Choreography Notes

What makes good choreography? When a skater steps on the ice to perform a program the jumps and spins are the main component on everyone's mind. After all, both judges and random spectators can tell if those are performed to the desired grade of execution. But what about the space between? A program's art is not derived from its jumps and spins, but rather from the quality of skating and interpretation intertwined with the fundamental elements.

Technical expertise can not redeem a program that fails to convey a theme. The theme need not be a story or even a specific emotion, but rather a feeling generated by movement to music that stays consistent throughout the program. Highs and lows are essential, but they need to build the motif. Piecemeal choreography can have moments of brilliance, but ultimately subsumes to chaos.

The music must support this motif as well. Light and airy movement to heavy opera is unsettling and does little go help presentation quality. Thus, not all skaters can skate to all types of music. Some more lyrical skaters lack the fire and extroverted passion to take on Carmen while others should stay away from choreography that depends on sustained movement and flow.

The task of the choreographer is not to reinvent the skater, but rather to find the qualities hidden within. Initial awkward movement does't necessarily mean that a skater can not find a path to grace. I have coached a number of skaters away from stiff movement into meaningful expression through motion.

I do not believe choreography is a strictly physical endeavor. For a skater to successfully interpret the music in a meaningful way, he or she must understand cognitively what is occurring. As I mentioned before, this doses not mean a story must be interpreted, but rather that the skater must mentally understand the motif being presented. In brief, there must be meaning behind movement.

As an example I turn to one of the greatest choreographers of all time. While Ballanchine's choreography sought to convey the beauty of woman in the amphitheater of ballet, his works occasionally felt bereft of any greater meaning. This is not to say his creations were unremarkable. They were revolutionary, but only the select few can pull them off with the proper aplomb to create a sense of ethereal beauty.

Skaters encounter a similar disconnect if the choreography focuses too much on the elements. Perfect jumps and spins are rare and pulling off seven or more perfect triples in competition is unlikely. Thus, if every crescendo requires a flowing jump exit the program is likely to often fall flat. The ideal choreography masks the elements within the program. They become supporting features to the motif, not the main event.

In this manner, the jumps can be woven into the footwork and spiral sequences. At no point should the skater be moving across the ice doing only crossovers. No matter now minute the movement, something interesting should always be happening. Transitions are not to move from jump A to jump B, but rather to connect the choreographic motif from A to B.

The constant movement is an entirely different experience for the skater. With each second of the program now important, the fitness requirement dramatically increases. Skaters must train the jumps and choreography together. Jumps practiced outside the framework of the motif do little to train the muscle memory for performance. This is not to say regular training should not occur. It should, but training segments will lead to better results than merely trying to drop the elements into the choreography at a later point.

A number of these suggestions are already followed by many coaches, but some of the most essential are not. Often the motif is left behind or simply never considered. Programs lacking this cohesion can be good, but they will always fall short of sparking truly great performances. Skaters need appropriate movements for the right reasons. As we go out in the world and create beautiful pieces for our students and ourselves we would do well to member this basic tenant.

Changing Moves, Moving Forward

I imagine a large amount of people may take some offense at my next statement, but I pose it as nothing less than the truth.  The current senior moves in the field, soon to be obsolete come September, could be passed by a well trained chimpanzee. I mean no offense to those who have already passed the moves and absolutely nothing against the chimps.  My point is merely that the current moves require so little edge control that they can be passed by skaters who have skating skills little better than pre-juvenile freeskating.  What do I mean? At pre-juvenile they don’t ask skaters to do anything more than singles jumps, no axel.  Well, the senior moves have the same requirement.  They ask skaters to do a whole series of turns, no edges.

Many find the sustained edge step the hardest in the current senior repertoire.  Indeed, the move is the only one that comes close to requiring edge control.  Even so, all it requires is the most basic change of edge transition, the swing change.  Technically, I feel that a swing change should not actually count as a change of edge skill because the whole body moves to create the end effect and little control is actually needed.  The spirals have nice edges when skaters take risks and really lean into the curve, but the emphasis is on extension.  The power pulls are a nice mix of edge and power when done correctly, but often an overemphasis on either aspect ruins the effect.  Either toe scratching or molasses turns dominate.

