By Liz Leamy
(26 Novbember 2017) The second night of competition at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America began in fine style, with nine of the world’s prominent ice dance teams taking the ice in hopes of scoring big points in the first round of the dance event.
With the Rhumba pattern being the official selection for this season’s short dance, the teams all skated clean programs, displaying drama, speed, finesse, quickness, and technical acumen in their performances.
In particular, the quality of their steps and turns seemed to be at a higher level than ever, as each team performed giant Choctaws with deep edges and great body lean, filling up nearly close to the entire quarter of the ice with this high-scoring step.
Maia & Alex Shibutani, the 2017 and 2016 U.S. champions and the 2016 World silver and 2017 World bronze medalists, skated away with the biggest marks of the night, a 79.18 point, a season’s best, giving them a 6.48 point lead over the eight-team roster.
A big crowd favorite, the Shibutanis, who have trained in Canton, Michigan, with Marina Zoueva for more than 10 years and originate from the New York City metropolitan area, hit the ball out of the park with their program that centered around a Mambo, Cha Cha and Samba theme.
Dressed in glittering tan and black (Alex) and fuchsia and orange (Maia) costumes reminiscent of a classic Hollywood style, this team looked first class all the way and executed superb twizzles that drew loud cheers from the crowd along with silk-like Choctaws, an electric lift and terrific footwork, turns and steps.
“We were happy with our performance today,” said Maia, 23.
Alex, 26, agreed. “We were excited to be out there,” said Alex. “We’re very grateful for all the experiences we’ve had and it’s really nice to be here.”
Thirteen years ago, the Shibutanis kicked off their competitive career here at the Lake Placid Ice Dance event, a big annual U.S. summer competition, back in 2003. At that time, they competed in the Juvenile Dance event, a memory that they both seem to hold dear to themselves.
“It’s special for us to return and reflect upon what we’ve accomplished,” said Maia. “It’s been an amazing journey.”
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy placed second with their compelling short dance and scored 72.70 points.
Luca, wearing black, and Anna, wearing a striking fuchsia tulle skirt with a glittering diamond bodice, the team was a crowd favorite due to their high energy, drama and powerful style. In their program, this team reeled off terrific turns, steps and a lift that drew rousing applause from the audience.
“Luca and I were happy with our performance tonight,” said Cappellini.
The Italians trailed the Shibutanis by only 1 point in components, but trailed technically by failing to achieve the levels of the leaders, nor hitting the three key pointd in the Rhumba steps.
Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov of Russia clinched third with 68.72 points. In their program, this powerful team skated fast and knocked out a high-velocity lift, beautifully etched turns and steps, among other notable elements.
“We were very happy to skate here in Lake Placid,” said Sinitsina. “It was fun to perform at this arena.”
Whereas the first two couples has components in the nines, the Russians' components averaged 8.6. Like the Italians, they failed to hit any of the key points in the Rhumba steps, while their levels where equivalent to the Italians.
The second Russian team here, Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro sit in fourth place, while the sole Canadian team, Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier sit fifth. The Japanese couple Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed are sixth.
The second and third U.S. teams, Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker and Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons sit in seventh and eighth place. Both couples trail their country mates by more than 15 points. Shiyue Wang & Xinyu (CHN) sit ninth with 55.57 points.
The dance final takes place Sunday afternoon.