jo skates

Skating in the key of life


Oh, so that’s how it goes!

Now that there is a movement afoot to allow skaters to choose their own music for compulsory dances (hooray!), I have been thinking about all kinds of possibilities. I am just starting to think about music for the Kilian.

It’s a little fast (or maybe it’s just that my skating is a little slow) but I’m thinking maybe George Ezra’s “Budapest.” It’s upbeat, it’s steady, and it’s repetitive without being annoying. And it’s catchy as a song can be.

The only issue is that it is hard to understand what the song is actually saying, as evidenced by this adorable video that shows schoolchildren trying to figure this song out.

Honestly, I was like that about the Kilian. For the longest time, I couldn’t really figure out how this compulsory ice dance worked, even though it has long fascinated me. I remember watching my first ice dance coach (Eric of the neat feet and precise edges) solo this dance, and thinking “Wow, I can’t wait until I can do that!”

Since then, I’ve watched countless good skaters do the Kilian, and each time as they move proudly through the two-beat edges, sail through that choctaw, and move smoothly (like buttah!) through that “barrel roll” (continuous rotation of shoulders) afterwards, I still think “Wow, I can’t wait until I can do that!”

I’ve had some great lessons on it, and pored over the instructional videos. I’ve even (get this!) done this dance in competition (luckily, my partner lived).

Still, up until fairly recently I felt like the Kilian was beyond me. Something was always off, and I would fix one edge only to lose another. I felt like I was always holding my breath through the choctaw section; after a couple of times around the rink I’d be oxygen-deprived. (And there were six patterns required for competition, arghhh!)

I think the basic issue had to do with my mistaken assumption that learning compulsory dances was all about executing a series of steps, rather than thinking about how one might use these steps to express something else.

I can’t resist quoting the legendary Mr. Howard here, who says that the problem with many young musicians is that all they want to do is learn to play repertoire, when what they should be doing is learning to play the cello. Once you’ve done your homework trying to master technique, working on repertoire is like dessert.

So I’ve been working hard on technique for a little over a year now, and now I’m ready for some dessert. This means giving some more time and energy to the compulsories again.

The Kilian should be a good touchstone by which to judge whether my edge quality, body position, speed, lean, and flow have improved enough so that some expression (other than fear, dread, and loathing) is actually possible.

My aim is not only to get through the Kilian, but to do the Kilian, “that light lively march.” (Next step is maybe to learn to ooze the Blues, but first things first). I want to be like the little girl at the end of that video who knows all about Budapest. And Hungary. Confident, eager, happy.

We should all have a little bit of Hermione Granger in us. Someday I’ll be at a social dance and the Kilian will come on and rather than sinking into a corner I’ll be thinking, “Pick me, oh, pick me!”

Until then, just sing along with me (if you can figure out what he’s saying!)

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away