The quickstep is the most heinous of them all.  It can be skated beautifully. I grew up watching senior level skaters who competed at the sectional and national level pass the quickstep with a grace and beauty I envied and aspired to have.  They floated through the turns and seemed to dance upon the surface of the ice.  No toepick noises or skids filled the quiet rink, but rather the silence of perfected edges.  These were girls who had taken figures as children.  They understood that edge control trumps speed and power alone.  Going ninety miles an hour across the ice is great, if you are using your edges for acceleration.  If you are not, racing across the ice like a hot poker is on your tail is nothing more than wannnabe speed skating.  Quite frankly speed skates do not have edges, at least not in the traditional sense that involves sharpening and a hollow.  Nor do they have a rocker, the source of all turns in figure skating.  Speed skating is certainly the most efficient way to go forward, but the most disastrous way to figure skate.  Current tests of the quickstep that pass in numerous locations across the country are nothing but glorified speed skating tryouts.  Harsh, maybe.  True, very much so.

So what’s missing?  Why am I so disappointed with the skating skills I see supposed senior level skaters demonstrating? You’ve probably already guessed the answer.  Those all important edges aren’t there to be skidded on, ladies and gentlemen.  No, they are there to be used in every way possible.  A skater must push the limits of his or her edges and see how deep he or she can go while maintaining absolute control.  An ice dance coach of mine once told me she had her boot company shave off the sides of her sole since her edges were so deep they wore away at the leather as she skated.  She’s a world class ice dancer, but the underlying reason for her request should be imitated by all skaters.  If you have deep edge control, sometimes referred to as hydro-blading, you can skate circles around the current senior moves.  Ice dancers have been forced to figure this out quickly due to the challenging nature of their footwork and dance patterns, but until now freestyle skaters have been left out of the loop.

So the new moves fix everything? I have no idea.  They come into play next month and I am excited to see the first intermediate through senior tests.  While I assume standards will be still evolving, I want to see how skaters and coaches deal with increased edge control requirements.  The current senior moves allow a skater to pass without being able to do: twizzles, loops, proper choctaws, change of edge without power pulls and deep edge turns.  I know this is true because when I passed senior moves I could barely do a double twizzle and a backward inside loop seemed impossible. Now, of course, I’ve had a great deal of training in figures and ice dance and those previous shortcomings are my strengths.  The new moves do not fix all these issues, but they are a vast improvement.  Now skaters have to do loops and twizzles in the context of a serpentine footwork sequence.

So here’s to hoping only seasoned figure skaters can pass senior moves and that perhaps all of us will one day ask for our soles to be trimmed pre-purchase.  Until then, let’s head to the rink for some figures training and twizzle our way to skating success.

The Good Old Homegrown Ice Show

Seeing the pros on ice is one thing.  Seeing a family member on the ice is quite another, much more spectacular, event.  The children may only be doing simple forward skating, but parents gushing over the sight of their shining star out on the ice will never be as excited about Michelle Kwan or Jeremy Abbott. The major figure skating club shows usually occur in the spring with an exhibition in the winter months to bring in the holiday season. Various levels of effort are expended to make these showcases occur.  Some rinks practice for months while others only for weeks, but at the end of the day the stands fill with parents and the show begins.

Growing up, I had the privilege to skate in a great ice show. At the time, I had no idea that I was part of something special.  I assumed all ice shows had former national champions as guest skaters and that having two acts full of diverse skating was the norm.  I could not have been more wrong. My show included at least ten group numbers pulled from the Basic Skills 1-6 and Freestyle 1-6 classes.  These numbers were choreographed by the rink coaches and taught to the skaters in the month before the show.  In addition to the group numbers, we also had about ten solos given to skaters with enough charisma and skill to hold the attention of the audience.  This meant the solo skaters were often drawn from the skating pool outside the rink.  Although this decision was met with some bitterness from the Learn to Skate program skaters, it meant the show was entertaining and the skating engaging.  While taking a more open approach can be good for building confidence, it is rarely good for creating a good show.  Solos of all levels are better left to the winter exhibition.

