by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The ice dance competition at the French Grand Prix 2022 in Angers had a very good level. There were no weak couples and only few mistakes.
Charlene Guignard (33) & Marco Fabbri (34) from Italy, fifth at the Olympic Games in China, won their first Grand Prix with 207.95 points after competing in senior Grand Prix since 2012. In their Rhythm Dance to Samba and Rhumba by U.S. singer Grace Jones, and a second Samba, the longtime students of Barbara Fusar Poli performed five excellent elements even if their levels were not yet top because only the Straightline Lift had a level 4. The Choreo Rhythm Sequence had one GOE of +5 and five GOEs of +4, the Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence had one +5 and two +4. The other three elements had mainly +3 and some +4. Their components had an average of 9.1. Fabbri said, “I think we showed some improvements compared to the first competition this season and we are happy about it, Each competition has different judges, different levels and some judges appreciate more what you do, but overall at the end of our performance we felt that almost all the elements were better than at Lombardia Trophy. I can’t tell you why we had a lower score, we felt good on the ice. Honestly, I was expecting a bit more, but seen from the outside it was much better than one and a half month ago.” He did not say that they had had a home advantages at the Lombardia Trophy and at smaller competitions the points are normally higher.
For their free dance, they used “My Love Will Never Die” by Australian and later U.S. singer Claire Wyndham, “Mephisto Lullaby” by Israeli-born Yair Albeg Wein and “Eden” by Spanish-Mexican pop singer Belinda, from a Netflix Series. Their style was more passionate than in previous years and all elements were excellent, GOEs of +4 and +3 dominated. They had a combination lift (Stationary and Rotational) in their program which counts as much as two separate lifts which the majority of the other couples had in their programs. The step sequences had only level 2 and 3, as usual for all couples early in the season. Fabbri explained, “It is a really emotional moment for us, this is our first victory in the Grand Prix series. We felt really good in the first three minutes, but the last minute was a bit difficult, we were a bit tired. The Free Dance needs more work, it is physically demanding. This year, considering that we’ve been skating for very long time, we wanted to show something that we never did before. We really tried to give a different impact in the Rhythm Dance but also in the Free Dance especially.”
Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Soerensen from the Ice Acadamy of Montreal won a well-merited silver medal, earning 201.93 points. The Canadians, who had competed for Denmark until 2018, used three songs by Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan. In the Rhythm Dance they were only 1.14 points behind the Italians because their levels were a bit higher. GOEs of +3 dominated overall and their components were around 8.9. The ascent of their Stationary Lift was technically very demanding and the Samba was danced in a rhythmical and jagged way. Fournier Beaudry said, “I think that we gave our best. We improved since our last competition in Finland and we are planning to improve from there.”
For their free dance in Western inspired style, they used eight pieces of music. Their levels were mixed and their flow not ideal yet, but nevertheless the whole performance was excellent. GOEs of +3 dominated for their elements, the Choreo Character Step Sequence even had two GOEs of +5. Fournier Beaudry commented, “For us it’s very special to earn this silver medal, it is our first Grand Prix silver medal. We have high aspirations, we want to go to the Grand Prix Final, and we are one step closer to our goal for this season.” Soerensen added, “Laurence is always the master of our music. She selects and cuts it together.“
After being ninth at Europeans 2022, Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud confirmed that they are France’s dance couple number 1 now and won the bronze medal with 187.15 points. They no longer train in Moscow where Lopareva was born but part time in Lyon with Roxane Petetin and part time in the Montreal school. In the Rhythm Dance to a Rhumba and a Samba, her twizzles were not perfect, but all other elements very good. Brissaud said, “We skated pretty well, there were some tiny mistakes. We want to show our progress. Last year it was more about technique, while this year it is more about the connection, more romantic and fluid.”
For their free dance, they used two chansons by French singer Edith Piaf. Their levels were mixed, but all elements impressive and their components around 8.4.
