by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(30 January 2017) The ice dance event at the 2017 European championships had the expected results on the podium, but some surprises on other places. The general level was good, but several observers said that the relatively long compulsory part in the short dance made this part a bit boring, because everybody had to do the same movements. The technical panel with the controller Michela Cesaro (ITA), the specialist Sergei Ponomarenko (RUS) and the assistant Roxane Petetin (FRA) was very strict and did not give high levels to most of the dance teams, which several coaches and skaters criticized.
A more negative light was shed on this panel because six hours after the end of the short dance, when the media and the ISU had published the results, and the small medals had been awarded, a point change in the program of Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte was made which resulted in a switch of the first and the second place. A communication said that after review by the Referee and the Technical Panel it was confirmed that the small lift of Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte was regarded as an additional rotational lift at the end of the short dance, which is not allowed and was punished with a deduction of one point for an extra element.
It is not known who found out that this small lift was illegal, if it was the referee or a coach who informed the jury. This was quite embarrassing and is the fifth time in this season that a decision in an important competition was technically wrong and either corrected later or not corrected at all. After the free dance, two days later, it turned out that this change of points in the short dance did not change the final result.
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France were not affected by this error and won their third European title in a row, this time with 189.67 points. After the short dance, they had only been on the third place and 0.7 points behind the winners because they made two tiny mistakes on the partial step sequence and on the non-touch diagonal step sequence, both of which cost them levels. But the rest of the program to the Blues "Bittersweet", performed by the Club de Belugas and the Swing "Diga Diga Doo" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was excellent, although is it not as magical as other programs. All GOEs were +2 or +3 and the average level of the components were 9.3.
Papadakis commented: "It was a very good skate. I am a bit frustrated though with the two mistakes that I did in the last element (the non-touch step sequence). It was more on details, but it made us lose a few points. But we improved a lot since our last competition, but there is room to improve for the World Championships, the technical part. We work a lot and we’ve known each other for a very long time, we skated together since we were 10 years old. Also it is very stimulating to train in Montreal alongside other amazing couples." Cizeron added: "Our whole team decides about the music. I think Marie-France (Dubreuil) brought the Blues and Gabi the Swing, or Romain (Haguenauer)? I do not remember how we chose it but we chose it together.”
Their free dance was not only flawless, but here they also showed a bit more of their special ability to fascinate and to see the program a one piece of artwork. They interpreted three modern music pieces which had perhaps never been used in ice dancing: "Stillness” by Nest, "Oddudua” by Aldo Lopez Galivan and "Happinesss Does not Wait” by Olafur Arnalds. No other pair manages to let the elements flow into each other so easily. Their levels were 3 for the two step sequences and 4 for the other level elements. The components were around 9.6 with five 10.0 from three different judges.
"We had such a good feeling on ice this afternoon," Cizeron explained. "The audience was incredible, really, really warm. It felt so good to be supported and we felt like we could deliver 100 percent with our program adding this magical moment and connection that we have. It just felt really good. One of our strengths is having such a supportive team. We have three amazing coaches plus other off ice coaches that support us and who help us go through everything that we live related to ice dancing. We’re also lucky to have been skating together for about 13 years, and this is a good base and anchor to have and it helps us a lot. We chose a music without real rhythm. What we’re trying to do is to make people see beyond of what ice dance should or could be. I think, there’s no limit to what ice dance can be. It’s a very square way to see things. But you’re free to think whatever you want." Papadakis added: "What do you consider a good music for ice dancing? First, there is a rhythm in the music even though it is not easy to count. Otherwise we wouldn’t be allowed to skate to it. We worked on what the music told us, what it meant to us. We tried to incorporate that in the way we were dancing, doing the elements, everything. It’s not just about the rhythm but it is about the meaning, the emotions and the flow. That’s what we are really trying to do."
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte won the silver medal with 186.64 points. After the revised result of the short dance they had dropped from first to second place. In this short dance to the Blues "Cry for me” by the Jersey Boys and the Boogie-Woogie "Choo Choo Boogie,” four elements had a level 4 and the step sequence a level 3. Their speed was high, the components had an average level of 9.1, with one 10.0 from the Italian judge.
Cappellini said: "We are happy with our performance. In the Grand Prix season, we were not able to skate the program as well as we could have. Finally, we gave it a 100% and we got a good score. We could definitely skate it out more freely and we’d love to skate it out more. Here, the ice rink is a bit smaller and we had to be careful with the barriers. It is difficult because in the program you have patterns and you need to stay together. We had to pay attention and the performance did not flow that much. We’d just like to skate it a 100% without any distractions. Luca found the Jersey Boys and after the world championships last year, I went to New York and went to the musical. It was the first time I saw a musical live and I was mesmerized. I immediately knew that it should be our music.” Lanotte added: "We’ve been craving to give this program a good go and waited for such a performance like this all season."
