Bows are part of the performance. Once the show is over, a comet’s tail should be left in people's hands. ~Maya Plisetskaya
You've struck the ending pose in your program, catching your breath with as much grace as you can muster. Perhaps you're smiling because you nailed every jump and spin, or maybe you're holding back a flood of disappointment. Whether you landed a clean double axel, or lost points on an element, how you leave the ice is just as important as how you arrived.
Taking the ice with confidence and poise sets the tone for a successful skate. And no matter how your program turns out, it does not truly end until you exit the ice at the sideboards.
Rather than halfheartedly performing a gesture to acknowledge the judges and audience, curtsy with sincerity. Bows and curtsies are ways of thanking the judges for judging you and thanking the audience for supporting you. It's a moment taken not only to show gratitude, but to center yourself after your hard work. Doing so often takes less than a quarter of minute, so make those 15 seconds count:
-When you take the ice, nerves skyrocketing or not, concentrate on smooth stroking, strong placement, and clean lines as you skate to your starting point.
-Take a deep cleansing breath as you move into position and await your program music. Breathe.
-When the music ends, no matter how you skated, lend energy and strength to your ending pose.
-Skate out to the middle of the ice and give a genuine curtsy or bow. If a curtsy isn't your style, then smile and wave. Give some sort of acknowledgment to show your appreciation.
-When you exit the ice, concentrate again on smooth stroking, strong placement, and clean lines. Remember to keep your head up!
Though judges might not always see skaters perform their curtsies--especially while writing notes and figuring out where a skater should be placed in a group--they do tend to notice skaters who slink off the ice.
Keep in mind that audiences tend to give positive encouraging vibes to skaters who take the time to show their acknowledgement versus skaters who exit with an attitude that says, "I'm sorry to have taken up your time." A display of extra finesse at the conclusion of your program may convince the audience that you are happy with how you skated and that is definitely reflected back to the judges.
Know that there might be judges seated in the audience who will judge you in the future. Even if you skated a disastrous program, those judges will likely remember how gracious you were when your program ended. The poise you demonstrate may be what sticks in their minds. The manner in which you present yourself can either command the judges attention or give them a few seconds to begin thinking about their next break. So go on, leave a piece of your heart out on the ice!
Here's a photo of me working with a student on her arabesque line, which is known as a spiral in figure skating.
Her homework involved her practicing her spirals against a wall at home. She's got her journal on the floor with checkmarks in it for each day she practiced. And now she's showing me her hard work.
We're going for the aesthetic of long lines and straight legs with the knees pulled upward. Though my hand is over her knee, I am giving only a gentle reminder to straighten and am avoiding pressure or stress on the knee area.
We're in the process of developing her strength so that she can lengthen her neck and lower her shoulders, pull in her stomach muscles for support, face her shoulders forward, pull up in her standing leg, and wing her foot to complete the line.
Arabesques and spirals require strength in addition to the understanding of technique and placement. The student pictured above has been practicing this body line for nine months. It is especially rewarding to see her transfer all of her hard work in-studio to the ice. This teacher is proud!
I've always been intrigued by dancers and skaters with strong artistry and technique. Individuals who show their hearts and souls as they perform are especially fascinating. Even as a small child, I could see the magic within such individuals and I knew I wanted to be just like them. Each lesson I took, I always searched for that dancer or skater who had that special something, who made things look effortless. The allure these artists and athletes possess is easy to define: their souls are bright and their hearts are full because they're doing what they love. And the ones who have impeccable skill and ability, whether they were born talented or not, achieved what they have via dedication and perseveration. Heart and soul dancers (what I call them) don't give up. They aren't distracted by what others think. They don't allow their fears to guide them. They simply show up and dance or skate with infinite curiosity and thoughtfulness as they master new skills and choreography.
I looked up to and did my best to emulate these heart and soul performers, whether they were on television, or in my very own classes in my very own town. I asked myself how I could become like them. And that was when the idea of journaling popped into my head. So my mother and I headed to a Target, or a Michael's, or whatever store it was and I bought my first journal--a pink one covered in rhinestones. I used my allowance to purchase dance and skate magazines, and I cut out the most inspiring images and pasted them throughout my journal.
The most important part of my journaling experience was the dedication and discipline it took to pull my journal out after each lesson and write down every correction that my dance teacher or skate coach had given me. I even wrote down corrections that were given to others that I felt might as well apply to me. And then before each lesson, I would reread the last entry in my journal. From there, I set an intention for my upcoming lesson.
I had so much fun over the years tracking my struggles and accomplishments through the process of journaling. Thumbing over past journals was a great way to entertain myself between lessons or on lazy Sundays as my mother used to call them.
If I were to name one thing other than hard work and perseverance that catapulted me toward my goals more quickly, it would be steadfast journaling. As a teacher, I encourage all of my students to purchase a journal. And the ones who faithfully return to their lessons with their journals in hand, oftentimes bursting at the seams to show me a glimpse of their last few entries, or the latest inspiring pictures they've added...those are the ones I know--whether born talented or not--will end up getting the most out of our lessons and making the most progress in the shortest timeframes. So hail to the journal and all of you journalists out there. Write on, write on!