Compulsory Dance


by Alexandra Stevenson

The bright silver unpadded seats of the Palavela, which was rebuilt without destroying itís landmark curved roof for the 2006 Olympic Games, some of which have no backs, are still as uncomfortable as ever.

The Golden Waltz is recognized as the most difficult compulsory. It was first presented by Marina Klimova Sergei Ponomarenko when competing in the Moscow Cup in 1987. They won three Olympic medals, bronze 1984, silver 1988 and gold in 1992. The two sequences take 1min 58 seconds to complete making it the longest compulsory. It is fitting that Ponomarenko, now 49, should be the Technical Specialist. The Russian-born couple has been based in California for many years. They have two children, Tim, born in 1998 and Anthony in 2001. They coach at Sharks Ice in San Jose. Unfortunately, Ponomarenko, was in the local news recently when he was arrested on March 6 at 6:40 am driving on U.S. 101 in Morgan Hill where they live and taken to the Santa Clara County Jail charged with drunken driving.

Twenty seven couples from 19 countries took part. (There were 28 from 20, but the couple, who hoped to represent Azebaijan, Virginiya Hoptman and Pavel Filchenkov, didnít get their paperwork sorted out in time.) Germany and Britain chose to send skaters other than those who went to the Olympics. In Britainís case, Christina Chitwood, who is married to a Briton, and Mark Hanratty, who were third in the British championships, were not eligible for the Olympics as she has not yet obtained her British passport. She must turn 21 to apply and sheís still 20.

1.CD 44.13 (22.22+21.91);Tessa Virtue, 20, and Scott Moir, 22, who train in Canton, MI, with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva, are still basking in the limelight they grasped by winning Olympic gold in their first Games, an amazing feat considering less than eighteen months previously it looked like Virtueís career could be over. Moir was training alone, using a hockey stick and a sandbag as a stand-in for his partner. Virtue could barely walk and she spent most of the 2008-9 season recuperating from surgery to both legs. Moir remembers, "For the longest time we didnít even know what was wrong with her and then doctors recommended surgery for chronic exertional compartment syndrome on both calves but warned that nobody recovers the same from this surgery." She still has four circular scars from the surgery on both legs.

Now it looks like they will become only the second Canadians ever to win the world championship. Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz were the first when they claimed gold in 2003 in Washington DC. Skating 22nd, which was last in the penultimate group of five, she looked lovely in a dress that appears to change color. "When I first saw it, I thought it was blue," Virtue said. "Then on the ice, it looks kind of silvery gold but (in the light of the mixed zone), it appears light green now." Asked to comment on their performance, she said, "The dance felt strong. We were excited to get out there, maybe skating this for the last time. It wasnít hard to get motivated after the Olympics. We havenít won Worlds and weíd like to. We did expect a huge crash after the Olympics, but weíve done two weeks of great training and itís not hard to stay motivated when you have Charlie and Meryl breathing down your necks." (The two couples train together in Canton, Michigan, with the same coaches.) At Worlds last year, Virtue and Moir claimed the bronze medals but they finished only 0.04 ahead of Davis and White.

As for the future, Virtue confesses, "Itís so hard to say. Since we started skating together, weíve taken it one year at a time. After the 2006 Olympics, (which they watched on television), we made the commitment to push on to Vancouver and the focus has been so intense on that and these world championships. So itís mentally hard to think much beyond that. I think weíll need some time." She has been attending classes part time at Windsor University and would like that to figure into her plans somehow.

They are the youngest ice dance Olympic gold medalists in history. Skate Canada, of course, wants them to continue. They have been skating together for 13 years and donít really know any other life. They do admit the training and the traveling is a grind. Virtue said, "Weíre not in the right mental state to make decisions beyond this point. We need to let the dust settle." They received two +3s (the maximum Grade of Execution) from the panel of nine judges for the first of the three segments in the first sequence of the dance, although four judges punched in a "mere" +1, and the other three punched in +2.They got all +2s for the second segment of the first sequence, and one +3, one +1 and the rest +2s for the third segment of the first sequence. For the first segment of the second sequence, they were awarded six +2s and three +1s. For the second segment of the second sequence they were given six +2s and three +1s. And for the final segment of the second sequence, they got two +3s, six +2s and a 0. What did that judge see that the others did not?

