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2018 Skate France International Dance

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


(1 December 2018)   Guillaume Cizeron’s back pain, which had prevented he and Gabriella Papadakis from competing at the NHK Trophy, has nearly disappeared, and, therefore they were able to compete at the "Internationaux de France“ in Grenoble, which they won the gold medal with 216.7 points.

This is a "world record“ even if the ISU prefers not to speak about world records in figure skating. Up to this this season more than around 205 points in an ice dance competitions would not even mathematically have been possible. But some elements like the lifts and twizzles get more basic points in this season. GOEs of +5, which you have only since this July, really are worth 50 per cent more points for an element than the base value, whereas a GOE of +3 which was the maximum possible in the judging system until the end of last season meant much less than 50 per cent more than the base value. Papadakis & Cizeron are so outstanding that they got GOEs of +4 and +5 for almost all elements from almost all judges. And nobody else, not even Hanyu, gets so many perfect 10.0 in the components as the French team.  

Their music pieces in the Rhythm Dance are the Tangos “Oblivion“ and “Primavera Porteno“ by Astor Piazzola performed by Gidon Kremer. The whole dance was a smooth masterpiece of art and ballet on the ice. The elements were integrated into the choreography without any noticeable break. The first of the five required elements were the sequential twizzles for which they got three GOEs +5 and four GOEs of +4. The curve lift was outstanding as well (five GOEs of +5). In the first Tango section they met only one of the four key points, but all four in the second part. For this element the Technical Jury is very strict in this season at every competition. The judges awarded GOEs of mainly +3. The Midline Step Sequence had a level 3, but three GOEs +5 and six GOEs of +4. Their components had an average of 9.7, with seven perfect 10.0, among them four for the interpretation of the music.

Cizeron said: “We don’t find the Tango harder than other short dances that we’ve done. Tango is a universal language; everybody knows what it is about. It just feels natural to our bodies.” Papadakis added: “We are very happy with our performance today. We really love this program.”

They had performed the Rhythm Dance at the French national Masters competition in late September. But they had not shown their new free dance in front of spectators in this season at all. Using a similar style and similar music for several years, they had changed both in the new free dance. Instead of piano music they used the guitar pieces "Duet“ and "Sunday Afternoon“ by Rachael Yamagata. They played a couple in love for the first time in their career although they certainly are not a couple off ice. Everything was perfect, fluid, emotional and again a piece of art. 39 of the 90 GOEs awarded were +5 and almost all others +4. All level elements had a level 4 for him and for her only the one foot step sequence had a level 3. 19 of the 45 components were 10.0 and the average was 9.81.

“We are really happy with what we have done today,” Cizeron explained. “We didn’t expect to have such a great score. So we’re very happy with the technical aspect of our program and we had a really good moment on the ice and with the audience. It was the first time we’ve done our free program this year, so we had a little bit of stress, but I feel the audience connected to it.”

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from Russia won the silver medal with 200.38 points. For the first time the students of Alexander Zhulin had more than 200 points and they also took profit from the new judging mathematics, but they really have improved enormously in this season after not even qualifying for the Russian World Team in the last two years. They had very good levels in the passionate Rhythm Dance and met in the Tango sections six of the eight keypoints. Dancing to “Verano Porteno” by Astor Piazzolla, their components were around 9.0, with some 9.5 as highest ones. Katsalapov said: “We have worked with the best Tango ballroom dancers in the world, Dmitry Vasin and Sagdiana Hamzina, so a big thank you to them. We have not yet reached our maximum and we’ll continue working on the chemistry and the relationship between us and that fire.”

For the first three minutes of their free dance they chose the “Air” suite by Johann Sebastian Bach, which Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko, had used for their Olympic gold medal free dance in 1992. In the last minute they added "Preludium and Allegro“ in the style of Bach and Pugnani by Fritz Kreisler. Their dance was very elegant and stylish. GOEs of +4 and level 4 dominated, but the two step sequences had levels 3 and 2. Their components were around 9.3. Katsalapov explained: “We are very happy with how the season has been going for us so far. We really enjoyed the competition. We got a season’s best in both programs and we couldn’t be happier right now.”

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Canada earnt the bronze medal with 188.74 points. Their levels in the Rhythm Dance to ”Angelica’s Tango“ by Piernicola di Muro were relatively low, but their GOEs mainly +3 and the components had an average of 8.9. Gilles commented: “We really took our time and enjoyed the performance, because this is a program that both of us truly enjoy.” In they free dance to ”Starry, Starry Night“ by singer Don MacLean, they interpreted the life of Flemish painter Vincent van Gogh in a melancholic and emotional way. The levels of their steps were relatively low again, the other levels high.

Poirier said: “Today’s free dance was one of those programs we had to fight through. We didn’t make any errors, but it was one of those programs that we had to go through each thing, take one element at a time. Of course, we’re a little bit disappointed not to qualify for the Final in this Grand Prix season. We had very tough events with deep fields.“

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean Luc Baker finished in fourth position with 181.47 points. They skated a bit less convincing than at the NHK Trophy which they had won. In both programs they had mainly the same levels as the Canadians. Their modern free dance to two pieces by "The Irrepressibles“ was very interesting nevertheless. Their components in the free dance were around 8.5.

U.S. dancers Rachel & Michael Parsons from the school of Alexei Kiliakov were fifth, earning 171.17 points. Their levels in the Rhythm dance were good, but the GOEs mainly +1 and +2. Their free dance to the music ”To Build a Home“ was well danced, but a bit conservative.

Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac from France finished on sixth position, winning 170.64 points. In the Tango sections they had only basic levels and met no keypoints. But their free dance was excellent and would have merited higher components than 8.0. Several elements were so spectacular and crowd-pleasing that they should have been ahead of the Parsons overall and not only with two points in the free dance.

Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz from Spain are seventh with 165.69 points. After being fifth in a characteristic Tango, they dropped two spots because Diaz fell during the midline step sequence. Betina Popova and Sergey Mozgov from Russia are eighth with 163.18 points after some little mistakes. Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius came ninth with 153.27 points with interesting elements. The debut of the new French couple of Adelina Galyavieva and Louis Thauron, who train in Moscow with Angelika Krylova, was promising even if they ended up tenth with 146.05 points.

By far the best dance couple in the Grand Prix series were Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron. But they had to skip their first Grand Prix in Japan and therefore are not in the Final.

Qualified for Vancouver are U.S. dancers Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue with the highest points in the series. The two Russian couples of Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin as well as Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov also performed very strong and will compete at the Grand Prix Final. Also qualified for Vancouver are Italians Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker as well as Russians Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro. First alternates are Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin from Spain, second ones Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Canada and third ones U.S. dancers Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter.