By Alexandra Stevenson
All photos Copyright 2006 by George S. Rossano
Although there is no compulsory in the GP Final, the three compulsories picked by the ISU for this season rotate for the Grand Prix. Here it was the Golden Waltz, devised by Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko, the 1992 Olympic champions, and their coach Natalia Dubova in Moscow. It is generally acknowledged as the most difficult one.
Klimova & Ponomarenko, who also won the Olympic bronze in 1984 and the silver in 1988, created the routine for their original for their 1986-87 season which climaxed with Worlds in Cincinnati.
"The ISU asked us to put the steps down on paper and we did," said Ponomarenko, who turns 46 in four days time. "It is a fast dance but when we did it, it was six counts faster. All except maybe three of four steps are the same as we did.
The most difficult part is to show the character of the dance. In very few couples would you know what dance they were doing if you turned off the music. They could be doing a Blues or a Tango. The waltz is a very light dance. It should seem you are not touching the ice at all. The knee bend should not be as low as in the Blues and the stretch of the leg should not be higher than ninety degrees."
Who, at that time, ever imagined the Soviet Union was on its last legs, or that this graceful couple would choose to settle down in California? They now teach at Logitech Ice in San Jose, where the married couple is raising their two sons, Tim born in 1998 and Anthony who arrived in 2000.
Naturally, the world silver medalists Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon, took first place, as expected by a chasm – 5.64 over second place gaining 19.16 for the technical and 19.67 for components. Dressed in an ice blue dress that extended well past her knees and half covered with a sparkling netting, she looked gorgeous as did her cavalier who sported white tie and tails.
Dubreuil explained, "We did this dance maybe two years in China. It’s not new for us. It’s beautiful. It’s challenging technically, especially on American ice. You have four meters less on the width. For us, we skate pretty fast and have power so we have to be careful of the boards. It’s one of our favorites. But we came here early, on Sunday, because we needed to adjust the pattern and pull in." They train in Lyon in France on full Olympic size ice.
Lauzon said, "It’s a dance that is really a dance. It’s hard. Some dances we do and we’re not that tired at the end. We don’t have to practice it. But this dance you HAVE to practice it. You have to do a run through as often as you can because it’s a challenge. It’s a very soft dance and it has a lot in it." Dubreuil likened it to the Ravensburger Waltz. "It had to be big for the Olympics but then had to be smaller (for worlds) in Calgary.
Who can forget the terrible situation in the original in the Olympics? On a rotational lift, centrifugal force ripped Dubreuil’s hand from gripping his arm. She slammed into the ice badly hurting her hip. They withdrew and she left Turin in a wheelchair. It was amazing that they were able to compete in the subsequent worlds in Calgary. Their mesmerizing Somewhere in Time free dance won that section. Some believed they should have won the overall gold instead of silver. At that time they seemed certain they would not be continuing in competition. What made them decide to stay on?
Meeting other athletes at a Canadian Olympic function got them all excited about competing in a home country Winter Games. They decided that when the Vancouver 2010 Olympics rolled around, they might have regrets if they had not tried to stay on.
Lauzon, who turns 31 on November 26, said (despite the fall), "Last year was our best year ever." Dubreuil, who was 32 in August, added, "I was talking to Brian Orser and I realized I wasn’t ready to be a professional skater and just do shows. The most bizarre thing is that I was most sick of having a strict routine. But that turned out to be what I miss most, the rigid life of an elite athlete." They have skated together since 1995 and have been romantically attached for a long time. However, a marriage is not yet planned.
Six of the nine judges gave Dubreuil & Lauzon +2 GoE, and the other three +1 for the first of the four sections of the first of the two sequences. They got a smattering of +2’s in the other parts and the final part was unanimous +1’s but the other marks were up and down. Only one judge gave less than the base value. That judge punched in a -1 for the beginning section of the second sequence. Who knows what he/she saw!
In second, as expected, are Federica Faiella, who was born on Feb 1, 1981, & Massimo Scali, who will be 27 December 11. They are still reeling from their disastrous showing in the Olympics which was made ten times worse by the situation that they were competing in their own country. They finished 13th which was very disappointing since they had been 9th in the previous worlds. Shortly afterwards, in the Calgary worlds, performing under far less pressure, they finished 8th.
They were invited to go on the Russian tour with Evgeny Plushenko. During that fun time, they decided they needed a new start and determined to go to the United States. They now train at the Detroit FSC with Angelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo, with whom they’ve worked before.
"It was very difficult," Faiella admitted. "We were leaving friends but training in Milan was very difficult." Scali explained, "The rink was a long way from our home and we trained very early the morning so we had to get up so early."
