VII. FREE SKATING

How to tell you how to free skate? That is something I'm afraid the written word cannot completely accomplish. Written instruction can teach you much and help you greatly, it is true, but after a while precept and example plus your own native ingenuity will be necessary. A thorough treatise on free skating, even for beginners at the art, could easily occupy a whole volume by itself, while many wonderful free skating moves cannot be written down, for the simple reason that they have not yet been invented.

No one person could hope to make a compilation of all the dance steps and varied free moves that have already been skated, and no one imagination could envision all the possible new combinations. That is the fascination of skating. "Time can­not wither nor custom stale her infinite variety"—so with pure figure skating, there is always something more to learn about its siren charms. If you haven't yet made that discovery for yourself, I guarantee that you will after a few weeks of experi­menting with the spirals, steps, jumps, and spins that follow.

As in all your skating so far, you should learn your free skating in its natural sequence. If you are young and ambitious, don't try jumps before you can control the spirals described in Chapter III. Don't spend hours trying to spin like a top without devoting an equal amount of time to learning how to weave steps into dances. Don't try a complicated jump before you can do the simplest ones in good take-off and landing position with steady edges and controlled balance throughout.

If you are a dancer, don't try to interpret music on ice before you know the correct skating means for such interpretation. (This goes for free skaters as well.) There is nothing more ridiculous than a skater who tries to gain an artistic effect that is beyond his present powers. Don't think that because you like to fling yourself about with speed and abandon, anyone else will like to see you do it. Speed and abandon, yes, but with grace, style, accurate footwork, and control over all your moves. Above all, learn how to glide from one figure to the next.

You should practice your plain stroking, your cross-overs, and your rolls as warm-up exercises every time you go on the ice to free skate or dance. They should be standard procedure for acquir­ing that effortless "flow" over the ice surface that is the mark of the fine skater. Even an untutored audience at an average show is quick to sense that a skater who doesn't have this quality is not really a good skater, no matter how spectacular certain of his specialties may be.

If you are no longer as young as you once were or if, perhaps, you are a naturally retiring person who would feel self-con­scious trying solo free skating moves, my advice is the same —only different! You don't have to fling yourself about at top speed, you don't have to spin at all, you don't have to do even one jump to have a tremendous amount of fun with your free skating and to become a very pleasing performer. You will combine spirals and dance steps in interesting patterns, skat­ing always in perfect rhythm with the music. You will be able to skate well with others in carnival groups, and eventually you will be doing all sorts of things you probably don't think possible now.

You will gradually lose your fear of leaving the ice, and you will try the easiest of the jumps. You will find that you can do them, too (there are many skaters who have learned the simple jumps when they were well beyond the half-century mark!), and, surprisingly enough, spinning is easy. Once you get the knack of rotating on one spot (and if you'll think about it while you learn, that isn't very hard), there is nothing to basic spinning except standing still and going around! So abandon your inhibitions and come join our free skating class. Free skating is the icing of the cake. It is exhilarating exer­cise and grand fun. There is one point to get well in mind before we start: It is not what you do, but how you do it that counts. My first instructor used to say that to me on the average of once a lesson, and I still think it the best advice.


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