Friday, May 30, 2008

Shameless Plug

This post is a shameless plug for the Portland Adult High Dance Camp, coming in September. Since Tim and I are both on the steering committee I thought this would be a good place to "advertise." I think a large percentage of people who read this blog are also on the steering committee, but no matter.

I am excited about a training camp for adult dancers right in our home town. There are numerous dance weekends, including Portland's Sweetheart Ball, which bring dancers together and promote ice dancing as a fun and social event. With so many Portland-based adult dance teams competing and medaling at Adult Nationals in recent years, the organizers thought a high performance camp, which goes beyond the social dance weekend model, was warranted.

No doubt about it, the camp will be strenuous, with 8 hours of on-ice clinics, multiple off-ice clinics, and 3 hours of program dance time in one weekend. Our guest professionals are Jonathon O'Daugherty and Pam O'Connor, former British national champions. Meals are provided at the rink, and also include a Saturday night dinner at a local skater's home.

The camp's format allows campers to come away with new skills and exercises which will help teams and individuals take their skating to the next level. A lot can be accomplished in a weekend, although of course the skaters will have to practice what they've learned in order to see lasting results. Another bonus is to build comraderie among the adult dancers, especially competitive teams. There are so few of us that sometimes we practice in a void; having a venue to meet and get to know others who are as obsessed as we are will go a long way toward validating what we are doing.

I for one am looking forward to the on- and off-ice lift clinics (Tim may not be quite so happy about those) as well as learning exercises we can do to increase our skating skills.

If you are over 18 and comfortable dancing at the silver level or above, please consider joining us. The number of participants will be limited. For more information, including an application form, please go to Click on "Events" and then "Adult Training Camp."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And now, a message from our sponsor

Don't I wish we had one. You know, someone to pay the bills so we wouldn't have to. I'm talking about skating bills of course. Like many adult skaters, Tim and I work so that we can skate. And also to pay the mortgage and eat, but we work extra hard because skating is not cheap. Getting to the rink has also become more expensive as the price of gas flirts with $4 per gallon. For me, public transportation is not an option, since the earliest bus from near my house would get me to the rink by 7:15 (well, I'd have to walk 1/4 mile uphill, take the bus into town, and then change from bus to MAX train, and the entire trip would take about 45 minutes vs. the 12 minutes it takes by car). I'd be able to skate for about 20 minutes and then have to rush back to the MAX in order to make it to work on time. Why bother.

It's a fact of life that adult skaters usually have jobs, and this has been an issue for us as a team. Last year we were unable to attend Adult Nationals because Tim had to work. Now our travel for work schedule is going to prevent us from competing at Lake Placid in August. We've both scheduled 2009 Adult Nationals with the big bosses already so that we don't get preempted again, because quitting work is just not an option for either of us and we don't want to sit out again. However, the possibility exists that either one of us might not be able to go. We are really working way too hard for that to be palatable.

I am still going to Lake Placid to judge. I was looking forward to pulling double duty as both judge and skater. A recent blog by Mombo #9 talked about a pretend fundraising event in which skaters would pay to skate with their favorite (or perhaps least favorite) judge. The author was joking, and I'm not sure if she knows that there are some really good skaters among those she named. (She didn't name the two of us who are still actively competing as adults, but Mike and I have only been on the Lake Placid judging circuit for a couple of years.) This year I would have been the only person both judging and skating at Lake Placid, but I am not the first to do so.

In any case, I will only be judging this year, which makes packing a whole lot easier. I guess we'll have to look for another competition opportunity before we forget what that's like.

Today's injury log:
~Terri's ribs still hurt, toughing it out
~Tim's back hurts, going to doctor

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Catch 22

Startling news from the world of flying:

"If you plan on packing more than a carry-on and are flying AA, plan on paying $15 for your first checked bag as of June 15. ... United has already indicated they're considering making this move. What's next? Charging for using the in-flight bathroom?"

