jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


Halloween and the happy crew

It’s been a while since I’ve posted photos from the happy crew at the rink. Here’s some fun ones from this week.



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Poem for today

A poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Making a Fist”

We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

‘How do you know if you are going to die?’
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
‘When you can no longer make a fist.’

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.

Source: Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry (University of Utah Press, 1988)



Over the years, I’ve learned to be more patient with any interruptions to my skating practice. After all, it’s impossible to respond to work colleagues with “Sorry, I can’t come to the meeting–I have to go skating” or to tell a kid that his chamber music recital takes a back seat to swing rolls.

But when I got the notice that I was selected for jury duty, I immediately started freaking out. Honestly, I don’t mind doing my civic duty, and I didn’t spend too long scheming about ways to get out of it. Still, it seemed a cruel impediment to my summer return to the ice, which has been quite glorious so far.

Our county has a system by which you can call in twice a day to see if you are indeed needed at the courthouse. Lo and behold, when I called in today, I got the happy message that I wouldn’t need to come in after all! I immediately jumped in the car and headed to the rink instead.

My goal for practice today was to see if I could spend the entire session skating with decent alignment, especially where my hips are concerned. It’s been clear since I returned from my little skating-free sabbatical earlier this summer that I still have to make this a priority or I will quickly regress to my painful wild “hippy” days of dropped free sides and unstable muscles. I am especially concentrating on “decompressing” my hips (lengthening through the skating side) which seems to help a lot.

Ballet dancers seem to talk a lot about being pulled up out of the hip joint or being “up on the leg.” In order for this to occur, glute and hip muscles have to support the hip so that the free side doesn’t pull away from the midline.  This is a useful idea for skaters too. Skating unfortunately can encourage a certain degree of anterior pelvic tilt and tight hip flexors, which in turn inhibits these supporting muscles. Couple these problems with my tendency to simply drop onto my new skate or stack up my body in ways that resemble an advanced game of Jenga: a recipe for misalignment!

My goal for the summer is to make sure that I will be able to relegate those problems to the past tense. I’ve been trying to get my hips neutral and “decompressed” while standing, walking, and even sitting. And when I’m not needed at the courthouse, I’ll do this on the ice.

I’m in the pool of potential jurors for the next two weeks. Ack! So I can’t promise much skating news unless I get lucky again. Fingers crossed that the only judges I will have to see in the near future are skating judges!






Back dimples and other anatomical matters

So earlier this week PT Sarah was talking about making sure that my “back dimples” were positioned correctly during certain exercises. I looked the term “back dimples” up, and there is actually a term for this, the “Dimples of Venus.”

These indentations on the back mark the places where the different bones of the pelvis attach to one another, the sacroiliac (SI) joints. They are right above the “intergluteal cleft,” more crudely known as the “butt-crack.”


Identifying those two crucial parts of my anatomy seems to help with my posture on and off the ice. I’m finding that it is easier to think about the position of my back dimples and (ahem) intergluteal cleft than to achieve a neutral hip/back position in other ways.

I have a tendency to over-correct my “anterior pelvic tilt” with a “posterior pelvic tilt,” that pushes my hips forward. Can’t seem to settle in neutral! But gently drawing down those “back dimples” helps me find the correct alignment without straining.


Similarly, making sure that my intergluteal cleft is lined up properly helped as well. Laurie pointed this out on my left swing roll. I was trying to do something that turned out to anatomically impossible. I would describe it, but I don’t even want to think about it right now. But after she told me to face that cleft (not the term she used!) facing into the circle rather than out of it, everything was much easier.

This also really helps on back inside edges. Ari has been on my case to turn in my free foot on the left back inside, but that’s been a hard sell. Lo and behold, another plus for lining up that intergluteal cleft! Works like a charm.

I have been working on some other anatomical matters as well. Laurie and I talked about how to find a good position for my upper body on progressives by lining up my midline (zipper) along the direction I want to go.

