Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kate: Testing, Testing...

Sit down, five readers, and grab yourself a drink. Miss Kate is gonna teach you about test levels today. See, Candice and I are veeeery slowly preparing to start attempting figure skating tests, as I mentioned a couple of entries ago. I'm sure some of you are thinking "tests? What are they going to test you guys on? Falling? A+!". Well, there are two test tracks, one for the young whippersnappers who have Olympic dreams, and one for old people who just want to compete in stuff with other old people and have some fun. OBVIOUSLY, we are in group two.

The lowest level of the adult test track is called "Pre-Bronze". It consists of two parts, "Moves in the Field" and "Freestyle". We are working on things for both, but we have to pass "Moves in the Field" to move on to "Freestyle". With MitF, we basically have to show we can skate several patterns, some of which I have discussed before. This part used to include tracing figures on the ice, which is where the term "figure skating" comes from. History lesson! You're welcome! Freestyle is just showing we can do basic elements - spins, basic jumps, and a lunge or spiral. The first test is not that difficult, but we are going to have to buckle down if we want to actually pass it. I confess I've been a bit lax recently with my practicing.

After we pass pre-bronze, the next levels are Bronze, Silver, and someday when we are super awesome skaters, Gold. I'm not even going to explain what those test ask us to do, because I don't want to depress myself too much. It would be very cool to start passing tests and competing soon, though.

So! There you go! A quick lesson on wtf we are talking about when we mention "testing".

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Candice: Like unto a child

I think that means what I want it to mean. What I want it to mean is figure skating turns me into a child. And I don't mean that in the "the magic of Christmas connects children ages of one to ninety-two" way. I don't mean that each time I step onto the ice I am overwhelmed by the magic of figure skating.

I mean that I feel like a baby that doesn't know how to do anything.

For me the worst thing about becoming an adult figure skater is getting onto the ice and thinking "Okay. I'm going to try practicing a one foot spin, but I'm going to take it slow and easy to start" only to look up and see an eight-year-old practicing a sit spin with a change in position. It's an odd feeling to be outclassed by someone that doesn't know how to drive, pair wine with food, and is not allowed to touch the stove if their parents aren't home, and not one that I particularly enjoy.

Recently my new coach had Kate and I go back to the basics because, frankly, I'd been a little "Fuck the basics" lately. Mastering things takes time (who knew?) but doing something once means I can cross something off the list. My learning philosophy had sort of become a bit too "So who cares if I can only do a right outside three turn only about 20% of the time? I did it. Let's move on to inside three turns, please."

But instead of indulging this impulse our coach had us try to do Basic 1 and 2 moves as fast as possible. "Let's see how fast you can do swizzles and then backwards swizzles," she said, asking us to skate forward about half of the rink forward and then back. The answer to how fast we could go was (not surprisingly) not very fast at all. I hadn't done a swizzle since... I don't even know, maybe June. Why? Because swizzles are LAME and look nothing at all like a double toe loop jump all the eight to fourteen year-olds are practicing.

That's right. I wouldn't practice swizzles because I was embarrassed to be a twenty-six year old woman practicing swizzles in front of kids who learned swizzles when they were five. But you know what's more embarrassing than having an eight year old sneer at you? Having your coach bust you back down to four months ago.

This valuable lesson learned, the next day I went to the rink, put in some earbuds, and turned on my iPod. I haven't skated much to my own music because I was afraid it would distract me to the point that I accidentally hit someone while skating (my worst nightmare!). In actuality it's not that distracting. I could see and sense the eight-year-olds and hockey skaters but also ignore them as I spent maybe twenty minutes practicing forward crossovers in a serpentine pattern, just doing them over and over again.

I realized that my left over right crossovers were very weak and uncomfortable. My right leg is stronger than it was back at the start of all this, but still a bit leery of holding deep edges. As a result when doing forward crossovers I looked more like I'm tripping than anything else. Not cute, but it's getting better. I also rediscovered the joy of slaloms. It's actually only a bonus that I now feel more confident doing slaloms much faster now because they are a nice way to surreptitiously shake my booty as I listen to Gaga's Pokerface and imagine I am Johnny Weir.

There's also the matter of stroking. Kate has been lovely enough to define and complain about stroking so that I could pretend it doesn't exist. It's supposed to be this graceful, extended way of moving across the ice but when I do it looks like "LURCH into position, hold uncomfortably, LURCH into second position, hold uncomfortably, repeat." Again it is embarrassment holding me back. Stroking is a massively fruity way of moving across the ice. And I have to do it while guys in hockey skates zip around me, furiously fast and with no wasted movement. It's like I'm trying to do ballet leaps across a field while a cross country runner is passing me and saying, "Excuse me. Actually running here..." Instead of going whole hog, I usually tried to hedge my bets by doing it as secretively as possible. Of course this means I am really bad it, fruity ways of moving usually need more commitment in order to seem awesome. Not less. But again the iPod helps me to want to practice stroking more by providing more appropriate music to "float" to instead of Blink 182.

