jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Swing roll redux


Oh give me a poem ’bout some blades made of chrome
And a rink where the ice skaters play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And my edges are awesome all day!

Home, home, I’m deranged. At least it felt like that earlier this week, after spending most of my lesson working on forward swing rolls yet again.

This was my choice, mind you. I have very patient coaches. Laurie in particular doesn’t complain when I ask to work on the same moves week after week. I think she knows me pretty well by now, and when I get a bee in my bonnet about something, I am determined to see it through.

I have all these memories of stubborn me as a kid, trying to accomplish the near-impossible through sheer force of will. I remember trying to get the car out of the icy driveway by pushing it uphill (both stubborn and stupid), or practicing sustained notes on the clarinet while looking in the bathroom mirror–daily for a solid hour until the rest of my family nearly went insane.

Gee, I hope my coaches don’t go insane. Or roll their eyes so that I can see them (what eye-rolling you can’t see won’t hurt you).

Anyhow, on my swing rolls I am working on being on the correct part of my blade with my hips nicely lifted, maintaining my lean, getting a good S-curve change of edge, bringing my feet together in an inverted “V” (toes in, heels out), and (wait for it. . . ) putting my new foot down on an angled edge almost as if I am going to push under the old one. 

This last idea is because I have been setting my new blade down on a flat too far forward, which means that I don’t transition smoothly to a new edge.

For the record, I also worked on alternating forward three, back three (outside and inside) moves. These are improving, but I am still having to be reminded of basic things, like striking out on an edge without rotating immediately, rotating completely before striking off on the back edge, and transferring my weight fully onto the back edge.

Practices these days are pretty much limited to moves and exercises. I begin with swizzles, stroking, swing rolls, progressives and chassés, and cross rolls. Then I do some of the various turns, back threes, loops, alternating turns, mohawks, choctaws, and twizzles, focusing on whatever new exercise Ari gave me the previous week. I will throw in a few patterns of the Kilian for fun some days, but only if I have time. I find myself spending much of my time just on progressives and swing rolls these days.

After an hour or so on the ice I am totally exhausted, both physically and mentally. What I’m trying to work on is not just getting through these things, but focusing on really foundational things.

  • Engaging the correct muscles (especially glutes) and being lined up correctly (especially hip, knee, and foot).
  • Lifting out of the hip and not dropping the free side.
  • Feeling engaged all the way through the blade (connecting all the way through my skating side).
  • Lean. Always being on a real edge. Maintaining that real edge.
  • Push. Being on an edge immediately (angle of blade, set down).

Sometimes I wonder if I’m making easy things hard, or if these basic things are actually hard. I guess it doesn’t matter: for me, they are hard to do correctly and therefore hard.

I did find a set of blog posts from Jaya Kanal, called “It Figures!” that give a lot of good advice on postural restoration, lift, alignment, and skating. Since much of what I’m discovering is kind of muddled up in this blog, I definitely recommend reading what she writes and watching the videos she includes.

And if you’re sick of hearing me talk about swing rolls, go ahead and roll your eyes. I dare you! Just don’t do it where I can see you.



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 “Swing roll redux

  1. Swing rolls are harder than they look! The elite dancers make them look so easy and effortless!


  2. Yes, they do! And they are going a mile a minute!


  3. Thanks for the heads-up to the “It Figures” blog. As for your practices, mine would be like yours except for two big differences: I’m only out there for half an hour yet, and I’m not doing all the hard stuff you are doing (twizzles, choctaws, etc.). I have done a LOT of swing rolls lately though, and I’m getting much better. On the first line of swing rolls I did some weeks ago I wobbled and came close to falling on my derriere, which as you know I was something I was not supposed to do at that time. I’ve got them down a lot better now. Can’t wait to show them to my dance coach who has been gone for a month.


  4. Glad to know I have good company in swing roll heaven! I hate those wobbles (amazing how much force one can generate in the wrong direction). I can’t wait to hear what your dance coach says–I’m sure it will be positive. I’m also glad you are back on the ice regularly for that half hour–that is a good sign of recovery.


  5. Jaya is a beautiful skater. She used to coach at a rink about an hour from me. I’d forgotten about her blog posts. Well worth rereading. Thanks for the memory tickle!


  6. Glad to have discovered her insights! What fun to hear that you know her–it’s a small skating world after all.


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