jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Woof, I got this!


I’ve never been all that confident about my sense of spatial awareness. In grade school we had to take a number of aptitude tests, and I remember getting less-than-impressive scores on those tests in which the main task was to guess how imaginary paper cutouts would fold into imaginary boxes.

Luckily I managed to get through school regardless, and am now working in a profession in which this is not a requirement. (The only placement I worry about on a regular basis is where to put the comma.) And I still like origami, by the way, although making those jumping frogs is probably the best I can do these days.

So in the past I have never been crazy about the “pattern” aspect of “pattern” ice dances (though the term “compulsory” sounds even worse, like something they could paddle you for not doing correctly).

Another confession: I could never really follow the strategies behind soccer. You know, when the coach draws little arrows and circles and x’s to indicate how the play is going to go. Send the ball here! Send the ball there! To me, it just looked like a bunch of running after a rather unpredictable ball. And kicking, yes, there’s kicking.

But the times they are a-changing. I am rethinking my spatial sensibilities for the positive this week as Doug and I are working on the foxtrot, silver (Harris) tango, and paso doble. Who says you can’t teach an old dog!

That does not mean that I am now doing rulebook-ready patterns. Not even close, in some cases. But it does mean that I am able (a) to understand better why these patterns are laid out in the ways that they are, and (b) to look at an ice dance pattern on paper and imagine myself moving on the ice.

The secret is to think of the pattern as a way of distributing energy around the different lobes. This sounds quite mystical, but really what it means is that the pattern helps regularize the edges so that pushes, knee/ankle bends, and applications of force happen steadily all along the dance, rather than being concentrated at certain moments.

This is what distinguishes ice dance from free skating, in which some of the edges are in preparation for a jump or spin. Rather than using crossovers or preparation edges to gear up for a particular move, the edges are featured in and of themselves. So I am no longer thinking of pushing myself through or along an established pattern. Rather, the movement is the pattern: I can develop, expand or contract parts of my pattern rather than always trying to trace some set of ideal imaginary lines with my skates.

I’m going to post a few lesson notes after each of the patterns.



  • Placement of cross-behind along the boards.
  • Man’s three is easier if both people lean correctly.
  • Lady’s cross three happens going back towards the boards.
  • Lead the back progressive along the boards and down the rink: open it up!
  • Mohawk at the top of the lobe.


  • Nice big lobes. Remember placement of circles (change of lean happen in the first two cross steps).
  • More articulation and sharp movement (Ari likes down up down.)
  • Tracking/partnering on man’s rocker.
  • My cross three will be easier if I actually bend my skating leg and push, rather than trying to kick through with my free side.
  • Swing roll (think of this as diagonal, not pulled around).
  • Articulation on that inverted progressive. And on the swing before the mohawk.
  • The mohawk happens on a steep uphill, not on a diagonal across the ice. Again, go for down up down.

PasoDobleWomen.jpgPaso Doble:

  • Make sure you skate down into the ice to generate more power and grip.
  • Partner hold more side to side. I have to make my arms/shoulders into a kind of spring.
  • The man has a challenging set of moves involving the torso and arms on that change of edge in the breakout.
  • I have to lead the pattern much more openly first towards the boards and through the change of edge.

More on these dances and other (alignment) issues to come!

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 “Woof, I got this!

  1. Ice dancers make those complicated steps SO easy! Meanwhile, I struggle to do a real chocktaw. 🙂


  2. Some ice dancers definitely do make it look easy, Eva. Me, not so much. Especially on choctaws!


  3. Doesn’t compulsories sound just dreadful? You nailed it there. I’m jelly about the dances you’re working on though! I hope to get back to the foxtrot, have never worked on the others you are learning. If you’re competing this year you must be down to business on all three!


  4. Thanks, Mary! Once you’re back in the game we’ll trade foxtrot tips. I hope you are doing better!


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