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.

Monday, April 27, 2015

- style two

In an earlier post I wrote about skating "style" but upon further reflection that post seems to be more reflective than proactive: it says what makes style and what you should avoid, but it doesn't really give specific guidance for developing your own flair.  So forthwith let's dive into the more positive and generative bezels of obtaining and exhibiting a style.

First the obvious: style is something that you deliberately (and half subconsciously) cultivate. To be able to express it, you first have to be able to recognize it. Some of this inclination may be a hereditary capability to keenly observe the subtleties of movement, fashion, color, and rhythm. Even so, early artistic training can influence a young child to develop sharper artistic sensitivities. The point is not to get your two year old to skate, but rather to show them colorful and nicely designed books, furniture, buildings, artwork, rhythmic music, and flowers. A strong and varied visual cortex may be positively leveraged toward other stylish ends later.

Naturally many young kids watch champion elite skaters on TV and think "oooh I want to look like that," but a person can pick up stylish movements and expressive traits from many other venues besides televised competitions. Cultivating a variety of sources for stylish movement is an important part of broadening your body awareness and projecting style to an audience. Watching people doing ballet, dance (in all its forms), and fashion shows are all excellent sources for movement studies. You must be a keen observer of how people carry themselves, pose, move, and how they project "attitude."

I can't overly stress the importance of variety. At some of the higher end rinks I visit all of the accomplished club skaters are intensely serious and everyone seems to be doing the same moves. It's as if nobody wants to stand out as different or express intense individuality, funk, or eccentricity. This is so wrong, and it kills the fun in the sport. If you are spending so much time at the rink that you are missing out on other cultural activities then you are doing it wrong.

Notwithstanding observing others, you must also be a keen observer of yourself. There is no substitute for watching videos of your own program during practice. Yes you know how it feels, but you need to see how it appears to the judges and people in the audience. Have mom video your practice programs and watch them during a break or on the drive home.

Exactly copying somebody else's attitude won't precisely work: you quickly find that everyone's specific body mechanics and motions are unique to themselves. The trick is to generalize or simplify the motion you like seeing in others and then embellishing it to match your own physical mechanics and capabilities.

As you age into your sport you will find different styles more to your liking than others. Tastes are dynamic: some of the changes are brought about by variations in outside culture and some by your own physical growth and change of mechanics. Observing other's style and reviewing your own is a constant process of reevaluation.

Skating style is a delicate balance between form and concept. Its goal is beauty, grace, balance, and strength, but its creative edge comes from bursting expectations by juxtaposing new materials over old tropes. You don't want to look like somebody else: you want to look like yourself.

(with a shoutout for the spark of this idea to Vogue magazine May 2015)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

- frustratingly connected

World competitions are distinctly different in a peculiar non-intuitive way, from the combined effect of cultural differences and a language barrier. Almost uniformly the skaters both admire their competitors and yet skate completely insulated from one another. Outside of a nod of appreciation or a smile, how else can you get closer to a fellow artist who doesn't speak your language? In a sense all the skaters share is their artwork and a common reverence for how much hard work it requires. The communication gap is frustrating, as they want to say so much to one another about their lives beyond skating. The strange mix of being joined but being insulated is most peculiar.