Making a fair start were Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, who were pleased with their third place 3.68 points behind the Italians. Virtue & Moir became Canada’s first ever World junior ice dance champions in March, and have skated together since 1997. The youngsters (she’s only 17; he’s 19) have trained with Igor Shpilband & Marina Zueva in Canton, Michigan, since 2003. They took the bronze medal in the 2006 Canadian championships. The silver medalists, Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe, are no longer competing.
"This feels a little like nationals," said Moir, "because Chantal (Lefebvre) and Arseni (Markov) are also here." Virtue & Moir are hoping this competition will cement them as the number two couple in Canada. This year they pushed Lefebvre & Markov, who had won the national bronze medal in 2005, down to fourth."
About the dance, Moir said, "It’s really, really busy and you’re doing a lot with your partner but at the same time you still have to make it look like a waltz. We just had a little bobble at the end." The mark for the last section of the second pattern gained a -0.50 GoE.
Virtue & Moir lie 1.64 ahead of the Russians, Anastasia Platonova, 20, & Andrei Maximishin, 21, from Moscow, who teamed up in 2003. They were sixth and fifth in the last two world juniors.
Their Moscow teammates, Natalia Mikhailova & Arkadi Sergeev, both 20, lie a marginal 0.71 behind them. They took the silver to Virtue & Moir’s gold at the world junior championships earlier this season. It was their fourth appearance in that event. Last week they were tenth in Skate America. They recently started training by Sasha Zhulin.
An even thiner sliver (only 0.71) behind them in sixth place are Kimberly Navarro & Brent Bommentre, who teamed up in 2005 and are ranked fifth in the U.S. Bommentre formerly partnered Kendra Goodwin and Kirsten Frisch. Navarro was the partner of Robert Shmalo. They train with Robbie Kane.
In seventh place 1.17 marks behind their teammates are Trina Pratt & Todd Gilles, the 2005 U.S. Junior champions, who were eighth in seniors in January. "We fit right in here, our first senior Grand Prix," said Gilles. "There are five or six couples that we have been competing with on the junior circuit. But we’ve no idea if the marks are good or not. It’s our first time skating the Golden Waltz in competition, ever. It’s fun to do."
Pratt agreed, "I think it’s a nice dance. I like it a lot." Their coach, Patti Gottwein, said, "It’s difficult to get a feeling for how they’ve done because we have no reference at all."
Dubreuil & Lauzon had emphasized how difficult it is to fit the pattern of this dance into a hockey rink. Meryl Davis & Charlie White proved it when Davis’ skate went into the barrier on the second section of the first pattern. She went sprawling pulling him down to. Despite this disaster which saddled them with a deduction of 2 points and -3 GoEs for that section, they are lying eighth, only 0.25 behind Pratt & Gilles.
Their coach, Igor Shpilband said it was a case of Davis & White not adjusting the pattern and having a little too much power. Davis & White are the current U.S. junior champions and, like Pratt & Gilles, this is their first senior event. They won the bronze medals at the 2006 world junior championship. They were naturally upset. In Lake Placid this summer, White took a fall in this dance.
Chantal Lefebvre, 29, & Arseni Markov, who will be 25 on November 12, have left Connecticut and are now training in Montreal with Elise Hamel. While he was in the traditional tails, she wore a very lovely but very colorful outfit. She explained, "I know most of the other women were in white or a pale color but I like to be original." With minus GoEs for all but the final section of the second pattern, they lie only 0.32 behind Davis & White.
Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang, two 20 year olds from Harbin in Northern China, are only 0.18 behind in tenth place. They are their country’s national champions and have competed four times in the Four Continents Championships with a top place in 2006 of seventh.
In 11th and last place, 2.17 points behind the Chinese are Kamila Hajkova, 19, & David Vincour, 22, from Brno in the Czech Republic. They are Czech champions and finished 27th and 19th respectively in the last world and European championships.
Pratt & Gilles
(Rotational lift about to go bad!)
Dubreuil & Lauzon skated to a vocal, Le Voz de Buenas Aires by Eladia Blazquez. Dubreuil wore a lovely crocheted backless dress. She explained, "I’m in white. How different is that? I know there will be 30 ladies in red and black at worlds and I wanted something that would stand out." They started out very tentatively. She nearly fell on their non-touching midline twizzles which earned Level 3 but were saddled with a minus 0.60 GoE. "Doing 4 revolutions in a low position is challenging. We are still experimenting with that," Dubreuil admitted. The diagonal step sequence was also Level 3 but their four other elements gained Level 4. They won this section but their element score was only 0.60 ahead of Virtue & Moir. (Their component scores were 4.32 ahead of V&M.)
