Reports by Lindsay Higgins

Junior Dance Review
In many ways, the Junior event couldn’t have been more different from Novice. With the withdrawal of Michelle Scott and Alex Clark, the field was down to just five teams, all of whom placed identically in both compulsory dances, and in fact only the top three teams moved around in the original dance and the free dance.

The compulsory dances for the Juniors were the Viennese Waltz and the Rhumba. Meghan McCullough of the Washington Figure Skating Club and Joel Dear of the Indiana/World Skating Academy (at left) won both convincingly, with one third-place ordinal and the rest firsts in the Viennese and a mix of firsts, seconds and one third for the Rhumba. Their Viennese was light and flowy, and their Rhumba was fast with nice expression. McCullough and Dear also showed the best control through the tricky Choctaw section of this dance.

Mimi Whetstone of the Oklahoma City Figure Skating Club and Ben Cohen of the Washington Figure Skating Club placed second in the compulsories. They have excellent speed and flow, which were evident through both dances, and a lot of personality. Their ordinals were a mix of second- and third-places with one fourth place in each dance.

The Skating Club of Boston’s Victoria Devins and Kevin O’Keefe placed third in each dance despite a nasty fall on the first mohawk in their Viennese. The remainder of the dance looked conservative, but they were able to maintain nice edges and flow and didn’t show any major break in concentration. Their Rhumba also showed nice use of edges and good timing.
Placing fourth were Katie Copley from the Skating Club of New York, and Duke Wensel of the Skating Club of Wilmington (at left). Their speed comes and goes, but they have nice expression and personality on the ice as well as nice neat transitions.

The top two teams changed places after a hotly-contested original dance. Wearing red and white, Mimi Whetstone and Ben Cohen (at right) won the original dance over Devins and O’Keefe on a tiebreaker. Their program, set to “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “In the Still of the Night”, and “Do You Love Me”, garnered three ordinals for first place, two for second, and two for third. This team has excellent speed, which they maintained through their dance spin and rotational lift, and their side-by-side footwork was both fast and difficult, with several mirrored steps in the middle.

Devins and O’Keefe skated to a Blues piece and a vocal arrangement of “Sing, Sing, Sing”. With their soft knees and quiet edges, the Blues rhythm was a good choice for them. Their rotational lift was very smooth and they maintained good expression throughout. The ordinals for this team consisted of two firsts, three seconds, and two thirds.

McCullough and Dear also used the Blues rhythm, as well as “Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandelles. Their speed and expression, as well as a difficult straight line sequence, earned them ordinals of first, second, and third.

Copely and Wensel also used a Blues piece, as well as the traditional instrumental version of “Sing, Sing, Sing”. Wearing very sparkly black, they again demonstrated good expression and ended with a difficult backflip-type move into a lift. Their speed lagged slightly behind that of the other teams, and they had unanimous fourth-place ordinals for this event.

The buzz after the OD was that the free dance was going to be a showdown between McCullough and Dear, Devins and O’Keefe, and Whetstone and Cohen for the top spot. All three teams skated well, but the first-place ordinals were split between Devins and O’Keefe and McCullough and Dear. Whetstone and Cohen had all but one third-place ordinal for their Gloria Estefan-medley free dance. Their costumes- a fluorescent red dress with an open back on her, and black pants with an open-neck black shirt on him- suited the music well, as did their skating. The Latin theme was a good choice, as this team has nice flair and personality on the ice. Their lifts were strong and they maintained good speed through their footwork sequences. For a fairly new team, they also have impressive unison even through difficult steps.

McCullough and Dear (at right) are using West Side Story as their free dance this year. Her red dress and his black pants and leather jacket over a red shirt were a costume choice- understated, yet suitable for the story they were telling. This free dance was nice vehicle for them in that the variations in tempo allowed them to show off both their knee bend and speed. They also have very secure lifts, and even did a hydroblading shoot-the-duck lift. Two judges put them first in the free dance, with one putting them in third and the rest in second, where they eventually finished both in the free dance and the in the final standings.

Devins and O’Keefe (at left), looking exquisite in green costumes that complemented their coloring nicely, demonstrated much more speed than they did in either the compulsories or the original dance. Their circular and diagonal footwork sequences both featured good speed and several tricky changes of hold. Their dance spin had impressive speed as well. Not surprisingly, five of the seven judges had them first in the free dance, giving them the win both in the free dance and overall. If they can strengthen their compulsories and original dance even slightly, they’ll likely challenge for the national title this year.