In their Charles Chaplin themed free dance, there was a tiny slip on the twizzles at the beginning, but the rest of the program was very good, a bit conservative, but very well danced. They had the same levels as the French team, but a bit lower GOEs and lower components.
Cappellini explained: "We are very happy and very proud of what we were able to produce on ice today even though it wasn’t perfect. It took us a lot to get through this week. But we definitely showed big improving from the Grand Prix season. The revision of the Short Dance result definitely affected us. We can consider the difficulty of the situation that the ISU and the Technical Panel found themselves in. We believe that decision was made with interest of fairness of the sport. We supported it 100% and complied and we didn’t really flinch. It was very surprising and quite unsettling. Of course the moment of the exchange of the small medals was very strange. We have had such a good day and we were very happy. And then, the next day, we had to readjust. We told ourselves, ok it happened, let’s imagine we were second in the short dance. We wanted to bounce back and not let it be an excuse to be more stressed. We tried to move past it as quickly as possible." Lanotte added: "I am really happy. This is our fifth time on the podium at Europeans and the third time we finish in second place."
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev won the bronze medal with 186.56 points, which is just 0.08 points behind the Italians. They had been first in the short dance after the revision of the result. Three of their five elements had a level 4, and two step sequences a level 3. They danced in high speed to the Blues "Mercy on Me" by Christina Aguilera and the too often used Swing "Sing, sing, sing" by Louis Prima and their components were around 9.2.
Bobrova commented: "We searched for the Short Dance music for a long time. It is always difficult, because Dima should like it, Sasha (Alexander Zhulin, coach) and I should like it, too. I found the Blues. I really like Christina Aguilera, she has a strong voice and a lot of emotions and we want to show a real Blues, the connection between man and woman, erotic and sex. The second piece was also hard to find, because the Blues is so strong. We thought of Hip Hop, but we feel it is hard to bring this dance on to the ice as we still have to do the elements. Sasha (Zhulin) found the Swing. We like Quickstep or Swing. It is a well-known piece, but in a new arrangement, without lyrics. At first I was against it, but then I enjoyed it.” Soloviev added: "We are also very pleased with our performance and our score. Everything worked well and now we’re getting ready for the day after tomorrow. At first I didn’t like the Blues, because I just didn’t feel that dance and the moves were not mine. But while we were working with our choreographer Sergei Petukhov, I started to feel the Blues and this relationship between man and woman. Katia also helped me a lot with it and I got into it.”
In their free dance, they interpreted the Prelude No. 20 by Frederic Chopin in a version with piano and violin as well as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, arranged by Nigel Kennedy. They had almost the same GOEs as the Italians, but the first step sequence had only a level 2, which cost them 1.5 points and the second place. Their component had an average of 9.4.
"We are pleased with the championship," Soloviev commented. "Everything worked out. We gave 100 percent. Today I would say, it was the best performance of the season. Now we’ll take a short break and have a look on what we can improve or add. We are happy and pleased and want to say thank you to everybody and also to the competitors. For each classical piece, you can make your own story, and we did make our story. It sort of starts with Katia’s tragedy and then it culminates into the happiness of life. When our team leader called us yesterday to tell us the new result of the short dance, we were really surprised. It was a strange feeling that we had to exchange the medals. We are very grateful for everyone who reacted with understanding. We have never experienced anything like that in our career." Bobrova added: "We really like Chopin but it was difficult to find a second piece of music that goes with it. Then we found the "Four Seasons” that we also like very much. Not everyone might approve our choice, but for us it was good and it’s important that we like to transmit the emotions to the spectators. And today we have been able to do this. We tried not to pay attention to the change oft he result. There was a redraw and got another starting number, which we were actually happy with. But we didn’t really discuss it yet with our coaches."
The fourth place of Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko (169.29 points) who skate for Israel and train in Novi, Michigan, was a small surprise because they had been only tenth last year. They interpreted the Blues "Real Life” and the Hip Hop "Can’t Feel my Face”, both by The Weekend. They had very good GOEs and their components were around 8.2. Tobias later said: "There was some problem with the music as it stayed so quiet. I just told myself we cannot even scratch now and go as smooth as possible. Sometimes these things happen and it helps to even sharpen your senses and settle down for the performance. We performed much better than last year. It is nice to see that our hard work pays off. When you go off the ice, you can feel if you showed a good performance or not and we were very happy today. Our music – blues and the hip hop have something common – it is sex. Both styles are very sensual, there is the physical chemistry, playfulness, trance… The short dance is more for the audience, the free dance we have is more personal for us. It is also Ilia´s favorite music."