2.CD 43.25 (22.00+21.25); Meryl Davis, 23, and Charlie White, 22, had an unpleasant introduction to the Golden Waltz when they first competed it at the Lake Placid Championships in their first Senior level event. White, now an Olympic silver medalist, fell flat on his face just a few steps into the first sequence. They have come a long way from that embarrassment but both they and Virtue and Moir say that, with the new system, they believe there is no need for this section anymore. "Good riddance to compulsories," has become their philosophy, although Charlie was quick to point out to Scott that it was only the Canadiansí marks in last yearís compulsory that kept them the third place above their home rink rivals.

Skating 26th, last but one, with Davis in a purple outfit, they said they felt confident. She explained, "Before we went out, Marina and Igor both said, "Youíre really well trained so go out and enjoy yourselves. And we did. It was really different coming into this competition. With all the excitment for the Olympics, itís been a little more challenging

to focus on Worlds. But we knew about it all season, so we were prepared." He said, "Weíve done a lot of work on the compulsory this year, really stepping it up. Conceivably, this will be the last year of compulsories, so we really wanted to make it count and that definitely showed." They earned two +3s, one from one judge on the first segment of the second sequence and the other from another judge on the final segment of the second sequence. None other than the top two received a +3.

3.CD 40.85 (20.50+20.35); Federica Faiella, 29, and Massimo Scali, 30, of Italy are the twice European silver medalists, who are now being taught in Aston, PA, by Natalia Linichuk. They are expected to become Italyís second world medalists. The only other Italian ice dancers to win world championship medals are Barbara Fusi-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, who won gold in 2001 and silver in 2000. Faiella and Scali teamed up in 2001 after having previous partners at junior level. They are the seven times Italian champions and twice runners-up for that title, in the 2002 and 2006 season, both times Fusi-Poli and Margaglio. It is unclear whether Faiella and Scali will continue after this season. This is their ninth world championship. They were 16th in their debut in 2002 and then 11th. They had climbed to fifth by 2008 but then had a set back and were eighth last year. They have won silver in the past two European championships.

After skating last, 27th, he said, "We felt even more pressure, because probably, it is the last compulsory dance in the history of international events, but we made a good job and doing that in Italy is fantastic. We are in very good condition and we enjoy every step we made on the ice, as it should be when you dance. It was important to begin strongly and third place with our personal best is a perfect start. The Palavela arena is always amazing and we found the ice better than in Vancouver." She said, "The public helps you a lot in this situation. It supports you and makes you feel better and more confident. We danced very well today. Now we have to keep our concentration and stay relaxed at the same time." The audience, of course, was far, far less than in Vancouver. To start with the arena is small and seats many fewer, and it was by no means full.

4. CD 37.75 (18.80+18.95); Nathalie Pechalat, 26, and Fabian Bourzat, 29, France, who were ninth in the compulsory at the Olympics but moved up to finish seventh overall, were the 2009 French champions but did not defend that title due to his ankle problem. They train in Moscow with Alexander Zhulin. They skated 23rd which was first in the final group of five. He said, "We skated very well today. We felt good and we made our personal best. We are very happy with our performance. I had problems with my ankle but now everything is fine." She said, "The compulsories are usually not our best section. But today, we really skated well and we are confident we can carry that on to the OD and the FD. Itís the fourth time that we have skated in this arena. I like it because itís big and open. It seems like we are dancing not just for the judges but for everybody. Itís that sort of arena."

5. CD 37.70 (18.68+19.02) Jana Khokhlova, 24, and Sergei Novitski, 28, are the twice Russian champions, who were the 2009 European title holders. They train with Alexander Svinin in Moscow. They were seventh in the Compulsory Dance, the Tango Romantica, in the Olympics but subsequently dropped to finish ninth overall. Here, they skated 25th. She said, "Everything went well. It is very nice to perform here, for the third time, already. I think this arena still keeps a special Olympic feeling. And, as we have pleasant memories of the Olympics (in Turin where they finished 12th in their first season of being sent out to the world and European championships), it was pleasant to skate here. We had a rest for two or three days after the Olympics and then started training again." He said, "We havenít changed anything major, just some small things from the Olympics. The beginning of the Original is different and one lift. Just this and that."

