It is quite impossible to over-estimate the value of the enormous amount of work done by Mr. Vandervell for skating. By inventing tests, this great man made the Association possible. What was true then is true today. Tests are the life-blood of the N.S.A. for 99 per cent of the members, now as seventy years ago, join the Association for the purpose of skating the tests. Here I think I must reproduce part of a letter written by Vandervell to his friend Monier-Williams on October 31, 1900, who had dedicated his book Figure Skating (The Isthmian Library):
To my friend, H. E. Vandervell. As a token of admiration and respect.
First, in the sixties, to lay the foundation of Scientific figure-skating, and today still foremost in the encouragement of every progressive movement in the Skating World.
The letter in question contains the following:
The first class test gave me a lot of anxiety. The object I had in view was to entice the skater . . . and to give him a little pat on the back as he went forward to the desired end.... The N.S.A. figure tests were originally designed to take in the masses as well as the classes. The former never appear to have caught on to any extent, but it might be well to remember that we had their interests at heart if they knew what was good for them! I wonder who in these days dare write the portions I have italicised, or who would be generous enough to pay such a superb tribute as did Monier-Williams to a contemporary, one who might have been considered a rival.
The tests had a wonderful send-off in that very hard, first winter of 1880 / 1801, when some fifty third-class badges were won. That which Vandervell has called a first class, was re-named third class, as is the case nowadays.
It was during this long winter that Vandervell, experimenting mostly on the Long Water in Kensington Gardens, carried out most important investigations into the major turns, the bracket, counter and rocker. It was during this winter that the young, but very energetic Oxford University Skating Clubs members, did a great deal to advance figure-skating by introducing into what was, and still is known as combined skating as opposed to solo skating, such movements as the Bracket and the Rocker. The rocking turn as then understood, was what is now known as the Counter.
As this is not a book of skating technique, to describe and explain the three above-mentioned complex turns would be out of place. The only justification for mentioning them at all, is to demonstrate the genius of Mr. Vandervell who invented the turn now called Counter and to point out that the lovely, lilting, quick-moving dance steps seen in the Champions free skating programmes and in those performed by the stars in the ice shows, which have become so great a feature of modern musical, artistic entertainment, are composed of combinations of those turns, worked out so many years ago in Kensington Gardens.
In the following year, on January 7, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, became patron of the Association and since that day it has been honoured with Royal Patronage.
And so, with the English Style, stiff, precise and extremely proper, firmly entrenched in Britain, we move over to the Continent and see what was happening there during these resplendent years.
Up to 1864 the style if one could so flatter the rough and ready method in use there was just as slipshod, go-as-you-please as the Victorian English was hide-bound and exact. It was therefore a tremendous shock to all concerned, when a certain Jackson Haines, of whom vague rumours, mostly of a derogatory character had percolated through, was first seen in Europe. Haines was born in Chicago of Canadian parents and was trained there as a dancer.
The Early Years upto 1914
Part 5
The Early Years upto 1914 (Part 6). The Early Years upto 1914 Index.