Sunday, December 16, 2012

Foray Into Adult Skating: The First Performance

As children, we imagine performing programs on the ice and skating to beautiful music in glittery costumes. While many children are lucky and do so, some of us are not and make up for it as adults. Scheduling lessons and workouts around jam-packed work schedules can be a nightmare, but the challenge and process is mostly enjoyable. Then someone's skating club president will twist their arm into performing in the Christmas show two weeks prior to the event and they will reluctantly agree and have an inner panic attack.

I've been skating my program for a while now, with the hope of possibly competing this April. I've done run throughs, but long weeks at work and life have a way of getting in the way and giving pause, ultimately thinking, "maybe next year." Well, after agreeing to skate in the show, I decide to stay near work to practice in the mornings, running my program three times a session like a total Tara Lipinski to prepare. Heading into the show, I have done a week full of clean run throughs and feel as prepared as I am ever going to be.

And then I get to the show...   Now, I know that I will be skating in the second half of the show. Ideally, I want to be early and go after the five and six-year-olds based on my level of experience, but  I am okay with having more time to hang out in the locker room. Little do I know that Nicole Bobek, the inspiration for my blog, will be skating seven spots after me. Imagine my neurotic self taking the ice for warm up. "Look at her spiral, damn! No, practice your jumps!  Idiot, don't skate into her beautiful Biellmann spin!"

My warm up is shaky for the first minute and then I get the nerves under control and feel great. I go back into the locker room, take off my skates, wait twenty minutes, pee four or five times, tie my skates and wait to take the ice.  My ear phones are on, Beyonce is singing, life is under control Now, being the only solo male who isn't a skater of actual talent or merit in the show, I am in a locker room with young teen and tweenage girls. The smell of hairspray and nail polish is suffocating.  The conversation, is a trip...

"Are you the British dance team?"
"No, I am not the British dance team."

"Did you guys see that dress in the fake competition on Jersey on Ice? She totally copied me."

"My mom googled Nicole Bobek and saw a mugshot. She was arrested for robbery and had a scary haircut."
"Actually, she was arrested for home invasion the year she won Nationals and arrested again for being a part of a crystal meth ring in 2009. Her haircut was scary."

And then there is the diva of the group, who goes back and forth asking everyone if she should do single or double jumps in her program, feigning insecurity. The little ice diva is amazing, naturally, who choreographs her own programs to Josh Groban's 'Believe,' executes a huge double lutz and skates with an impressive level of speed, carriage and grace. Of course, as I'm getting ready to take the ice, I'm watching this little girl OWN it and thinking to myself that I too can do this and have a moment. And then divette goes for her ending Kerrigan spiral and face plants at full speed. At this point Natasha turns to take my jacket and exclaims, "don't be nervous."  Now, isn't this when Frank Carroll is supposed to tell me to think of clouds and shit? Michelle was only so lucky. "Don't be nervous." Gee, thanks. Now all I'm thinking about is being nervous!

I am very lucky to know a number of neurotic former skaters who analyze my practice videos and give me tips. One makes sure to advise me to turn out my foot to start my program and pay attention to details. I listen and try to incorporate everything. I'd be wearing her Jef Billings dresses if I could get away with it. As I go to take my starting position, my legs start buckling. Is it nerves? Yes. Is it the fact that Skylands may be the the coldest rink I've ever been in? It surely isn't helping. As I go to take the pose I do almost every day, I notice that my legs are shaking and feel like they are about to I'm trying to get in my opening pose and decide to screw it. You know what, Jenny Kirk, I had turkey and yams on Thanksgiving and even half a slice of pumpkin pie, and my foot doesn't feel like turning out today.

My program opens with three turns that Natasha insists on being in the program, which I hope to master in the next twelve years. Under pressure, I fear I might wipe out. They are shaky, but I am fine. Then three back crossovers and into my forward inside double three wide step mohawk, back crossover. And I realize I'm shaking and use two feet on the three turn. I do my toe loop and hit my dramatic pose after holding my landing and begin to realize that I'm getting ahead of the music with all of this adrenaline.

