by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(27 January 2019) The ice dance competition at the European Championships in Minsk, Belorus, had an excellent level and there is a great depth of very good couples in Europe. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France, the big favorites and three time world champions, won their fifth European gold medal in a row without any problems, this time with a new world record of 217.98 points. Like in the years before, they excelled by their fluidity, their flexibility, their feeling for music and their perfect ballet moves. Their former nickname of “The Torvill and Dean of the 21st century“ is still correct. They skated the Rhythm Dance to the two Tangos “Oblivion“ and “Primavera Porteno“ by Astor Piazzola, performed by Gidon Kremer. The technical panel with the controller Shawn Rettstatt from the USA awarded them level 4 for three elements, but only level 2 for the step sequence and they met only two of the four key points in the first Tango section. GOEs of +4 dominated, but three elements also had some +5. Their components had an average of 9.7, with 12 of possible 45 perfect 10.0.
Afterwards Papadakis said: “Tango is a style we really like, we didn’t have a lot of experience with it, only skated it once in Juniors. We were really happy when we found out that the Tango was the style for this year. I think it’s a style that works well in skating with the speed and the glide. It also gives lot of room to express ourselves with the dance and the mood but also doing it with lot of speed and fluidity.“ Cizeron added: “This year, the key points are really tricky to get. It wasn’t 100% clean on the first pattern. But we’ve been working a lot on them. It’s pretty hard to do it with full speed and the passion and expression and get the key points at the time. I think that is not what we really focus on when we perform. When we’re at a competition, we try to keep the feeling and go 100% with the dance and sometimes this makes it a little harder to get the key points. But we’ll definitely work on this for Worlds.“
In their free dance to the songs “Duet“ and “Sunday Afternoon“, both by Rachael Yamagata, the students of Romain Haguenauer and Marie-France Dubrueil in Montreal had level 4 for all level elements, plus many plus points for every elements including the three non-level choreographic elements. GOEs of +5 dominated and their choreographoic lift and the end even had nine GOEs of +5. Their components were around 9.9, with 20 of 45 possible 10.0. The whole program was a unique piece of art.
Papadakis explained: “Every medal for us is a great accomplishment. We’re really proud of the whole French team, I think everybody did a really good job and I don’t know when the last time was that we had two gold medals in two different disciplines but it must have been a while. We’re very proud to be the first [placed] nation at this Championship, that also hasn’t happened for a long time, or I don’t know when.“ He was also asked if he feels he has won a medal and a half after choreographing Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres’ short program) and answered: “No, their medal is entirely theirs, they’ve worked so hard for this. I’m just really happy and humble to have been part of their choreography. It’s been interesting to be on that side of the creation and I think it probably made me understand more what our coaches are going through, so maybe I’m a little bit less annoying for them now.“
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin from Russia, fourth at the Grand Prix Final 2018, won the silver medal with 206.41 points. Their Rhythm Dance to the Paso Doble „Malaguena“, the Tango Suite Part III by Al Di Meola and a Tango from “Carmen“ performed by Edith Piaf, was excellent as well. Four elements had a level 4, the first Tango section a level 2, which means that they met two of the four key points. GOEs of +3 and +4 were frequently given and their components were around 9.4. Stepanova said: “ We’re very happy to have surpassed the 80 points, especially at such a competition as the European Championship. It’s a higher level of competition now at European Championships. Many things have changed since 2012 when we competed here at Junior Worlds. We have changed ourself. It’s already our third European Championships. We are really happy of how the audience received us here. We remember this venue.“
They danced their sexy blues to “Am I the One“ by Beth Hart. Their level were good, only on the parallel step sequence they had no level 4. Most of the GOEs were +4 and their components around 9.4, with one 10.0 for interpretation from the British judge Christopher Buchanan. Stepanova said: “We’re incredibly happy to have first won bronze medals, then reaffirmed that with a silver. It’s a big step forward and spurs us on to work further and harder. I think sensuality and a good connection are the main components of ice dance so I’m very happy that many people have told us this and given us compliments about it.“
Like at the Grand Prix Final 2018, Italian couple Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri won the bronze medal with199.84 points, the first European medal for them. They are the top team of the Milan dance school of Barbara Fusar Poli and Italy’s dance team number one after Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte have retired. In their Rhythm Dance to three Tangos they had threee level 4 and two level 3 and GOEs of +3 were predominant the components were around 9.0 and the points were close to Stepanova and Bukin. Fabbri explained: “It’s a very worthy feeling for us because we have worked a lot throughout our career to get to this point.“
In their free dance they used the soundtrack of “La La Land“ in an entertaining program with mainly GOEs of +4 and some +5. A little slip at the choreographic lift near the end did not cost them many points. They were fourth in the free dance, but it was enough to stay third overall. Fabbri explained: “Finally we feel the work we’ve made throughout the years has been rewarded and of course we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved this season. Next week I will study a lot because I have an exam at my university in English in ten days.“
The second Russian couple of Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov certainly had hoped for a medal as well after being second at the Grand Prix Final 2018. But this dream was shattered when Katsalapov fell at the end of the second part of the twizzles sequence about 30 seconds in the Rhythm Dance. He hit Sinitsina’s blades and she fell as well. The rest of the dance was excellent, but they were nine points behind a medal position. Sinitsina said: “We were well prepared and fully under control, but there was just this embarrassing and frustrating mistake. Tomorrow is a new day and we will do everything we can then.“ Katsalapov was devastated in the kiss and cry corner, but later said: “I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe I hit a tracing in the ice, I’m not sure. I can only apologize for my mistake and thank the crowd. If they hadn’t supported us so well I don’t think I could have come back from it. I’m so disappointed.“
Their free program to the classical “Air“ by Johann Sebastian Bach and one of his pupils was an excellent expression dance. They had good levels, components of around 9.5 and three more points than the Italians but it was enough only to rise from fifth to fourth place with 193.95 points. “That was one of the most difficult skates because we wanted so much to skate fully under control“, Katsalapov said. „What happened yesterday was so unexpected and we lost so many points, we didn’t want anything unexpected to happen today.“
Natalia Kaliszek and Maksym Spodyriev from Poland finished on fifth position with 185.35 points, which is a very good result for them. Both programs were without any mistake. They were the only couple to get two level 4 even on the two Tango sections and their free dance was modern, but they lacked some highlights or innovative elements.
The British champions Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson made a big jump up being only 24th at Worlds last season and now being on sixth position with 182.05 points. They train in the world’s most successful ice dance school in Montreal. Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin won the battle of the two very good Spanish ice dance couples, finishing seventh with 180.67 points. Their nationals rivals Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz are eighth with 176.84 points. The third Russian couple of Sofia Evdokimova and Egor Bazin sit on ninth position, earning 175.62 points. The second French couple of Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac, also from Montreal, is tenth with 172.33 points. The Rhythm Dance of the Finnish couple of Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis was another highlight of the competition and they finished eleventh with 168.34 points. 25 couples competed, 20 of whom reached the free dance.