by Geri Walbert
(22 January 2017) The Free Dance is 4.00 minutes long – plus or minus 10 seconds. Requirements for Senior Level include Lifts: one short lift and one combination lift or 3 different types of lifts. The combination lift (maximum of 12 seconds) type of short lift must be different from the type of short lifts forming the combination lift. A short life has a minimum of 7 seconds. Dance Spins – One spin or spin combination. Twizzles – one set of Synchronized Twizzles. Step Sequences – (2, no more). One must be midline in Hold or diagonal in Hold. One must be circular or serpentine in Hold. Stops – pattern, regressives, loops and separations are not permitted in the first performed step sequence. Stops and loops are not permitted in the second performed step sequence. Choreographic Elements – One choreographic dance lift, one choreographic spinning movement, or one choreographic twizzling movement. Any of the above described choreographic elements (10 seconds) must be performed after the required element.
In the lead from the Short Dance were the current US title holders, Maia & Alex Shibutani who took the ice in navy blue costume skating to “Evolution” a composition from various artists. The Sibutani’s said they were looking at the program as a forward and a defining movement of their skating as art - an evolution of their skating in an atmospheric sense. The quality, control and precise movements are evidence of their training and talent.
They received Level 4 for all their required elements except the Serpentine Step Sequence, which was a Level 3. Their twizzles were exceptional as always but whether the audience could fully interpret the entire sense of expression was questionable despite their efforts. They did receive a partial standing ovation and an excellent score from the judges of 117.63 points for the dance which also had a one point deduction for an extended lift. Although they did not win the Free Dance, they were able to hold on to the title for a total of 200.05 points.
Afterward Maia commented, “I'm so proud of how we skated this week. We've built so much confidence since a year ago when we won our first U.S. title, so really for us we feel that improvement and that growth, and the crowd was amazing.”
Alex added, “We're really strong competitors so today was another step in the journey to 2018. We're really looking to focus on the second half of the season and push really hard so we can have a lot of momentum.
As to their second placement for the Free Dance, Alex said, “We can only speak about it from our perspective, but because we've put so much of ourselves, our thoughts and our creativity into this program, we've really done a great job. I'm really proud of how we managed all the input and knowledge we've received from so many people across so many different fields.”
Madison Chock and Evan Bates performed what they termed as an “edgy and vibrant” program to “Under Pressure” by David Bowie, choreographed by Rohene Ward and Christopher Dean. The more upbeat theme of the dance created immediate audience appeal coupled with their excellent execution with Level 4s for all required elements except the Serpentine Step Sequence that was rated Level 3. They won the Free Dance overall with a score of 119.08 but fell short of winning the title by one point, finishing in 2nd place with a final score of 199.04.
“It was a really special performance tonight,” Bates said. “The crowd was wonderful. This was our best performance to date.”
“We don’t like to get hung up on results,” he added. “It hasn’t been a disappointing season so far, We are set on our goals (even though) we have a habit of peaking late in the season. We are grateful to our choreographers that Rohene and Christopher created with a fresh look this season.”
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue performed to “Love Medley” a combination of romantic music by various artists. They opened the program with a Level 4 rotational lift, but suddenly she fell out of a difficult straight line lift, which incurred an automatic 1.00 deduction. A Level 3 for the following circular step sequence and a Level 3 for the Combination Spin could not move them past their overall 3rd placement with a score of 111.70 for the dance and a total of 191.42 overall.
Hubbell shrugged. “It was just a super strange fluke that caught me off guard. We did a pretty good job of keeping it together after that, which is a testament to our training.”
Donohue added: “We're determined. This is the last time we'll be defeated like this. We're going to come back stronger, more determined.”
Hubbell: “It was very thought out performance. It takes you out of the moment when a fluke like that happens and I was just trying to not lose any more ground. No more levels. All together (it was) not a great performance.
Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean Luc Baker were sitting in 4th place going into the Free Dance but a series of errors dropped them to 5th place. Hawayek fell out of a twizzle, they dropped a Level in the Diagonal Step Sequence and both fell on the Straight Line Lift for no score. They ended the program with a total 3 point deduction for a score of 87.46, ending with 160.06 points.
Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit who train with Igor Shpilband’s group in Novi, MI were sitting in 5th place going into the Free Dance but moved up to 4th place with an enjoyable performance to “Persian Legend” by various artists.
Benoit said of winning a pewter medal their first championship at the senior level, “It's hard to put into words, really. Today felt like such a great continuation of last night. We're so fortunate. Kansas City is so great, the people here are so excellent, there's so much energy and I said it last night but I've got to say it again, it feels like they're all down there on the ice with us. Just that feeling of support. What we strive for in skating is that split second of connection that you get with the audience, that why we do it. Obviously we strive to be the best we can be and it's athletic, but when we get to share that moment, I mean it really makes it all worth it to us. It doesn't matter what the points are, it's just were there and we're having such a great time together and we feel it with the audience.”