by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(22 October 2018) The ice dance event at Skate America 2018 in Everett, WA, offered a good level of competition. The only less ideal aspect was the time schedule for the dancers.
The Rhythm Dance was finished around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, followed by the draw for the free dance and the press conference for the top three teams. The buses to the hotel went every 30 minutes, and they were not back in the hotel before 11:15 p.m. But the next morning, practice for the first group started at 7:15 a.m. In order to warm up in the morning they had to get up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. The competition began at 11:10 a.m. and the Exhibition Gala at 6 p.m. on the same day. There was not enough time for sleep and rest. The top three teams at the free dance press conferecne therefore asked the photographers to take a photo in which they posed as if they are all asleep. It was more a joke, but with some serious background.
World silver medalists Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue were the clear winners with 200.82 points. In spite of two little mishaps, they had taken the lead in the Rhythm Dance, as the first part of the competition is called in this season. The required rhythm is the Tango Romantica, together with another Tango or any other rhythm which fits to the Tango.
The Americans, who train in Montreal, Canada, with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer, danced to the two tangos “Alevare” and “Tangata del Alba”, both by Astor Piazzola, in quite a sultry and characteristic way and in high speed. They had a level 4 and GOEs of mainly +4 for their twizzles and the curve lift. The midline step sequence does not have to be danced totally separate and parallel any more, but up to half of it may be danced together. To get a level 4 is very difficult in this season and they had a level 3. The two Tango sections had a level 3 and 2, which means they hit five of the eight keypoints. The component scores were around 9.1 with some 9.5 as highest ones.
Near the end a small piece of Hubbell’s skirt was sliced off and fell on the ice (one point of deduction) and Donohue injured his hand a bit. At the final pose Hubbell leaned so much against and over Donohue that he lost balance and had to put his hands on the ice (one other point of deduction).
Hubbell commented: “It was great for Zach and I to be back in the States competing. It’s been a while since we have been able to skate here at Skate America. Overall we were happy with the day. I got a little bit overly passionate and fell on top of Zach at the end, but overall we are happy and looking forward to tomorrow.” Donohue joked: “Of course it was not the ideal short dance, but we take a lot of knowledge and are learning. I learned how flexible I am and it’s not as much as I thought.”
For their free dance, they used soundtracks of Romeo and Juliet films, especially from the 1996 piece. They danced in a romantic way and very close together. Four leveled elements had a level 4 and the diagonal step sequence and the stationary lift a level 3. For the new one foot step sequence she had a level 3 and he a level 2. The three non-level elements were excellent as well as all level elements. GOEs of +3 and +4 were dominating, and there were even a few GOEs of +5. The components had an average of 9.3 with some 9.75 as highest ones.
Donohue commented: “We are very pleased with today. It wasn't a perfect performance. Again, there's still some levels, still some points to get us higher up. We are still looking for more, especially out of the short. In the free, we were very happy with our performance. I think we finally reached another level that way.“ Hubbell added, “We were able to show those changes [from the Rhythm Dance] well, but we are looking for more improvement and an even cleaner skate next time around. As for the 200-point total, it’s great to hit another milestone. Zach and I put in a lot of work since our first competition in Salt Lake. I'm really happy we could bring the gold medal home for our team. Zach and I put in a lot of work since our first competition in Salt Lake to really dive into the emotions of Romeo and Juliet and to put more skating quality, more power into the program. I think we were able to show those changes well, but we’re also looking forward to more and more improvement and hopefully have a cleaner skate next week in Skate Canada. We opted for these two Grand Prix head to head.”
Charlčne Guignard & Marco Fabbri from Italy, 10th at the Olympic Games eight months ago, won their first Grand Prix medal and took silver with 192.30 points. For many years they were Italy’s couple number two. But after Cappellini & Lanotte retired in springtime they are the number one.
They skated to the three Tango pieces “Miedo a la Libertad,” “La Chanson des Vieux Amants” and “Tanos” with a level 3. The stationary lift, unique and almost in hydroblade position, and the twizzle had a level 4.
