Reflections on Ice

Over the weekend I watched a series of ice skating competitions, short and long programs of individual skaters, ice dancing teams, pair skating, and finally a gala show of performance events, the rules and requirements no longer the issue, but the artistry, beauty, grace and majesty of the skaters brought into focus.
Awesome, indeed, these gyrations, death spirals, gravity-defying throws, swizzles and twizzles, throw jumps, overhead lifts, lutz jumps, layback spins and breath-taking catches in mid-air. Not rocket science? I think perhaps it is, the enormity of remembering to execute a thousand choreographed steps with perfect timing, to do this in tempo to music, to do it with cautious respect of the female body (so many lifts require the male skater to support the female by her pubic bone while she holds her hands beneath his for modesty).
How modest is this sport of ice-dancing, in which both men and women wear revealing, tight-fitting costumes, where the thighs and buttocks of the female skaters flash before us in startling perfection, where the strength of the male skaters is heroic, thrillingly manly? Is ice dancing more or less modest than ballet? But modesty falls away under the spell of the stories being told, lovers in crisis, lovers in conflict, and ultimately lovers in sweet resolution. (How often the dancing pairs end their story with a kiss!)
When my daughters were young, we used to watch the famous skaters of the times: Katerina Witt, Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding, Debi Thomas. So much drama was attached to their names—personal enmity, thrilling competitive moments, Tonya was charged with an attack on Nancy, and Debi, a Stanford medical student, ultimately, years later, left the sport, left medicine, lost her bearings.
My daughters and I checked out library books trying to learn the meanings of the terms triple lutz, salchow, the quad, the double-throw axel, the inside and outside edges of the blades. But never mind, we failed to learn the lingo and simply let the announcers tell us who landed what, and how good it was!
My own long-ago favorite team skaters were Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini. They had between them some magical sexuality, unmatched, unequaled by even the most famous. (See them on You Tube skating to “Unchained Melody.”) The angle of his body canting toward hers, the delicacy with which he lifted, flung and rescued her from a death spiral, and most of all the way their eyes locked in every performance, they never looked away from each other, their passion was tangible.
Barbara Underhill’s heart was later broken when one of her twin baby daughters crawled out a door of her home and drowned in her pool. She thought she must give up skating. In time, but came back on the ice, she recovered day by day till she found some degree of peace. She later created a foundation to assure the safety of children.
As I see it, Underhill and Martini have never been matched since their winning days.  This past weekend, I watched a new champion with the amazing name of Gracie Gold. She danced Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” she melted the ice with her heat and beauty.
I watched her, transfixed. She spun she jumped, she twirled, she shimmered like a diamond. She landed every leap. Her smile, as she finished in triumph, was transcendent.
I watched with an almost tearful yearning. I let myself think the dreamy impossible: Once upon a time I could have done that. In fact, I used to have thighs just like hers!