by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA)
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron Take Lead in Rhythm Dance
(13 Feb. 2022) The Olympic Rhythm Dance had an excellent level. Ten dance couples gave world class performances and there was no fall or big mistakes at all. The points were not so high in general because the Technical Controller Halina Gordon Poltorak from Poland, head of the ISU Ice Dance Committee, and the Technical Specialist Gyorgy Elek from Hungary, youngest member of the ISU Ice Dance Committee, were very strict and checked a lot of elements in the video and slow motion replay. But they were strict with every couple, so it was a totally fair result. No less than 11 of the 23 couples came from the Ice Dance Academy of Montreal.
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France, four times World Champions and Olympic silver medalists in 2018, took the lead with 90.83 points, a new world record. They are the best Montreal couple and had not danced the team event because France had not qualified. All their five elements were outstanding and received mainly GOEs of +4 and +5. The twizzle sequence had level 4 for both skaters and five GOEs of +5. In the Midnight Blues section they met all four keypoints and had one +5. The partial step sequence had level 3 for both skaters and one GOE of +5. The midline step sequence, skated mainly separated, also had a level 3 and five GOEs of +5, the stationary lift had six GOEs of +5. Everything looked perfect and their flow and presentation was outstanding.
Their components had an average of 9.8 with 16 out of 45 possible 10.0 from eight different judges. Eight 10.0 were awarded for the interpretation of the music alone. They danced to a very unusal street dance music called Waacking and used the Hip Hop “Made for Love“ and the Blues “U Move, I Move“, both by John Legend. Cizeron explained: “Waacking is a dance with characteristic arm movements turning around which was created in the black and latin American gay scene of Los Angeles in the 1970s and early 1980s. When the AIDS pandemy came aound 1985, it disappeared because many of those dancers died. But it came back in the 2000s when many dancers wanted to integrate these arm movements into their video clips.“
Their choreographer Marie France Dubreuil suggested it to them and especially Cizeron, who lives openly gay and has a legal partnership with a Canadian man, liked it right away. He commented, “We had a wonderful time tonight and we really skated the way we wanted to. China has been a lucky place for us. We won our first senior Grand Prix and our first World title in China and we always were happy to come here. Today we felt some liberation and relief, the beginning is always the most stressful part. We are very happy that we performed our best and enjoyed it.”
Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from the Moscow school of Alexander Zhulin, who are romantically related to each other, sit second with 88.85 points. They were World Champions in 2021 in Sweden and European champions in 2022, both of where Papadakis & Cizeron did not compete. They danced to the Blues “You Can Leave Your Hat On“ by Joe Cocker and the Funk music “Brick House“ by the rock group The Commodores of the 1970ies. They had the same levels as the French team and GOEs of mainly +4 with some +5 and components of around 9.6 with two 10.0. They had danced both parts of the team event and therefore knew the ice very well. Katsalapov said, “It was a clean, an inspired skate, a hundred per cent it was our best performance this season.“
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue took third place with 87.13 points. Dancing very lively to two Hip Hops and one Blues of Janet Jackson, they had a level 4 for their stationary lift and his twizzle sequence, everything else got a level 3. GOEs of +4 were dominating and their components were around 9.6 with three 10.0. Especially their connection with each other was excellent. Hubbell said, "We are definitely trying to stay in the moment during the performance and not trying to get overly excited as we're actually performing. So that moment that we hit the final pose and you hold one, two, you can finally let out how you're feeling inside. It was just great to have another season's best and exciting performance,” Hubbell plans to marry the Spanish ice dancer Adrian Diez in 2023.
Their Montreal training mates Madison Chock & Evan Bates, who are a couple in private life, are currently fourth with 84.14 points. Dancing to three songs by Billie Eilish, they had a level 4 for the twizzles sequence, the curve lift, a level 2 for their midline step sequence and level 3 for the midnight Blues with mainly GOEs of only +2 and for the partial step sequence. Their components had an average of 9.4. Bates commented, “We have some mixed feelings about the performance. Mostly it was really good, we wanted to have fun and show this unique program to this modern music. I think we had one small mistake that cost us some points on an important element. But it’s not over yet.“
Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin from Russia finished on fifth place with 84.09 points. In 2018 the IOC did not allow Bukin to compete without ever telling the public why not. But the ISU allowed them to compete at Europeans 2018 like at Worlds 2018. But this time they danced in good speed to a medley of music by the “Backstreet Boys“ and Justin Bieber. Bukin became a father of a boy called Artem in January with his girlfriend who is a young choreographer, but not his skating partner. They had a level 4 for three and a level 3 for two elements. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Canada from the school of Carol Lane in Scarborough near Toronto, placed sixth with 83.52 points. They performed an entertaining dance to two music pieces by Elton John and had mainly GOEs of +3. Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri from Milan in Italy, students of Barbara Fusar Poli, placed seventh with 82.68 points to three Funk, Hip Hop and Disco songs by Michael Jackson
The second Canadian couple of Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen, who had competed for Denmark until 2018, finished eighth with 78.54 points, competing mainly to music by George Michael. Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz from Spain came ninth with 77.70 points. Diaz had a small slip on one of the step sequences, but otherwise they gave an excellent performance with mainly GOEs of +3. British dancers Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson are tenth with 76.45 points and lower levels, but nevertheless still world class and performing to a medley of the music group Kiss. Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, third at U.S nationals, are 11th with 74.58 points and competed to music by Donna Summer with mainly GOEs of +2.