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2022 European Championships: Dance

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


Sinitsina and Katsalapov Take European Dance Title

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, 2022 European Dance Champions

(16 January 2022)  The Ice Dance event at the European Championship in Tallinn, Estonia, had a high level, with many couples having excellent performances. 26 couples competed, 20 of whom reached the Final.

The Rhythm Dance of this season is Street Dance or Blues, and in the compulsory part they dance to the steps of the former Midnight Blues. Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, the top favorites from France, decided not to come. They were afraid of getting infected with Covid-19 on their trip from Montreal to Estonia or back and stayed in Montreal. They even moved out of their apartments which they had shared with other dancers from their big training group to stay alone until their flight to Beijing. The Finnish couple of Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis, qualified for the Olympic Games, could not come. Turkkila had suffered from Covid-19 before Christmas, was healthy again and they were in full training, but a test on the day before leaving for Tallinn was still positive.

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from the Moscow school of Alexander Zhulin, the 2021 World Champions (when Papadakis & Cizeron did not compete), won their second European gold medal after 2020. In their Rhythm Dance to the Blues “You Can Leave Your Hat On“ by Joe Cocker and the Funk “Brick House“ by the music group „The Commodores“ from the 1970ies and 1980ies, three elements had a level 4 and two step sequences a level 3. GOEs of +4 dominated and the components had an average of 9.6, with three 10.0. Sinitsina said, “Nikita and I fell in love with funk and we took our music from there.“ Katsalapov spoke about his back problems which prevented them to skate their free program at Russian Nationals, “It’s been bothering me for almost two years. In St. Petersburg (at Nationals) it was really bad. I still have the problem and I can only solve it during the off season. Now it’s good, no pain.“ They and Papadakis & Cizeron will probably be the main rivals for the Olympic gold and silver medal.

In their free program to the second Piano Concerto and the Paganini Variations by Sergei Rakhmaninov, the levels were very good, the GOEs again mainly +4. Their flow is excellent and everything looks easy. Katsalapov said about their music choice, “These two pieces are performed by David Garrett, the well known violinist. The first piece – Rachmaninov - we fell in love with and spent so much time listening to it - we put it on three years ago and we loved it and we were waiting for the right moment to take it and think this year the right moment has come. We think the second part of the program is like a program within the program. It keeps building, we change completely, and in the final we give all the energy and the emotions.“

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, also from Moscow, but from the school of Alexander Svinin, won the silver medal with 213.20 points. Their Rhythm Dance to the Hip Hop “Everybody“ by the Backstreet Boys and to the Blues “Monster“ by Justin Bieber was entertaining and nearly as excellent as the winner’s program. Just their components were a bit lower, around 9.4. Bukin explained, "Our music was picked a long time ago for an exhibition program. Unfortunately or fortunately we didn’t have a chance to use it, and when we were working on the Rhythm Dance we decided to try it.“

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, Silver Medalists

In their free program, they danced to “We Have a Map Of the Piano“ by the Icelandic music group Mum and to the Nino Rota soundtrack of “Romeo and Juliet“. They had a high speed and the elements were nicely combined with each other. Two step sequences had a level 3, every other level element had a level 4 and most of the GOEs were +4. The components were around 9.4. Four years ago, Bukin was not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games for a reason which the IOC never published. This time Bukin said it s not the IOC but the Russian Olympic Committee which will decide. So he is hopeful that he and Stepanova are allowed to compete in Beijing. They might be rivals of the two U.S teams of Chock & Bates and Hubbell & Donohue and of the Canadians Gilles & Poirier for an Olympic bronze medal. Bukin also said, “The atmosphere here is very pleasant, everyone speaks Russian, everyone understands you, we feel just like at home.“

Charlčne Guignard & Marco Fabbri from Milan in Italy won a merited bronze medal with 207.97 points. In their Rhythm Dance the three step sequences had a level 3, lift and twizzles level 4 as usual, and most GOEs were +3. Fabbri commented, “We are very satisfied with our performance today. Finally, as we have struggled with this dance this season. When the ISU announced this street style, it was a big mess for many teams. It was not easy to understand what we were supposed to skate on. Since Michael Jackson used a lot of the rhythms for his songs that are allowed for this season, we decided to skate on a Michael Jackson Medley, so we could put the funk music, rock music and disco music in the same program.“

In their excellent free dance to the soundtrack of “Atonement“ by Dario Marinelli and to “Song of the Little Sparrow“ by Abel Korzeniowski, the levels were the same as Stepanova & Bukin’s, but the GOEs and components a bit lower. The elements looked effortless. Fabbri said: “It's been tough performing today. We didn't have our coach (Barbara Fusar Poli) with us today, as she was tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday and she is in her room. This was the first time in our career that we competed without our coach. Our program wasn’t chosen for the Olympic season as we chose it last season. Since we felt a very emotional program last year and we skated it only at the World Championships, we didn't want to abandon it after just one competition.“

Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz from Spain, who train in the Ice Academy of Montreal, finished in fourth position with 196.86 points. More important than this excellent placement was for them that they were finally nominated for the one Olympic spot which Spain has. The two Spanish couples competed against each other three times this season: at the Finlandia Trophy, at Spanish Nationals and now at Europeans. The federation had decided that the better couple in the added points of these three competitions will go to Beijing. Smart & Diaz, who train in Montreal, were seven points ahead before Europeans and with five more points there it is a clear decision in favor of them in their first Olympic Games together. In their Rhythm Dance to a Blues and a Swing by Tina Turner as well as in their free dance, mainly to the soundtrack of “The Mask of Zorro“, they had mixed levels, but convinced judges and public with very nice programs and very good presentation.

The other Spanish couple of Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin placed sixth with 191.90 points. They had been at the Games in 2018. They train in Moscow under Alexander Zhulin, were almost as good, but had a bit less fire in their free dance to music by Led Zeppelin and were technically a bit less strong.

 Between the two Spanish couples, Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson from Britain came fifth, winning 196.01 points. They lost a bit of their entertaining style, but are still very good, technically and artistically.

 The third Russian couple of Diana Davis & Gleb Smolkin took the seventh position with 186.61 points. They train in the USA with Igor Shpilband. There were controversies in Russia if they really are the third best Russian couple or if they are favored because Davis is successful coach Eteri Tutberidze’s daughter, but they had good Grand Prix results.

Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius from Lithuania are eighth, earning 183.17 points. They competed in spite of some frustration because two weeks before they learned that Reed, who is American and younger sister of the former brother-and-sister Japanese dance couple of Cathy and Chris Reed, will not get Lithuanian citizenship. They had tried in the summer but got a negative deciion in October, and then tried again with a different lawyer. This means that Ambrulevicius, who is a real Lithuanian since his birth, will not be allowed to compete with Reed at the Olympic Games although they won a spot for their country with the 15th place at the World Champions 2021. Therefore Lithuania will send the young and inexperienced team of Ramanauskaite & Kizala to the Games, who were 19th with only 133 points at the Warsaw Cup in November 2021 and have hardly any chances to reach the Final.

Evgenia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud from France have made a lot of progress lately and placed ninth with 178.43 points. But they are only alternates for the Olympic Games because France’s only spot will certainly go to Papadakis & Cizeron. Lopareva & Brissaud are also only alternates for Worlds which are planned in their home country in Montpellier, France in March.

Oleksandra Nazarovva & Maksym Nikitin from the Ukraine ended up in tenth place with 173.99 points.