Oy, an overdue post, I know. So my first performance EVAR was over a week ago, but I didn’t have time to sit down and process it since I went out of town Christmas week. Now I’m finally back to normal life (though not yet back to skating). Phew!
So, the show. I don’t have video because the rink wants us to buy from the professional company that taped it. So hopefully video will become available at a future date. It’s too bad the dress rehearsal didn’t quite work out as planned, because I’d wanted to get video then. But those public crowds just weren’t going to allow that.
I had a number of apprehensions going into the ice show, partly because it was my first skating performance, but also partly because I tend to get way inside my head analyzing everything to bits before The Thing happens, all in the name of preparation but really just freaking myself out. First off, I found out that the holiday show was HUGE. I was hoping for a nice dinky little rink show with a handful of skaters and two handfuls of their parents. But no, the organizer emails told us that there were EIGHTY skaters in all, most of them doing solos, making the show approximately three hours long. I KNOW.
I didn’t exactly want to go first, but I thought it might be nicer to be closer to the front of the show than the back, before the audience had seen too many really advanced skaters. Then the schedule came out and I was in the last ten performances. Gulp. Worse yet, I was going after a novice skater and before another novice skater. OY. I actually freaked a little at this and wrote the organizers asking if they’d meant to do this in skill order since I was out of place, but they assured me that it was random ordering. Just my random luck.
In the week leading up to the show, I skated my usual practice on Monday, had my lesson Tuesday, had an extra lesson for dress rehearsal on Thursday (which I wrote about previously), then practiced at Show Rink on Friday (because Thursday’s plans got interrupted). I know some adult skaters log quite a number of ice time, but for me that felt like a lot of skating. I was just at that point where any more skating would have been too much, and I would have strained myself, doing more harm than good. The show was Saturday, and by the time that rolled around I was feeling ready. I didn’t think I’d manage everything perfectly, but things were as good as they were going to be. I also finally managed a few clean run-throughs — not as solid as I would have liked, but respectable ones where I got through every element without calamity.
Because Show Rink and Usual Rink both didn’t hold sessions on Saturday, Coach A suggested I do a warm-up at Third Rink just to get my ice legs. This wasn’t only a smart suggestion but pretty crucial, as I found out during my practice runs. In order to simulate the show day conditions, I had been starting my practices with short, limited warm-ups and then doing one full run-through. On Monday and Tuesday I fell on silly moves — not even elements, but simple steps! — because I wasn’t warmed up properly and was skating stiffly. So I knew I needed a really decent half-hour of skating, preferably an hour, to get properly ready.
Day of show:
I went to Third Rink, which I normally don’t like to skate at because of the poorer ice and the bigger crowds, and since this was a midwinter Saturday public, it was packed. I wore my costume under my warm-up jacket and pants and focused solely on getting my legs warm, doing laps of stroking, power pulls, cross strokes, and mohawks. It’s a good thing I had no expectation of practicing jumps because there’s no way I had the room to do them. I managed a few spins, though I didn’t dare attempt the camel. (Which was too bad since that was my big stress-out element, and my least consistent.)
After 45 minutes of that, I headed over to Show Rink. Since I wouldn’t skate for another two hours, I had a lot of waiting to do, which gave me time to watch the first half of the show comfortably without stressing out about needing to get ready. I found a couple adult skaters I knew from my usual rink practices and watched with them, and generally had a lot of fun as a spectator.
Things I learned watching the show:
Performing may be nerve-racking to the performer, but seeing it as a detached audience member helped put things in some perspective. So what if you messed up? So what if you didn’t get as many revs on that scratch as usual, or even fell on a jump? These parents are plenty used to seeing kids fall, I’m sure, and nobody cared if you messed up. People were genuinely there to enjoy the show and clap for skaters.
As a corollary to that, it seemed to me that making no mistakes and having high performance quality weren’t directly proportional. Which is to say, there were some skaters who skated mistake-free, but had zero expression and looked like they were just practicing a routine to themselves. All their attention was focused inward, and they tended to be no fun to watch. It finally clicked with me what Coach A meant about projecting outward; I tried following her advice but had been sort of bumbling along, wondering, “Is this what she means?” Seeing that lack of projection really brought the idea home. Then on the other hand, some skaters made mistakes but were so energetic and looked like they were having such fun that you ended up clapping extra-hard for them. They made you smile. I filed that away for my own knowledge.
Some of the skaters were GREAT. Some were just not having a good day, and it was sad to watch them put out a performance they were clearly unhappy about — but it’s really how they responded to the mistakes that left an impression. For instance, there were a number of falls, and some skaters just got back up and kept on smiling, and by the end you forgot they’d fallen. And then there was this one girl who was having a terrible day — she fell on every jump (doubles) and messed up every spin (layback and flying camel, iirc), and at one point she paused right in the middle of the program, as though contemplating whether or not to just quit. Really, her shoulders slumped and I thought she was just going to leave. The moment passed and she managed to squeak her way through the rest. I felt so sorry for her, but it also made me resolve to NEVER even contemplate quitting. Once that thought hits your brain there’s very little time/opportunity to prevent your body from automatically going into “quit program” mode, and it’s just so visible to the spectators. Even if I have to make up the rest, I’m just going to keep going, I vowed.