Okay, I was momentarily tempted to search for close-up pictures of ice dancers that might in fact illustrate all these anatomical features. But actually finding them is a really scary thought, so I will just go on to some notes from my lessons so I don’t have to think about this anymore.

  • upper body position (zipper) on forward progressives
  • back progressives: draw in feet father back behind body (this is really different from what I have been doing. Waaaay better this way.)
  • swing rolls, practice with skating side lead. And remember that intergluteal cleft!
  • swing roll to inside edge (change over earlier)
  • mohawk, back three, edge, edge (get a good push on the back edge into the three and look back).
  • mohawk, back three, forward inside three, back crossover the other way, repeat
  • three-step mohawk pattern with forward outside closed mohawks: check hip and back position. Your feet should simply move underneath you without rocking or shifting weight from one edge to another. Do these on a circle to make sure you are really on an edge).



An all-time low for famous skaters at the Super Bowl

In preparation for this year of Super Bowl half-time show viewing, I watched a video of the show during the 1992 Super Bowl (the first time the event was ever held in Minnesota).

It has featured appearances by Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano skating on teflon, the 1980 Olympics U.S. hockey team, the University of Minnesota’s marching band (go, Gophers!), ballroom dancers, hockey stick formations, and dancers wearing a shade of green that really shouldn’t exist, even in the imagination. And poor, poor Gloria Estefan, dressed in something that vaguely resembles a skating dress. (Luckily, they invited her back some years later to perform with Stevie Wonder and she looked fully recovered. Life does give us some second chances.)

The theme is “Winter Magic.” Be afraid, be very afraid.

Sigh. Now I have to include the video, just because I mentioned it. But a warning: if you watch it, you may have nightmares regardless of whether or not you lived through the late 1980s.

Here are some reasons to watch:

  1. Sheer boredom + curiosity + the burning desire to see what inspired them to invite Michael Jackson to perform at the Super Bowl the following year.
  2. Winter blues that can only be cured by some kind of shock therapy.
  3. The need to watch something so awful that being able to turn it off makes you feel in control of your own life choices.
  4. As a reminder that whatever Coldplay and Beyonce have to offer this year, at least it’s not a reprise of “Winter Magic.” (I hope.)

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And please don’t watch it for the skating. . . Nooooo!!!

I am so sorry you had to see that. The horror, the horror!

To get rid of those snowflakes, here’s Michael Jackson in 1993 and the return of Gloria in 1999.


Nationals 2016: final thoughts

Yesterday I saw the finals for senior pairs and ice dance at U.S. Nationals 2016. I sometimes forget how visceral the response to watching skating can be, but I realized mid-way through the Shibutani’s program that I was holding my breath and that my heart was pounding and my palms were sweating. I haven’t felt that in a long time.

I have written elsewhere about Alex and Maia Shibutani’s long program to Coldplay’s “Fix You.”

The ShibSibs performed that beautifully here. The judges thought so too; they came in first. I have been a fan of theirs for years, so I was delighted to see their first U.S. title. My palms don’t sweat for nothing!

But I also wanted to highlight another program that I thought was just breathtaking: Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, skating to music from the film, The Theory of Everything. 

I will try to add a video from Nationals when one is available, but here they are at Skate America.

If you’ve seen this film, you will know that it is about the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane. I thought that this was one of the most moving programs I’d seen in ages. The music is put together seamlessly, and conveys a range of emotions. The choreography, gestures, and facial expressions reference the complicated relationship between the characters in the film: Stephen Hawking as he struggles with his growing disability, Jane Hawking as she copes with the demands of the marriage. I noticed that Kaitlin had tears in her eyes at the end of the program, and I hope that was part of the story, not because of their skating. They skated beautifully.

So it’s a little sad to have Nationals over and done with. Part of me still hopes to be able to sneak away to Boston for Worlds, but this looks increasingly unlikely. At any rate, I’m looking forward to getting my own skating back in gear after the bruise (that now looks like some kind of weird tattoo, mapping out all the points of contact between ice and body) fades a bit. Sitting down is the worst part!