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2019 Skate America Dance

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany



Free Dance

The level of the ice dance competition at Skate America 2019 was high. The best three couples were world class and the other seven very good as well. Nobody was weak. Five of the ten couples came from the “Ice Academy of Montreal“ (IAM), as the world’s most successful ice dance school is officially called since this September. Their placements in Las Vegas were 1, 3, 4, 8 and 10.

World bronze medalists Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue from IAM defended their Skate America title from last year and won with 209.55 points. Their free dance to music from 2018’s "A Star Is Born“, with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, was interpreted in an entertaining way, like it makes sense for the entertainment city of Las Vegas. The levels were high, the GOEs mostly +3 and +4 and the components had an average of 9.4 inspite of Donohue suffering from a cold. Hubbell explained: “We were really looking forward to debuting this program. You work on a project for so many months and you can’t see straight anymore. We were happy to put it out for the first time and looking forward to getting a lot of feedback. There were good things and not so good things, and we feel like we can make a lot of progress for next week (at Skate Canada). There was a nice crowd reaction and there was a good connection between the two of us.”

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin from Russia, fourth at Worlds 2019, won the free dance with a distance of 0.08 points, but remained on second overall place with 206.57 points. They skated to “Primavera“ by Ludovico Einaudi and “Cry me a River“ performed by Justin Timberlake. They had a same high levels as the winners, but a bit higher GOEs. Their components were around 9.3. “Today we’re more pleased with our performance than yesterday. We fought through and kept pushing until the end and overall it was not a bad performance,” Stepanova said.

Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen from Canada had won the Nebelhorn Trophy in September and took the bronze with 197.53 points, which was their first Grand Prix medal after being fifth or seventh five times.  Their elements were not that spectacular but it was classical ice dance at its best. All elements were excellent, the stationary lift a highlight and GOEs of +3 dominated. Their music pieces were "Summertime“ by Chris Botti as well as “Georgia On My Mind“ and “Cry Me a River“ by Michael Bublé. Sorensen said: “I think a Grand Prix medal is something that we’ve dreamed about since we started skating together. Stepping onto that podium is everybody’s dream, so to finally be able to do it in our first Grand Prix skating for Canada after not being on the circuit last year is just very exciting.”

Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz from Spain finished on fourth place with 191.01 points. Most elements were very good, only the circular step sequence a bit wobbly. Their music was from Micmacs and from Thom Hanreich ("My One and Only Love“). The "international Russian couple“ of Tiffani Zagorski (former Welsh and French skater) & Jonathan Guerreiro (born in Australia) are on fifth place with 181.82 points. They danced to “Survivor“ by 2Wei in spite of her new knee injury and had mainly GOEs of +2 and +3.

Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko, students of Igor Shpilband, placed sixth with 180.55 points. They made no mistake, had four level 4 elements, but the One Foot Step Sequnece and Circular Step Sequence had only a level 2. In their Spanish program they interpreted the Flamenco “Farrucas“ by Pepe Romero and "Malaguena“ in a Flamenco style by Benise.

Carreira commented: “It was much better than yesterday for sure. There’s still a lot that we want to improve and make better, but from yesterday it’s a big improvement and that’s how we want to skate.” Ponomarenko added: “It was very redeeming. We promised everybody that we would skate better today and we did that. So I’m very happy about that. There is still a lot we need to work on, but I’m happy with where we are at this point in the season.”

Caroline Green & Michael Parsons finished on seventh position with 173.03 points. They had the same levels as Carreira & Ponomarenko and a did a clean program to two music pieces by Woodkid. Green is only 16 years old and had to adapt quickly to senior with her new partner. Parsons, who is 24 years old, said:  “I’m very pleasantly surprised at how well she has adapted. She has done really well and I couldn’t be happier.”

Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac from France dropped from seventh to eighth place, earning 167.14 points after Lauriault fell during the diagonal step sequence. The rest of the program to three music pieces by Harmonium was good, however. Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko from Russia are ninth with 166.51 points and Hong Chen & Zhuoming Sun from China ended up tenth with 159.94 points.

Rhythm Dance

The Rhythm Dance at Skate America 2019 had a high level. Nobody fell or made any serious mistakes and all ten couples had more than 60 points.

Three hours after publishing the result, a revised result came out in which no placement was changed, but all couples had one or two more points. For the first time the ISU had used a new calculation program, which certainly had been tested before. When they compared the points of the new with the points of the old program (which was running as a test as well) for the first couple they saw a difference which should not exist. In order not to interrupt the competition the officials decided to continue and to find the difference after the end of the competitions of the day. They found out that the programmer of the new program had not taken into account that – differently from until last season – the levels of the Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence of the man are counted separately from the levels of the lady and are added. Therefore each couple got higher GOEs because the GOEs of the man were added for this step sequence. As it was a calculation mistake, the result could be changed later. If it had been a mistake of the jury it could not have been changed later. Fortunately enough no federation had used the new program for the seven challenger competitions or other events in the weeks before. So no result of former competitions had to be changed.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Hubbell took the lead with 84,97 points (all points after the correction). Their choreographer Romain Haguenauer insisted that Hubbell played the role of Marilyn Monroe in Cole Porter‘s song "My Heart Belongs to Daddy“ and West Coast Swing: Let's Be Bad" by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. All five elements were excellent, the levels were high and the components were around 9.3.

Donohue commented: “For our first time out we are both excited and have learned a lot about what we can do with our rhythm dance going into Skate Canada next week. We are very happy with our first performance especially since we didn’t have a senior B event to prepare us for this competition.“ Hubbell added: “Zach and I were so pleased to begin our season here at Skate America. I feel like we have so much progress to make on the program, but it was a really great performance for today. It was really exciting for me to debut the Marilyn Monroe character.”

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin from Russia sit second with 81,91 points. By accident, Stepanova also played Marilyn Monroe, in Nicole Kidman‘s song "Diamonds are Girls Best Friends“ and the Blues "Your Song“ performed by Nicole Kidman. They had only a level 2 on the Finnstep, but otherwise good levels and components of around 9.1. Skate America was their first competition of the season because she had had back problems in the summer.

Canadian Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Danish skater Nikolaj Sorensen competed for Denmark until February 2018, had to sit out one season and now skate for Canada. They are on third position with 79.17 points after dancing to "Bonnie and Clyde“. The Diagonal Step Sequence had a level 2, but the other levels were high.

Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz from Spain are currently on fourth place, earning 76.62 points. They danced to the soundtrack of “Grease“ and Smart had her hair like Olivia Newton-John, the main character in the film. The twizzles and the lift had a level 4, but the other three elements had a level 2. Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro from Russia are in fifth position, winning 71.18 points. The twizzles and the lift had a level 4, but the other three elements had a level 2.

Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko from Novi, Michigan, sit on sixth plcae with 70.41 points. They had two slips on the twizzles and the Finnstep, but their rotational lift was excellent. Carreira commented: “It’s been great in practice, but this is probably the worst time we have ever performed it.“ Ponomarenko added: “We left a lot of points on the table. We are kind of disappointed with that. We didn’t get all of our levels and we made some mistakes here and there and in the rhythm dance there isn’t really room for error.”

Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac from France are currently seventh, winning 68.23 points. Their best element was the level 4 lift, the other elements had lower levels. Caroline Green and Michael Parsons from the Eaton Academy in Rockville, Maryland, sit eighth with 67.97 points. The Curve Lift and thre twizzles had a level 4, the other three elements levels 1 and 2. They have trained together only for less than half a year after they split from their former partners who were their siblings. Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko from Russia are on ninth position with 66.79 points, Hong Chen & Zhuoming Sun from China are tenth with 61.74 points.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue first after the Rhythm Dance