Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Ultimate Test

The Rocker F#@$!trot: AKA the most difficult ice dance ever created.

I’d rather do the Midnight Blues, Finnstep, or Golden Waltz than the Rocker Foxtrot and any of those would no doubt be easier and less anxiety- producing for me. That’s because the Rocker Foxtrot contains the one step in ice dancing that I just have not been able to master: the FO Mohawk in foxtrot position.

I know, I know. An outside to outside Mohawk should be a piece of cake for someone who has passed gold dances. But the catch is “in foxtrot position.”

I can do the dance just fine solo, but attach me to a partner and I am “Stuck.” As in, “blocked,” or “physically prevented from turning.” Frustratingly so, since I do the turn just fine by myself. I start to turn, as does my partner, and then I can turn no farther and either fall or have to bail out.

(I did pass the test, many years ago, with a partner who was patient and skated very much like me, and for some reason the turn worked with him. But it has never worked with anyone else before or since.)

I’m not afraid of falling on the turn, as I’ve pointed out to the many coaches who’ve tried to help me fix it. It’s not a fear thing, although I do feel paralyzed as my body hangs there in mid-turn and goes no farther, while my partner drags me along, or I fall, and that can be a bit anxiety-producing. It’s more a frustration thing – why does my body all of a sudden stop in mid-turn? What can I do differently?, I would ask coach after coach. There has to be something going on with my body that can be fixed, some small technical detail that is the key to this turn.

“It’s all in your head,” I was told. “You just need to go for it!” “You need to bend your knees more.” “Just turn out your hips more” (give me a break, I have no turnout but can still do the turn myself, so that can’t be it). “Don’t look down.” “Track in front of your partner.” “Don’t break at the waist.” None of these worked.

After all of this advice, I finally “went for it” one day enough to fall harder than normal, sliding headfirst into the wall and getting a mild concussion. That’s when I said enough was enough and stopped doing the dance for many years. I joked that I was born without the Mohawk Gene, and always found a way to be in the ladies room when the Rocker Foxtrot was played at dance weekends.

Enough really WAS enough because I had no reason to do the damn thing until Tim came along, and had to test it in order for us to qualify for the Gold dance event. Which meant I had to either swallow my pride and ask him to test it with another partner, or swallow my fear of failure, bite the bullet, and conquer the RF once and for all.

While in Lake Placid recently, I studied the rocker foxtrots on practice. I saw that everyone could do this turn, even if they weren’t the greatest skater. I watched body positions, tracking, and edges into and out of the turn, and I tried to mimic what the best rocker foxtrotters were doing in my mind. I had an epiphany and thought I had figured it out, so when I got home I asked Tim to try the dance with me. We were both skeptical, but it turned out that my own observation and mimicry were able to do what years of advice from coaches had not: it wasn’t pretty, but I was finally able to do the turn without getting blocked.

I thought this must be a fluke, so we tried it again with more speed. No block. We did several patterns. No block. The mohawk seemed, dare I say it, easy.

That was Monday. This is Sunday. This morning, Tim passed his Rocker Foxtrot test by all three judges, as did the other 3 people testing it (a veritable Rocker Foxtrot Festival! ... And all 8 of us dressed in black, which was unnecessarily pessimistic as it turned out). Congratulations to Bill Cloran, Bill Fisher (Bill also passed his Foxtrot and European, completing the pre-silvers), and Annee Magee (Annee also passed her Tango and American for a silver sweep). Tim has now completed his Silver dances.

Of all those testing today, Tim's prop was definitely the most nervous. This was more a test for me than for him, as he is comfortable with the dance and skates it well and could have tested it a long time ago. I feel happier about this result than my own gold dance test. I can do the rocker foxtrot, that's right, yes I can! Today, dare I say it, the mohawk seemed easy.


Gordon said...


So what was the key, exactly?

Anonymous said...

The key? "Stop trying to lead!"

carl.nelson said...

Terri... I'm so happy for you!!!!

Anonymous said...

This dance has been a disaster for me. I have spent more time and money on it than all others together, and I am on my 3rd coach, having failed twice. It is frustrating because I cannot go further with testing until I pass. I am working on my blues and starlight, and have progressed quickly with these while I still detest the way my Rocker is skated. I agree this dance is the most challenging ever. I am trying again in December with my most recent coach. I may have to hope to just get by with this one, as it has improved since the last try.