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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

- transition

Are your transitions just how you get from one element to the next? Or are your elements those pieces of the requirements that you squeeze in-between your transitions? Most likely (and especially for a beginning skater) it's the former: the transitions are how you get from element 1 to element 2.

For the artistic expression of a musical piece however this presents somewhat of an issue, springing from the culture of how skating is taught. You learn a scratch spin, you learn a waltz jump, you learn a toe loop. Then you glue them all together with some transitions in cadence with your music. When it comes time to put together your program you and your coach think "what is a good move to do with the music /here/" and then the next, et cetera. So your program ends up as a bunch of separate moves glued together.

Ideally for the music however, the transitions and the elements blend together into an expressive piece of movement. The transitions can have an underlying thematic element to themselves. The can suggest a growing sense of urgency, or a crescendoing of artistic complexity. Or you can present the transitions as a consistent counterpoint to the mood within the elements. The transitions can be suggestive of how the elements might relate to one another. Your transitions can create an illusion of place, a sense of theme that ties into a storyline of the music. Transitions can even be suggestive of one another, playing off of each other.

When you build a program from the other end, from the point of view of "flow," certain moves will more naturally flow into others. Then the transitions serve a more practical purpose. They help you "set up" for your next element, in terms of body position, momentum, and posture. They also provide signaling to the audience as to where you're heading, both in terms of what is coming up in the next element but also where you are leading them emotionally through your theme. You can also view your transitions as the punctuation, the parenthesis that highlight or otherwise set apart your elements (you can use this approach gently but if you overdo it it quickly becomes rather crass).

Your transitions shouldn't be such a big mishmash of variety to confuse the audience. You want to establish some baseline for a sense of place or style. You should manage the beat (or pulse), accent (or stress), and tempo (or pace) of your transitions to avoid a random affair. You also need to consider the perspective of the audience viewing your transitions: who are you playing to? Is it bad form to play to both sides of the rink?

In whole, your transitions serve as a binding and connecting mechanism that expresses a theme. Even though your transitions seem to be interspersed amongst your elements (or vice versa) they get perceived as a continuous expression of a dynamically planned flow. It is even possible for the net effect of your transitions to have a storyline and a gentle reveal unto themselves.

That's not to say that all of your transitionsal patterns should be alike. Keep a theme within a certain program, but it's perfectly fine (and perhaps even more professional) to use entirely different thematic transitions in each of your separate programs.

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