Fabbri said, “We were feeling very good when we stepped on the ice, then unfortunately we had a couple of really small mistakes, so we are not a 100 per cent happy with our performance. We can perform better. But it’s the first major event of the season and it was a good starting point.“ In the free dance, they danced to several romantical pieces of the soundtrack of La La Land with high levels and mainly GOEs of +3. „We felt a lot better than last night. Even though the legs were more tired, we probably were a bit more focused,” Fabbri commented. “We started from zero when Charlene and I started skating together. I was a single skater and had just started ice dance and she didn’t have international experience. We are proud of what we have achieved.”
Rounding out the podium were Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro from Russia who won 181.38 points and also their first Grand Perix medal. In the rhythm dance they skated to Besame Mucho and got mainly GOEs of +2 and +3. In the free dance they interpreted the „Blues for Klook“ by Eddie Louis. Two lifts were too long and got deductions, but otherwise the dance was excellent. Guerreiro explained: “We didn’t know what was going to happen in the free dance today. We haven’t had this many free dance run-throughs under our belts, so we just kind of prayed and hoped for the best. Overall, it’s a good start.”
Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter from the Wheaton Academy of Alexei Kiliakov in Rockville, Maryland, came near a medal in their first senior Grand Prix. But the World Junior Champions of 2016 just missed it by 0.8 points and finished fourth with 180.57 points. They combined a Tango with an Argentinian type of Waltz and had the highest levels of all ten teams: four times level 4 and level 3 on the step sequence. Their GOEs were mainly +2.
McNamara commented, “It was a lot of fun for our first time at Skate America. The crowd here was amazing and they give so much energy. I think Tango itself has a really wide range of depth that you can go into. We wanted to feed off of our music and give what the music gives, not just a typical Tango, but show the depth of our music and bring out emotion to touch the audience.” Their lyrical free dance had modern music of Yann Tiersen. They were third in this section thanks to no deduction, but it was not enough to win a medal. “I think we were both more focused on giving our best performance and that's the most we can do,” Carpenter said. McNamara added, “We've always looked up to Tessa and Scott. They are the total package. They make you feel something when you watch them. They draw in the crowd and you can't stop watching them. That's what we want to aim for.”
Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson from Britain, who train in the Montreal dance school, are fifth, winning 170.70 points. They skated their rhythm dance to a mixture of Tango and Flamenco with a lot of speed and visible joy of dancing, but their levels in the Tango sections were relatively low. In their free dance, they interpreted songs of Donna Summer and of Earth, Wind and Fire, again in a very dynamic way. In their stationary lift her hand is on his boots, but Gibson stumbled a bit on the twizzles.
Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev from Poland, 14th at the Olympic Games in South Korea, ended up sixth with 163.05 points. They skated quicker and more confident than at their first competition of this season, which was the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany. Their music was "Passion for Tango“ in the Rhythm Dance and "Bout Time“ by Crystallize in the Free Dance. Katharina Muller and Tim Dieck from Germany, second at German Nationals 2018, finished on seventh place with a new personal best of 158.11 points. In their free dance, they interpreted a difficult subject: The fight against and life with cancer.
Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin from the Ukraine are on eighth position with 156.16 points. They had a difficult summer, because after the Olympic Games (where they were 21st) their country does not pay winter athletes any more. They cannot afford any more to train with Igor Shpilband, but now work with his former assistant Fabian Bourzat in Paris. Robynne Tweedale & Joseph Buckland, the second pair in Britain, finished ninth, earning 152.69 points. In their Rhythm Dance, they made several small mistakes, whereas the free dance with music of the musical *Ghost“ was better.
Karina Manta &Joseph Johnson of the Colorado Springs U.S. Air Force Academy were very excited to get an invitation to their first-ever Grand Prix and ended up tenth and last with 139.33 points. They like to laugh on and off the ice and mixed a Tango (which got low levels) in the Rhythm dance with a Flamenco. Even if they are technically not the best, it is a pleasure to watch them.
Johnson said, “We are feeling good. It wasn’t a perfect skate, but to be on Grand Prix ice for the first time was incredible. It’s a completely different environment, but not in a way you would expect. It’s really welcoming. It’s very supportive and friendly and not as terrifying as it seems from the outside coming in.” In the free dance, they interpreted a modern version of the evergreen "Sweet Dreams“, which was choreographed by Christopher Dean. Johnson explained, “We were having a blast. It was super fun and the crowd was amazing. It was definitely executed more cleanly than yesterday, too.“