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Author Topic: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?  (Read 1915 times)

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Offline sampaguita

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is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« on: July 28, 2011, 07:44:55 AM »
I heard that your spine can either do a Biellmann or it can't -- but is it the same for an arabesque?

I have a problem with doing an arabesque. Even off-ice, I just can't put my free foot at decent hip level (it's just almost there, almost!). And whenever I try to stretch it further, it just HURTS: the muscle behind my knee ("gastrocnemius"?) gets pulled, and the same goes for the muscle between the top of my behind and my back (the "external oblique"?). I think it's because my back is not flexible.

I've always had muscle pain since I was a child (I think I was 10 years old when it started, maybe even younger). My shoulder muscles have always been tight, and my massage therapist told me that aside from my back muscles, my glutes have also become tight (glute tightening was pretty recent though). I've also had to have trips to the chiropractor because of lower back pain. I started doing daily crunches a few months ago and my lower back pain has been more manageable, but upper back and shoulders remain tight. I also can't do a layback position because my lower back just hurts really bad when I try to do even a basic layback!

Despite my back pain, I am pretty flexible in the inner thigh area. Although I can't do splits yet, I can do the butterfly stretch and it doesn't hurt.

My coach wants me to do arabesques every lesson, and I just want to beg her to exempt me from doing it, but I know that if I want to have a program I need to have a spiral. Are there any other spiral positions that will gradually prepare me for the arabesque, given my back problem? I would also appreciate any advice on off-ice stretching for the back that will be good and manageable for those with back problems like me.  :)


Offline sarahspins

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2011, 10:30:48 AM »
I think it's because my back is not flexible.

I disagree - I think it's simply because you don't yet have the strength to support your leg.  Keep working at it, and those muscles will develop.

Work on improving your core stretgth, as well as holding your leg in an arabesque (even if it's not hip height), and you should begin to see results that carry over into other positions as well.

Offline sampaguita

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2011, 07:06:01 AM »
So the arabesque IS the easiest spiral position? *sigh* I guess I'll just have to do it slowly but surely, then. :-)

Offline Skittl1321

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2011, 08:23:19 AM »
Quote
So the arabesque IS the easiest spiral position? *sigh* I guess I'll just have to do it slowly but surely, then. :-)

What are you calling arabesque? That will make a difference of how to stretch/prepare for it.

In my mind, this is one: http://millicentmouse.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/1st20arabesque.jpg and it is the basic spiral position.

However, I have found ISI coaches who call this one: http://www.bailarinas.kit.net/Fotos/Bela_Adormecida/Polina_Semionova_Attitude.jpg, what a ballet dancer would call "attitude".  


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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2011, 09:29:04 AM »
The ISI calls the on-ice tracing a spiral, but the position an arabesque.  (Learned this at the Conference in May)
However, the ISI rulebook definition is the same position as the USFSA.  (Free foot behind body at hip height, shoulders lowered, back arched, etc.) 

I don't know a lot of coaches who call an attitude glide an arabesque.  (That might be a regional thing or based on how much ballet the coach has done?) I learned the Attitude as an Attitude and I teach it as a glide first, then a spin second because the free leg position is similar to the layback.  I call an arabesque the same thing that Skittle does - it's one back arch short of a spiral, with the extended free leg behind.

Arabesques and spirals require off-ice stretching and a little weight training (to simulate the skate weight) to become comfortable and to master the move.

Flexibility is important, otherwise you have a flat-back which makes it more difficult to balance.  If you check out Doubletoe's spirals, she actually does a front-to-back split of the legs, so there's more flexibility. 

I think strength is just as important - the skate hanging at the end of your leg adds weight and holding it up is difficult.  Think of holding a fully-loaded roller at the end of a painting pole: with two hands, it's manageable, but with one hand, you're using a lot of muscle to control the roller and keep it from wiggling, splattering and crashing.

Be sure to lead with your shoulders (head up) not your head.  A lot of people think the object is to get their face as far in front as possible and that's not really the case, especially at the beginning level.  Heads are heavy, so it's better to keep them up over the shoulders and lead with the chest.  That helps prevent face plants from overextending past the skating leg.

Pick up your toes inside your skate so that you don't catch a toepick.  You should glide on the middle of your blade.  Later on, more advanced spirals use the heel of the blade, but it's not necessary at the beginning.  You just want to stay off the rocker and toepicks.