Not only were the solos restricted, but they always had something to do with the theme of the show.  Although I was never in a solo, owing to my terrible skating skills at the time, I did skate in several smaller group numbers to come pretty fantastic music.  In the Hollywood on Ice show, I skated to Mission Impossible, which is perhaps the most exciting piece of music ever created.  Spy hijinks on ice can never go wrong, right? Well, we had a pass through shoot the duck, one foot out in front with the bent down low, that ended in disaster on two show nights (we performed three shows).  Regardless, we had a blast.  Good themes make or break a show. A good theme allows a large variety without loosing focus of a central theme. I’ve seen some pretty good themes over the years: Broadway on Ice, Skating through the Times, A Night at the Movies, Fairy Tales on Ice, Ice School Musical and Circus Dreams on Ice.  Good music must also be selected to meet the demands of show skating and the theme.  I have skated to flapper music, Native American music, Cabaret, Mission Impossible, music from The Mask, and Elivis’ Three Bears. Each of these shows had a cohesive feel while providing numbers for skaters that did not all appear to be pulled from the same choreographic motif.

Circus Dreams on Ice at the Westminster Promenade was especially impressive for several reasons.  The first is that, by default, the Promenade has good skaters.  They know how to perform and their soloists are chosen from successful regional competitors.  While this is undoubtedly elitist of them, it also provides really good skating and at the end of the day I think the system is a good idea for a competitive rink like the Promenade.  For the Dreams show in particular the choreography was done to make the show run continuously.  This means that instead of black outs between numbers, the action simply began at another place on the ice or made an entrance that interacted with the skaters already on the ice.  Something was always going on and that something was usually interesting.  In addition, the costumes were fantastic.  As a case in point, the skaters in the Firefly number were wearing light-up Halloween wings on their back as they skated in near darkness.  The effect was stunning and what I would call a choreographic epiphany.  Many times ice shows use the same patterns and choreography from previous years and they always fall flat.  Unless choreography is directly informed by the music and the skaters CURRENTLY present, the piece can become banal.

So what makes a good club ice show? Lots of creativity on the part of the coaching staff.  Doing the same thing year after year will quickly drive down enthusiasm about the show.  Seeing children skate the same steps for years is quite frankly boring.  A good show shakes up the status quo and takes artistic risks while pushing the skaters to truly show off their skating talent.  This requires a coaching team willing to live outside the box.

What's in an Ice Show: The Pros

For most people the first experience watching figure skating live is the ice show.  This may be a small club exhibition or a large production of Disney on Ice complete with elaborate costumes.  From Disney to the club rink, the show is definitely the thing.  After all, a show is a skating experience that isn’t geared toward the competitive environment.  Instead, both the audience and the skaters are encouraged to have good old fashioned fun. No need to think about placements and rankings.  Who cares if you fall on a jump in a show? The point is the excitement of performing on ice, not the elements performed.  A myriad of different ice shows populate the United States and other countries, but I’m only going to delve into the traditional spring figure skating club ice show and the tours that showcase the current stars of figure skating.  Disney on Ice and Holiday on Ice are both important in their own regard, but I have little experience with them and thus cannot give commentary.

I’ll start with the tours that crisscross the country bringing figure skating’s stars of then and now to a wide variety of cities. When I was younger, in the nineties, I used to attend both Stars on Ice and Champions on Ice every couple years.  Stars on Ice was dedicated to the stars of yore while Champions included all the young hopefuls rising up in the sport.  Stars was filled with intricate choreography and little skating that would be recognized as competitive. Champions suffered from the opposite effect.  The skaters were top of the world, but the choreography was stale and the group numbers looked more like an aerobic dance class than entertaining skating.  In the end, I enjoyed neither. My mother tells me I was so disgusted with the overly romantic numbers in Stars on Ice that I refused to ever go again.  Champions on Ice reminded us all of the exhibition after the competition. The show was entirely hit or miss and depended too much on the caliber of the skaters’ individual choreography.

We stopped going to the shows for nearly a decade.  In 2004 we finally returned to the arena to see Champions on Ice, but only because I would have done anything to see Johnny Weir skate live.  The experience was amazing, but the only skater I recall seeing was Johnny.  No other number begins to register when I try and remember. After the 2006 Torino games, figure skating hit a real slump in television audience and show attendance.  The games had not been terrible; Sasha Cohen won a silver medal in ladies as did Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto in ice dance.  Nevertheless, fewer people were watching figure skating and even fewer were taking the trek to the rink to see the annual skating shows.  While not surprising to me since I had always felt the shows were lacking, this was unusual for the general populace.