Lopareva explained, “I feel super gifted for this season that we are able to skate to Edith Piaf. I am in love with this program, and in love with Edith Piaf. We are super glad to skate this program in France and to win our first Grand Prix medal in France. We feel this program, we feel the crowd. It was an amazing day full of emotions.”
Loicia Demougeot & Theo le Mercier are the second promising French dance couple and finished fourth, earning 179.76 points. Their Rhythm Dance to Cha Cha, Rhumba and Samba was better than at Skate America. This time all elements were at least good, the rotational lift even excellent, but their levels still a bit low. Their components were around 7.6. Le Mercier said, “We felt so much better than at our Rhythm Dance at Skate America. We were now already used to the situation and weren’t as nervous.” Their free dance had innovative elements and tricks. They had good levels, all elements were at least good, the lift combination even outstanding and the components had an average of 7.8. Le Mercier commented, “If someone would have told us before the GP season that we would end up with two 4th places we wouldn’t have believed it. We are super happy. The crowd was amazing, it’s always great to skate in front of a home crowd.”
U.S. dancers Eva Pate and Logan Bye had a successful international Grand Prix debut (they competed in 2020 when only skaters who train in the USA were allowed according to the Pandemic laws) and are fifth with 174.03 points. He is a longtime student of Igor Shpilband in Novi near Detroit, also with his former partners, and now Shpilband and Pasquale Camerlengo train them. Two Sambas and one Rhumba were their music pieces in the Rhythm Dance with mainly GOEs of +2 and components around 7.3. Pate said, “We had so much fun out there. We felt a great energy. We would like to skate clean here at our first GP and just enjoy the experience. I am so happy that my Mum made it over here from the US.” For their free dance, they took the Irish music of “Riverdance” which had been very popular 20 or 25 years ago, but is no longer used very often. They had good levels and would almost have bumped into one another during the twizzles sequence, but could just avoid a crash. Bye explained, “We are overall happy. The crowd was amazing and was clapping along much earlier than we expected them to. That really helps, especially during a long upbeat program. We hope to do one more Challenger competition before Nationals.”
Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya from Georgia, both of whom were born in Russia, placed sixth with 173.05 points. They were 19th at the Olympic Games last season and came as alternates for the Ukrainians Nazarova & Nikitin who have finished their skating career. Kazakova & Reviya left Russia in the summer and now train in Northern Italy with Matteo Zanni. They had good levels in both programs. Reviya had broken an arm in the summer and his bandage was taken off only two weeks before the Grand Prix. Their free dance music was “Mad World”, which should stand for the current situation of worldwide problems.
Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis from Finland, 15th at the Olympic Games this year, came seventh with 172.48 points and had hoped for a much better result. But Turkkila fell on her first twizzle in the Rhythm Dance, which was a costly mistake and the only fall of the whole dance competition. In the fifth best free dance to three piano music pieces by Franz Schubert, they produced several excellent and easy-looking elements in a light-footed style, but could move up only spot.
U.S. dancers Katarina Wolfkostin & Jeffrey Chen, the younger brother of single skater Karen Chen, were fourth at Junior Worlds 2022. They came eighth with 164.89 points. They changed coaches in the summer and now train in the Canton school of Charlie and Tanith White and Greg Zuerlein. In the Rhythm Dance, they had problems in the Rotational Lift, could hardly avoid a fall and got GOEs of -3. In the free they danced to music of Florence – The Machine” with mixed levels, but good elements.
Like all dance teams of French coach Karine Arribert, the third French team of Marie Dupayage & Thomas Nabais had innovative elements and costumes. They finished on ninth position, earning 161.09 points without making serious mistakes. The Canadian couple of Molly Lanaghan & Dmitri Razgulajevs, who is a son of one of their coaches Juris Razgulajevs, ended up tenth and last with 153.72 points. Their levels were mixed and they made no big mistake. In both programs GOEs of +1 dominated, so even they were a good couple.