My reward for getting back to the basics was a lesson centering around jumps and a footwork sequence. I'm so excited about the footwork sequence I'm actually having trouble creating a blog post around beyond "OMG YOU GUYS! I'M GONNA BE STEPHANE LAMBIEL." I'll get back to you all when I can calm down about it, though, I promise.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Candice: My wildly unpopular opinion

Layback Ina Bauers are boring.

There, I said it. I'm sorry. I know that everyone in the world prefers to watch female skaters instead of male skaters and everyone is in love with the way women just float across the ice, like little angels in chiffon or whatever. But frankly a Layback Ina Bauer looks like the skater passed out on the ice, but the forward momentum she had before she lost consciousness keeps her moving.

Layback Ina Bauer
(source: Getty Images)

(Please note: I think Shizuka Arakawa is amazing. Even though that is in fact her signature move.)

In general people will actually look mildly shocked when I say that I would prefer to watch mens single skaters over female singles skaters any day. But every time I have confessed my opinion about the Ina Bauer move to a lifelong skater I generally get a polite, but unmistakable "Who farted?" face. And that is not an exaggeration. Three people have done it. Maybe because places like declares "[a]n Ina Bauer is considered one of the most beautiful moves in figure skating." Too bad. Because I still I hate them.

You know what I do love? Spinning. Look I brought examples!

Stephane Lambiel is the Master of Spins. Please ignore the lame moniker because it's true. I love him, and not just because he's like the handsome European prince I used to dream would find me at school and take me away to a world of ball gowns, Rolls-Royces and waving politely at the commoners. ...Ahem.

I also love him because he can actually evince emotion while spinning like a top. His spins are wonderfully fast, centered, and stable but he still puts the effort in to striking meaningful positions, and holding his hands in such a way that it's less about the fireworks and more about the beauty of the spin. (Clip is set to start about 5 seconds before the spin):

Stephane is my favorite spinner, but of course ladies can spin, too! And how. Mirai Nagasu is an amazing spinner. And so bendy! In this clip she does two very solid sit spin positions, and then launches into a layback spin so fast and flexible it takes my breath away (also set start right at the spin).

In 2009 the Nebelhorn Trophy Gala found itself with two famous spinners, Stephane Lambiel and Alissa Czisny so they decided to have a "spin off." Literally. In essence, they are SPIN DANCE fighting. Alissa hits more poses, but Stephane beats her for speed and endurance:

If you really want to do things completely you should google/youtube Lucinda Ruh. To hear Crotchety Uncle Dick Button tell it Lucinda Ruh was the single greatest spinner ever. She used to spin both directions, in the snow, everyday at 4am before she had to milk the cows, or whatever. (No really, she's great.)

And lord but do I have more examples, (Stephane's near minute long spin in one of his old exhibition programs, the amazing speed and energy of his spin in his William Tell competitive program, Plushenko's Beillmann spins, Adam Rippon's lovely donut spin from the 2010 World's, and the glory that is side by side camel spins in pair's skating) but I don't want to overwhelm you. I think I've made my point abundantly clear anyway.

Ladies' skating: Quit hitting the snooze button in the middle of your programs and gimme some razzle dazzle.

Kate: Punished for Arrogance

We have started our fourth round of skating classes. I've been practicing three-turns like mad, ready to show off my skills to our teacher, Miss Jen. At the same I was also trying mohawks, which are two foot turns on the same edge that continues along the same lobe, but I need a lot more help with those. I did finally master three-turns on both feet, but mohawks remained elusive. I not only managed to complete the turn, I even held the backwards edge!

This very exciting for two reasons - 1) I have detailed why I have trouble with backwards edges on this blog, so actually holding one was awesome and 2) I broke my left foot in May of '09 and to this day I have problems with pain. Getting ol' Lefty to do something correctly was awesome!

So. We get to class. We had a new teacher who we had met once before, when she subbed in our class months ago. This was a bummer because she doesn't really know us or how far we had come, but she's really nice and a good teacher, so whatever. THEN. My three turns ended up being heinous. Awful. THE WORST. I could not freaking get them. Everything else I tried, I blew at, including spins as well. So sad!

And THEN. In the last minute of class I decided "Fuck it. I'm gonna do a mohawk." You know, the element I can't quite seem to get the hang of? Ever. I did the turn, I went straight down onto the ice onto my left hip. Did I mention the eight year olds shooting around us clamoring for their class? They were right there to see my collapse. Luckily, it wasn't even a quarter as bad as my nasty fall a few weeks ago. It was just embarrassing.

So! I got cranky, and then I got cocky, and I was punished for arrogance. The end, a story by Kate.