Right now is the time to learn two vital maneuvers—skating backward and crossing-over forward (commonly known as "cutting the corner"). Because you must feel at ease going backward as soon as possible, I want to start you double sculling, and then we'll swing into the forward cross-overs.
The "backward double scull" (Illus. 8-1, 2, 3) is just the reverse of the forward and is actually easier. Place your toes together, heels out in a V, skates on the inside edge but ankles firm. Be sure your body weight is over the balls of your feet, and, of course, bend your knees. Now allow your heels to slide out diagonally backward (as a matter of fact, it was hard to keep them from sliding of their own accord, wasn't it?). When they have glided apart a comfortable distance, pull your heels in together by straightening your knees. Slide with your feet parallel and close for a few feet and then repeat the whole process. It's easy and fun to work up a lot of speed backward this way, so use your knees in rhythm and let yourself go. Two reminders: Never wiggle both feet and your hips from side to side to navigate backward, a common error of beginners, who are often under the delusion that this is skating backward (remember—skating is a one-foot sport), and by the same token, don't allow your feet to slide so far out in the scull that you reach the point of no return!
The cross-overs (Illus. 9) are important to teach you the feel of a very strong body lean to a circle. Properly done, they will strengthen your outside and inside edges in preparation for real figure skating. Carelessly executed, with the sloppy foot movements seen on most ponds and rinks, they will do you as much harm as good. So learn each detail of movement carefully and we'll progress amazingly fast.
To cross-over to the left, or counterclockwise (the easier direction for most right-handed people), stand in T-position with your left foot leading, your left arm and shoulder back, and your right arm and shoulder forward. Bend your knees and push strongly onto a LOF stroke, leaving your right leg straight behind, knee and toe extended (9-1). Then bring your right foot forward close past your left (9-2) and cross it wide over in front into the inside of the curve and onto the inside edge of the blade (9-3). As this right skate touches the ice, it should be absolutely parallel to the left skate (toes on an even line), and at the split second of contact all the body weight shifts onto the right leg. This quick shift of weight allows the left skate to slide neatly off the ice with the left leg extended, straight-kneed, directly toward the outside of the circle, still in a crossed-under position (9-4). Point your free toe and hold this position while you glide for several counts. Now bring the left skate around close behind the right and touch it to the inside of the right boot in the regular pushing position of a forward stroke. Repeat the stroke and the cross-over alternately around the circle in steady rhythm, working up more speed and a deeper lean. Do not push while you are crossing over. Merely glide—every other stroke is a push.
This description of a cross-over is, of course, the ideal that you are to work to attain. I would not expect you to do it like this on your first attempt, or indeed after many attempts. But I feel it is important for you to visualize the desired end result when you start each new move. So concentrate on these points: a body leaning always at the same angle to the center of the circle, a skating knee bent always to the same degree so that there is no unpleasant bobbing motion. This means that your inside shoulder will be always lower and pressed back and that you will push to a bent skating knee and cross over onto an equally bent knee. Only the free knee is straight, and that should be absolutely straight. You should feel like an airplane banking around a curve, and the whole action should be as smooth as silk. Try to hold each pushing stroke and each gliding crossover to an even count of 3. I have a catch phrase which I've found useful in teaching: "Touch—push, 2, 3, cross—wide, 2, 3, touch—push, 2, 3," etc. If you will say this evenly to yourself as you skate, it will not only give you the right rhythm but will remind you of the right movement of the feet. After a few circles around to the left, you must try the cross-overs to the right, or clockwise. Stand in T-position, right foot leading, and reverse all the directions given above. Caution: Do not lean forward from the hips pushing your pelvis back or you may find (like one of our models) that you come a cropper on the picks of your skates. Even if you don't fall, you will look awkward. Do not lean away from the circle at any time. You know what happens if you lean away from the curve while cornering a bicycle? Well, the same thing happens on skates.
Are you having a bit of trouble getting on a really secure outside forward edge? Or a firm-feeling cross-over? It may be that your skating hip is "out," (Illus. 10) and you don't realize it. The most important part of the body in keeping the weight directly over the skating foot is the hip joint and the upper thighbone of the skating side. If, when you bend your skating knee, your muscles allow this upper leg to jut out to the side instead of staying in one straight leaning line from your skate, you will never be on true balance, and in extreme cases you will not even be able to strike the correct edge. I always, advise beginning pupils to put their own hand on their skating hip joint and upper thigh as they glide over a bent knee to see if they can feel the difference between a pressed in, taut hipline and one that has been allowed to swing out like a hula dancer's. At this point hulas have no place on the ice.
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