especially one that have already been used for memorable programs at the international level) should definitely be retired from these competitions. Also, certain of the more grandiose orchestrations tend to overwhelm skaters. I prefer some of the music that doesn’t upstage the skating; I heard a number of tracks with solo instruments (clarinet, violin, voice) that worked very nicely in singles freestyle. And no matter what the music is, an ill-timed cut really spoils a program.
- Costumes. Some of the other volunteers and I had a discussion about whether or not feathers have been banned as part of the trimming on skating outfits. I picked up a number of sequins off the ice during my ice maintenance shifts; feathers embedded in the ice would definitely be worse. At any rate, I don’t think feathers necessarily look all that good; Oksana Baiul notwithstanding, I have trouble imagining the bird-thing working for most skaters.
- Hair. Okay, I have to say one thing about hair in the men’s events. I am not of the school that says that skaters have to have perfect hair. In fact, I sort of like the idea that these are performing athletes, not runway models. But male skaters can’t rely on gel to keep their thick longish in-vogue locks under control. When they skate backwards, they run the risk of having their hair pooch up like Mike Score from A Flock of Seagulls. Not the best look when you are going in for that triple lutz!
- Pairs. I’ve decided that the most nerve-wracking thing is watching some of the pairs practices. There are five or six of those teams out there at a time tossing one another all over the place and practically running each other over. They are all wearing black in practice, which has to make them look scarier. None of the pairs teams I saw actually collided, though I did see a near-collision in ice dance practice.
- Quiet ice dancers. The best teams did not make any unnecessary sound with their blades. You could hear their edges sometimes, but most of the time the blades were whisper-quiet. Those ice dancers are stealthy! They could sneak up on you in a dark ice-filled alley, pull out their blades, and whompf! the evil deed would be done and no one would know.
- Speed. Everyone is skating fast. All levels. But the best skaters make it look effortless.
I am going back to watch the finals of Senior Pairs and Dance tomorrow, my last set of events. I wish I could just hang out there day and night but there’s a lot going on at work and home. I’ll just share a few pictures for now.