I've been using backward spiral drills (with me running interference) with my students.  It's also helped with landing positions and confidence.  There's a sense of security in knowing that, if they catch a toepick going backwards, it slows them down - they have to trench the pick into the ice to fall.  I only use this drill on freestyle sessions - spirals are usually too dangerous during public sessions.

Start off with low spirals on a bent knee, so that you get used to extending the free leg and upper body.  Think of keeping one shoulder on each side of the skating foot.  (BTW, a left spiral means the left foot is on the ice.  Just so if you're looking at Moves patterns, you understand what is expected.)

I really think a lot of the Fear of Spirals comes from not having secure edges and flats.  A lot of students can push and hold the free leg behind for a second, but the push and extend is a struggle.  Those same students struggle with spirals.  There's a definite link there, so doing edges and turns with a calf- or knee-high, fully-extended free leg and holding that position really helps.

I expect the skaters to align their free leg behind the body and skating leg, almost in line with the head, which leads the way.
A lot of beginners open that free hip to hold the leg out to the side or wrap it around behind.  Both of those tactics lead to body contortions, with the skater twisting at the waist or shoulders to compensate.  Try to focus on staying in line - it helps later with the camel.
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Offline FigureSpins

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2011, 10:08:12 AM »
I've been using cords wrist-to-wrist, across the back to help skaters keep their balance using their shoulders and arch their backs.  It really helps a lot - it stopped most of the curving on the straight-line spirals.  That came back once we focused on getting the free leg higher, though.


A few observations: before doing any stretching off-ice, be sure to warm up really well.  That's why most skating coaches encourage stretching after skating sessions.  At other times, do a little warmup and gentle movement-stretching, then really warm up with exercise.  THEN stretch.  If you stretch muscles when they're cold, they tear.  Don't force it, just get into the position and hold it for 20-30 seconds each stretch.  Everything should be done slowly and steadlily, without bouncing or shoving.
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Offline sampaguita

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2011, 07:40:38 AM »
Hmmm my problem with the arabesque is that I can't arch my back -- it hurts my lower back immensely to do so. Even arching my back while standing really hurts (no muscle strength needed. So that's why I'm scared to do arabesques, not because I might fall, but because I might damage my lower back more...

I've been looking at spirals done by other skaters, and am interested in the catch-foot camel (?) position. I haven't tried it on the ice though. Did you find that one easier (at least on the back)?

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011, 09:51:12 AM »
In your case, I wouldn't recommend a catch-foot since it arches the back more than a normal spiral.
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Offline Hanca

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2011, 02:20:03 PM »
Sampaguita, why don't you learn spirals where you don't need to strain your back? You said that your legs are quite flexible, so learn the Y spiral. Skate on one leg, lift the other one and hold it vertically up with your arm. 


Offline sampaguita

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2011, 11:09:43 PM »
Y-spiral! Of course, I just thought it had always been out of reach but with my current lower back problem it might be worth a try. Thanks Hanca!

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2011, 12:36:06 PM »
Y-spiral! Of course, I just thought it had always been out of reach but with my current lower back problem it might be worth a try. Thanks Hanca!

The Y spiral won't compress your lower back the way a catch foot spiral would (or to a lesser extent, the arabesque spiral), but unless you can do the splits easily, you will have a lot of resistance from the hamstring of the leg you are lifting and that will strain your lower back on the opposite side.  It just depends on the exact nature of your lower back problem.  Worth a try, though!  Meanwhile, keep stretching your hip flexors and hamstrings, since that will help in all of your spirals.  

BTW, another spiral you should try is the fan spiral.  It requires hip flexor, quad and abdominal strength on the side you are lifting, but does not strain your back.  Here's how to do it (assuming you will do a RBO fan spiral):
1. Do a few CCW crossovers, then lift your left foot off the ice, keeping it in front.
2. Twist your torso to the left and simultaneously bring your left knee up toward your chest, staying balanced on a deeply bent right leg.
3.  Staying twisted to the left and looking up over your left shoulder, straighten the left leg without lowering it (I like to think of the knee as a hinge that stays locked in place as I straighten my leg out).  

Offline sampaguita

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Re: is it a sin not to do an arabesque?
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2011, 09:40:10 PM »
Thanks! I'll definitely ask my coaches about it.