By the 2010 Olympic season, Champions on Ice had died an unremarkable death. The ice show options were limited in the United States for fans.  YouTube became the best viewing arena since it showed numbers from the elaborate ice shows done in Japan and other foreign countries. Stars on Ice managed to survive, but decided it was time for a serious makeover.

I believe the changes precipitated by the death of Champions on Ice are perhaps the best things ever to happen to the ice show world.  Stars on Ice pulled in all the old Champions on Ice skaters.  This meant that instead of good skaters from previous generations, they were now showcasing current skaters in the international ranks.  The change created a vastly more agile cast.  Triple toe loop was no longer the hardest jump ever performed. In addition, skaters were familiar with IJS (International Judging System) style of footwork that manages to convey that most of the time footwork is harder than jumping. To top it off, Stars on Ice invested in good choreography.

Champions on Ice always included two performances from a skater, but the group numbers were merely a shadow of what could be.  Stars on Ice embraced its old methods and new skaters in an innovative fashion. Instead of just a solo, the skaters participated in multiple group numbers ranging from duets to full cast pieces.  Each of the numbers had insightful choreography tailored to the skaters’ strengths.  Sasha Cohen and Alissa Cizney had a gorgeous duet of mirrored spirals and laybacks that epitomized their grace and beauty.  In previous ice shows this would have been unheard of, but in 2010 it was a revelation.  Why not have skaters at their prime skating intricate choreography with each other?

The new Stars on Ice is better than ever.  It has picked up the pieces of the pervious shows and created something fresh and so much better. Its only failing at present is the decision not to invite Johnny Weir to tour with them during the spring of 2010.  Johnny is art on ice and they were missing an important piece of a complete show.

Skating Moms Part Three: The Ugly

I looked at good and bad behaviors of parents at the rink in the last two posts. Problem parents are mostly annoying, but not worse. Despite some exchanged glares and bathroom conversations, the rink is business as usual. The occasional fight between mother and daughter in the lobby is so common as to be promptly forgotten by all witnesses. Even parental presence rinkside is not strange and other skaters and coaches adjust to parental patterns. Nevertheless, sometimes a parent goes too far.

While I am sure I haven't seen the worst parental behavior, I have witnessed some pretty bizarre episodes. I try to stay out of the way, but sometimes you can't help but notice World War III coming your way. Unlike the previous commentaries, this is a series of anecdotes about my experiences with truly odd parents.

I used to skate in an annual ice show. This is common to anyone who has ever participated in a skating club or program. The ice show ran three nights and was a major affair complete with curtain and spotlights. While the club was large and had a number of coaches, many of them skated in the show. This meant the backstage area was supervised by parent volunteers. They were in charge of shuffling show groups to and from backstage dressing rooms and the ice. In the dressing rooms, we were entertained by epic card games and movies (indeed, the first time I saw Empire Strikes Back was during an ice show). The parent volunteers were the only adults encouraged to be behind the scenes. Other parents remained in the stands and out of the chaos. My mother had the dubious privilege of volunteering and thus was put in charge of the backstage area directly next to the ice. We're talking about waves of thirty kids to deal with, all trying to put on their skates at once while sitting on the ground or benches. In this area, my mother had a close encounter with the youngest soloist, but no harm was done. That is, until her mother went ballistic and accused my mother of deliberately trying to step on and harm her daughter. Why would my mother want to do that? Well, she clearly wanted to knock the young girl out of her place such that I could fill her part. Since I had the skating skills of a chimp at that time, I highly doubt that was the case. Needless to say the paranoid mother discouraged my own from ever volunteering again.

