Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Halls of Academe

 Figure skating has not been researched as extensively as other subjects, but the academic world has apparently done a hell of a lot more research than the sport itself has cared to try.

This paper:

bio mechanics of figure skating plus a few correlations with dance and track

was written in 1997 by physicians/researchers who specialize in spine technology and (very often) sports rehab.

Some of the stuff that struck me:

Maria Mountain of Revolution Conditioning without question understands everything in this paper and more, as do Scott and Tessa, so one wonders how she manages a straight face watching Davis White - if she does.

That hour long warm-up Patrick Chan does, that we've seen repeated in various Chan profiles - is historically something figure skaters don't do but it's likely his most important take away from working with Christy Krall - more than his quad mechanics. His body and his career will be thanking her for years.

And -

wonderful ballet (or any dance) technique is more than beautiful (static) lines and rhythm, no matter how elegantly extended your lines or how exquisite your toe point. It's also about:
Disassociate movement. Balanced movement using neutral spine mechanics.  ....Today, dissociative movement is appreciated as a ballerina performs balanced leaps and pirouettes with movements of her extremities in patterns that are disassociated from movement of the spine.
Disciplined disassociate movement is desirable. It's efficient, it's stabilizing, it concentrates the potential of a movement, even outside figure skating, such as in great track and field athletes. It's part of the highest quality of figure skating - skaters who master dissociative movement  are able to maintain the

quiet, isolated upper body required for the technical and difficult maneuvers performed in competitive figure skating.

When I picture elite ice dancers who demonstrate exquisite disassociate movement, it isn't a pair of skaters who concertedly keep their upper bodies constantly in motion, constantly busy, able only to hit a pose but not work their blades or their stroking/crossovers with quiet, isolated upper bodies, that's for sure. If quiet, isolated upper bodies are required for the technical and difficult maneuvers performed by elite competitive figure skaters, that certainly explains the other sort of maneuvers Davis White favor. It doesn't explain the points they receive for them, however.

Probably since 1997 that whole dissociative movement thing became unimportant, because the actual mechanics of quality figure skating have become unimportant, at least in contemporary ice dance, which is, of course, the most logical figure skating discipline where slop should be rewarded. Someone better best tell Tessa.

Tessa's good at something else which apparently nobody's told her is archaic in present day ice dance:
Position of optimal function (POOF - not kidding, that's the acronym).
Tessa being the best POOF skater in the world allows her to accomplish a rotational lift laid out perpendicular on one of Scott's shoulders, sustaining textbook alignment and stillness with her lower extremities in space, through multiple rotations and to smoothly and swiftly re-orient upon the lift exit into a running edge.

I've also learned that that single axel we see Tessa executing in that tumblr gif is textbook with perfect mechanics - during rotation her axis is over her landing leg, the revolution completes in the air, upon landing her hips and shoulders are square to the landing leg to control the landing edge and run it out, and her free leg hip is elevated to achieve the ideal aesthetic position.

And finally, this:
Stroking. The purpose of stroking and crossovers is to generate speed.
Who knew? Skaters are supposed to generate speed with stroking and crossovers, not leaping, jumping, hopping, skipping, yanking, pushing and running.

But this paper was published in 1997. Doubtless, standards have changed.

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