For the Adult Bronze freestyle test, we must do three different singles. I always train my program with a Salchow+Loop combination as my second jumping pass. After a judge watches my program online, I am told to just do a loop, which I know is going to freak me out. I train it without any issues, but Natasha becomes very nervous about the spacing on the bigger ice surface (I practice in a closet) and I have this sick feeling that the solo loop may be an issue. There are moments when you realize that things are not going as planned. As I take off for the loop, I become aware that this is one of those moments. Only, this bitch is not going to fall in front of all of these people. The landing is rather ugly and my heart is racing, but I tell myself that now is when the performance needs to be fought for. Somehow, my mind goes rather blank in the moment and I leave out connecting steps that I always do out of the loop, whether in combination or not, and skate toward my spiral, only I leave out the crossovers before that as well.

Maria and the Violin's String is a very repetitive piece upon first listen, but each repetition has a slight variation to it. Thoughts of, 'Oh F*ck, you are way early" started to fill my brain, so I realize that I am going to need to hold my spiral forever in order to catch up. I do hold my spiral and go for the back spiral+waltz jump+toe loop and realize I'm still way ahead, only then I think I'm not quite sure. Of course, this is all an internal panic.  Given that this is a performance, the nerves are present and my inexperienced ass has knees that don't feel like bending as much as usual. The lunge is fine, the ina bauer is a joke and then we go to a sit spin. Now, I've been working drills off the ice to get my sit spin lower for weeks and have had real progress on the ice. Where that went is anyone's guess, but my butt having an aversion to being anywhere near the ice after almost eating it on a loop, so my sit spin was a tad ''shallow."  There is supposed to be a dramatic sashay prior to my salchow. I sort of do it and land the salchow, relived that my legs are somewhat cooperating.

The end of my program is choreographed so that I come out of my scratch spin, usually a money element, and go into cross strokes and toe steps connect to a back inside double three into cross strokes a back spin, pivot ending pose. Only, by this point, I realize that as I exit the back spin, I am so far ahead of the music that I just begin improvising for dear life. And we're going and we're improvising. My mind is in such a state of shock that I finish my program and forget to bow. Yes, I finish my program and sort of nod to the audience while skating off as though I'm a pianist in between movements.  Lord.

"Your legs, so shaking."

"What did I do?  Did I fall? Did I do the salchow?" The performance is two minutes of total amnesia prior to viewing the video and bringing it all back.

Thank God Nicole Bobek is there, performing to the Nutcracker, to ease our troubles. And inside, my internal monologue is saying, "I wonder if this is what she skated in the show when she skipped training for '96 Nationals?" Finally, there is oxygen again.


  1. Good job AJ. Your spirals show great promise.

  2. Great job! I skated in a Christmas show the first year I started skating. I was nervous as hell. My legs felt so shaky, nothing I did was as solid as it usually was. I had good jumps, or so I thought. A toe loop was easy for me but somehow I fell out on the landing because my legs felt so heavy. Congratulations on your persistence and dedication paying off!

  3. you look really good!

  4. So I know NOTHING about skating except I spent most of my time on skates on my A**!! That being said, I can't watch enough of it. The grace & skill is amazing!! Perhaps because you are my cousin...but I think not...I thought you were AMAZING!!!! My only regret is that I wasn't able to see you in person!!! I love watching you!!! You show such drama & emotion in your face & really do make it seem easy!!! I am so very proud of you!!! <3

  5. Very cool to see you pursuing your dreams, inspiring.

  6. Jutta Mueller and I were hoping for more sex appeal and cleavage, but you did a great job. Congratulations on your first performance. I wish I had been there to see it up close.

  7. My favorite part is the opening sequence, and I think you are going to only improve now that you have this under your belt.

  8. Good job! Your music is lovely and your legs are SO tiny and toned--congratulations! ;)

  9. You look great out there!!! And your recap of the inner monologue of an adult competitor is right on. I've so been there. It is SO much harder than it looks.

  10. Spot on and hilarious inner monologue, I agree. The vast majority of us have that "What the HELL am I doing?" moment (or two, or three, or more) before performing or competing. You did a great job! (And yes, WRT bronze FS test program: the three different single-rotation jumps [one a sal, one a toe loop, the third your choice] must all be SOLO jumps. Then there's the waltz-toe combo. Someday I will be uninjured and confident enough with my loop to pass this test.)

  11. YAY!
    Don't worry about the specifics- there was much good here, and the first foray is always the most daunting.
    The yips that you experienced are inevitable at some time or another in a career -so be glad that you worked through them now and not later at a more critical time! :))

  12. I actually liked the improving at the end. I think at that point you knew the hard parts were over so you could perform.

    The nod at the end make you seem very Russian, like you didn't give a fuck if they clapped or not.