by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(26 October 2021) The level of the ice dance competition at Skate America 2021 was very high, like at many other events. There were no big mistakes and no falls at all. The required rhythms this season are street dances like Blues to the mandatory steps of the Midnight Blues. The top four couples and the team that placed sixth all train in the Ice Academy of Montreal under Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, Romain Haguenauer and five other coaches. The Technical Panel with controller Shawn Rettstatt and Techical Specialist Gyorgy Elek, both members of the ISU Ice Dance Committee, was very strict in the levels for the parallel steps in both programs. Nobody got a level 4 and only Chock & Bates a level 3 in the free dance.
U.S. champions Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue won the competition with 209.54 points for the fourth time in a row. This year, the music pieces of their Rhythm Dance are the Hip Hop “Nasty,“ the blues “Rope Burn“ and the Hip Hop “Rhythm Nation,“ all by Janet Jackson. Their levels were mixed, the stationary lift being the only one with a level 4. The GOEs were mainly +4 for the lift and the midline step sequence and +3 for the three other elements. The components in their characteristic dance (83.58 points) had an average of 9.5. Hubbell commented: “We definitely left a lot of points on the table. We're hoping that with those extra technical points we go towards 90. We left the ice with no regrets, because we just went for it, and it was really exciting to feel the reaction and see people stand up at the end. When we did the entry into our lift, I heard the uproar. It was very welcome after a year of mostly silence.“
In their free dance to “Drowning“ by French singer Anne Sila, five of the seven level elements had a level 4 for both partners, including both parts of the combination lift. The execution of all ten elements was outstanding, GOEs of +4 dominated and two lifts even had some +5. Their performance was confident and smooth. The components were around 9.5 with several 9.75 as highest ones. Hubbell explained: "Something clicked this morning and I felt great on practice and I just wanted to keep that feeling and skate for myself and be there for Zach, be present in the performance from the beginning to the end. I think we both accomplished that goal, and in doing so, also accomplished the other goal, which was to come out with gold.”
In a close decision, Madison Chock & Evan Bates won the silver medal with 208.23 points, just 1.31 points less than the winners. In the Rhythm Dance, they interpreted three music pieces of U.S. singer Billie Eilish: the Blues “Myboi,“ “Therefore I am“ and the Hip Hop “Bad Guy“. Their GOEs were similar but the midline step sequence had only a level 1. Bates commented: “We were at Finlandia (Trophy) and today we got lower levels, but we definitely feel we skated better. We had a lot more attack and, element-wise, it was pretty comparable I'd say. The important thing is we really attacked the program and felt it was a step up.”
In their free dance, they took the roles of an astronaut and an alien, which was reflected in their costumes, and used four music pieces of the French electronic music duo Daft Punk. All elements were executed in a excellent way and got mainly GOEs of +3 and +4, two lifts even had some +5. Their levels were higher than in the Rhythm Dance and their components were around 9.5. Chock explained: "We love stepping into these characters of alien and astronaut. They are so unique and always interesting for us to explore. We are grateful for the opportunity at Skate America to show our programs that we are very excited to keep growing this season."
Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen from Canada, who had competed for Denmark until springtime 2018, captured the bronze medal with 190.13 points. Competing to blues and funk music pieces by George Michael in the Rhythm Dance, their twizzles and their lift had a level 4, but the step sequences only levels 1 and 2. But their GOEs were mainly +3 and the components around 8.7. In their free dance, four elements had a level 4, the steps lower levels. They were fourth in this part, but could keep their third place overall. "We're so happy to perform our free dance again,” Sorensen explained, “We did it only one time last season. It's a very personal one for us, about our own story, our cultures and backgrounds. We are thankful for being back in front of a live audience.”
Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz from Spain finished in fourth place with 189.69 points. The music of their Rhythm Dance were blues and swing from “Proud Mary“ by Tina Turner. The levels and the execution were similar to the bronze medal winners. In the free dance, they interpreted the Spanish theme of “The Mask of Zorro“ with good levels and high energy. Five elements had a level 4 .
Annabelle Morozov (daughter of coach Nikolai Morozov) & Andrei Bagin from Russia sit in fifth place with 175.32 points. Their blues and Hip Hop in the Rhythm Dance was well executed and had GOEs of +1 and +2. Their free dance to the classical “Scheherezade“ by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov had mainly GOEs of +2 and got around 8.0 for interpretation.
Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto from Japan ended in sixth place, winning 164.32 points. Koleto was American, but meanwhile has gotten the Japanese citizenship which is really rare for foreigners in Japan. Therefore they are allowed to compete for Japan at the Olympic Games if they continue to be the best Japanese dance team. In Las Vegas, their step levels were low, but the rest very good. In the free they used the soundtrack of “Memoirs of a Geisha“ reflecting their mix of Japanese and American culture. Five elements had a level 4 .
Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus came seventh with 162.02 points. 15 months ago they moved from Montreal to Scarborough in Ontario and now train in the school of Carol Lane. All their elements were at least good and their components around 7.5. Their free dance music were two pieces by French singer Charles Aznavour. Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev from Poland are on eighth place with160.32 points. Their coach Silvia Nowak-Trebacka is a coaches representative in the ISU dance committee. They had a good speed, but their interpretation was not as strong.
The third U.S. team Molly Cesanek & Yehor Yehorov from the school of Alexei Kiliakov in Leesburg, Virginia is ninth with 156.97 points. They had mixed levels, did not make any serious mistakes either and their GOEs were mainly +1. Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro withdrew one week before Skate America. Zagorski had to stay in a Moscow hospital because of an infection (not Covid). The travel problems were too big to nominate an alternate couple.