What girls should know about ice skating – the winter sport that’s also an art (1910)

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Man and woman ice skating - c1915

Kate Greenaway 1910 - kids ice skating

How girls are taught to skate

There is no reluctance on the part of the fashionable girl of the moment to study the art of skating. This has always been considered a charming feminine accomplishment, but its acquirement was left more or less to the individual taste. Now, however, skating belongs to the regular curriculum, at least it has been included among the studies planned for the education and physical development of the coming debutante, and every young girl who can balance herself is learning the art.

Girls who attend nearby suburban and country schools cannot depend on enjoying this outdoor sport with any kind of regularity. Adjacent ponds and lakes freeze over too seldom to make ice skating a regular feature of the daily exercise. Perhaps once or twice during the winter, they have a skating week, and during this time, girls get out their shining steel blades, rub them up and make the most of the occasion. After that, the skates may be put away for the rest of the winter with no chance to make use of them.

Of course, there are plenty of other outdoor pleasures for the country school girl. There are walking, tobogganing, riding, driving and automobiling, but while all these provide the requisite amount of fresh air for the lungs, and in most cases keep the blood circulating and the body in action, not one takes the place of skating.

Skating is a unique sport

There is something about the rhythmic motion of the girl poised on skimming blades which cannot be reproduced in any other sport. Skating itself is graceful, Every movement is picturesque and full of life and action, and a girl can hardly learn to skate well without acquiring an effective and attractive movement of the body.

Dancing accomplishes the same thing in its way, and yet skating has practically all the motions used in the fashionable ballroom steps, with a rapidity which makes for assurance and poise. Dancing is a quieter sort of grace than skating. This does not mean that the ice exercise must be taken at a breakneck speed, but it teaches the mind to act quicker than dancing does. It has to look it ahead, and to make quick decisions, which is unnecessary in the more formal kind of pleasure.

This gives the eye an excellent training. Any girl who has become fairly expert on skates will tell you so if she attempts any other sport, such as driving an automobile, tobogganing, skiing or something else requiring a certain amount of strength and visual accuracy.

It is twice as easy to learn to handle a motor car when one has mastered the art of skating before. Unconsciously almost, the skater learns to measure distances, to take in situations at a glance; in fact, to see without apparently looking when flying along the ice balanced on two keen, cutting blades.

Ice skating couple 1915

ice skating: The main advantage

But the greatest advantage to be derived from this form of exercise is considered the suppleness it gives to the body and the grace that is eventually infused into the most awkward limbs, unless they be of the absolutely hopeless sort which can never be tuned to a harmony. There are girls unfortunate enough to belong to the inharmonious class, but they are few, and so the large majority find in inspiration in the clicking of the steel blades, whether they glide to the strains of a band or keep time to the skater’s mental melody.

In New York City, girls have the privilege of the St Nicholas rink, which is a popular gathering place for fashionable persons of all ages, but particularly fascinating to the school girl. One day in the week is set aside for club members, and they enjoy the three sessions, which have developed into quite a social affair.

So much has already been said about the various features of this club meeting that there is little left that is new. Each season new figures are taught, and certain ones become the fad. Just now, it is considered the thing to waltz and two-step on skates, and all the girls who go regularly have mastered the trick of keeping their balance while executing the most intricate dancing steps.

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These steps are danced by couples, the two skating around the rink keeping time to the music and changing positions without any break in the figure.

It requires a great deal of skill to make the changes from one step to another without coming to grief, but it can be learned in a few lessons if the skater knows how to do the straight away and a few fancy turns in a disconnected fashion. After all, fancy steps are the coupling together of separate movements, and when this can be done without a break, the skater may feel that she has really begun to master the art of poetic skating.

In ice skating, the unusual is now typical

Very few of the best skaters now go around the rink in the ordinary way. It is considered rather monotonous, especially in it comparatively small enclosure, to keep to the straight-ahead glide. When skating in the country, there is much more pleasure in the ordinary movement, for the surroundings constantly change and there is a greater sense of freedom. Indoors, the sensation is quite different, and in order to heighten the enjoyment, the fancy step is introduced.

A crowded rink is not suitable for the display of fancy figures, which need the space taken up by cutting a figure “8” or a figure “3.” These are usually reserved for special exhibitions or for occasions when the center of the rink is comparatively free. Both of these figures, as well as pirouettes, can be mastered in a very few lessons if the pupil is keenly interested in the sport and is an intelligent skater.

A good mind important for ice skating

Intelligence is the thing every girl needs when she starts out to learn to skate, and if she does not possess a moderate amount of this quality, then she might as well give up the graceful exercise and go in for something else more in her line. She will never develop the suppleness nor the quickness nor the gentleness of movement which the skater invariably has.

Afternoon tea is a novelty of the Skating Club, and probably the fragrant cup never tastes better than after one has taken several rapid whirls around the glassy ring. The social side of the Skating Club is always one of its pleasant features, and it helps to keep up interest and enthusiasm, even among the girls and boys. They have their own little cliques and their own little good times together and when the afternoon is over probably they have been as thoroughly invigorated by the exercise as they could possibly be in any city sport.

ice skating at Central Park, winter. The skating pond. New York 1862

Skating costumes

The costumes this year are more attractive than for many seasons. Cloth suits are seen more frequently than any other style of dress, but the smart little velvet skirt and coat with its edging of fur strikes a picturesque note that is most pleasing. Furs are so intimately associated with skating dress that even when a scarf and muff seem rather burdensome, the girl with an eye to effect wears them for the sake of her appearance. Her pink cheeks and sparkling eyes look all the more enchanting when they are surrounded by soft glistening fox, seal skin, squirrel or ermine.

Skating skirts should not be extremely short, even for young girls. The skates themselves raise one several inches from the floor and make a moderately short skirt just that much shorter. It is better to have a fairly long skirt which clears the floor well when the skates are adjusted.

Top drawing: “Watched them go off with their skates,” from Under the window: Pictures and rhymes for children, by Kate Greenaway (1910)

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