Those who know me are aware of my hate/hate relationship with the airlines (no offense to my friends who are pilots - you guys do a great job). But from the lousy customer service to the dismal on-time record to the ever-mounting fees, I just hate to fly. Now we have what appears to be the "figure skater surcharge." That's right, ladies and gentlemen. Since your skates are considered potentially lethal weapons, they are sometimes, but not always (it depends on the phase of the moon and the mood of the TSA screener that day), banned from your carry-on luggage. This means that unless you plan ahead by getting to the airport extra early to stand in the security line for 45 minutes only to be told to go back and check your skates, you might as well check them in the first place.

Checking skates poses its own problems because as we all know, airlines lose things. We also know skaters' law #1: skates aren't interchangeable. Skates aren't like tennis rackets or golf clubs! You can't buy a decent pair of skates at your local sporting goods store. Many of us have custom skates which have to be ordered months ahead of time. Even stock boots have a long lead time. And of course it takes weeks, sometimes months to break them in once we get them.

Just ask any competent ice dancer who has tried rental skates. There's no way I'd let go of the barrier if I had to wear those dull-bladed, floppy, ill-fitting brown skates with the red numbers on the back. Just ask world-class ice dancer Brent Bommentre, whose skates were lost for SEVERAL DAYS by the airlines en route to the world figure skating championships and who had to skate in brand new skates. (Kudos to Brent and Kim for skating so well under the circumstances with no whining - a true class act).

For the rest of us who may not have a brand new pair of skates just waiting to be broken in at home, arriving without our luggage to a competition would be a major disaster. Just think of it. An entire year of preparation. Giving up vacations and holidays. You and your partner spending a ton of money on lessons, ice time, and travel costs just to go to Adult Nationals. Then to arrive sans skates. It's not just the thought of all that time and money down the drain (although just thinking about THAT brings a tear to my eye). It's the heartbreak of not being able to do what you've trained so hard to do; it's the indifference of the airlines ("Ms. Levine, I'm sure that the pro shop can sell you a pair of skates and you'll be just fine!"); it's the agony of watching everyone else skate while you mope around Grand Rapids or Dallas with nothing to do but sit in the "curse and cry" area reserved for you and others in the same position.

And now, to add insult to injury, since we skaters are pretty much required to check our skates lest they be used, along with all that toothpaste and deoderant they are so worried about, to hijack the plane, the airlines are going to start charging us to do so, with no additional guarantee that they are not going to lose them en route. I'm no fool; I know that the airline is trying to incent me to carry on all of my luggage, hoping I'll bring less so they will save on fuel costs but also because they make more money selling the cargo space to commercial ventures. I hate hassling with checked luggage and I'd really like to be able to comply. Except I can't, because I am carrying skates. If I weren't going to a skating event I wouldn't be on the plane in the first place. And if the skates don't arrive when I do, the whole trip will be a really expensive waste of time. Soon, $15 more expensive. For those good at math, that's $30 round trip.

As someone will surely point out, lost skates are not a catastrophe on par with earthquakes and cyclones and other natural disasters. Lost skates are not as important as preventing terrorist attacks on airplanes. Please don't take me out of context, dear readers, as I can certainly assign lost skates to the appropriate category in the hierarchy of world problems. But lost skates are a problem with potential remedies.

Allowing skaters to gate check skates, for example, so they are securely on the plane and a potential terrorist can not access them. (I know, I know, the airlines are already understaffed and this sounds like another logistical nightmare, but I'm just proposing a possible solution.) Meanwhile, I've seen so many other items carried on that could be far more dangerous than skates ... Lighters? Glass bottles? Umbrellas? Why are those allowed?

Let's face it folks, if someone wants to hijack the plane, they aren't going to look through everyone's bag until they find the ice skates they just know are in there somewhere. That plastic fork in first class is much more obvious and easily accessible.

My advice -- start saving your pennies for those surcharges coming soon to an airport near you. And use your kicker check to invest in a backup pair of skates that can be overnighted to you whenever needed. If that doesn't stimulate the U.S. economy, I don't know what will.

