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2013 Skate America: Dance Free Dance

by Alexandra Stevenson

Davis and White Continue to Improve

1. Overall 188.23; 1. FD 112.53 (53.92+58.61), Meryl Davis & Charlie White, USA, gave breathtaking performance. It was a magnificent, with incredible speed with everything seemingly just perfect. What more can you say? He looked totally spent at the end. They won the FS by over 13 points. The panel gave the maximum Level 4 for five of their eight elements. The circular steps, the second part of their long lift and the diagonal steps received Level 3.

They also earned +3 Grades of Execution for all of their elements, although none got unanimous +3s. The curve lift received seven +3s and two +2s. The circular steps received four +3 and five plus 2s. The long lift earned six +3s and three +2s. The combination spin, though excellent, received their lowest awards, “only” two +3s, six +2s and a solitary +1, which still stands for superior. Their Twizzles got four +3s, and five +2s. Their diagonal steps earned six +3s and three +2s. Their last lift, a rotational variety received their most +3s, eight, with the remaining judge giving +2. Their choreographed lift, which has only one Level, 1, was rewarded with six +3s and three +2s. WOW!

Of course, there were 10s, on the components’ scores. Only three of the nine judges were able to restrain themselves and not give the maximum. One gave 10s for three of the five categories. Four gave 10s for two of the categories and another gave just one 10. The judges were from Australia, France, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and the USA (Sharon Rogers). The Referee was Jennifer Mast. The Technical Specialist was Marie Bowness and her Assistant was Olympic champion Sergei Ponomarenko.

Five of the tens were for “Interpretation”, three were for “Performance”, and another three were for “Choreography”. And one was for “Transitions”. Skating Skills, however, got “only” seven 9.75 and two 9.50. Fortunately, the skaters compete in the order in which they finished in the Short Dance so the event builds up to a conclusion. No one would have wanted to have to perform after Davis & White’s brilliant showing.

Playing down this ecstatic reaction, White said, “I think we were really happy with what we were able to put out there. It was definitely one of our best performances.” Davis added, “We kind of came upon the music and had a very hard time with it, at first. The first lift is all about the timing and balancing each other and space distribution. It’s a challenge. It’s exciting to do at the beginning of the program. It kind of sets the tone with an element of surprise and gets drama and excitement into the program.”

They have been winning medals since 1997. Their parents are friends, and the mothers are often seen sitting in the audience keeping a low profile, gaining comfort from each other because they know their progeny are pushing the limit of technical possibilities.

White said, “We paid special attention to the musicality and also to the character development, and I think that adds to our depth and to audience appeal. And, if the audience likes you, the judges reflect that. We know that in Sochi (Olympic Games in February) the Russian attendees will be very knowledgeable about skating. Their fans are very well informed. We feel they will appreciate what we are doing.”

2. Overall 168.49; FD 98.61 (47.00+51.61) Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, Italy, interpreted the very famous Rossini Overture to the opera, the Barber of Seville. It is a light hearted piece, about a dashing, handsome go-getter, which has been used many time in singles’ skating, but I don’t remember it in ice dance. He wore maroon trousers and a dull green waistcoat and billowing white chiffon-y sleeves.

The judges definitely liked it. For their Level 4 twizzles, two judges gave them +3 GoE, six others gave +2 and one only +1. They also received Level 4 for both parts of their long lift, which got one +3. Their following short rotational lift was also Level 4 but with six +3s and three +2s. Their circular steps and the combination spin were only Level 3, without any +3s.But they did get one more +3, which was for the final move, the short choreographed lift which has only one Level (1).For their components, they got a high of one 9.25 and a low of one 8.0.

She said, “We were really pleased with the way we skated. It was harder than yesterday, having lost some training time because of Luca’s neck problem. We had to pull out of the Nepela Memorial Trophy so we weren’t completely ready, but we were glad we could skate a clean program. We are happy with the response from the judges. It was a great week for us and we’ll use it to build on rest of the season.

Cappellini said, “We made the choice of (for their SD) “42nd Street” by the Cincinnati Orchestra. We loved it from the start. We worked on it with our coach and feel like it’s right up our alley. With our free dance, we wanted to bring something Italian for the Olympic season. I thought it was something really enjoyable that I could see ourselves skating to it at the Olympics.

3.  Overall 154.47; FD 93.21 (47.00+47.21-1); Maia & Alex Shibutani, USA, presented something new for them, a routine in which Alex is Michael Jackson. Both Maia and Alex were in black, Maia with one half bare arm and the other with a gray covering from the elbow down, which was the same material as was on his back. Their music was “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’?”; “Ben” by Walter Scharf, and “Thriller”. It was new territory for them, and it was marred by his most unfortunate fall.

They still got very good technical marks. Both step sequences were Level 3 and the rest of the elements were Level 4. Each part of their long lift and the rotational lift each received a +3 from one judge. All their GoEs were positive.

