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2017 Nationals: Senior Dance Short Dance

by Geri Walbert


(21 January 2017)  The Short Dance rhythms this season for Championship Short Dance are the Blues plus one or more of either Swing, or Hip Hop. Pattern Dance elements include only one section of Blues comprised of Steps #5-14, one Short Lift, one not touching Midline, Diagonal or Circular Step Sequence skated to a different rhythm than the Blues and one set of Sequential Twizzles. Duration is two minutes, 40 seconds, plus or minus 10 seconds.

Colorful costumes were hard to find in this Short Dance as at least five of the 11 teams competing at the Sprint Center were dressed all in black. The audience at this event was knowledgeable enough in ice dance to recognize most of the top names in this discipline and even some of the elements, especially in rewarding good synchronized twizzles, generally considered one of the most difficult elements to perform well.

When it comes to synchronized twizzles, Maia & Alex Shibutani, pretty much set the standard of excellence in their Blues performance to Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.” Coached by Marina Zoueva’s group in Ann Arbor, MI, their clean, deep edging and confident performance was rewarded with a partial standing ovation. The judges also showed their appreciation with record-breaking scores as the duo finished their routine with the highest score of the evening at 82.42 points. All elements were rated Level 4 with a bevy of GOEs at +2s and +3s. With scores this high it seems likely that the Shibutani’s are on point to winning their second national title.

Maia, 22, commented afterward, “We didn’t know it was a record, but as far as the performance goes, it was our strongest performance of the short dance so far this season, so that’s exactly what we want to be showing right now before we head to the second half of the season.”

Brother Alex, 25, added that since the beginning of the season they wanted to push the boundaries of the program, really showing more energy.

The 2015 national ice dance champions, Madison Chock, 24, & Evan Bates, 28, performed their funky Blues & Hip Hop routine to “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars. They placed second with an overall score of 79.96 making all Level 4s for their elements but for the last move, the non-touching midline step sequence, which received a Level 3. Their Element & Component scores were strong but not quite as high as the Shibutanis. They placed second in this portion of the competition.

Working with coach Ignor Shpilband’s group the past several years, in Novi, MI, Bates said that the team made some changes after the Grand Prix Final competition where they had placed a disappointing 6th. “We changed our twizzles, we changed our non-touch step sequence. We didn’t have a huge window of time really to master all those new pieces. We were trying to do a difficult entrance with our twizzles that was not going great for the season and not getting rewarded, so we switched it. So I think considering everything we were really happy with our performance.”

Sitting only .34 points behind second place (79.72), Madison Hubbell, 25, and Zachary Donohue, 26, are pushing the envelope in an effort to move out of the 3rd placements they received the past two years at Nationals. They continue to improve their overall standings with their often sexy, powerful routines. They performed a smooth Blues to “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone adding a snappy Hip Hop that generated a fine audience response along with improved scores. Their move to Canada working with former Canadian champions Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon seems to have given them renewed confidence.

Afterward Hubbell said the program felt nice, admitting that Nationals is both a stressful and safe event. “I guess we thought we had nothing to lose so we really tried to push ourselves to do our best run-through and not play it safe, and I think we did that and we’re really proud of how far the short dance has come and how well we can perform it now.”

Donohue added, “It’s definitely our highest short program score to date. For us, I think it was just the reality of our hard work paying off.”

Sitting in 4th place with 72.60 points the 2014 national junior ice dance champions, Kaitlin Hawayek, 20, & Jean Luc Baker, 23, are looking to place in contention for not only a medal in the senior event, but to make a statement that they could be in the running for an Olympic bid the following season. Working with Pasquale Camerlengo, and Angelica Krylova in Bloomfield Hills, MI., they performed a lilting Blues to Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good” and a Hip Hop to “How I Feel” by Flo Ride showing good overall flow and edging. They received all Level 4s save for the non-touching midline step sequence that was rated a Level 3.

Afterward Hawayek said, “So far I think we’re catching our breath because we really tried to put 100% of our energy into that performance. Something that really worked for us this year was not holding back and really performing from the very beginning of the program.”

Baker added, “Last season was a learning season for us. I think we trained hard, especially our first year and second year trained just as hard but took it a little bit for granted, and the injuries didn’t help. This year we just really focused on pushing ourselves both mentally and physically and seeing what could happen.“