P.S. - Happy anniversary to Perry, the best skating husband in the whole world. ILY!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Roller Derby on Ice

This morning our friends and fellow dancers Julia and Jordan joined us on the ice for the first time since Nationals. All of us were working on the same compulsory dances for next year which really makes it more fun. You would think with just 2 dance teams plus 1 other person on the ice we would manage to stay out of each other's way, but no, within about 5 minutes we ran right into them - as we were doing our samba intro and they were doing the dance proper. Definitely our bad as we should have seen them coming but, too late, we smashed right into them. They were gracious about it even though they had the right to call us some choice names. This is not the right way to welcome your friends back to the rink folks.

Fair is fair, so not long after that we took a fall on the Viennese, all on our own. Later we saw the other team sitting on the ice (not sure what they had been working on, but they were laughing). Who says that dance is not athletic or difficult? Who says dancers aren't tough??? Watch out everyone, based on today's carnage I'd say that these two teams are off to a very good start.

(But as Jordan pointed out to us, we only have 11 months left until Nationals! The time, it flies.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lake Placid Countdown

Tim returned from vacation and hit the ice running today, with newly repaired boots and sharpened (no comment) (geez it's about time) (that wasn't a comment, it was me giving him a hard time) blades.

My ribs are still sore, but this is no time for whining. I read that it takes 6 weeks for bruised ribs to heal and the only thing that will help is "rest". So I will be sure to get 8 hours of sleep each night, but I am not going to stop skating just because of sore ribs.

(Special thanks to Carl who has given me a fantastic new nickname: "Rib Girl." Carl, I can always count on you.)

We had a great practice. We are concentrating on the compulsories for Lake Placid which is (pause while I consult calendar) 10.5 weeks away. I think if we had to compete these tomorrow we'd get through them, probably with some timing issues, but we'd be vertical at the end. In 10 weeks I think we'll not embarrass ourselves. Our goal is to stay on time, express the dances, and get some really brutal feedback from the judges which will drive us to work harder when we get home.

My biggest challenge now is figuring out what to wear since it will have to be appropriate for two dances -- Samba and Viennese! Could two dances be more different? We are probably going to be the only team in the event so we won't have time for a costume change. Samba calls for something neon and revealing. Viennese calls for something pastel and flowing. Anything in between would be just plain wrong for both. Any costume advice from the peanut gallery will be carefully considered and possibly ridiculed so fire away!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Come on baby, let's do the ...

There are no good excuses in skating. "My ribs hurt" is no excuse not to practice. After all, I'm not getting any younger so none of this will ever get any easier. So today I went to the rink and found that I had very little pain as long as I didn't twist my upper body or breathe hard. So I reviewed my last lesson notes from Thursday with Coach R:

Jr Moves Rockers - Don't forget to twist
Jr Moves Choctaws - TWIST MORE!
Back Loops - Twist upper body as you sink into loop
Counters - Twwwwwwiiiiissssstttt

Etc., etc.

Stroking, I could do that. Standing by the rail, I could do that too. Talking to my friends would have been smashing but I was the only one on the ice. So after much warmup stroking I got bored and grit my teeth and worked on rockers, choctaws, back loops and counters, twisting a little bit but not a lot.

I ended the session doing twizzles - very little twisting required so these were the only decent thing I did all session. It was a good learning experience though. I realize just how right my coach is. Clearly twisting is the key to good skating, and I vow to work on it just as soon as I can do so without major pain killers.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Canasty Tango

I'm through with social dancing, at least for now.

In the past, I've been labeled a bad ambassador of ice dancing when I've said how much I dislike social dancing. People think I'm the devil for saying this, that I'm cranky and not willing to promote the sport. Perhaps it's time to admit they are right.

This is not to say that I don't sometimes enjoy social dancing. It's just that I'm very picky about with whom I'd like to dance, and which dances I care to do. Social dancing purists insist that a "real" ice dancer should be able to do any dance with anyone, and this makes you a better partner, blah blah blah.