6 CD.37.56 (18.56+19.00); Sinead, 31, and John Kerr, 29, Scottish siblings who recently won a record seventh British title, were eighth in the Olympics. (The legendary Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean also won seven titles but they were not consecutive. They had to return to competition ten years after taking the 1984 Olympic gold to claim their seventh national title and the Olympic bronze. Dean made the British yellow press recently, when his second wife, American Jill Trenary, who lives in Colorado Springs with their two sons, filed for an official separation order. The children rarely get to see their father because of his involvement in the very successful British reality celebrity show Dancing on Ice which is currently in its fourth season. The tabloids staked out his London home and reported that Karen Barber, who took over as British champion when Dean and Torvill turned professional, and is part of the coaching line up on Dancing on Ice, had been ensconced with him for five days. Barber, who is married, said she was merely comforting Dean at a very trying time in his life.) The Kerrs are trained by Evgeny Platov in Mount Laurel, NJ.

They skated 21st with Sinead in white and John in the traditional formal tails. John said, about the possible elimination of compulsories at senior level, "Itís a shame. But television doesnít need compulsories. I just hope that ice dance wonít lose its foundation." They have changed their OD back to the Scottish dance when the theme was also Folk. John continued, "We have done the US country dance so often that we got tired of it. People kept asking us to go back to the Scottish dance so we have." His sister said, "Without compulsories, ice dance is approaching the pairs. Even if it isnít audience friendly, the compulsories are the grounding of ice dance. Ice dance will lose something, but that is the way the sport is developing, more to the athletic way. Itís a shame because they are going out, just as we were getting better at them!"

7. CD 34.05 (17.06+16.99); Anna Cappillano and Luca Lanotte, Italy, who were 12th in the Olympics (12-12-15), skated 24th. He said, "I was very excited to compete here in Italy and I must confess that when I went out and I heard the roar of the public that welcomed us, I felt really excited. I have to say that also in Vancouver, people were very kind and warm, but the crowd in Torino is fantastic." She said, "I was very proud to perform in front of the Italian public. There was no pressure on us. I can say that we skate with a lot of pleasure and that our performance is the result of the skating quality we had acquired during these years of practice. The Waltz is a dance which suits us very much. I am very annoyed at the proposal of removing the compulsory dance. I am curious to see what is on the minds of the officials."

8. CD 33.79 (16.72+17.07); Alexandra, 22, and Roman Zaretski, 26, an Israeli sister and brother who finished tenth in Vancouver, train with Galit Chait in New Jersey. Skating 18th, which was first of the penultimate group of five, she in silver with lots of black feathers on the hem, he in a standard black tie and tails, they also appeared to enjoy themselves. He said, "The Olympic Games were the most difficult event in this season, but here there are no nerves, so it is very easy and pleasant to skate. We havenít changed anything. There is no need to change something that works." His sister said, "By the end of the season, itís getting more difficult. There is no strength anymore, but you still have to work hard. So we came back from Vancouver, and got right back into training."

9.CD 33.32 (17.36+15.96); Vanessa Crone, 19, and Paul Poirier, 18, from Scarboro, Ontario, are the second ranked Canadians, who were 15th in the Compulsory in the Olympics and 15th overall. They are trained by Carol and Jon Lane and Juris Razgulajevs. Skating 19th, she in a frou-frou of pink ruffles with silver highlights, he in a white tie and tails, they gave a dynamic showing. He said, "We are very happy to make our seasonís best. Itís amazing to do a compulsory dance. We really enjoy compulsories. Though this is the first season, weíve competed the Golden Waltz, weíve played around with it in previous seasons. We warm-up with compulsories. We were a bit scared because weíve had problems with her dress, but everything went well. She said, about coming off the Olympic Games, "There are the same competitors and the same couples. It doesnít change much."

10.CD 32.61 (16.78+15.83); Emily Samuelson, 19, and Evan Bates, 21, USA, are the 2008 World Junior Champions who were 11th in their World (Senior) debut in 2009. They were also 11th in the Olympics rising from an initial 14th after the Compulsory. They train in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with Iouri Tchesnitchenko and Yasa Netcheva. Skating 20th, she in a bright white number, backless but with a neck band, and he in white tie and tails, they appeared pleased with their showing. She said, "We skated very well, even if we made a couple of mistakes we could avoid. We had to practice a lot to prepare for this Championship and to keep our energy up after Vancouver. We needed a lot of caffeine!" He said, "This is our seasonís best score, so we are very happy. This is our second world championship, after coming 11th at the Winter Games. This is just the beginning. We hope to do better in the future. This is our first time in Torino. I am very excited because I love Italian culture and I have studied Italian."