Virtue & Moir, who wore black, with his hair appropriately slicked down, were second in this section. They definitely benefited from doing their Association Tango at Campbell’s Cup in Cincinnati. They started their routine with a Level 4 combination spin which received the base value of 4.70. The non-touching midline twizzles were only Level 2 but the non touching midline steps were Level 3. Their straight line and rotational lifts were both Level 4s. No one received more than Level 3 for their diagonal steps.
Faiella & Scali, who drew to skate last, were only fifth in this section and they dropped to third going into the free, 1.29 behind Virtue & Moir. She fell, not on an element but while going round a corner. It was a nasty embarrassing moment with her flat on her back with both legs in the air. They skated to Tanguera performed by Sexteto Mayor which was choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo. They received -0.80 GoE on their first move, Level 2 diagonal steps, and -0.20 on their non-touching midline twizzles, which was also Level 2. Their curve and rotational lifts were both Level 4. The other two elements (combination spin and non-touching midline steps) were Level 3. She wore a long black outfit with lots of sparkly silver. He was in a tuxedo. They had a very ballroom-y look but she appeared devastated waiting for the marks in the kiss and cry section.
Davis & White moved up from eighth to fourth with this original which was rated third best. Skating just before Faiella & Scali, they used Astor Piazzolla’s A Los Amigos. White was attired in five time U.S. champion Jerod Swallow’s tango outfit and looked both dapper and appropriately slightly unsavory. Davis was in blood red. They appear comfortable together, having skated together for many years. All their elements gained better than base value. The spin and both lifts were Level 4. Two elements were Level 3 and the non touching midline twizzles were Level 2. The day before, they had been devastated by the fall. "We had to put it behind us. You can’t dwell on it. We both knew what we had to do today," said White.
Platonova & Maximishin, skating to the Gotan Project Tango, were fourth in this section as they had been in the compulsory but ended up fifth going into the free. However, they were only 0.36 behind Davis & White. They earned Level 4 for the combination spin, straight and rotational lifts and non-touching midline twizzles but received a slight negative GoE for this last element. The other two elements were Level 3.
Navarro & Bommentre used Assassin’s Tango, Little Drop of Poison maintaining their sixth place. None of their moves received less than base value. They gained Level 4 for their non-touching midline twizzles and both lifts. The spin and non-touching midline steps were awarded Level 3. The diagonal steps were Level 2. She wore royal blue and he was in pinstripes. "It was a little difficult competing two weeks in a row," said Navarro. "It meant we didn’t get much practice but it was very good experience."
Mikhailova & Sergeev dropped from fifth to seventh with an eighth rated original which received a 1.0 timing deduction. Although that didn’t make a difference to the overall position, if they had not received it, they would have beaten Lefebvre & Markov in this section. They used Astor Piazzolla’s famous Tango Adios Nonino. She was in pink, he black. They received negative GoEs on both their Level 4 non-touching midline twizzles and their Level 2 diagonal steps. Their spin and curve lift were also Level 4 and the rotational lift Level 2. Their non-touching steps were Level 3.
Lefebvre & Markov, who drew to skate first, used Piazzolla’s Primavero Porteno. They were seventh in this section which pulled them up one place to eighth going into the free. She wore a backless, black glittery abbreviated costume and was still coughing but said she was feeling less weak. "It was hard not to be able to take any medicine because of the drug testing." Markov said, "The levels were pretty much what we expected." They received five Level 4s. Only the diagonal steps were Level 3. "But we did score less well on the components. That was the reverse last year." Three of the six moves got slight negative GoEs. (The diagonal steps and the non-touching midline twizzles received minus 0.40 and the non-touching midline steps -0.20)
Trina Pratt & Todd Gilles’ second move, a rotational lift, disintegrated and they both ended up on the ice. That meant they were only tenth in this section and dropped from seventh to ninth going into the free. Naturally, they were mortified. When they competed in the world junior championship in Kitchener in 2005, Pratt also had a bad fall in the original, causing them to joke they should stay out of Canada! The routine has great potential, choreographed by Christopher Dean to La Yumba and Whatever Lola Wants from Damm Yankees.
Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang performed to a Phillippe Lohen Solal Tango. They were eleventh in this section but held onto tenth going into the final.
Hajkova & Vincour, performing to Libertango, were ninth but were not able to climb out of 11th place. However, they are now only 0.51 marks behind the Chinese.