Hogwash I say, as I sit here in pain with every breath I take. On Saturday I was doing the Canasta Tango -- yes, as in the easiest ice dance of all, all forward edges, no turns -- and took the nastiest fall of my life. And believe me, I've taken some nasty falls. I've gotten a concussion doing the rocker foxtrot. I've fallen out of lifts. I've been kicked, elbowed in the face, and stepped on. Tim has fallen on me and vice versa. One time we fell on a lift and I couldn't walk for several days. I consider myself a pretty tough broad, and I usually get right back up and keep on going. But this was worse, because it happened on the Canasta Tango. I couldn't get back up, and I couldn't keep on going.

The person with whom I was dancing took an edge too deep for his abilities, and started to slide. I heard it, and held my breath because I knew we were going down. At that point people usually let go but he held on, tighter. He's a lot bigger than me so there wasn't much I could do. And down he went, hard to the right, with me falling harder than usual a milli-second later directly on my rib cage, with my arm still across his body so I couldn't even use it to break the fall. For a minute I couldn't breathe as the wind had been knocked out of me.

I have a lot of padding on much of my body; for example, I can fall on my butt 20 times and not feel a thing. But land me on my rib cage and there is no fat there. My ribs are bruised and it hurts whenever I breathe in. My shoulder feels wrenched, and my neck hurts so much I can't turn my head. And I don't even have bragging rights because I fell on the CANASTA TANGO. Not the Cha Cha Congelado or the Golden Waltz ... but a preliminary dance that I can do in my sleep.

Somebody helped me get up, and I sat out the next dance, then solo'd the Viennese Waltz. I just didn't want to admit that I couldn't get through the rest of the session, but I couldn't. I felt sore and dizzy on the Viennese and so after two patterns I got off the ice, put on a couple of ice packs, and took off my skates.

This is the last week before Tim gets back from his vacation and I had been looking forward to working on my own skating with my MITF coach as I have made a lot of progress the past two weeks. I probably won't get that opportunity. I feel beat up and battered and will probably not skate this week. I know this is one of the hazards of social dancing. But in the future I'd rather take my knocks working on our competition dances or a free dance which I KNOW is dangerous, and not social dancing.

I'll leave social dancing to those seeking a "fun and low impact activity where the likelihood of injury is low." As a small person dancing with men who are usually taller and heavier than I am, and to be honest, usually less stable on their skates, I am the one putting myself at risk of injury more than they are. And some people (not all of you of course, and that's why I do enjoy skating with some of you, even when I forget the steps) take too many risks by skating outside of their own ability level - going too fast or skating on lobes that are too deep. It goes both ways of course ... I know there are guys who feel I am dangerous to skate with, and they never ask me to dance. That's OK by me.

It's not always just a case of turning down dubious partners to begin with. Sometimes even a good skater can turn into the partner from hell. As was the case on Saturday, I was skating with someone who is a competent skater, but who in the middle of the dance started taking extremely deep edges, perhaps out of boredom, and as the hapless partner I was "led" into positions I didn't want to be in. I felt him skid on the first pattern but figured "it's only a Canasta Tango, we can get through this."

Lesson learned. In the future I won't put up with risk-taking unless I'm comfortable with the person's abilities. I am no longer willing to be put in dangerous situations outside of my control, and I'll stop mid-dance if I feel I'm in jeopardy. If that sounds one-sided and petty then I apologize for my bad attitude, but you probably wouldn't enjoy dancing with me anyway.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lake Placid Squared

Tim and I missed going to Lake Placid for Adult Nationals, but that won't stop me from going there this year --- twice. We are skating in the Dance Championships in August when it is warm and lovely, and I am also judging Junior Nationals in December, when it is cold and snowy. So I will get to see two different seasons worth of the best upstate New York has to offer.