11.CD 32.43 (16.58+15.85); Ekaterina Bobrova, Russia, who will turn 20 on the closing day of this event, and Dmitri Soloviev, 20, were 13th in the 2008 World championships but did not compete last year. They were 15th in the Olympics, 15th overall and 17th in the CD, so they were obviously pleased with this improvement. They are trained by Elena Kustarova in Moscow. After skating 14th, he revealed, "This is our first performance of the Golden Waltz in competition. In all our other competitions this season, we did the Tango Romantica. We only trained it three weeks, max. But I think it went well. We got nice marks. We know our mistakes ourselves. In general, we are satisfied."

12.CD 31.66 (15.84+15.82); Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo, two 25-year-olds from Ukraine, train for part of the time in Hackensack, NJ, with Nicolai Morosov.

13.CD 31.47 (15.80+15.67); Nora Hoffmann, 24, and Max Zavozin, 25, represent Hungary, the country of Hoffmannís birth. Hoffmann is the 2003 and 2004 World Junior silver medalist with Attila Toth while Zavozin, who was born in Russia, won that title in 2005 representing the US with Morgan Matthews. He and Hoffmann were 13th in the Olympics. They train in Odintsovo, just outside of Moscow with Alexei Gorshkov. After skating 10th, he said, "Our preparation for Worlds was good, the best preparation of the season. We got so inspired by the Olympics. These two weeks we worked very hard." She said, "This is the first time neither of us got sick. We had a lot of emotions at the Olympic Games, got a lot of fresh energy, so I just couldnít wait to put on my costume again. Iím not happy about compulsories (possibly going out at senior level).You can see the real technical level of the couple, how they skate together in unison, how deep are the edges. Yes, I changed my hair from blond to dark. I got tired of being blonde. But I was dark in the Olympic Games in Turin, so I decided to stay blonde for Vancouver. But the next day, when I came back to Hungary, I became brown. I feel different, sometimes even smaller."

14.CD 31.36 (16.20+15.16); Kimberly Navarro, 28, and Brent Bommentre, 25, were 12th in their debut in the world championship in 2008. They did not make the team last year or the US Olympic team but are in Torino as the first reserve for Belbin and Agosto. They train with Robbie Kane in Philadelphia. She is still stinging from having what she calls "the worst photo ever of me" on her accreditation. To compound that, this time, they have put the competitorís photo on all their meal tickets. She said, with a laugh, "So I have to give a complete stranger, this awful photo of me!" They skated 16th which was third in their group of four in a lovely flame colored dress which began with red and morphed into yellow. "I like this dress," she said, "because itís like a fire that burns the ice."

15.CD 30.55 (15.88+14.67) Pernelle Carron, 23, and Lloyd Jones, 21, are the French champions, a title they won in the absence of Delobel/Schoenfelder and Pechalat/Bourzat, which came as a big surprise to Lloyd, who teamed up with Pernelle when she split with her partner, Matthieu Jost after the 2009 season. The very experienced Carron and Jost were ninth in the 2009 world championships and sixth in Europeans. Pernelle and Lloyd were 12th in the 2010 European championship. Up to this season, Lloyd had never competed at senior level, although he had previously entered the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championships with Leigh Rogers where they finished 20th and 17th. He had journeys back and forth from England to France but a couple of partners, a Briton and a French girl, failed to get out of the starting blocks. However, this partnership seems really to have clicked. "We donít have the world ranking yet," said Jones. "And we drew to skate fourth, which was last in the first group, not a gooood draw. But the marks were fairly good. Now that Isabelle and Olivier (arenít competing) although they are doing shows, we hoping they will work with us."