Davis & White
Virtue & Moir performed to Sibelius’ haunting Valse Triste. She wore a lacy, lilac dress which reached her knees with a back cut-out which was not too much. The outfit could easily have been worn quite appropriately to a formal garden party. He wore a cream shirt and dark trousers. Moir explained, "We’ve never really done a waltz." They received Level 4 for their starting move, a straight line lift which was followed by their long lift a Level 3 curve into a Level 4 rotational. Then came circular steps and a spin, both Level 3. The diagonal steps and rotational lift which followed were both Level 4. The last two elements, synchronized twizzles and serpentine lift, were Level 3. They received received a partial standing ovation and a Personal Best which put them them third in this section but delivered the silver. Virtue & Moir and Faiella & Scali will battle again in the French Grand Prix.
Faiella & Scali skated last using Pantera en Liberta by Monica Naranjo. Their highlight was a "reverse" lift which the audience loved in which she skated with him completely upside down, with his head dangerously aimed at the ice. "Yes, we have fallen on it," Scali admitted. "We have to be very, very careful." Lauzon laughed when asked whether they would consider such a move. "That would be physically not possible for us because we have too much height difference (20 cm.)." Faiella & Scali placed second in the free but it was not enough to advance them out of third place. However, they were only 1.19 behind Virtue & Moir and would have taken the silver had she not fallen in the original. Scali said they were pleased to be training in Detroit "but it is very cold." Wait till the winter really sets in!
Davis & White skated to well known music from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor which was used for the movie, Kismet. They started with the lovely Stranger in Paradise to which they presented their long lift, a Level 4 curve to Level 4 rotational, and followed with four other Level 4 moves. The pace picked up at one point and they charged into the fiery music of the Polovetsian Dances. The combination spin was Level 3 and the diagonal steps Level 2 but the final move, a rotational lift, was Level 4. All of their moves earned the base level or better. Their component marks ranged from three 5.75 up to two 7.25. They gained a Personal best of 84.83 but finished fourth overall, 8.07 behind the bronze medalists.
Platonova & Maximishin performed in black and red to Flamenco music by Didulja. They had a deduction for an extended lift but received a Personal Best to finish fifth, 5.21 behind Davis & White. All of their moves were awarded base value or better. They received seven Level 4’s. Their circular and midline steps were Level 2.
Navarro & Bommentre presented an interesting Beatles medley. Navarro said, "I wasn’t a Beatles fan but I saw Chris Bliss juggling to this music and his choreography was sensational. We saw the potential of the music right away." Bommentre said, "There wasn’t much time to practice after last week’s Skate America and we were a little tired from the travel. We did change two lifts. We got the highest component marks we’ve ever had. This was a personal best so we are now full of determination to gear up and get focused for nationals." They received four Level 4s, four Level 3s but the diagonal steps were 2. They were a huge 7.45 marks ahead of Lefebvre & Markov but also a significant 4.88 behind Platonova & Maximishin.
Lefebvre & Markov skated to Memorial by Michael Nyman. They were seventh in this section and advanced into that place overall, 4.15 points ahead of Mikhailova & Sergeev. They received six Level 4s and the rest, including the diagonal steps, Level 3s. But their circular steps and synchronized twizzles got -0.20 and -0.30 GoEs respectively. "We were a little disappointed because we got Level 4 on the diagonal steps in Skate America," said Lefebvre, who was still having trouble breathing. They were in black with some huge fake diamonds. His wide belt must have had hundreds of them. "It is very heavy," Markov admitted.
Mikhailova & Sergeev performed to Jesus Christ Superstar which sounded very old fashioned. They were ninth in this section and dropped a place to eighth overall. The very blonde Mikhailova was in lavender and he in black. The second part of their long lift, which was rotational, plus their seventh move, midline steps, were both only Level 1. Only two of their eight moves were Level 4, the straight line and serpentine lifts. They got a deduction for an extended lift.
Pratt & Gilles, dressed in blue, showed an ambitious routine to Dream On by Aerosmith. They were eighth in this section but stayed ninth overall. They scored 11.74 above the Czechs and, had they not fallen in the original, would undoubtedly have been above Mikhailova & Sergeev who were only 1.53 ahead of them. After the free, Pratt talked about the fall the previous day. "It was a pretty bad punch. We were trying so hard. But we learned what a senior Grand Prix is about – all the media and crowds even for the compulsory dance." Their diagonal and circular steps were only Level 2 but everything else was Level 4. They received a -0.60 on their final move, synchronized twizzles. They got a deduction of 1 point due to an extended lift.
Hajkova & Vincour, who drew to skate first, presented an Elvis Presley medley and, while it was nothing like as successful as Belbin & Agosto’s version in the ’03 season, it provided a pleasant appetizer to the event.
Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang skated to the Irish music from "Lord of the Dance". They finished last but only by 1.34 behind the Czechs.
2006 Skate Canada Dance Medalists
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