COMPULSORY DANCE BLOG
By Michelle Wojdyla
Without enough notice to find an alternate publication to work for, I resigned myself to experiencing this Skate America from the comfort of my own home. I love love love that we get to see all the competitors live online, and there is something to be said for watching via wireless internet on a laptop. While snuggled with Huckleberry. While wearing pajamas. (Me in the PJs, not him. He has fur.) I mean, sure he’s “only” a cat, but I think he enjoys watching things move around on a screen. Last night I went to get a drink during the warm up between pairs groups, and he had moved into my seat!
Daphne had credentialed Michele Peltier to photograph Skate America for ice-dance.com. I signed on to help in any way I could, whether that meant editing and uploading photos, writing previews, or whatever else she needed. After all these years covering skating, it is difficult for me to just passively watch. For the compulsory dance, my internet connection was zooming, so it allowed me to take some notes. Of course it is not like watching it live, but as Tim Gunn would say: “Make it work!”
Like any good ice dance competition, a few surprises made their way into the results. While few doubted that Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto would be at the top, Meryl Davis and Charlie White in fifth caught many off guard. Perhaps the best aspect of the IJS is that a team in fifth place does not receive a placement score that is five times lower than that of the leaders.
When Tanith and Ben took the ice, they skated like champions. Their carriage and presence forces you to take notice. Their Austrian Waltz was the only time Ice Network commentator Nancy Kerrigan didn’t talk throughout a performance! Although the photographer in me *hates* white outfits on skaters, Tanith’s dress was strikingly different. The skirt was much shorter than usual for a waltz dress, and more A-line than big and swirling. She and Ben (sporting the classic tux with tails) received no negative GoE, a mixture of 0 and 1 with a sprinkling of 2s.
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat scored a personal best and are less than a point and a half behind Tanith and Ben. Nathalie did not wear a white dress, (yay!) going for triangle-cutout gold. Maybe it’s a French style thing, but Fabian worked his tux and tails like nobody else. It looked to me like Nathalie was pulling away from him during the dance, and the corners sounded a bit scratchy, but the judges kept them on par with Tanith and Ben, even ranking them higher on the sixth segment. The score difference mainly stemmed from the PCS scores.
Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali skated a joyful waltz to place third. The rapport between these two is always warm and engaging, and they intertwine so effortlessly throughout the turns of the dance. They kept their speed throughout, bodies close together. The also received no negative GoE, but their 0s outnumbered the 1s and lone 2.
Less than a quarter point behind are Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin. Their first pattern was powerful with a strong attack of the ice. They lost some steam and energy on the second pattern, though, and that’s what cost them third place. The program component scores favored Kristin and Igor, 15.31 to Federica and Massimo’s 15.13. In the “Michelle Hates White Skating Costume” scores, both did very well, thanks to bright aqua and Federica and fuchsia on Kristin.
Meryl Davis wore a lilac-y pink and Charlie White did not embrace his last name (fortunately) going for the classic tux and tails. One of my greatest pleasures in life is watching this couple waltz. (Well, except when it’s the golden waltz and they fall, but that is sooo last season!)
Meryl and Charlie are incredibly smooth and fluid when they dance, turning in and around each other effortlessly. They keep their bodies closer together than most teams, and their leg extensions match precisely. So why are they in fifth?
Compulsory Dances, in my opinion, are best seen from about 15 rows up. From that vantage point, you can see the pattern and the speed much better than at either ice level or on TV. Maybe they “skated small” and didn’t push the pattern out as much as the older (and taller) teams did. The received a majority of 0 on their GoE, with some 1s. Cranky Judge # 6 gave them a pair of –1s and by far the lowest program component scores of the panel. Skating skills only a 5? Oh, please.
Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre skated a lovely, soft waltz with no arm flinging, but had some problems on the third section of the pattern both times around. This resulted in negative GoE. Their program components ranged from 4 (Cranky Judge # 6) to 6.25, a fairly wide mix for a compulsory dance. Kim’s dress was a bright peach, very high on the “MHWSC” score.
Sasha and Roman Zaretski came powering out onto the ice for a fast waltz. Unfortunately, in the final section of the dance, she kicked his toepick, pitching him forward. Fortunately, Sasha held onto Roman’s hands, so he never hit the ice. This saved them from the extra deduction, and kept them within a point of Kim and Brent.
The bottom three teams faced too many negative GOE to break the 27-point mark. Oddly enough, Cranky Judge # 6 did not give Cathy and Chris Reed any negatives and their only positive GOE.