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2021 Internationaux de France: Dance

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


(26 November 2021)  Four time French World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, who have trained in the Ice Academy of Montreal since summer 2014, won a run-away gold medal with 221.25 points, 18 more than the couple in second place. Since their October competitions they changed a part of their Rhythm Dance to Waacking style dance music, the origin of which coming from the U.S. Gay movement of the 1980ies. They made the arm movements more characteristic and street-dance like. Their music was “Made to Love“ and “U Move, I Move,“ both by John Legend. Cizeron said: “Bringing the‚ waacking‘ street-style dance on to the ice, was a challenge. The first few weeks we were training off the ice and it takes quite some coordination, and we did research on the ice on how we can fit the steps, the flow. It was try and error. It was important to us to embrace the style and not just try to copy or make it look like a whacking style.”

The Rhythm Dance elements got a bit higher levels than in Turin two weeks before: Twizzles and lift level 4, the three step sequences level 3. The GOEs were mainly +4, but four of the five elements also had some +5. Their outstanding talents, especially Cizeron‘s, were reflected in the components which had an average of 9.7 with nine perfect 10.0 for composition, performance and music interpretation from five different judges. Papadakis commented, “It was nice to be in Grenoble at the Grand Prix and with our French audience and to feel their support. We did a very good performance, we are happy with what we did and we are happy with the scores.”

Their free dance to “Elegie“ by French 19th century composer Gabriel Faure was just a piece of art or perfect ballet on the ice with one highlight after the other. GOEs of +4 and +5 dominated for almost all elements, there was only a tiny slip of Cizeron during the twizzles which got only +2. The levels were high but not perfect, the components were around 9.8 with ten 10.0 from six different judges. “It was a good performance, but not perfect, there are some things we have to work on,” Papadakis explained. Cizeron added, “There are some levels we need to work on. We have two weeks before the Grand Prix Final to improve.”

World bronze medal winners Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier of Scarborough near Toronto claimed the silver medal with 203.16 points. In their Rhythm Dance, the students of Carol Lane and Juris Razgulajevs used two music pieces by Elton John: “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “Still Standing”. They were dressed in bright orange, like John sometimes did. Their levels on the steps were relatively low, the GOEs were mainly +3 and the components were around 9.3. Poirier said, “It's nice to be back here. When we were here last time we had a disappointing finish and did not qualify for the Final. So we are definitely on a mission this week. This is our second event with an audience and it's great to be able to skate and entertain the crowd.”

In their entertaining free dance to the Beatles song “The Long and Winding Road”, their levels were mixed again, GOEs of +3 and +4 dominated and their components had an average of 9.2. Gilles commented, “We made some improvements compared to Skate Canada, but our score is a bit lower and we need to go back and evaluate that. We are excited to go back to the Grand Prix Final and we’ll go home and work on the things we lost here.”

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin from the Moscow school of Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin took the bronze medal with 200.29 points. For their Rhythm Dance, they used the Hip Hop “Everybody“ by a Backstreet Boys remix and the Blues “Monster“ by Justin Bieber. The levels were low, but the GOEs were around +3 and the components around 9.2.  Stepanova explained, “Today I think we skated better than in our first Grand Prix in Italy. For now we don't know where we lost two points compared to Italy, but as of right now we are satisfied with our performance.”

In their free dance to Nino Rota’s version of “Romeo and Juliet“, the step sequences had low levels, the other elements level 4 again. The GOEs were mainly +3 and +4 and the components around 9.1. Bukin said, “We’ve made a little step forward since our first Grand Prix in Italy and we are more satisfied with what we did here. Each competition is a preparation towards the Olympic Games, regardless of the level." They hope that this time Bukin will not be excluded from the Games for unknown reasons, like in 2018.

Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud from France landed on fourth position with 175.94 points. They train mainly in Lyon with Roxane Petetin and Fabian Bourzat, sometimes also in Moscow with Alexander Zhulin. In the Rhythm Dance to two Hip Hops and one Blues, they performed five good elements with mixed levels and components of around 7.6. In their free dance to a music arrangement by Johann Sebastian Bach and to Karl Jenkin’s famous “Palladio“, they had good levels except for the step sequences and could move up from fifth to fourth place.

Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko claimed fifth place with 175.91 points, skating better than at their first Grand Prix in Canada. Their twizzles in the Rhythm Dance to “Batdance“ by Prince were excellent, but the step sequences had low levels. In their free dance to “Wicked Game“ by Chris Isaak, the students of Scott Moir had lower GOEs and levels than the French team and therefore dropped to fifth position although all elements were good. There are two sons of Olympic ice dance champions in the event: Ponomarenko is the son of the 1992 gold medal winner Sergei Ponomarenko, and Ivan Bukin is the son of 1988 gold medalist Andrei Bukin.

Annabelle Morozov & Andrei Bagin were ranked sixth with 172.32 points. The daughter of coach Nikolai Morozov and her partner performed a good Rhythm Dance to a Blues and a Hip Hop and a charming free dance to “Sheherezade“ by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis from Finland are seventh with 171.02 points. They were alternates for the Russian couple of Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro who had to skip both Grand Prix because Zagorski had to stay in a Moscow hospital because of a lung infection in October. She says it is not Covid-related. Turkkila stumbled a bit on the twizzles in the Rhythm Dance and they performed a romantic free dance.

Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius from Lithuania are eighth winning 169.83 points. In the Rhythm Dance, both fell during the Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence and could not move up in spite of the sixth best free dance. Reed, who is American,  still has no Lithuanian citizenship which she will need at the Olympic Games, but tries a second time after a first negative decision.

Loicia Demougeot & Theo Le Mercier came ninth with 156.61 points. They were alternates for the French couple of Adelina Galyavieva & Louis Thauron who finished their career in October 2021. The official reason was an injury, but the real reason is thought to be discouragement, after Papadakis & Cizeron did not compete at Worlds 2021 which left France with only one Olympic spot which Papadakis & Cizeron will take themselves.  Demougeot’s and Le Mercier‘s programs at their senior debut were a bit junior-like.

Jennifer Janse van Rensburg & Benjamin Steffan from Germany ended up tenth with 154.09 points. In the Rhythm Dance, Steffan went down backwards during the Pattern Dance Step Sequence, but the free dance had good levels and energy. The best elements were the lifts.