2008 Canadian National Championships – Senior Original Dance Report


by Melanie Hoyt

On the senior level at the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships, start order was determined by reverse order of placements. After the compulsory dance, the senior dancers attended a “draw,” but it was only a formality to go over the start order for the benefit of the teams and their coaches.

Rebecca Fowler & Michael Olson were the first team to skate in the senior original dance on Thursday evening. After Joanna Lenko & Mitchell Islam withdrew from the competition, Fowler & Olson were added to the roster less than a week before the event started, but they have handled the pressure well. Although their skating is slower than many of their competitors, their biggest mistake in this dance was a little bobble on the end of the twizzles. However, while the music is traditional Gaelic, their dance lacks folk character as well as difficulty that would improve their score. With 35.85 points, they moved up to 13th in the original dance, which put them in 14th overall entering the free dance.

With a country-western dance to “Turkey in the Straw,” Claire Tannett & Wendell McGrath went for an entertaining take on this rhythm. Keeping the cute character of the music in their elements–particularly in a solid curve lift to open the program–the dance was going very well for them until Tannett fell in the final spin. That mistake meant a deduction of one point, and they also received another deduction for an extended lift. Their score of 35.67 left them in 14th place in this portion of the competition.

Megan Wilson & Garett Goodman presented another country dance to “Dumas Walker,” a song with a distinct twang. They had great energy and opened with a fast rotational lift. Unfortunately, Goodman stumbled on the first twizzles, and then lost his balance completely and fell on the second set, resulting in a level one and a score of only .80 for that element. Their score of 35.38 was ranked 15th in the OD, but they held onto 13th place overall, their rank after the compulsory dance.

Performing a Highland Fling, Lisa Johnson & Joseph Scott have been known to be a hit with the audience during this dance. However, after Johnson stumbled on a non-element right at the beginning and made another mistake during the straightline footwork, they struggled to find their groove. While the rest of the elements were skated with competence, it did not have the spark that it has had in the past. Their dance was awarded 40.66 points and ranked 12th, which was also where they finished in the compulsory dance.

Christina Bourgeois & Jonathan Pelletier skated last in the first group to “Fiesta Flamenco.” They performed their elements well, earning level three on both step sequences, and level four on the lifts and spins. Their biggest mistake came on the twizzles, which were downgraded to a level three, and on the lifts, which were both extended. Without the two deductions that they received for long lifts, they would have been 10th in the OD. However, with the deductions, their score of 42.39 kept them in 11th.

With one of the most effective uses of a prop among the teams this season, Andrea Chong & Guillaume Gfeller floated through their soft country program to music by The Little Willies. The style highlighted their soft edges and allowed them to complete the elements without looking frantic. They lost unison on the twizzles, but that was the only error in this dance. The highlight was their final rotational lift, where Chong stole Gfeller’s cowboy hat from him. All of the elements besides the serpentine step sequence were given a level four, which contributed to their score of 48.51 points, moving them into ninth place.

Bethany Puttkemery & Kevin Gallagher dropped a spot to 10th in the original dance, switching places with Chong & Gfeller, after struggling with their Turkish-themed original dance. Gallagher made two mistakes in the straightline footwork, and they almost lost their balance in the spin. Both of those elements were given negative GOE. Although they recovered and concluded the program with a well-executed rotational lift, the presentation of their program seemed more Latin than Turkish. Their score was 44.29 points.

Skating to a traditional Irish piece called “The Landowners’ March,” Mylène Lamoreux & Michael Mee really rose to the occasion in this portion of the competition. They appeared to have a very slight balance problem on the serpentine step sequence, which was given a -1 GOE from two of the judges, but other than that minor mistake, they were secure throughout the dance. Skating with a lot of energy, they received a majority of +1 GOE on their elements, which were all awarded a level four besides the final rotational lift, which was judged a level three. In order to continue their climb in the rankings, they need more speed, but they did extremely well with this dance, choosing a rhythm that suited them and skating it with a lot of expression. Their score of 50.90 was enough to move them into seventh place, both in the original dance and in the overall standings.

Lauren Senft & Augie Hill skated accurately to their “Cape Breton Medley,” but they did not appear to have the same level of security that Lamoreux & Mee did before them. Senft & Hill’s performance level seemed a bit tentative, as if they were holding back to avoid making mistakes. Aside from a loss in unison on the twizzles, they did skate without major errors, and their lifts, in particular, were secure and fast. Their score of 49.50 left them ranked eighth, swapping places with Lamoreux & Mee.

