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Shibutanis Lead 2016 Progressive Skate America U.S. Dance Contingent

By Liz Leamy

Maia and Alex Shibutni at 2016 World Championships




The dance competition is expected to be a main event at the 2016 Progressive Skate America this week in considering the entries on the roster, particularly those who will be representing the U.S.

The Team USA dance roster at this year’s Skate America, to be held September 21st through 23rd at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, is impressive, as it features such contenders as Maia and Alex Shibutani, the 2016 World silver medalists, 2011 World bronze medalists and reigning U.S. champions, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the three-time U.S. bronze medalists and Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit, who are two-time U.S. junior bronze medalists.

Collectively, this group is a force in every sense of the word, as each team is known for their stellar skating skills and terrific artistry, among other distinctive things.

Leading this talented troupe are the enigmatic Alex and Maia Shibutani, the brother/sister dance duo who, last year, experienced one of their most golden seasons to date when they captured silver at the 2016 World Championships in Boston last March and their first U.S. senior title at the U.S. Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota in January.

The duo, whose skating is defined by fantastic technique, innovative artistry and great energy, will be making their competitive debut here at this event and will be going in as the defending U.S. champions, which ought to make for a memorable competition on all fronts.

The Shibutanis said they are looking forward to the event.

“We are really excited our season next week at Skate America,” said Maia, 22, who trains with her brother Alex, 25, with Marina Zoueva at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Michigan, during a teleconference call with reporters last week. “I think that last season was a huge breakthrough for us and we’re definitely working off of that momentum.”

Always ones to put out engaging and intelligent programs, the two plan to debut their short and free dance works at this event.

“We’re excited to debut our programs,” said Alex, who, with his sister, has collected a total of six U.S. national championship medals, a gold, three silver and two bronze in the U.S. senior event, up through 2016. “We’ve pushed ourselves more creatively than ever before.”

This season, the team will be skating to the classic Frank Sinatra tune, ‘That’s Life’ along with a catchy hip-hop piece by Jay-Z for their short dance. (The theme for the short dance event this season is blues and hip hop.)

“We’ve always loved Frank Sinatra and [the song] reflects who we are and what we’ve been through,” said Maia. “It’s something we can really relate to.”

For their free dance, they will be interpreting the theme ‘Evolution,’ a narrative that which will feature orchestrations by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, among other musical selections.

This program was choreographed by Peter Tchernyshev, the former Olympic ice dancer who was responsible for creating their stunning ‘Fix You’ (Coldplay) free dance last season, which was a hugely instrumental vehicle in helping to propel them right to the top rung of the global competitive field.

According to the Shibutanis, this year, their goal is all about continuing to grow and evolve in regard to their skating, as indicated with the theme of their free dance.

“We known there’s a lot of room for [more] growth this season,” said Alex.

This year, the Shibutanis have also been working with Jeffrey Buttle, the 2006 Canadian Olympic bronze medalist and Stephane Lambiel, the 2006 Swiss Olympic silver medalist, as a means to further boost their creative understanding and expertise.

“They are two of the most talented skaters who we know and we’ve been able to take a lot from them,” said Alex. “We have a strong support group.”

Madison Hubbell, 25, and Zachary Donohue, 25, should also be good for putting out exceptional performances at this event as well.

The duo, who train in Montreal, Quebec with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romaine Haguenauer, will be skating to ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone and a hip-hop medley by various artists for their short dance and a ‘Love’ medley for their free dance.

Elliana Pogrebinsky, 18, and Alex Benoit, 21, who train with Igor Sphilband in Novi, Michigan, will round out this year’s roster of U.S. entries at this year’s Skate America.

They will be skating to ‘Trouble’ by Elvis Presley for their short dance and to the Persian Legend of ‘Layla and Majnun’ and ‘Sadko’ by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and ‘The Feeling Begins’ by Peter Gabriel for their free dance.