I used to practice during rec skates since the rink I took lessons at offered few freestyles and all were early in the morning. The advanced freestyle students, we're talking learn to skate freestyle before pre-preliminary tests, used the center to jump and spin while hockey players whizzed around the edges. Rarely, an unknown skater would arrive to work during the session. One summer, a young boy and his mother came several times. He was talented and it eventually became clear that she was both mother and coach. While parents as coaches is a whole other can of worms, I will note that they did not have the worst coach/parent-student relationship I have seen. Nevertheless, for hours on end we endured her screaming rants echoing across the ice. None of us understood a word of the language spoken, but we understood that the young skater was being told perfection or consequences. On some occasions the mother became so irate we thought she was going to strike her son with a physical blow. While it never came to that, we were shocked to see the nature of their interactions. So much compassion can die with the push for perfection.

While parents can certainly talk to their children at the rink, a constant litany of corrections hurled over the glass is no help for either skater or mother. At some point, the skater is going to snap. No matter how terrified or tread upon the skater is, the breaking point will come. I witnessed a skater finally stand up for herself after her mother insisted on yelling at her during a program run through. Her reward was to be abandoned at the rink, which was situated in the true middle of nowhere. While a fight between a teenaged skater and parent might occasionally end that way, the skater was far too young to be left alone at a rink all day. Similar incidents that I was not present for resulted in the mother being kicked out of and banned from a number of area rinks. If you're being kicked out of rinks on a regular basis, perhaps it's time to reevaluate your attitude as a parent.

While none of these instances are extremely common, they happened. Parents need to remember that figure skating is merely an activity, one facet of their child's life. If this is forgotten, joy and compassion are crushed by the pursuit of distant perfection.

Skating Moms Part Two: The Bad

In Skating Moms Part One: The Good, I delved into the positive traits I hope to see in parents at the rink.  A parent's level of involvement depends greatly on their ability to be at the rink and the flexibility of their job.  Some parents can spend all day sitting in the oval refrigerator while others must attend a daily 9-5 job that renders the previous option impossible.  Thus, some aspects are out of a parent's control.  Nevertheless, they do have responsibility for their actions at the rink.  Being overly enthusiastic about their child's skating comes with some unfortunate consequences.

When it comes to behavior at the rink there are a few definite no's. These are not particularly terrible things, but rather they are pieces of a pattern that leads to a bad place.  Once again, giving advice is not forbidden.  The manner in which the advice is given is the important part.

  1. Standing by the door of the rink is a huge no at almost any time.  There are a few exceptions here.  If a child has forgotten his or her music or a water bottle, then a parent at the rink door is perfectly acceptable.  If the main purpose of the parent's choice of location is to be able to communicate with their child at all times, then there's a problem.  Skaters make mistakes while on the ice and usually they know it.  They don't need a parent pointing out their flaws, that's what the professional coach is hired to do.

  2. Yelling advice from the stands is bad form and distracting to other skaters.  The yelling is not helpful on a number of counts.  First, skaters need to be paying attention to what is happening ON THE ICE.  This awareness prevents dangerous collisions and keeps skaters focused on the environment in which they are operating.  Second, other skaters will be equally distracted by a gesturing and vocal parent.  While a parent may be talking directly to their child, everyone else is aware of the interaction.  Third, while the skater is on the ice advice is to be given by the coaches on the ice. Undermining the coach's authority is confusing to the skater and does not help develop a positive coach-student relationship.

  3. Being constantly present at the side of the rink also inhibits a skater's ability to learn to work on their own. If a parent is constantly giving a child advice and telling them what to do, the skater never learns to work hard alone. If a skater does not always know what to work on, a checklist created in a notebook before each session is a good way to give him or her a practice outline. Coaches are usually quite willing to help skaters develop these practice lists.

  4. Taking over the coaching role at test sessions and competitions is never a good idea. If the skater wants a parent there, it is usually as a moral support figure, not another coach. Occasionally, a coach can not attend an important event and the parent is thrust into the “coaching” position. Even at that point, it is much better to simply give support rather than trying to control the situation like a professional coach would. If the coach feels the skater is okay alone, the skater doesn't need a controlling parent on top of the competition stresses.

  5. Don't give your skater the tenth degree when they get off the ice. If the session was a good one, they will probably share the highlights. If it was a bad one, they might share some things they need to work on. In either case, it is up to the skater to decide how much to share and when. A parent pushing for the blow by blow account will only frustrate a skater no matter how the session went. If you want an accurate overview of the session, take a minute with the coach and ask a few questions.

