Reports by Karen Frank

Novice Free Dance
In a match-up that may be a preview of the battle for Gold and Silver at Nationals, Madison and Keiffer Hubbell entered the Freedance in first place after winning both compulsory dances with 4/3 ordinal splits over Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates. Since the Hubbells and Samuelson and Bates had been trading results all season (with Samuelson and Bates finishing first at their NAC event, and the Hubbells finishing in first at Eastern Great Lakes Regionals, and both winning their Freedance groups at Lake Placid), the Freedance looked to be a closely matched contest.

Taking the ice first was Charlotte Maxwell and Brad Coulter who represent the Stars FSC of Texas. As they had managed to steal a couple of ordinals during the compulsory dances, there was certainly a potential for them to move up. Their entertaining Freedance, to a medley of songs by the Miami Sound Machine, had some nice moments. Some of the highlights of this program included a reverse lift, in which Charlotte lifted Brad from a low glide; a backward hip lift in which Brad achieved a back one foot glide; and a rotational lift with Charlotte in a horizontal hold across Brad’s waist. The first part of the program seemed well in time with the quick “Conga” although a later straight line footwork sequence in foxtrot hold seemed to be behind the music. All seven judges in the panel put them in third place.

Though both Samuelson & Bates and the Hubbells represent the Ann Arbor FSC, and share the same coaches (Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko), their Freedances illustrate two different styles. Samuelson and Bates have a more classic ballroom style while the Hubbells have chosen a more of a theatrical style. Both programs were well skated and presented, and choosing between the two teams must have been difficult.

Skating to a Ricky Martin medley, Samuelson and Bates displayed good energy and timing. The program seemed to include many tricky changes of holds and fast steps, especially in a clockwise step sequence. Lifts included a horizontal waist lift, with Evan moving from an outside to an inside spread eagle position; a hip rotational lift with Emily changing position to a horizontal waist hold; and a waist lift with Evan in a Besti-eagle position. Another program highlight move included a spiral with Emily in a layout dip position.

The Hubbell’s program, to an unknown operatic duet, featured deep smooth edges and intricate body shapes. Both display a strong ability to move easily through high and low body positions and undulations. The footwork often intertwined, with twisty poses, and featured deep hydroblading. A stunning reverse lift had Madison lifting Keiffer into an upside down position, while Keiffer demonstrated equal strength in a shoulder lift, a Besti-eagle waist lift, and a complex rotational lift where Madison moved from a vertical split position to a horizontal split position.

The trend from the earlier competitions continued, as the final result was extremely close: four judges picked Samuelson and Bates, and three picked the Hubbells. With both teams putting in such strong performances yet displaying such different styles, it’s not surprising that they’ve been trading wins this season. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out at Nationals, for either of the top two teams here are capable of winning the Novice title.