16. CD 30.53 (15.52+15.01) Ekaterina Rubeva, 24, and Ivan Shefer, 27, Russia, who are trained by Elena Kustarova in Moscow, were 15th in Worlds in the 2008 World championships but didnít skate in the event last year. They skated 17th, last in their group of four just before the second ice resurface. She said, "This was a very good skate for us. We showed everything weíve worked on in practice. Itís difficult for us to judge our own performance, but I donít really agree with the score. We are somewhere far away, but it was to be expected coming here as the third Russian couple. However, we are not thinking about placements. We have a philosophical approach to competition; obviously it would be really hard." They were alternates and only learned about coming to Worlds "two or three weeks ago." But we had trained as usual and with full power."

17.CD 28.42 (15.16+13.26) Xiaoyang Yu and Chen Wang, two 23 year olds from Harbin in China, train with Hongyan Xi.

Talk about close.  There us only 0.88 between the 18th placed Czechs and Reed & Japaridze in 22nd!

18.CD; 26.95 (14.14+12.81) Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak, of the Czech Republic, who are both 20, were 21st in last yearís world championship but lost part of this season because she broke her elbow.

19.CD; 26.69 (14.24+12.45); Kira Geil, 24, and Dmitri Matsjuk, 28, teamed together last summer after his partner, Barbora Silna, retired. Geil, who was born in Bridgend, relocated to Vienna where they train with Jana Huebler. He was born in Odessa, Ukraine. They won this seasonís national Austrian title and were 17th in the recent European championships. They skated 5th, which was first in the second group of four.

20.CD; 26.62 (14.18+12.44) Caitlin Mallory and Kristian Rand could not take part in the Olympics because she could not get her Estonian passport. So his younger brother and his partner, who are the reserves for this event and competed in the World Junior Championships, went in their stead. Although still in the developmental stage, they gained an unparalleled experience. Mallory, who was born in Oakland, CA, and Rand were 20th in their debut in Worlds in 2009. Both are 22 and they train in Canton, MI, with Igor Shpilband. They skated 12th.

21.CD; 26.36 (14.02+12.34) Carolina and Daniel Herman were dethroned as German champions this year and so have moved to train in Lyon. She said, "We were a little unlucky with the early starting number, 3. We need to skate a strong OD and show we donít belong in the first group. When we moved in January to France, we didnít know we will go to Worlds, so what we did was work on a lot of basics. It was good to train with Pernelle (Carron) and Lloyd (Jones) but it was a pity that two of our coaches werenít with us because they went to the Olympic Games."

22.CD 26.07; (13.92+12.15); Allison Reed, 15, and Otar Japaridze, 22, represent Georgia but train in Mount Laurel, NJ, with Evgeny Platov. Reed, whose birthday is June 8 made the minimum age qualification by 23 days. She is the younger sister of the Reeds. They skated 9th which was first in the third group of five.

23.CD 24.78; (13.72+13.06 -2.0 for them both falling, the only falls in the event); Cathy, 20, and Chris Reed, 18, represent Japan, their motherís country. Their father is American and they were born in Kalamazoo. The three times Japanese champions did not expect to be beaten by their baby sister, Alison, and her partner, Otar Japaridze, who are representing his country, Georgia. In the Olympics, Cathy and Chris had finished 17th and Alison and Otar 22nd. However, the Reeds both fell and lost two full points. Chris said ice dance still isnít very popular in ice dance in Japan, but they did think they have brought some exposure for the sport, there. They train with Nicolai Morosov in Hackensack, NJ. This is their third world championship and they have finished 16th twice. They skated 11th.

24.CD 24.70; (13.22+11.48) Christine Chitwood and Mark Hanretty, from Sheffield, who both had birthdays on March 21, the Sunday of the first practice - she turning 20 and he 25. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to them as they left the ice. They are competing in their first Worlds. Skating 13th, which was last in the third group of five, Chitwood said, "With our world ranking, it was the best we could draw. Weíre hoping to do some more competitions to get a higher ranking."

27.CD 17.36; (10.14+7.22). Jenette Maitz, 22, and Alper Ucar, 25, opened the championship. Sure, it was a low score, particularly since their coach, Natalia Dubova worked on this dance when Klimova and Ponomarenko devised it for their Original in one of their last seasons. In the warm-up, there was a near three couple crash and Ucar went down. Skating first, she in blue and he in black white tie and tails, she said, "Weíve only been together for nine months. I havenít done this level of competition and Alper, had not danced before. So we are just so pleased to be here. Maitz was born in Pittsburg and they met when she was skating at Stamford. "Iíve had to put my studies on standby," she said.

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