Skaters value their parents' support and advice, so be careful not to abuse this fact. They will listen to their parent before their coach many times, so it is important to leave the technique and mental strength coaching to the professionals who know the details of the business. The more a parent coaches, the harder it is for a skater to learn a good individual work ethic. The best skaters are motivated from within and don't need to be watched every second to make sure they are practicing correctly.

Skating Moms Part One: The Good

Now here's a topic it's impossible to leave out. Every rink and region has it's share of truly distinctive and dedicated parents. Within this group a variety of personalities dwell. Skating parents come with radically different interest levels and motivations. Some simply want to get their kid out of the house and moving. If skating on a gigantic block of ice is what does it for the kid, then great, but the parent doesn't have to freeze too. Other parents come equipped with the Olympic agenda. Practice schedules are planned for the next ten years to produce maximum greatness and chances of Olympic glory. The Olympics happen every four years and only one skater stands on the top of the singles podium. Needless to say, the thousands of parents with Olympic ambitions are on the wrong side of the odds. Not that this fact stops their pursuit of perfection for their child. Clearly, there are a number of parental approaches and some work a little better than others. What follows is my guide to skating parents (for both skaters, coaches and parents).

First, I'm going to delve into all the wonderful positive traits I've discovered over the years. Indeed, skating moms are not soccer moms and skating dads are not football dads. We have a unique sport and parents react to the demands in their own ways.

1. Be at the rink sometimes, but not all the time. Especially with young skaters, it's important for them to know they're supported. Coming in and watching the last five to ten minutes is a great way to give the child something to look forward to at the end. If a parent is there all the time, the child is unduly pressured and often distracted by parental reactions to their skating.

2. Help, but don't coach. Often the urge to offer suggestions is overwhelming as a parent, but the ice needs to be a place where official coaches set the rules and are not undermined by overly enthusiastic parents. If a parent has a small suggestion, he or she should tell the child off the ice. If a major issue occurs, confront the coach directly without the child present. A parent and coach should work together, not over and against each other.

3. No pressure to compete. Lots of parents love to see their child shining in a competition. Unfortunately competing in skating is a brutal and often seemingly unfair endeavor. If a skater wants to compete, give them full support, but do not force an unwilling child into the competition scene. This is not to say that goals should not be firmly established, but skating has plenty of non-competition achievement markers.

4. Recognize the importance of learning correct technique and that sometimes this may take longer than you hoped. Without correct technique a skater can get most doubles if they are a good natural jumper, but the road to double axel, triples and even the new moves in the field will be extremely rough. Spending time in the beginning on slow exercises like edges pays off and will produce beautiful jumps in the future. In addition, parents need to recognize that skaters learn at very different paces. Improvement is marked by a skater's individual progress over time, not by comparisons with other skaters.

5. Freedom to choose skating. This may seem obvious, but not every young skater actually wants to be on the ice. Some love skating recreationally, but hate a competitive environment. A good skating parent tries to understand how serious their child would like to be and pushes them appropriately. When a child is forced to skate the the situation gets unpleasant for skater, parent, coach and fellow rink members. Joy is an important part of skating and can not be coerced into existence.

While these are only a few of the things good skating parents bring to the rink, they are a good foundation for creating a healthy rink environment for skaters and parents alike.

The Numb Foot Syndrome

In the good old days of patch, known to lay people as school figures, all skaters were familiar with the dreaded numb foot syndrome. What is this horrible malady? There comes a point when the tight leather grip of a skate does a number on the circulation in one's feet. Indeed the skate squeezes and the ice chills both boot and toes. The general result is numb to painfully frozen toes.

I recall one winter night when I was coaching in Poughkeepsie. My schedule had me on the ice from 3:30-7:00 PM with only one fifteen minute break to warm my frozen toes. The second to last half hour was a basic skills class with one three year old and two four year olds. It was an intro class, clearly, and we were moving around the ice playing Simon Says at the rate of one ice crossing every ten minutes. Needless to say, I wasn't increasing my circulation at any great rate. By the end of the lesson, I could barely hide my grimaces of pain from my enthusiastic, but tiring, bunch. I ended up crouching on the ice often simply to reduce the throbbing in my feet. The next half hour brought no respite as it was an adult learn to skate lesson which moved at a comfortable, but sadly for me slow, rate. Adult lessons are a blessing though because adults ask questions and demand cognition in a way children can not. Thus, while still suffering, I was able to distract myself with descriptions of edges and crossovers.