He said, “We had so much energy from the audience. The excitement we had going into this performance tonight was an all-time high for our career. We were so excited to share what we have been working on this entire summer and for the last year and a half. Obviously, you don’t plan on falling but that stuff happens. I got back up as quickly as I could and we kept pushing through the program. We got a great learning experience out of it! We can build on the program and nail it for the next performance.”

Maia was able to laugh afterwards. “One second he was there, and the next second he wasn’t!”

Her brother said, “It’s hard to say what happened. I may have gotten a little excited. I’m not sure. If it wasn’t for Marina Zueva’s amazing training this summer, we wouldn’t have been able to recover so quickly. It will make us more prepared for next time. That, hopefully, won’t happen again.”

His sister added, “Every competition is a different learning experience. For example, this was a huge crowd and we were really able to feed off of their energy. But we also need to learn how to control that, so that is something we will be focusing on leading into NHK. I think, for us, our goal was to put our two programs out there. It was a huge stepping stone for us, but we must take one step at a time. We still have a lot of work to do on the routine.

When asked about Sochi, Alex said, “Obviously every county has its battles for the Olympic team. There are a lot of talented skaters out there. Our mindset today was specifically going out there and doing the best we could. We know exactly what we can do and we’re really looking forward to doing that in the NHK (Grand Prix). Maia and I have been fans of the Olympic Games since we started watching them. We’re not only fans of skating, but what’s behind the Olympic Games, that Olympic Spirit. So when we started skating together, that was our dream -- to walk in the Olympic Ceremonies. This year leads up to that. So we put a lot of thought into the program!”

Asked about their music, Alex explained, “When we were thinking about the programs we would skate to, we realized we wanted to have fun, to challenge ourselves, and to put ourselves out there. Really, we have no regrets. We chose to surround ourselves with people we trusted. We put ourselves in their hands. We knew some people would be surprised when they heard that we were using Michael Jackson pieces. But, we had confidence in ourselves, and in the whole process. We really love it.”

4.  Overall 152.98; FD 92.27 (44.21+48.06); Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, USA, wore hippy-type outfits, he in baggy grey, she in purple and grey. They performed to a “Nocturne into Bohemian Rhapsody”, which was lovely but very sad. All their lifts were Level 4. Their twizzles and the circular steps were Level 3 and the Diagonal Steps Level 2. Their components ranged from two 7.25s from one judge, while two other judges each gave two awards of 8.50.

Afterwards, Hubbell said, “I thought it went well. We’ll try to fine tune some of the details at Skate Canada next week and then during the time before nationals.” Donohue added, “We’ll work on some of the subtle aspects of our transitions and other elements, and revamp the program and really show something special at nationals.”

5.  Overall 136.13; FD 81.85 (41.58+40.27); Cathy & Chris Reed, the five-time Japanese champions, were in costumes appropriate to their mother’s Japanese heritage. Cathy was in a pink modified kimono and Chris in a blue, black and white period costume. The music, from Shogun ll, contained lots of drums. They were delighted to climb a place. The skaters from fifth to eighth were very close with only 2.37 points separating them. The Reeds earned six Level 4s. Their circular steps were Level 3 and the Diagonal Steps Level 2.

6.  Overall 135.70; FD 81.60 (40.90+40.90); Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones, France, got Level 4 for everything except the two step sequences which were Level 2. They included an interesting stationary lift. Their Free was set to “Swan Lake”. She wore a white costume, similar to those worn when the ballet “Swan Lake” is performed, but with a black band at her waist to indicate that she was a being who was torn between good and evil. They climbed a place up after the Short Dance.

7. Overall 134.67; 7.FD 81.50 (40.27+41.23); Isabella Tobias & Deividas Stagniunas, Lithuania, were delighted to climb a place. He plays James Bond in a grey suit. The routine starts with him releasing her from handcuffs, so there’s a story there! She’s a sexy blonde (in life as well as on the ice) and it ends, as with the case of most of the Bond women, with her dead. It’s a fun piece but they received only Level 2 for both step sequences and a Level 3 on the Twizzles.

8.  Overall 133.76; 8.FD 79.23 (37.93+41.30); Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, Azerbaijan, used the soundtrack of the German movie “Pina”, previous used to great effect by Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, the German former world pair champions. The 27-year-old Sitnikov was all in blue. She wore an orange dress. They were, of course, very disappointed to drop from fifth after the Short Dance. They lost -0.43 on their Twizzles, which were Level 4 as were their lifts, two short and one long. Both step sequences were only Level 2, as was their spin.

Amazingly, all of the couples train at least partially in the United States.  Davis & White and the Shibutanis train with Marina Zueva in Canton, Hubbell & Donohue train with Pasquale Camerlengo at the Detroit Skating Club, Cappellini & Lanotte, Tobias & Stagniunas, Zlobina & Sitnikov, and Carron & Jones (partially) train with Igor Shpilband at the Novi Rink in Michigan, while the Reeds train in Hackensack New Jersey.

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