Mrs. Greenhough-Smith of the F.S.C. all the great ones of this period skated under the colours of this famous club won the British in 1908 and again in 1911. She was a superb school skater and was the first lady in the world successfully to jump the Axel Paulsen she could jump it with complete nonchalance complete with ankle length skirt, hat and very high skates indeed. She was, as well, a fine swimmer and tennis player, in fact altogether a remarkable person.
Certainly one of the most striking and singular amateur skaters of the epoch was Arthur Cumming who, basing his skating completely on that of Grenander, demonstrated to the world that acrobatics in skating when allied with perfect technique could be not only, shall I say, almost bizarre certainly extraordinary but also extremely beautiful. There was nothing commonplace about either Arthur himself or his skating. On the contrary, he conformed to no theory, magnifying the style, almost one might say the eccentricities of Grenander and then, after long study of the Russian ballet which had newly arrived at Covent Garden, and many talks with that supreme artist, Serge Diaghilev, who produced and directed it, he endeavoured, and I myself think with great success, to adapt it to his skating or should I say his skating to it. Arthur, who was a competitive skater and therefore also a school skater of no mean ability, was the first man since Jackson Haines to attempt such a translation. Diaghilev wrote a long letter to The Times shortly before he died, defending what he called bizarre movements in ballet, and there can be no doubt that had Arthur lived longer, someone would have done likewise in regard to his skating. But wherever he gave exhibitions he always brought the house down. I remember one he gave in Berlin in 1914 when the ovation one can call it nothing else was quite astounding. He had more honour abroad than at home, as is so often the case, but the fact remains that he carried on where Grenander left off and sowed the seed of modern free-skating programmes, by setting a fashion wherein individuality was given free scope, and wherein nothing, so long as it was beautiful, rhythmic and musical, was marked down because of a lot of nonsensical hide-bound rules, which, during the previous twenty years, had barred all progress. Thus, to my mind Arthur became the actual founder of modern free skating.
Just as was the impact of Bror Meyer, so that of the other great teacher of the period, the late Bernard Adams, is also immeasurable. Amateurs come and go and of course set the fashion sometimes in collaboration with professionals, but it is the latter to whom we must look for the lasting impressions, for it is they who take note, analyse and pass on, whatever the innovation may be. Bernard was a very fine English stylist who had seen the first introduction of the International style into Britain and who, as a professional teacher, had viewed it with all the knowledge and technique of basic poise, together with the action and counter action of the shoulders and hips requisite for the correct drawings of rockers and counters, brackets and threes.
When I, who also started as an English stylist, went to him some years later for lessons in the international style, I well remember him saying: The main difficulty for you, as it was for me, will be to learn to bend your knee; it took me two years and thats about what it will take you: and he was right. Bernard in his day was a fine athlete, smallish but physically very strong. It was he who taught us all when we were in London. When in St. Moritz we had Meyer. It seemed to work very well. Bernard carried on after the First World War in Manchester and at the Palace Hotel Rink, St. Moritz, and then for a few seasons at the Ice Club, Westminster, until his retirement in 1935. In his day, he had taught most of London Society, and it was indeed interesting to listen to his reminiscences. I myself am now the possessor of the gold pencil given to him by Lily Langtry, the famous Edwardian beauty. His brother Alex gave it to me at Bernards express wish as his favourite pupil. It was Bernard who, with his brother, first demonstrated shadow skating, a form of pair skating which he introduced. They looked like two figures cut out in black paper. The show consisted of turns, quick-moving steps and what would nowadays be considered simple jumps. But it was skated with great precision, in beautiful style and very fast.
The Early Years upto 1914
Part 12
The Early Years upto 1914 (Part 13). The Early Years upto 1914 Index.