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2021 NHK Trophy Dance

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


(17 November 2021) The Ice Dance competition at the NHK Trophy 2021 in the Yoyogi rink in Tokyo (which had been used for Handball at the Olympic Summer Games in July 2021), had a high level.

Reigning World champions Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from Russia won the event with 215.44 points. This was their first competition of the season because Katsalapov had to pause because of back problems and said he could execute the lifts only once per day. Their performances were good, but the levels relatively low, like those of all other top at the beginning of their season. In the Rhythm Dance, they used the Blues “You Can Leave Your Hat On” from the soundtrack of “9 ½ weeks“, performed by Joe Cocker and the Funk “Brick House” by the U.S. band Commodores from the 1970ies. They performed all five elements in excellent quality and even got some GOEs of +5 for the twizzles and the midline step sequence (level 3). Their components were around 9.7 with eight 10.0. Katsalapov commented, “It was one of our best run-throughs we did. The Japanese crowd was amazing and there was a standing ovation for us and the others.“ Sinitsina added, “We are so happy we did a good job today. We missed the people around us so much.”

For their free dance, they used Rakhmanonov’s Second Piano Concerto, glided smoothly over the ice to this music in a romantic style. Their midline step sequence got only a level 2 and her one foot sequence only a level 1 (his one a level 2), but twizzles and lifts a level 4, like almost everybody. All elements, however, were excellently executed and had many GOEs of +5. Their components were around 9.8 with ten 10.0. Sinitsina commented, “We really enjoyed performing today thanks to the audience. We did a good job for this moment, but we will continue to improve for the next competition.” Katsalapov added, “Our program is about us, our career, hopefully with a bright finish.”

Madison Chock & Evan Bates won the silver medal with 210.78 points. In the Rhythm Dance, they were only .31 points behind the winners due to higher levels. They competed to three songs of U.S. singer Billie Eilish. Both had a level 4 for the pattern dance steps, the other two step sequences had a level 3. Their grades of execution were mainly +4 and the components had an average of 9.5. Chock commented, “We had so much fun skating today, the crowd was incredible. Just arriving at the rink before the event was fun. I just stopped and stood and looked at the crowd because it was so amazing to see all the skating fans back in one place. It was our best performance of the season, so we’re really pleased with how we skated.”

In their free dance they play an alien and an astronaut to music of the French band Daft Punk. Bates fell near the beginning and before the first element, but the rest of the program was excellent. The had high levels and GOEs of mainly +3 and +4. Their components had an average of 9.3. Bates said, “Today’s performance was an interesting one, mostly because I fell within the first 20 seconds of the program on a transition before the first element. I never experienced something like that before. We responded well and put together a good performance considering the early mishap. We learned something from that type of performance.“

British dancers Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson, who train in Montreal like Chock & Bates, took the bronze medal with 191.91 points, a big improvement since Skate Canada two weeks before. They danced to three disco music pieces of the hardrock band Kiss and had mainly GOEs of +2 and +3. Their best element was the rotational lift which was extremely quick. Fear said, “It was a lot of fun and having a crowd is something we’ve missed so much. Just being out there on warm up and have them there cheering for us was such an honor and privilege. We just had the best time, a little technical error on the Blues, other than that we’re really happy with the performance.” Their free dance to “The Lion King“ was even more entertaining. The lifts had mainly GOEs of +4, the step sequences had lower levels and Gibson had some problems with the twizzle sequence.

“I think we put in a lot of work in the days between Skate Canada and coming here,” Fear said. “We had a lot of improvements to make and a lot of feedback from that competition.“

Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin from Spain, who train with Alexander Zhulin in Moscow, finished on fourth position with 188.09 points. Their levels in the Rhythm Dance to the Blues “Partition“ and the Hip Hop “Mi Gente“, both by Beyonce, were relatively low, but the execution was very good. Their free dance music was the soundtrack of “Stairway to Heaven“. The interpretation and the execution were very good, but the levels mixed.

Majorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha from Canada came fifth with 187.38 points. They have gained a lot in speed since last season and had components of around 8.3. in the Rhythm Dance to Funk, Blues and Disco. Their free dance to the soundtrack of “Rio“ was very lively and all elements were very good.

The result of the two Japanese couples was a surprise. Until the NHK Trophy, Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto were much better. They invested a lot in their career, have trained for five years together and got married. Koleto even could get Japanese citizenship, which is very difficult for Americans like him. But at this NHK Trophy, Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi placed ahead and are sixth with 179.50 points. Takahashi (35) won an Olympic bronze medal in single skating in 2010 and was World Champion in the same year. After pausing for many years, he came back and switched to ice dance less than two years ago. They train with Marina Zueva in Florida, used Blues and Hip Hop for their Rhythm Dance and the classical ballet “La Bayadere“ by Leon Minkus for their free dance. They had more plus points and higher levels than their national rivals in both programs although they had less speed. Misato Komatsbara & Tim Koleto finished in seventh place with 172.20 points. They had low levels, skated their free dance to the soundtrack of “Memoirs of a Geisha“ to show their mix of culture and were very disappointed after the competition.  

Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin from the Ukraine placed eighth with 165.38 points. They had low levels in both programs and skated their free dance to “Moulin Rouge“. Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko ended up ninth with 160.13 points. They were alternates for the third Chinese couple and their levels were even a bit lower. The U.S. team of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker withdrew some days before the NHK Trophy and could not be replaced. They train in the Montreal ice dance school. Hawayek was still recovering from a concussion sustained some weeks ago during practice.