by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(30 October 2018) The ice dance competition at Skate Canada 2018 had a relatively good level. Five of the ten couples competing in Laval train in the Montreal ice dance school. The Technical Panel was very strict and everybody got low levels, especially on the two Tango sections in the short dance. Nobody got any level 4 there and even World silver medalists Hubbell and Donohue only level 1 and 3. Highly heralded couples like Gilles and Poirier or Lauriault and Le Gac plus three others were supposed to have met only one of the eight key points. This seems a bit strange. Haven’t they all trained hard all summer and early fall and did they not get much better levels at other competitions?
One week after winning Gold at Skate America, the reigning U.S. ice dance champions Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue repeated their success. They confirmed their role as favorites and won another gold medal, this time with 200.76 points, .06 points less than at Skate America. Therefore they are the first skaters to qualify for the Grand Prix Final which will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, in early December. In Laval again, they competed their Rhythm Dance to two Astor Piazzolla Tangos. In the twizzle sequence, both partners had a level 4 (this season, the levels for the lady and the men are published separately), the midline step sequence a level 3 and the curve lift a level 4. The GOEs were mainly +4 and the curve lift even had two +5. Their components were around 9.3. Hubbell commented, “Zach and I were very excited to compete here in Laval. We had a lot of friends and family in the audience, so we had a lot of support. We wanted to give a stronger performance than last week in Skate America and we feel like we were able to do that, and we stayed in the moment and enjoyed being here in this beautiful arena.”
In their romantic free dance to the 1996 soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet, the lifts and twizzles had a level 4. The one-foot step sequence got a level 2 for both partners and the diagonal step sequence a level 3. In the combination of two lifts, which is allowed instead of two separate lifts, one lift was longer than seven seconds and therefore got a deduction of one point. This point cost them the first place in the free dance, but they remained first overall. The three choreographic elements (which get no levels) were interesting and had mainly GOEs of +4. The components had an average of 9.2. “I guess we came in, we achieved our goal, which was another gold medal and assure the ticket to the (Grand Prix) Final,” Hubbell explained. “We were feeling the two weeks fatigue today. It was a pretty tough free dance, not without mistakes, but overall we were very pleased with how we were able to face these challenges.”
Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from the Moscow ice dance school of Alexander Zhulin won a well-merited silver medal, earning 195.17 points. In the Rhythm Dance, they were the only team to get two level 3 for the Tango sequences, but no other element had a level 4. Their GOEs were mainly +3 and they danced to the Tango “Verano Porteno” by, who else could it be, Astor Piazzolla. Their components were around 8.9. Katsalapov said, “Not everything was smooth tonight, there were some small mistakes, but we improved our Tango from our previous competition in Bratislava. We are not super happy, but we are not upset. It was a good, working performance, with full power and excellent commitment.”
They had chosen classical music for their free dance, First the well-known “Air” by Johann Sebastian Bach (which Klimova/Ponomarenko had used when they became Olympic Champions in 1992) and then “Prelude and Allegro” by Fritz Kreisler who used Bach music and rearranged it. The program had a good flow and the elements merged into each other. They had .69 lower technical points than Hubbell/Donohue and .07 less points in the components, but no deduction. Five elements had a level 4, but the two step sequences only a level 2. “We are very pleased with how this competition went for us. It wasn’t without little mistakes, but overall we are improving and moving forward,” Katsalapov commented. “Our next event is the Grand Prix in France. We have a month and we’ll work a lot on the Tango and the free dance. We’ll work day and night to get these key points (in the Tango Romantica) and also will work on all the other elements.”
Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Scarborough near Toronto won the bronze medal with 186.97 points after being only sixth in the Rhythm dance to “Angelica’s Tango” by Piernicola Di Muro. Gilles slipped in the first Tango section near the border and would perhaps have fallen if Poirier had not grabbed her in his arms. But the strict jury deducted this as a fall. The circular step sequence had a level 2, the twizzles and the lift level 4 and the components had an average of 8.6. In the free dance, they had chosen the song “Starry, starry night” (second title, Vincent) which Don McLean had composed in 1973 in honor of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. When they had skated this dance in the first competition of this season at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, the composer had come from Britain only to watch how ice dancers interpret his song. Gilles and Poirier were very proud that he had come. The 5.000 spectators in Laval also liked this romantic and a bit melancholic song. The levels were relatively good, the GOEs as well and for their stationary lift at the end they even had GOEs of +5 from six of the nine judges. Poirier commented, “We were able to put the rough short dance behind us. We felt really present in our performance and it was really enjoyable to finally perform this free dance in front of a big audience at home in Canada.”
Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac came fourth, winning 180.32 overall points. Their Rhythm Dance music was a mixture of the Cellblock Tango from the musical Chicago by John Kander and the Foxtrot “Roxie” from the same musical. Lift and twizzles had the usual level 4, the diagonal step sequence level 2 and the components were around 8.2. Their free dance to three songs by Bruno Mars was very entertaining and had spectacular elements and poses. Four elements (including the lift combination) had a level 4, the one foot steps a level 2 and the serpentine step sequence only a level 1. The components were around 8.3 with two 9.0 as highest which they had not received internationally before.
Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz from Spain, also from the Montreal dance school, performed a very good and characteristic Rhythm Dance to “A Evaristo Carriego” in which they were third. The GOEs were mainly +3 and the components had an average of 8.3. Smart said, “Me and Adrian are very pleased with how we performed our Rhythm Dance today. We were very centered in ourselves and we did what we do in training every day. We know we have a lot to work technical-wise, we know it’s step by step a work in progress throughout the season.” But with their free dance to a Beatles medley, they dropped to fifth overall place with 176.57 points. Only their lifts had a level 4, whereas the spin and the steps had a level 2. The components were around 8.3.
Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu from China, who have been training in Montreal since this summer, placed sixth with 165.88 points. Their two Tangos “Angelica” and “End Credits,” both from the soundtrack “Pirates of the Caribbean,” were not very characteristic and received only components of 7.6. For Chinese dancers it is really difficult to play a macho because such a role is not known much and has a very bad reputation in their culture. The levels were mixed and the elements were well presented. With their free dance to “Meant” by Elizaveta they dropped to sixth place which ws no surprise because Gilles and Poirier went ahead. The elements had mainly GOEs of +2, the levels were mixed again and the components around 7.7.
Robynne Tweedale & Joseph Buckland from Britain were the only Shpilband couple in Laval, but the coach was working at home with other couples and sent Buckland‘s older brother Nicholas with them to Canada. Nicholas Buckland and his ice dance partner and girlfriend Penny Coomes work fulltime as coaches in South New Jersey and in the rink of the University of Delaware in Newark. Tweedale and Joseph Buckland took seventh place in Laval, winning 162.50 points, ten more than at Skate America the week before. In their Rhythm Dance, they had level 1 and 3 for the Tango sections, level 3 and 4 for the twizzles, level 2 for the midline step sequence and the usual level 4 for the lift. In their free dance, they had four level 4 elements, but the step sequence had only a level 1. The components were around 7.4.
Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus from Montreal seemed to become an excellent ice dance couple last season. But up to now in this season, the progress is no longer clearly visible. They ended up eighth with 156.74 points. After a very good twizzle sequence in the Rhythm Dance which got mainly GOEs of +3, they hit only one of the eight Tango keypoints. Soucisse fell in the midline step sequence which therefore got only a level 1 and GOEs of mainly -3. Their music is the Tango “Fellno” and the “Hip Hop Tango,” both by Electrotutango. Their free dance to two pieces by “The Weekend” was faultless, but in spite of mixed levels they could move up only for one spot.
Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker train in the school of Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe in Burnaby near Vancouver in British Columbia. They placed ninth with 150.23 points. In the Rhythm Dance, they hit only one of the eight keypoints, had a level 3 and 4 on the twizzles, level 2 on the midline step sequence and the usual level 4 for the rotational lift. In the free dance they interpreted two songs of Celine Dion and made no serious mistake. The components had an average of 7.1.
Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin from Russia, the reigning Junior World Champions, ended up tenth and last, earning 147.99 points. Their Rhythm Dance was quite convincing and had some good levels. But their free dance to a Michael Jackson medley was not very interesting and Skoptcova fell during a lift which had been shaky right from the beginning.