Making one of the big moves of the night, Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier shot into the final group with their well-choreographed program to Romanian folk music. Their performance was extremely polished, and their sharp and quirky dance captured the character of the music beautifully. Achieving level four on all of their elements, Crone & Poirier set a challenge for the teams to come with elements like their circular step sequence, which scored 9.17 points for them. Their score of 54.13 finished the night in fourth place in the original dance, although they remained in fifth overall.

Mylène Girard & Liam Dougherty skated a fiery flamenco that was ranked fifth in the original dance, but moved them into fourth in the overall standings. With solid elements, including the best twizzles seen in the event thus far, they received no negative GOE marks on their entire score sheet. While the style seemed perfectly tailored to Dougherty’s striking looks and imposing presence on the ice, Girard seemed to get lost in the performance. However, all elements besides the circular step sequence were awarded a level four and the vast majority of their components marks were 6.00 and above, allowing them to score 53.89 points.

Girard & Dougherty were both pleased with their performance in the original dance.

“We skated it pretty much as well as we could have,” Dougherty said. “It was probably our best performance in competition to date, and technically, we were happy with the levels that were called and the scores that we got.”

After a performance in the Yankee Polka that was not quite up to her own standards, Girard agreed with her partner.

“Today, really, my goal was to skate more aggressive, like in practice,” she said, “and I’m really happy with what I did.”

Also giving one of their best original dance performances to date were Siobhan Karam & Kevin O’Keefe. Their “Lord of the Dance” program opens with the spin, which is consistently a great element for them. This time, all eight judges awarded the level four spin a +1 GOE. For the first time, they achieved level four on all six elements, and the only flaw in their program was a slight hesitation on the twizzle sequence. Although their dynamic performance was enough for 52.85 points, they ended the night two spots lower than they began, in sixth place.

With their energetic Russian folk dance to “Dorogoj Dlinnoyu,” Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje successfully moved into second place with a score of 55.60 for their OD. They did not receive any negative GOE in the dance, and only six base marks of 0. Originally choreographed by Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe, their program was recently reworked by David Wilson, adding the use of a red scarf as a prop. The scarf was effective at the beginning of the program, but when Weaver tied it around her waist and seemed to forget about it, the program’s balance was disrupted. Still, the elements were done very well, and the couple looked well trained after their recent coaching change to Mathew Gates and Shae-Lynn Bourne.

Poje acknowledged the chaos of the team’s training regiment in the weeks before the Canadian Championships.

“We felt pretty good,” he said after the event. “We’ve made a lot of changes since the Grand Prix season, and we were happy with our performance.”

Despite dropping to third place in this portion of the competition, Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno certainly won over their home crowd with their dance to traditional Canadian folk music, including “The Log Driver’s Waltz.” Their charming original dance, also choreographed by Wing & Lowe, turned heads this season on the international circuit, but no crowd had embraced it quite like the audience in the Pacific Coliseum did. One judge gave Hann-McCurdy & Coreno their only negative GOE on the twizzle sequence, but it was likely a slightly lower base value that contributed to the team’s third-place ranking. Although their components scores were slightly higher, it was not enough to make up the difference on the technical mark. With 54.60 points, they were third in the original dance and third in the overall standings heading into the free dance.

Hann-McCurdy did not seem upset by the flip in the placements, though.

“The week so far has been awesome,” she said with wide eyes and a big grin. “We’re in the top three, and that was our goal so far, and I think we performed really well tonight.”

While there were many smaller battles for different places taking place throughout the rankings, there was no battle for first. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir were the class of the field, and their brisk, precise performance to “Dark Eyes” added ten points to the lead that they already had. Although their spin incorporated four different positions and earned high GOE marks, it was only called a level three. However, all of their other elements were level fours, and most of their GOE marks were +2. Their level four circular step sequence earned a total of 10.00 points. Even with customary score inflation at every national championships, Virtue & Moir’s score of 65.29 gives the world’s best teams reason to take notice.

With their first national title on the horizon, it was clear that Virtue & Moir were enjoying the experience.

“It was a great crowd out there tonight,” Moir said after their original dance brought the audience to its feet. “It was very exciting for Tessa and I to skate in Vancouver, and hopefully we’ll be back in a couple of years.”

Even though the race for the title was almost over before it began, the stages in the rest of the field were set for an exciting competition on Saturday.