jo skates

Skating in the key of life



A long long time ago, I used to skate on the same sessions as a senior ice dance competitor. When I wasn’t just standing there slack-jawed watching his incredible edges, Leif and I had a couple of really great conversations about his skating. He told me that ice dancers have to be able to isolate their upper bodies from what their hips and legs are doing, since you are often in some pretty complicated dance holds. I remember he demonstrated by doing a basic pattern of the American waltz or some other pattern dance with his arms and shoulders in every position possible. It was pretty impressive.

I think about that now because these days I am feeling stuck in certain positions. It’s not just my imagination: Laurie pointed out that on certain edges I have my left shoulder raised and my left side hiked up. This is really counterproductive. The more I try to shift my weight into the circle, the higher these parts go, pulling my weight the other way. What’s with that?

So today towards the end of the session I tried another tactic: doing edges and loops while actually dropping my arms to my sides and making sure my shoulders weren’t hiked up. I even thought about my ribcage staying down, which I can actually do now (a few years ago I would never have thought about my ribs as belonging to a workable set of bodily parts). It worked surprisingly well, so I’m going to try this again tomorrow on some of my other elements and exercises. After all, it’s all about trying to do things with proper alignment, not just trying to get through them without falling over.

There is a moment in Scott and Tessa’s “Funny Face” program in which they both do a couple of progressives with their arms down, hand in hand. I realize now that the divine goddess of skating has put that moment in for a reason (along with their lifts and spins and twizzles and footwork and everything else that they do). That reason, of course, is to show me that Leif was right: you don’t need the upper body to dictate those edges.

Funny pictures (move your cursor over picture for captions) to follow lesson notes.

  • outside-outside edges: correct lean, angle of new foot; rockover to inside edge (be careful about circles on right)
  • alternating threes: keep body weight inside circle on outside edge into three
    • complete weight transfer on push onto back inside (allow complete push and drawing in) before three
    • inside forward three, weight inside circle, complete rotation of body to allow new hip to get into proper position before pushing onto back outside edge
    • draw in free foot for back outside three


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.

6 thoughts on “Disarming

  1. Wow – look at those wall stretches! * Applause * Leif is right – we don’t need the upper body for edges and such. And the same holds true for jumps as well. When my jumps go awry, coach takes my arms away. I have to do jumps “in a frame,” on my hips or elsewhere. Those dang arms and shoulders always go in the wrong spot and throw off the entire element. I used to joke that I’d be a much better skater if I could just be placed in a straightjacket so I couldn’t move my upper body. 🙂


  2. “After all, it’s all about trying to do things with proper alignment, not just trying to get through them without falling over.”

    In that sentence you perfectly articulate how I often assess my practice time. Sometimes I feel like I’m really focused on skating skills. I’m concentrating on bending my knees deeper, extending my free leg more, leaning into my ages more consistently. Although I’m clearly trying not to fall, my mind is focused on the skating skills themselves. Sometimes I’m concentrating more on not falling than on how my body is performing. It feels like instead of learning to skate, I’m learning not fall. It may sound weird, but I feel the difference pretty clearly. Learning to skate is so much more satisfying than learning not to fall.


  3. If you feel the difference, you’re halfway there to success! I’m like you, Michelle, totally concentrating on those skills. Hopefully in time my muscles will just follow those patterns and I won’t have to think so hard. Until then, it’s taking up a lot of practice time AND brain space. But you’re right, so satisfying!


  4. I’ve had that same instruction, to take the arms out of an element. It’s really hard! My now retired (and much missed) moves coach used to have me do things like back crossovers with arms relaxed, as in loose and waggling. I hated it! But so good for getting the tension out of the shoulders and learning to rely on your edge.


  5. Loose and waggling is really hard! I feel like all parts of my body are loose and waggling these days sometimes. But not on the ice–that is tension city! Are you back to moves now?


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