Sunday, June 1, 2008

No Ice? No problem.

I got to the rink early this morning to find a whole bunch of people: judges, parents, kids … it was an ISI competition. I’m sure I should have known about this as the rink has posted flyers for weeks (“rink closed June 1st”) but clearly I did not pay good attention. Shortly Tim showed up and we decide that if we can’t skate, we’ll go to the gym and work in front of a mirror. It’s something we did a bit of last year and we’ve been wanting to do it more this year, but just haven’t had the opportunity.

We were the only ones at the gym at 8:45 on a Sunday morning. We danced for an hour an 45 minutes. I’m sure the guy who let us in the door thought, “look at those middle-aged ‘Dancing With the Stars’ wannabes. Wow, that is the worst attempt at ballroom dancing I’ve ever seen.” Indeed, skating off the ice does look strange.

Of course, the Viennese Waltz loses a lot in translation from ice to floor. The music seems slow, and we trip over our own feet on the first try. It’s hard to hold the extensions which would be moving if we were on skates. Here on the floor we just stand in one spot, looking kind of silly. But our second try is better and we are actually starting to move around the floor. Without worrying about skating technique we concentrate on our frame, presentation, heads, extensions, and “skating” close together. By the 10th pattern we are looking pretty good.

We find it’s easy to forget the steps off the ice. There is no frame of reference such as where you are in relation to the rink. We have to really concentrate to get the steps consistent and on time.

(Wow, I can see why dancers are so skinny. Mirrors are helpful, but if I have to see myself coming and going every day at practice I surely won't be eating ice cream later. Yikes.)

It also feels like more of a workout when you are sweating profusely. I was dressed for skating so I had tights on, and leggings over those. I removed the tights and danced in my bare feet and leggings but shorts would have been apropos. Granted, we sweat on the ice too, but not like this. A thin layer of dust settles on the sweat and the heat seems stifling. Without a cool breeze in our face the air temperature just seems to keep increasing.

Our Samba opening, which we’ve struggled with on the ice, is a lot more fun in front of a mirror. Once we are done giggling at how silly we look we set about fixing it. By the 50th repetition it looks a whole lot better and we are actually in synch. Other parts of the samba are illuminating in front of mirrors, such as the samba steps in the second half of the dance. While watching ourselves step through them, we finally understand the concept of “hip lead.” We look like we are having fun, although some of the facial expressions I see in the mirror are hilarious (perplexed, amazed, deep in thought, transported).

Working on the floor shows us other fine details we don’t really notice on the ice. Our concept of the timing tends to be slightly different. We pay attention to this for awhile and find that Tim syncopates more on both dances. When I try to be not so literal about dancing on the beat, I am able to stay with him better. I like the syncopation for both dances, and it’s actually appropriate. We’ll keep it.

We work on our upper bodies in the Samba – rolling the shoulders, using my free arm for expression. We do our Viennese opening and realize after seeing it in the mirror that our arms are very ballet-like and we really like this, so we’ll play it up on the ice.

In a couple of ways ballroom dancing, or our version of it, is a lot easier than ice dancing. For one thing, we don’t have sharp objects on our feet with which to kick each other. We can’t get going very fast on the floor so it doesn’t seem as dangerous. Falling can’t possibly hurt on a floor going that slowly! Maybe we should switch to ballroom.

We do a swing roll in waltz position, and my toe connects with Tim’s leg. “Ouch!!” We both say, and then laugh. I guess you can get hurt on the floor, but it doesn’t seem as bad.

Overall I think we learned more today off the ice than we usually do on the ice. I think we’ll be doing more off-ice work. In fact, we didn’t have time to do lifts at all, so we’ll be back for those. Good practice!

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