This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

- hands

Skating embraces pretty much your entire mind and body. During practice the physical focus is on your legs, ankles, feet, and body core; during program development your focus likely switches to the mental aspects such as timing, expressiveness, flow, and grace.  Well and trying to remember how the whole thing fits together. You probably spend most of your time though primarily thinking about your feet, ankles, boots, blades, and everything down at that end. Okay fine.

So what about those extremities three quarters of the way up that stick out to your sides? Hands! What do they have to do with skating? Can you visualize any other sport that is *less* dependent on hands? Okay, soccer. Anything else? Nope. And yet your hands /do/ play a role in figure skating, mostly for expressiveness and grace.

If feet are the sport's skill, then hands are its suave. And like shoes and socks, skill and grace compliment each other so significantly that it's bombastic to have one without the other. When you have to watch an athletically accomplished skater perform a routine without any thought about her hands it's like catching a Ferrari race down the street caked in mud. You don't have the whole package until you've got the hands.

Hands and feet operate in different universes on different time scales.  Much like a pianist plays a separate rhythm with the left and right hands, your feet and hands need to be able to operate independently. Whereas the feet become fully fixated on the variable speed execution of elements, the hands need to flow continuously throughout the expressiveness of your program's music. It's a left brain right brain sort of thing. Or maybe a front brain back brain sort of thing.

Hands should portray the story of the music. A fine line though separates telling the story from overselling it. Hand use in skating is like that Ferrari design: sure it needs to be both impressive and well thought through, but the suggestion of expense is better than outlandishness. No need for diamonds around the license plate on your Ferrari, sweetie. And with your hands the key concept is to be symbolic rather than to overtly describe.

Unless you are deliberately striving to be outrageously over-the-top, you want your fashionable hands to be appropriately understated. Yet as in choosing the car you drive, how you present your hands may depend strongly on your personal viewpoints and yield for whether you favor a demure versus a sparkling approach. I've always felt you should cultivate somewhat lyrical hands, but not necessarily hula-Hawaiian expressive. Your target should be slightly less than fully lyrical hands.

Finally, suggestiveness works best when unbroken. Continuous hand fluidity is quite a challenge, but it demonstrates real polish if you can retain your hand postures between elements and upon exits. A practiced skater lets her hands flow continuously sub-lyrically throughout her whole story.

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