It was a privilege to sit in on the "Moves in the Field Theory" session run by Janet Champion, who was on the committee that developed them, and also worked on the recently-completed PSA MITF video that explains how to do the various moves.
She discussed similarities and differences between figures and moves.
One difference is the carriage of the head. In moves, unlike figures, your head should be upright, following the line of the back, focusing out and not down. She tells her students to focus above the rail (or top of boards). It's important where your head is, since your body follows your head and where your head's weight settles.
Another difference is that in moves, the carriage of arms and placement of hands is much freer and can be more balletic. But sometimes, Champion likes to go back to moving her arms as she did in figures, close to the body, letting the arm rotate the body. It's important to understand how to do it both ways, in learning "the mechanisms of how to work the shoulders against the hips."
Finally, moves, unlike figures, utilize speed across the ice, total extension of body and arms, and maximum body lines.
But the similarities are greater than the differences, said Champion. In both, you have to learn to control and isolate the body's movements. No matter what edge you're on when you strike off, the first position has to be controlled; the free side of your body has to stay back when you're moving forward.
In using your blades and feet, she said, our feet should pass through on stroking from the middle back, rock through to the middle of the blade, and then point. Try standing still, heels together, feel the rock of the blade, rocking up without hitting the toepick, just using your feet and ankles instead of a weight shift.
When teaching turning and movement in relationship between the upper body and the legs, aligning the upper body with the skating hip, Champion said she likes to think of her skating hip as being pressed into the center of her body. "This is very important -- don't fall off your skating hip," she said.
She teaches many of the moves just like she used to teach figures. With the MITF structure, she sometimes thinks, "This is crazy. This person is doing their first figure eight, and it's an outside bracket." She teaches moves on half circles, similar to the full circles of figures, for the purpose of skating proper edges, and tells her students, "If you don't control your free leg, it will control you." She likes to teach moves broken down -- for example, she teaches the power 3 in four steps (push off, step into circle, 3-turn, mohawk) -- so the student can isolate every position and be "able to hold it all day if they want to."
What she tries to teach most of all is "the pure quality of edges -- gliding, what dancers can't do." You don't want to scratch, which means you're too far forward, or skid, or go sideways. If you scrape, it means you are shaving the ice with your edge from not being on the right part of your blade. What you want is "that quiet, sure sound," said Champion, "the ripping sound from the pressure of the edge against the ice." This sound comes partly from proper ankle flexion and lean, she said.
She recommended that coaches teach skaters some words right away, such as "square" -- that is, when your hips and shoulders are facing the same direction, you are properly square, and when they're facing different directions, you're open. "Parallel," whether shoulders to skating foot, or 3-turn to the barrier. "Over your skating hip."
Early mistakes can be the undoing of a skater later, warned Champion, so "these things we must teach our students from the beginning, to do them correctly."