Lake Placid is famously difficult to get to. In August we are flying into Burlington, VT, renting a car, and taking the ferry across Lake Champlain. In December I will fly wherever they tell me to, probably Albany, since the local organizing committee will be making the arrangements and picking me up and shuttling me wherever I need to go, which is basically the rink, the hotel, and the other rink. Oh yeah, and the bar.

I guess I will accrue some frequent flyer miles which should come in handy if I ever get to travel somewhere non-skating related. (Hahahahahahahaha. That's the sound of Perry laughing.) But enough travel talk. I'm boring even myself.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Skate Blogs

They are everywhere, and many are really good - well written, funny, informative, and appealing to the eye. I have friends who skate 'n blog (Lisa, Gordon, Angela, Julia). Lately I've been reading a few others, blogged by folks I don't even know.

People evidently spend a lot of time on these blogs. They are very professional looking and the posts are sometimes more like articles, well researched and containing links and graphics. They also seem to have a large and loyal reader base, as shown by the number of comments posted. My readership is much smaller; my dance partner doesn't even read this blog. Of course, he gets enough of my witty repartee on the ice.

Obviously I'm not in the "big league" blog world, as my blog is admittedly kind of ugly. Really, it could have been designed by a 4-year-old, although I am proud of the "Dynamite" logo. (You know, Tim & Terri, T 'n' T, Dynamite ... OK, it seemed like a good idea at the time.) I dash off my posts during the lull between skating and showering most days, and I don't really post about anything important. For crying out loud, I can't even get the "upload video" feature to work correctly, meaning that I've e-mailed the video clip of Tim's Tango Test to a couple of you who were nice enough to ask about it. Now that's technology at its finest.

Perhaps I'll get more blog savvy as time goes by. Meanwhile, I hope that you, my loyal readers (both of you), will enjoy these uber blogs via the "links" section.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A funny thing happened in Cyperspace

I was learning the Tango Romantica, and so I decided to do a Google search on it. By the way, for those of you trying to learn a new ice dance, Google searching is far superior to (1) lessons and (2) practicing. There is no muscle fatigue or sweat involved, although carpal tunnel can become an issue. You get better at the dance, vicariously, just by surfing the Internet. This cyber-learning involves the phenomenon of “muscle memory,” or perhaps it’s “random access memory” or some other kind of memory, I can’t remember. It’s all very scientific and complicated so please just take my word for it.

Add YouTube on top of Google and you can watch pretty much any dance you want, for free, in the comfort of your own living room. A true learning bonanza.

So anyway, I was Googling “Tango Romantica” but accidentally typed “Tango Romantic,” and after following a series of links I found the website of Carole Bellacera, an author who had written a romance novel featuring … are you sitting down??? … ice dancers. The book is called “Tango’s Edge.”

I read the trailer which was steamy and featured some skating, then I e-mailed Carole and found out that she loves ice dancing. I encouraged her to give skating a try through Learn-to-Skate lessons at her local rink, but she is a skier and didn’t want to jeopardize her skiing with a skating injury. (I can understand this because during the competitive season I don’t ski, bike, or run with scissors just to avoid injuring myself.)

Here is a link to Carole’s website. I can’t wait to read “Tango’s Edge” at the beach this summer!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Tim's Tango Test

I'm risking my life by posting this without Tim's prior approval. However, considering he only reads the blog once a year whether he needs to or not, I may be relatively safe. While this video isn't the best example of our skating, I am pretty happy with this test. We had only one lesson on this dance although we did spend quite a bit of time practicing it ourselves. A few more lessons would have helped catch the things we couldn't see. But really, not too bad considering.

It was cold in that rink as you can see; Tim kept his jacket on and his hat had just come off. We had a timing issue which is pretty obvious on the second pattern and we definitely could have skated closer together, but for the amount of time spent on this dance I am happy with it. All three judges liked it too. So with that said, I'm posting the video for posterity. Thanks to videographer (and national dance silver medalist) Anna Li.

NOTE: Video removed after Tim gave me a huge guilt trip!