When I got off the ice, I met a fellow coach in the coaches office. We both noted that our feet felt as if they were going to fall off from the cold. My numb fingers pried at my knotted laces, cracking the skin in the extreme cold and leaving traces of red behind. Finally with skates off I tried to move my toes. Shooting pain. My toes felt as if they were being burned off then and there. I reached down to massage them and encountered icy stubs instead of tepid toes. Putting my shoes on was another painful affair, the increased warmth only adding to the fiery feeling. As we walked out of the building, I had no choice but to limp, each step a horrific awakening of icy fire. I stumbled to my car in the 20 degree weather and managed to get the frigid vehicle open. The drive back home was only three miles, not far enough to get the heat working well. Instead, I placed my screaming feet on the clutch and gas and prayed I wouldn't spasm from the pain while driving. Once home in my cozy dorm room it took several hours in front of the steamy radiator to fully regain feeling and for the tingling to subside.

While that is the worst it has ever gotten for me, all skaters suffer from this issue. Various solutions have been tested. Coaches often use fleece boot covers to keep heat locked in and the cold air out. I've discovered that skate boots made out of synthetic materials and molded better to my foot substantially decrease the circulation loss and subsequent pains. This means I give extreme props to Riedell's 2010 LS boots since I have yet to experience any sort of numbing pain while using them for both skating and coaching over the past year. The boots are a perfect match to my feet and do not squeeze the toe area at all. In addition, the lack of leather on the interior means that my foot's warmth stays within the boot. I can actually put the skates on after I've left them in the car in the winter and they heat within minutes to my foot temperature. As far as I'm concerned, this is a minor miracle. So indeed, the numb foot syndrome can be painful and distracting, but skaters now have a myriad of ways to combat it.

<3 Ms. Twizzle <3

Coffee and Skating

What skating rink is complete without a coffee shop next door? I recall skating the 6:00 AM session in the deep winter months.  Those are the months that even though hours pass between entering and exiting the rink the sky outside remains a solemn dark hue.  Mornings like those necessitate coffee and therefore a good coffee shop nearby.  Sadly, the rink I skated at lacked a nearby caffeine hub.  Instead I lived off of McDonalds breakfast sandwiches my mother picked up from a nearby fast food haven. The thought of McDonalds every day for two years makes my skin crawl these days, but there’s no denying the fact that after skating hard that early in the morning most of us will eat anything.

So when did I finally learn the importance of the coffee shop? The year I left Colorado for New York the skating rink had a coffee/smoothie shop move in.  Needless to say I was annoyed. Even so, I had no idea how wonderful this combination was.  Indeed it was not until working in downtown Poughkeepsie, NY for several years and frequenting the wonderful Alex’s Restaurant for coffee, milk shakes and hot chocolate that I began to realize how much the character of a rink improved with some quality hot beverages around.

Now, I’m surround by lovely coffee shops within a five second, or five minute, walk from the ice rinks where I work and skate.  Skaters are a far happier crowd with their proper caffeine intake, which is rather high when they’re skating the 5:45 session and plan to attend an eight hour school day. I’ve passed by my school days, but I still enjoy a good steaming Chai after program double run throughs or freezing rinkside teaching.  Without a doubt, coffee shops make skating rinks better places.

<3 Ms. Twizzle <3

The Beginning

So I realized that I've been around skating for awhile now.  Almost my entire life in fact. When considering this, I also began to think about an off beat blog that might be able to share some of my more interesting skating stories and entertainment. I'll try to include some classic stories as well as documenting the current events in my skating world.  While ironic and occasionally sardonic, I mean no harm to those I write about.  I love this sport and all the quirky things that come with it.

Why Inside Twizzle? This was my first twitter name and I refuse to let it go.  Hence, this blog will be using the @InsideTwizzle user name to keep track of updates and provide an interactive component. The inside twizzle is my favorite skating move and I like to think the name also reflects that little bit of insider knowledge I have.  To here's to twizzling our way through the skating insanity...

<3 Ms. Twizzle <3