I've ruined the soles of my feet. My legs are stiff. I kind of don't care. I was in a dance studio this afternoon, doing salchows in both directions. It was not exactly mindless; there was a lot of looking at my feet, and the lines in the tongue-and-groove flooring, but not much at the mirror, and less at the clock. The motion is less a jump than a very fancy traveling step. You only need to be in the air so you can spin without having to force the blade around on the ice. You simply swing your free foot out in front of you and put it down again in the most roundabout possible fashion.

This is quite bizarre for me. Repetition is the boring part. Doing it without a specific goal in mind is Sysiphean boulder-rolling for my brain. I've done dance and theatrical rehearsals; they're fun as events, because I get to see all the friends that are also in the show, and they're necessary work, but I do them in anticipation of the end goal: Performance. Merely learning choreography and blocking and then doing it over and over again isn't the accomplishment. Wearing a groove in my brain is tedious, especially when there's a particular subset of grooves that tend to develop faster in me than in other people involved. It's why booking a studio for a couple of hours just to 'play around' results in me doing nothing but half-hearted barre stretches. The pointlessness of choreographing and rehearsing anything without anywhere to perform it is stultifying. My collection of brain-gears sees working merely for the sake of working as a punishment.

There is something I find elegant about the figure skating jumps. Not quite parsimonious; symmetric, perhaps, and logical. Die mathematische Grundlagen der Eiskunstlaufen. Viewed from above, the chase leg in a salchow jump describes something that is probably not quite a golden spiral as you sweep into the turn-step. The launch leg draws the mirror image as you land. If you're good enough at stopping yourself -- which I am not, quite -- you can scoop the flying foot right back down and do it again in the other direction without a pause. The enantiomorphic sequences tessellate themselves across the floor.

I spent an hour and a half at this. I'm not even sure why. I hesitate to draw conclusions, because I still don't have a good metric and I try very hard not to overestimate myself in comparison to other people, but I think I am getting this much quicker than I'm "supposed" to. Usually that's what's happened when my internal concept of what I'm doing doesn't  match any of the conventional teaching sequences. I've gone straight to the (usually foolishly advanced) bit that I wanted to know in the first place and deconstructed the rest of it idiosyncratically, with a result that looks little or nothing like the standard pedagogy. It's one of the many things I have to translate on a regular basis, my way to the 'normal' way and back. I usually wind up instructing people in this weird pidgin of analogy, based on whatever I'm guessing, half-blindly, that they know already.

Also a good sign is that not only have I apparently figured out how to do it right, I can't work out how you could possibly do it wrong. I can see imperfect, but I'll be damned if I can envision incorrect. I'm not always successful, but so far all of the failure modes I've rediscovered are the same ones I've seen on the competitive skaters. I had a near-miss this evening that prompted the thought 'hahaha oh jesus, apparently that is exactly how to not fall over when you do that, thank you eidetic memory and YouTube video of Stéphane Lambiel screwing around at rehearsal'. I'm launching and landing from the right edges -- well, quadrants of my feet; they'd kill me if I actually had skates on the studio floor -- because I have no idea how you could even try to do it from the wrong ones. That's just where your weight is.

Much of the weirdness is because I'm working partly off of (poorly) written descriptions, and partly, as mentioned, from eidetic memory. It's useful as fuck, I'm aware that it's not normal, and I don't know how other people survive without it. It's multi-modal, but the modes are pretty well separated, so I have to bring up the visual clip, watch what they're doing, translate that into a spatial-kinetic animation model, and then throw myself around in an attempt to match what is essentially confabulated muscle memory. The visual data exists only as pixels until I do the analysis. Much as I have to consciously read things off the eidetic snapshot of a road sign before I can tell you what I "remember it saying", I have to consciously double check which skater I'm pulling up before I start picking the movement apart. Johnny Weir isn't one of the ones who works with clockwork precision, but he's the only one I know off the top of my head who does everything in the same direction I do. Flipping feet from counterclockwise to clockwise is annoyingly difficult and quite often I get something wrong. It's much easier to unknot what's going on the "correct" way around, and then apply the transformation to my own movements, if I'm stubborn and want to learn it the "opposite" way as well.

The pedagogical deconstruction is uneven at times. I've just now been trying to figure out what I was supposed to learn first, and discovered that apparently I've been training for this for half my life already. I habitually hop curbs when I'm walking around town. I started doing it in college, the first time in my life I had both reason and opportunity to walk myself around as an everyday form of locomotion. (You don't walk in Phoenix. It's big and sprawly and conveniently located about half a mile from the surface of the sun, and drivers wouldn't know what to do with a pedestrian if one jumped up and bit them on the tailpipe.) I picked it up because I always have my earbuds in my ears and my head in the clouds and occasionally a book or a DS in front of my face (did you know that if you hike a couple of miles home while reading when it's like 3°F outside, hydrogel contact lenses will actually freeze at one focal distance? I do now!), and it forces me to auto-pay enough attention to not trip over the sidewalk after crossing the street. Pop off the road on my right, stick the landing on the sidewalk on my left toe, continue straight on with a right step. 

Which is a bunny hop. On the feet taught to a clockwise spinner. Hindsight, at this point, is rapidly closing in on 20/15.

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