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2021 World Championships: Dance Rhythm Dance

by Liz Leamy and George Rossano

Sinitsia and Katsalapov Finish Atop Leaderboard in Rhythm Dance with Buoyant ‘Singing in the Rain’ Program

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Victoria Sinitsia & Nikita Katsalapov, the 2019 Russian World silver medalists and 2020 European Champions, leapt to the top of the leaderboard in the Rhythm Dance competition, with an entertaining and heartwarming program to the classic Hollywood song, ‘Singing in the Rain.’  They racked up a 88.15 segment score, putting them two points ahead of the rest of the 31-team field.

This dynamic and engaging team, who train in Moscow with Alexander Zhulin, the two-time Olympic medalist, as well as Petr Durnev, demonstrated all their skills, including their edges, turns and steps in both directions with the ease, strength and command of global ice dance leaders, which earned them the highest technical score of the segment, a 49.55.

In addition, Sinitsia & Katsalapov, whose program was created by Sergei Petukov,  skated with precision, power and poise, soaring around the ice at top speeds while vividly expressing the optimistic narrative of the ‘Singing in the Rain’ theme, even stretching their arms, twirling around and looking up at the ‘rain’ in a footwork sequence, just like Gene Kelly in the movie.  For their efforts, Sinitsia & Katsalapov were awarded 38.60 for components, the highest of this portion of the competition.

“We are quite satisfied with our performance, we were well prepared. In general, we showed what we can do. Everything was clean enough, with our soul, easy enough. Our coaches, our team is also happy, so we have a very good feeling.” said Katsalapov. “We are thrilled with the work we did today and before the competition, so we feel great. The only thing we lacked was the audience.”

Katsalapov & Sinitsia said they are looking forward to the next portion of the competition, the free dance.

“We need to have good rest today, sleep well, have good training, check again if everything is in place, the whole program, and go out and skate with pleasure,” said Katsalapov. “We just need to keep calm and show what we worked on.”

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, the two-time World medalists and 2021 U.S. champions, scored second with an electric program to Lady Gaga’s ‘Burlesque,’ racking up a 86.05.

This powerhouse duo, also the 2018 and 2019 U.S. titlists who train in Montreal with Marie France-Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, reeled off lightning-quick twizzles, a stunning stag lift and fluid and firecracker-like footwork sequences, among other notable aspects, gaining a 48.34 technical score.

At the same time, the two skated with terrific energy and strength and communicated the whole burlesque theme in a fun and dramatic way, hence earning a high component score of 37.71.

Describing preparing for Worlds Donohue said, “This year is a lot more autonomous in terms of the training, it works for us. We had a little bit more of time off after the [National] Championship and we could go home, decompress, the quarantine, so we had a little less time to have a full push, so we kind of condensed everything.”

“The Free dance is really special for us and I feel it has been really transformative to re-visit that music in a different way and with the guidance and mentorship of Scott so we have a lot of bits of advice, Scott is someone who we admire to see our skating through Scott’s eye’s is a confidence boost, so we are just looking forward to skating it. It’s probably my favorite program ever.”

He added, “The goal is always to be the best that we can be, which we believe in ourselves and be the best in the world for now the focus is on each otherwise have something very special and what makes us special is the connection to each other so focusing on things outside our control is just a waste of our energy we can control how we skate and that’s about it.”

On their performance Hubbell remarked, “We’re really proud of ourselves. Entering this atmosphere, there’s a different energy and the nerves were pretty present. We just kept focusing on each other and kept coming back to the performance. We’re happy to give that strong of a skate during the World Championships.”

Describing preparing for competing in the bubble she said, “U.S. Figure Skating did an amazing job preparing their athletes for that, the other federations hosted events but to be in the arena and the space with no audience we really practiced that at Skate America and US Nationals so we’re getting used to it it’s going be that way now for next year really adding the audience and learning again how to manage the energy that the fans give us.”

Madison Chock & Evan Bates, the two-time World medalists and two-time U.S. Champions, earned the third-highest scores of this event, a 85.15, packing in big points for their signature level-four lifts and footwork and twizzle sequences.

Skating to Cole Porter’s ‘Too Darn Hot,’ Chock and Bates, who also train in Montreal with Marie France-Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, performed with the ease, command and expertise of top-seeded world contenders and were awarded a 47.38 for their technical elements and 37.77 for their components.

“We’re really grateful to be here,” said Chock. “It was such a pleasure to skate today. We really enjoyed ourselves and had a ton of fun.”

Describing their performance Chock said, “It was really [a] fun one for us. We enjoyed ourselves from start to finish.  Unfortunately I think we lost a few levels but we are happy with the way we performed.

Bates described skating in the nearly empty arena, “Skating in the last group meant all the other competitors ran to the stand to cheer for us. That was fun, I think there were a few 100 people socially distancing in the arena. I think it's a new norm and something that we are adjusting to and when we are skating we are just so focused that I don't think it played too much of a factor. There was good energy and cheering from our friends in the stands.” He added, “Well, [for out goal] we definitely want to win the gold . We think the work we put in and the training that we've done has prepared for this event we are as strong as we have ever been, we are fairly confident and we have great programs and we just love to skate and it really comes across the way we are performing and I think it certainly did and we'll try to do the same tomorrow, but the goal is to win the gold.”

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, the three-time U.S. bronze medalists, were ranked 11th with their ‘Saturday Night Fever’ disco-inspired program for which they racked up a 75.08.

“We are happy with our performance today,” said Hawayek, who, along with Baker, also trains in Montreal with the France-Dubreuil and Lauzon coaching team with the second and third-place finishers in this event who are also their U.S. teammates.

Hawayek described their performance saying, “We adapted this program a lot knowing that we won't have an audience this season. We imagine we're back in the '70s disco club and just locked in on each other so the arena felt like a beautiful venue to be able to perform for each other. It (a new middle section of music since last season) was actually the piece we wanted to use all along but we weren't able to use it until the rules were changed for this season. This program is intended to spark joy and we felt this piece had even more of an opportunity to do that.”

Baker added, “We did what we could in terms of performing and that's what's most important. We were really proud of our performance and that's what's in our control. We're just here to prove to everyone that we're a part of that top tier of skaters and we're going to continually push that.”