by Melanie Hoyt

Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev won the original dance, but not without some difficulties. Their program, a hoedown to “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” carried good energy throughout, but the problems began early, with their midline step sequence. Somewhere in the middle, I think that one of them may have done the wrong steps, because it seemed like they were doing two different things. They managed to get back on the right feet for the twizzles, which were fine. I liked their first lift, a curve lift where she cartwheels in and out of an upside-down position. Their circular footwork had some good difficulty in it, but the steps were not done in time with the music. Their final rotational lift was slow, to the point where I thought it might come down, but they managed to finish it. The program has potential and it is a good character for them, but it was not skated at its best tonight. I hope they have a better time with it at Nationals, because I think it can be a crowd-pleaser.

Mauri Gustafson and Joel Dear may have been second place, but there was celebration anyway, because they got married during their original dance! Okay…not really, but once it was over, my friend figured out that the program represented a Jewish wedding, with traditional music and her white dress and veil in her hair. Their music begins slowly, and they use this to execute a very controlled midline sequence that goes with the music. I thought that it was confident and smooth, and that it was a good strategy to use the slow music to keep them relaxed on what most consider the toughest element in an original dance. In the circular footwork, which was done to faster music, I think that she may have lost a rotation on the twizzles. Their final lift, a rotational lift where she begins over his shoulder, then changes position, was strong. They carried good energy to the end, and I thought that it was a great concept program.

Stacy Kim and Jonathan Harris skated to “Kodo,” previously heard as the backdrop to one of Elvis Stojko’s short programs. The program looked new, and it seems like they just aren’t quite comfortable skating with each other yet. They have only been together for a few months. The midline step sequence and the circular step sequence were the strongest elements of the program. Their circular sequence had some originality in it as well. I think it was a good opportunity for them to compete, and I think that they will give a better performance at Nationals, after they have some more time with the programs and with each other.