About half an hour before my turn was when the nerves started to hit. I was very calm all day, knowing there was this buffer of time keeping me from potential humiliation. Once there were thirty minutes left, I had to start warming up my muscles again and that brought on the jitters. It was mostly off-ice in the back room — jumping jacks and jogging and stretches. I took care to really get warm, knowing I was only allowed behind the curtain to warm up for about ten minutes.
Thankfully I saw my coach as I headed over to the curtain area early, and she suggested that I get extra ice time. Being that I’m an adult and it was my first show, the organizers were really nice about it and let me on a few turns early, and at that point I was all shaking and nerves. And COLD. Coach A had given me guidelines on how to use my warm-up time, but even so I found myself at a bit of a loss toward the end. I didn’t want to be aimlessly stroking around, but I also didn’t want to stress myself out by doing my elements over and over and possibly screwing up one — that would jar me mentally more than anything, just minutes before performing. So I did a small circle of crossovers, power pulls, spirals, and a few jumps. My waltz and salchow are consistent now so it was really my spins that worried me, and being nervous did NOT help matters.
I took my place by the curtain while the skater in front of me performed — a really nice jazzy number to a Sinatra song, I think, with double jumps and flying spins. Sigh. I must’ve looked a little spooked when the volunteer asked, “Are you ready?” and I half-joked, “I… hope so?” She told me to breathe, shake out my hand, and then my name was called.
By this point I was tamping down my jitters, but it was also go-time and that actually put me in a zen sort of state of mind. I hit my pose and the music started. The first third is simple choreography (3-turn into BXO, landing position, dance move with arms, RFO spiral, mohawk, attitude glide, waltz 3, XO, mohawk, waltz-side toe hop-waltz…) and I remember hitting a nice spiral position with a solid edge and arched back – something Coach A was trying to get me to improve on. I heard her cheering when I hit it, so that felt pretty good. It wasn’t till I landed the first jump that I remembered to smile. I’m sure the camera has a lovely close-up of me going into the waltz with pursed lips and my frowny face on, but I’m pretty sure the smile stayed on for the rest.
The first tricky element was my camel, and I took my time setting it up since rushing always makes me fall out of the spin. And it’s funny how i was SO stressed out about not hitting my camel all week(s) long, and in the split-second before I went into it, I sort of mentally shrugged and thought, “Eh, if I miss it I miss it! What’s the worst that would happen?” I got into it okay and managed a rev or two before I fell out of it early, which wasn’t what I’d wanted but was also better than I feared — at least I got into it and did a recognizable camel (I hope).
That put me a few seconds early, but I was pumping on adrenaline and didn’t want to throw in extra steps on the fly, so I went into the latter half ahead of the music. I just kept smiling through it, did my footwork (a little scratchy but made it), landed the salchow (a shallow jump but okay), did the remaining footwork, and ended with my last spin, the 1-foot upright. I fell out of that early too, but oh well. At that point I was just glad it wasn’t worse, and relieved to be over.
All in all, those 90 seconds really whizzed by. In fact, it kind of made me feel silly to have gotten so worked up over it beforehand, because after doing it, it didn’t feel like such a huge deal after all.
But I suppose that’s the value of performing. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t done the show, would I?
Bravo! And thanks for sharing. A great description from all viewpoints. And uh, no, video just doesn’t become “available,” unfortunately you’ll have to buy it (the vendor will probably let you get it from their web site for a couple of months.)
I especially liked your observation of the difference between the “performers” and those just technically “skating.”
Worth an extra shootout from L. A. Skate Dad (smile).
Thanks! Oh yes, I did mean I would buy the video when it becomes available, and hopefully find a way to rip it at that point. But I’ll have to wait and see how it comes out.
SInce it was my first show as a spectator too (I did go to Skate America but I mean for non-elites), it was surprising to note the difference between the skaters who performed to the audience and those who didn’t. Funny that sometimes you learn more from the skaters who don’t do well than the ones who do — the ones who breeze through everything just make it look too easy!
Figure Skating Parent said:
Congratulations! That’s so cool! I’ve helped with a lot of skating shows because my kids all skate, and I’ve always been so impressed with the adult skaters who are willing to go out there and perform – especially the adults who didn’t grow up skating. Nice work!
Thank you! I was definitely envious of the kid skaters who seemed so natural out there, like it was nothing to be performing to a large crowd. It was pretty nerve-racking for a bit there, but ultimately it was a good experience and one that hopefully teaches me something. I don’t know what that is yet, but there’s gotta be a life lesson in there somewhere!
Wonderful!!! I got the same sort of feelings when I watched my first rink recital before, but you express it so much better. It’s amazing how some skaters just make you fall in love with them even with the simplest things, but some skaters who do doubles and flying camels don’t make you feel anything at all.
I’m glad your first performance went well, this was a very exciting post and I wish the video will come out soon!
Thanks Janie! I remember you commenting on the smiling performers, and it struck me as one of those things you don’t always think about until you see it in action. So it was one of my reminders to enjoy myself even if I wasn’t performing perfectly. I hope the video comes out well! *crossed fingers*
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