Figure skating has traditionally been considered an elitist sport, with time on the ice, skating equipment and coaching expenses so costly that many parents cannot afford to get their children involved. Likewise, a large percentage of professional ice show tickets are too expensive for many families. In response to this issue, the Ice Theatre of New York has developed a program to help make the art of skating more accessible.

Founded in 1984, the Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) is an innovative dance company on ice whose presence in the community is as vital as the artistic mandate of creating new works on ice. ITNY’s series of free shows and skating clinics with school-age children in under-served areas of New York City is part of the company’s mission. Through the winter months, Ice Theatre of New York offers two free concert series: the Free Concert Series at the Rink at Rockefeller Center and the New Works and Young Artist Series at Riverbank State Park in Harlem. These programs make the art of figure skating more visible and available to the residents of New York City.

Last year marked the 14th year that Ice Theatre has offered its premier educational and outreach program, The New Works and Young Artists Series, at Riverbank State Park in Harlem. This series gives emerging choreographers and young performers the opportunity to present new works to schoolchildren from Harlem and Washington Heights. For up-and-coming skaters, the series offers an alternative to competitive skating. Participants benefit from an accessible venue to perform and practice outside the pressures and limitations of the professional athletic world.

Participating children are also offered skating clinics and free skate rentals. And senior citizens from the neighborhoods are invited to attend performances, watching the show as the youngsters learn from the Ice Theatre troupe. For many participants, this is their first time on skates. To ease them into the learning process, a member of the ITNY ensemble goes to affiliated public schools with an engaging presentation about the Ice Theatre.

Looking to introduce your children to the art of skating? Here are some tips ITNY shares with skaters in the New Works and Young Artist Series.

How to Choose Skates

  • In terms of sizing, skates should be one full size smaller than one’s street shoes.
  • In terms of the fit, the skater’s heel should fit snugly in the heel cup. The toes should not be cramped and should have room to be raised slightly. When a person is standing, the toes should lightly touch the toe cap.
  • For beginners, a pair of the less expensive freestyle blades is a wise choice. The blades of good skates are screwed, not riveted, to the boot soles to allow for individual adjustments in mounting the blade.
  • With new skates, flexibility at the ankle develops as a person wears them. The better the skates you buy, the longer they will last without breaking down.

How to Lace Skates

  • Make sure one’s socks are straight and the foot is placed inside the boot all the way. Put the toes in first and then push the heel down.
  • Work up from the toe to the ankle, tightening the laces on the first half of the boot. For the first half of the holes, take up slack in the laces. Overtightening in this area can cause foot cramps. For the second half of the holes across the instep, pull the laces tightly.
  • Maintain tightness at the instep by making a square knot.
  • Lace around the hooks. Make a criss-cross pattern with the laces and pull with both hands around each hook. As you lace up the ankle, leave some extra room for one’s ankle to bend. Consider that when you skate with bent knees, you should feel your shin leaning firmly into the laces across the tongue. If you don’t have a secure feeling, then the laces are too loose.
  • Finish with a secure bow.

How to Care for Skates

  • Wipe blades with a dry cloth after finishing a skating session to remove all snow and water droplets. Let skates air out until completely dry.
  • Cover blades with soft guards before placing them in a gym bag.
  • Always wear plastic hard guards on skates when walking off the ice. Cement and rubber mats will nick the steel blades and dull their edges.
  • Have skates sharpened about once every month or two. A proper sharpening establishes a rocker, or a slight curvature, on the blade and maintains the hollow that creates edges. Always take skates to someone who specializes in figure blades. Hockey skate sharpenings do not account for a toe pick.
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