Thanks for the insights folks, I practiced some of this stuff while skiing the last four days at Snowshoe WV (where we got a cool 12-15" of powder from the "blizzard" of 2006).
When doing retraction/compression turns, I had a hard time doing retractions on flat terrain. Speed helped, but it was still hard to do. I was pretty much doing no-compression/compression turns. However, in irregular terrain (including bumps and crud), the retractions came easy as I let the terrain push up on my legs, and then pushed back down on the backside of the turn. And it was pretty cool, all of a sudden I was soaking up bumps a lot better than normal. I still have a long way to go with bump skiing, but definitley felt like I was making progress this weekend. Four days in a row helped too!
While skiing everything from ice to untracked powder to crud to bumps all in a single run, I was reminded that the key to being a good skier is versatility. No single type of turn/skill would have worked here. In fact, my strengths as a hard pack carver and powder skier suddenly became partially irrelevant, and it forced me to work at my lesser skills. Crud and bumps are always a good challenge for me. My new Elan M666 pretty much tame the crud, but bumps remain a frontier!