The 2008 Lake Placid Ice Dancing Championships began with the first-ever competition of the Finnstep, ice dancing’s newest compulsory. The dance was designed by 1995 world silver medalists Susanna Rahkamo & Petri Kokko and was modeled after their classic original dance from that season.
Since this compulsory will not be included in senior international competition until the spring, it was only skated as an open competition here in Lake Placid . Four couples chose to try this difficult dance, and after they skated, U.S. Figure Skating judge Bob Horen gave a seminar for judges, coaches, and interested dancers. By allowing each couple to demonstrate the dance in small sections, he picked apart their strengths and weaknesses.
Charlotte Maxwell and Nick Traxler won the event with a score of 23.12, almost six points ahead of their closest competitors. Horen began the seminar by asking them to skate one pattern of the dance with the music. He counted aloud while they skating, emphasizing the counts when they were “hitting” the most important steps. In the dance, the emphasis should be on one, but Maxwell & Traxler were placing the emphasis on four. He identified the timing problem to have stemmed from their start, putting them at a disadvantage for ever regaining the proper timing. Despite the fundamental timing issue, Horen praised their dance for its bouncy quickstep character and proper steps.
Placing second with 17.48 points were Vu Pham & Danvi Pham, a team competing on the intermediate level this season. Due their size, their pattern was much smaller, but their steps were accurate. In particular, Horen emphasized their accuracy on the stop that comes about two-thirds of the way through the pattern. There are 11 quick steps after a skid to a stop, and although the young team does not have the expression of Maxwell & Traxler, their technical approach helped them get through this senior-level dance.
Rachel Hayes & Vasiliy Serkov were third with 15.85 points. Because of a large height difference, they also had trouble expressing the dance, which Horen explained in the seminar. Their score for skating skills was about half a point higher than the Phams, but the rest of their components were slightly lower.
In fourth place, Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter earned 13.71 points. Because their height is similar to that of the Phams, their pattern was about the same. They also struggled with timing and interpretation, but managed to perform all of the steps. As another intermediate team, this dance was clearly above their level, but it was a good challenge for them.
Horen noted that all of the teams struggle with the changes of edge preceding the stop, and that the demonstration video of Winkler & Lohse is not even a good example of how these edge changes should be done. According to Horen, navigating these edge changes successfully is an indication of a very strong dance.
Another problem area in the dance is the man’s step at step number 32. After some discussion between the coaches and judges present, it was described as an “unusual opposite mohawk.” Traxler’s was the best, and he was asked to demonstrate it several times for the small crowd gathered.
Maxwell & Traxler also showed off a hand variation they added just before the stop. In order to help the lady change directions, Maxwell found that she could put her hand on her partner’s back and push off with her left hand while he gave her a little nudge with his right hand.
As the dance is skated more this year, couples will develop little nuances to make the Finnstep their own. In a dance with so much character, there is room for each team to add a touch of personality. It will be fascinating to see the Finnstep grow this year.