In their free dance they skated to "The Nutcracker" by Peter Tchaikovsky. The beginning was a bit slow, but later the flow was excellent. The components were around 8.5, which they never have had before. The step sequence got a level 2, everything else a level 4.
Tobias said: "Honestly, last year we did not show a good performance as we made a couple of mistakes in the free program. So we wanted to improve and hoped for a better result. We normally do not think about the placement too much because you never know what happens in the event. But the good scores in the short program is a good position to build up on in the free skate. We tried to use it as much as possible. We are very excited about the world championships. We have been to Finland before so we look forward to it."
Tkachenko added: "We felt very warm in Ostrava for the whole week. The whole championship was well organized, the ice was good, the accommodation was OK and we really slept well. The jetlag is the most difficult thing for the athlete so the good sleep was very important. There is nothing worse than when you go to perform and you are still jetlagged and tired. This result is definitely a good starting point for the future events."
The second Russian couple Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin finished fifth, winning 166.93 points. Their lift and twizzle in the short dance was outstanding, but the three other elements had only a level 2. "We have mixed feelings after our performance," Bukin commented. "Good ice here, temperature, very nice audience, everything felt good, but the technical score was a little bit disappointing. We have to go through the video together with our coaches."
Stepanova added: "Both step sequences of level two - we have not had such low levels this season. And we cannot really give you the reasons right away, we did not feel that something went terribly wrong. We have to talk to our coaches and see if we can do something about that for the free dance. We did not feel nervous or stressed, the pressure is much tougher at Russian Nationals."
In their free dance to a Tango medley by Astor Piazzola, most levels were good and the components around 8.6. Like often before, they performed the first part of the twizzle sequence in a low position, which no other couple does. Stepanova explained: "We don’t know why the levels for the twizzles and footwork were not so good. We also still don’t quite understand the levels in the short dance. Maybe they’re looking at things a bit different here. In fact, each specialist has a different view."
The second Italian couple Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri ended up sixth with 163.68 points after being fourth in an excellent short dance to "Grease" as their Swing. Guignard commented: "I think it was our best short program we ever performed. It is always hard to get the highest scores at the championships but we got over 70 for the first time in short program in a major event. It felt really good and once we stepped on the ice, the nervousness, the hard legs … everything was forgotten. It felt so good also with the audience cheering for us. We heard fans clapping their hands till the end and that helped us, too."
Fabbri added: "Compared to last year, we are more mature, we know better how to control the stress, how to handle the situation. Our coach teaches us everything. We were thinking about changing our costume for pants but in the end, we decided to stay more classic for this season as we thought that maybe more couples will go for the pants costume. But for the future we are open to changes and we will think about it."
Their free dance to the classical version of "The Nutcracker" began with a stellar rotational lift, but later Fabbri could not hold his partner during the curve lift, bend his knees and both fell on the ice, which cost them two places. The rest was good, but they both cried after the end.
Guignard later said: "Of course we are disappointed because we were in a really good shape and this big mistake was expensive. Our goal was to skate well in order to stay in the 4th place. Except for the fall, our skate was pretty good though. I am ok, I do only feel a bit of pain in my knee, but it’s not dramatic. I don’t really know what happened. We entered the lift well and felt that we had the good position, and then suddenly we fell. That wasn’t because we weren’t well prepared, it was just bad luck. That never happened before. Despite this little shock, we tried to get back into it. Anyway the music goes on and we didn’t want to lose further points."
The Danish couple Laurence Fournier Beaudry & and Nikolaj Sorensen, who trains in Montreal, finished on seventh place with 160.68 points after being ninth last year. They danced with a good speed. Sorensen said: "Personally I think that to perform well is much about understanding of the program and the technique. We were 9th last two years, so, of course, better placement is one of the goals for us. But it is more about our individual improvement – particular elements, step sequences etc. The programs now are so much about technical elements, you have to focus and work on it all the time. The impression of the program is always difficult but there are some 50 different kinds of sadness and 50 different kind of happiness you have to express without losing concentration. Our program is very powerful, Laurence chose the music and I said yes to it."
The Polish couple Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev took eighth place with 156.02 points, and interpreted "Dirty Dancing" in the free program. The Ukrainians Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin, who train with Igor Shpilband, are ninth, earning 154,65 points, and the third Russian couple Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov ended up on a disappointing tenth place with 154.51 points. Katsalapov had a black-out in the free dance. First he almost fell on a lift, then he stopped during the twizzles and let his partner twizzle alone. Two new couples looked promising even if they did not reach the top ten this year: The new Spanish champions Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin (he is Russian and they train in Moscow) finished in 13th position and the new British champions Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson, who train in Montreal, finished in 15th place .