Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Cunningham spine and 3-turns

There is only one spine per person, and thus the spine used in Cunningham is the same spine used in skating. This much is obvious, and indeed tautological. But applying the lessons of the use of the spine in Cunningham to use in skating can be done consciously or unconsciously. I have been skating for about nine years, and only recently have been thinking consciously about how to use the twist of Cunningham spine when I skate. I had contemplated the doing some of the Cunningham positions and movements on skates. In general, this was not particularly successful, and I attributed it in part to my fairly modest skating skill level.

I noted in an earlier post that Cunningham makes full use of the articulation of the spine. Cunningham was interested in what was possible; with the spine that mean exploring all manner of its possible articulations. Most Cunningham movements and positions create shapes of the body that are images to the audience. The positions in skating are different than is typical with Cunningham, but the skill in articulation translates from one to the other. What is really different with skating is that the twist of the spine prepares the skater for a turn, and is used to hold the skater on the new edge after the turn; during the turn it moves from one position to the other. Thus is has a specific and essential purpose that is distinct from Cunningham. The balance in Cunningham comes from having a solid base, and from balancing on that base. A twist of the spine alters the shoulders in relation to the hips. If the Cunningham dancer, standing on one or two legs, twists the spine from one extreme to the other, say from left to right, the leg need not move; instead, the shoulders and upper torso move. But a skater prepares a full twist prior to a one foot turn, untwists the spine during the turn, and twists to the opposite side at the the end of the turn. This ending is called a check of the turn, and this takes a lot of practice to develop. In this case, the foot moves from forward to backward, while the shoulders actually stay in approximately the same place in relation to the direction one is moving.

What I have learned in recent days is to think about my spine as a Cunningham spine while skating. And in doing so I have thought in terms of using the spine to initiate action (of course it is muscles initiating the movement, not bones, but the imagery of the spine moving is useful). In particular, I have been working on one foot 3-turns. Separately over the past month I have been working making my 3-turns smoother. This involves riding the edge until it turns in to the point, and pushing the foot forward to the ball of the foot, before exiting the turn. Ideally one makes virtually no noise, and the tracing of the turn is a full blade length in from the circumference of the circle it is tracing. I have made some progress on the front outside 3's, particularly on the left foot. But the inside 3's have been coming much more slowly.

My discovery yesterday was that I could set up a forward inside 3 with a full Cunningham twist, initiate the turn with the spine, to the opposite side, while directing my foot into the turn, pushing the foot forward to the ball of the foot (while not scraping). The turn instantly became much easier, and much cleaner. The tracing is still not as far towards the center of the circle as I would like, but it is clean, easy, and does not scrape. And it is nearly effortless. I then found I could also use this with the forward outside 3's. Again, spine initiation is the key. Go figure!

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