jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Labors of love


Sometimes I know that the things I do are impossible. For instance, I’m sitting here listening to versions of Guy Wood and Robert Mellin’s 1952 classic song, “My One and Only Love,” trying to determine which one I like the best. I keep thinking it must be John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman in 1963. I love how Coltrane’s plaintive sax does that little repeating pulse on certain notes, while the bass and piano catch him from the back. And then there’s Hartman’s vocal version, just the right blend of smooth and throat-catchingly beautiful.

Then there’s this 1962 version with Ella Fitzgerald singing with the Nelson Riddle orchestra. Lots of things going on in the orchestra (maybe a bit too much for my taste) but Ella’s voice keeps it steady and true.

There’s something really different going on in this 1957 Sarah Vaughan recording. Her amazing voice gives each of those words in the second half of the song a different emotional register. Suddenly the lyrics (which seem quite tame and devotional at first) seem quite wicked. Ooh, Sarah!

And then there’s the sweet cello version that my son just reminded me of.

It seems like all the jazz/popular music greats did versions of this song: Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, George Benson, Stevie Wonder. Recent versions include Danish singer Sinne Eeg, opera diva Renée Fleming, Sting, and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti with singer Paula Cole.

Lucky for me: even if it’s impossible to decide which one is best, it’s still fun to listen to them. It’s “not the triumph but the struggle” these days. I’m trying to keep that in mind, since my skating week has been a-bobble between highs and lows.

So earlier this week I had a lesson with Laurie that felt like another one of those real game-changers. We talked about activating core muscles in opposition to my free leg, so that as I extend there is a corresponding stabilizing action in my free side lower abdomen and hip.

Imagine a stretchy band that extends from the free leg extension across the front of the pelvis and then is anchored in the back. As the free leg stretches back and extends, the muscles in the skating side (particularly in the lower abdomen) also contract so that the skating side doesn’t get pulled towards the free leg. abdominal-muscles-diagram

When I first realized that I wasn’t consistently activating those core muscles, I had one of those “oh man!” moments. (Really? After all this time, I’m still not doing this right?) Similarly, on my lesson with Ari I was doing a back inside edge on my left side and he pointed out that I wasn’t actually doing an edge. Pronating my foot (sinking my arch towards the ice) helped me get on an edge, but then I felt way off balance.

So this week has been all about figuring out that I still have a ways to go on these basic moves. I figure I have three choices of how to approach this.

  1. I feel bored and frustrated that I’m not working on anything more challenging, so I give up skating and take voice lessons instead, aiming to make my own recording of “My One and Only Love” (the world can never have too many).
  2. I feel bored and frustrated that I’m not working on anything more challenging, but I continue to skate, knowing that my vocal capacities are limited to more tuneful renditions of early Bob Dylan songs and the Eagles “Hotel California” (just ask my skating friends, they know!).
  3. Having drunken the “happy edge” Kool-Aid, I decide that working on the same basic moves is a bit like singing the same song in different ways. I just have to play them all to figure out which way works best. La la la la.

Lesson notes:

  • loops: really make yourself do a loop, even if you have to do it two-footed. Work on keeping it small and tight through the second part, and changing arms appropriately.
  • alternating outside threes: three at the top of the circle, more speed, better half-circles all the way back to axis.
  •  forward outside three, change edge, back cross, step forward and repeat: push on all those strokes (especially the push under for the crossover), lobes need to curve more, pronate on that left back inside edge and lean into it so you can get a good push into the forward outside three
  • forward outside three, push back, back outside three with foot in back, touch-push to repeat on other side: don’t forget the extension on inside edge after back three
  • mohawk, change edge push back, back-to-front choctaw: use knee bend to really curve the change of edge, the back outside edge and forward inside edge (choctaw)
  • European pattern (woman). Ugh. Like a bad recording from a distant past. Just want to erase it.

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 “Labors of love

  1. Those visuals of the core muscles are so helpful! Your coach Laurie sounds a lot like my ballet teacher. I always think that when I do X, Y or Z, that it is as simple as that. But, it is actually using the core muscles in another area that actually caused X, Y or Z to happen. Sigh.


  2. Yes–sigh…. those muscles are clearly not in constant use. It takes ballet teachers and skating coaches to remind us that we have them at all!


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