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, December 2, 2015

- drama

There's something to be said about skating with the appropriate amount of drama. When I watch a program two aspects roll forefront: first, do your skills concur with the dramatic pitch and amplitude displayed by the music? Second, are you immersed or are you distracted? The first question is a matter of choreo, but the second is fully psychological.

Skating music spans the spectrum of the dramatic canon. You have the serene and pastoral up through the Wagnerian explosive, with all sorts of side detours through frivolous, demonstrative, and vernacular. Most skaters like to blend variability into their program with some edits across musical phrases (usually within the same oeuvre, but sometimes across) so they can demonstrate a command of different styles.

Be careful you can actually affirm the drama depicted in the music though. You can fault either way here: you can be overly expressive beyond what the music requires, which make you look fey. Or you can choose music far exceeding your stagecraft, which makes you look vacuous. This is tough to judge on your own though and is where the opinions of your coach (and perhaps some close skating friends or one of your parents) can come in handy. Do you really know how well you project to the audience, and the limit of your thespian abilities?

Once you've got your program music selected and edited together you're going to pretty much be committed to it for half a season (or more). This is where the second challenge arises: being able to consistently express the feelings of the piece. It sounds wonderful when you first select it, and then more amazing when you slip your fresh CD into the rink's sound system and skate for the first couple times. Maybe even a bit overwhelming. Recognize as you put your elements and timings together to match the music, you will be listening to this program around 500 times. Yes, am I close?

Most of this listening happens during freestyles with nobody watching but a few other skaters and maybe a parent or two. Does it make sense to "act it up" during practice? I'm asking here, I don't have an opinion or answer for you. The issue of course is you need to get up to speed on the dramatic portrayal but you certainly don't want to burn out. Let me see what my skating daughter thinks about this matter (her reply below).

When you're skating your music at an exhibition or competition though, it's important to stay in the zone of caricature. Not just for the dramatic effect for the audience, but also because we don't want you so distracted and focused by your own skating thoughts that you overthink and defeat your muscle memory.

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Hi Dad. I felt the need to “act it up” in practice several times before a competition. First though I had to reasonably execute the choreography and transitions from a technical standpoint. I say “reasonably” because it seemed like the choreography and transitions were so challenging that I usually didn’t have them fully mastered at the first competition of the season.

When my program practice would just barely begin to come together, that was around the time I’d start skating the program like it was a competition (on days when I had the energy and wherewithal to do it). Simulating competition as close as possible made me feel more prepared on the day of the competition, and feeling prepared was a must. This meant both mental and physical simulation (not just the movements of the program but also clothing -- this included skating without gloves when doing a full run through).

I don’t recall ever getting burnt out on a program, but that may be because of all the different elements to practice. I remember practicing the elements of a program (e.g., a particular jumping pass, or difficult footwork) more frequently than the whole program with expression and all.

Of course these were just my experiences. Would be interested in hearing other skater’s thoughts and experiences.

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