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Shibutanis Strive for First Rate Show in St. Paul

 by Liz Leamy

Maia and Alex Shibutani at 2015 Skate Canada International

(18 January 2016)  Maia and Alex Shibutani, the brother-sister dance duo who are the 2011 World bronze medalists, five-time U.S. National podium finishers and 2014 U.S. Olympic team members, are about bringing their performance to a whole new level as they hope to make a big impact with the audience at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Championships in St. Paul with their programs this week.

This accomplished skating duo, who have been at the helm of the world-dominant ice dance contingent for a number of years now and were fourth at the International Skating Union Grand Prix Finals in Barcelona last month, cite experience as one of their main assets that have been instrumental in helping them catapult to a whole new level of showmanship and artistry this season.

“The plan always was to continue to improve and challenge ourselves so we could be the team we possibly could be,” said Alex Shibutani, 24, in a pre-Nationals conference call.

The plan seems to be working most effectively, as the duo, who have three U.S. silver and two U.S. bronze medals, have managed to craft one heck of a stellar competitive resume based upon their a unique dynamic performing as brother and sister, a thing that has turned out to be one of their most powerful assets as a dance team, ultimately.

This past season, the team, who works with the iconic Marina Zoueva in Canton, Michigan, the coach who guided Meryl Davis and Charlie White to first at the 2014 Olympics, scored gold at the NHK Trophy, silver at Skate Canada and fourth at the Grand Prix Finals, missing the podium by only a slim margin, set the skating community on fire with buzz over their powerful free dance to ColdPlay’s ‘Fix You.’

Their unique interpretation of this poignant musical piece is one of a kind and also seems to portray many of the experiences they have faced in their exciting and challenging journey as an elite international dance team, a program that so far this season, has earned them a standing ovation in every event at which they have competed.

“Our experiences over the last several years have created a really strong impression out on the ice,” said Alex.

His sister, Maia, 21, agreed.

“I think our performances are really coming from an honest place where we’re really performing and enjoying every moment,” she said.

The duo, who rose up the national and world ranks at relatively quick speed, are regarded as one of the most technically apt around, as they are known for executing lightning-quick twizzles and turns as well as difficult and breathtaking lifts, among other difficult elements.

At the same time, the Shibutanis are regarded as also one of the most intriguing and interesting teams around as they are known for their memorable interpretations to different musical compositions by various artists ranging from Michael Buble and Michael Jackson to Johann Strauss and Richard Rodgers, which has helped earned them huge artistic respect in the skating community.

“We’ve done everything in our power to do our very best,” said Maia. “We want to continue to push ourselves to grow and discover [new things about ourselves] and we want to continue to tap into our potential which we feel is unlimited at this point.”

The two, reputed to be some of the hardest-working skaters in the sport, spend hours off and on the ice each day working on honing their technical and artistic skills, in the hopes of breaking greater skating barriers and attaining all-new heights in regard to their performance level.

Somehow this year, their level of dedication and hard work seems to be more evident than ever, as in each competition so far this season, both Maia and Alex flew around the ice with a whole new level of speed, attack, ease and confidence and appeared to be in a whole new place in terms of their overall execution.

The Shibutani’s main goal, in the end, is the simply the idea of attaining new levels of strength and aptitude so they continue hitting a whole new levels in regard to their presentation as a dance team.

“It’s about training as hard as we possibly can and Alex and I are confident and strong,” said Maia. “The audiences have been reacting with a lot of enthusiasm and we’re really excited about that.”  

With that, the audiences in St. Paul should be in for a good show in regard to this team, no doubt.