JUNIOR COMPULSORY DANCE
Report by Daphne Backman

From the ISU Ice Dancing Rulebook: The Viennese Waltz was created by Eric van der Weyden and Eva Keats in 1934. It is a light and graceful dance which must be skated at a good pace with strongly curved edges, soft knee action, neat and unobtrusive footwork, elegant carriage and pronounced free leg extension.

After missing all of the Junior Grand Prix events this season due to his hip injury, Keiffer and Madison Hubbell, who won the silver medal at this event in 2007, took the ice having only showcased their programs in competition at Midwestern Sectionals. The team was unable to train full out heading into the November event, but post-Mids have been able to return to harder training.

“Keiffer is doing much better,” Madison said. “He has been undergoing acupuncture recently, and it helps a lot with the pain. We’ve been able to skate more consistently since he started treatment.”

Their performance featured deep edges, nice flow and soft expression. The Hubbell siblings were relatively happy with their performance.

“It felt different because we’re used to Olympic-sized rinks and had to adapt to the smaller rink,” Madison said. “We dealt with it pretty well, and we’re happy with our performance.”

The Hubbells received the highest technical and program component scores of the field. They also had no negative GOE’s and 15 +2’s.

Piper Gilles & Tim McKernan executed their compulsory with deep edges on all of their turns. Gilles & McKernan won the pewter medal at this event in 2007.

“It felt decent,” Gilles said. “It was a little forced. Other than that it was a nice performance.”

The team had only three -1 GOE’s in the performance. Heading into the original dance phase of the event, the team is excited. Their original dance, set to Irish music, is a change from the program they debuted at Lake Placid in August.

“Our first OD was set to rhythm and blues and it wasn’t being received as we would have liked,” McKernan said, “so we decided after our first international that we would change it.”

The duo has embraced the new program, choreographed by Christopher Dean.

Sitting in third after the Viennese Waltz are Pilar Bosley & John Corona. The team has competed at the junior level of this event for the past two seasons, finishing seventh in 2006 and sixth in 2007.

“It was comfortable, really, really comfortable,” Bosley said. “The ice felt really great and we adapted to it well. I don’t think it could have gone much better. We had a little bobble on the end of the third pattern, but other than that we were really happy with our performance.”

The team skated early in the order, but it didn’t deter them from delivering a strong performance.

“We were excited about the draw order,” Corona said. “We were on fresh ice, so we really could have asked for much better.”

“I was a little worried that because we did skate so early that they might hold back the scores, but they didn’t, and they seemed to judge it really fairly,” Bosley added. “All the teams skated really well.”

In fourth place are Junior Grand Prix Final qualifiers, Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein. The duo, who train in Canton, Michigan, had five -1 GOE’s scoring 29.92, while Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring are in fifth with 29.29.

The teams in places two through six are only separated by 2.47.


JUNIOR ORIGINAL DANCE

Report by Daphne Backman

The Xcel Energy Center was filled with the sounds of various folk music selections as the junior dancers took to the ice to present their OD’s.

Madison Hubbell & Keiffer Hubbell, leaders after the compulsory dance, continued to lead in the junior ice dancing competition despite a third place finish in the original dance. Their performance to a German Polka and yodeling was marred only by a fall by Keiffer after their synchronized twizzles. The Hubbells received level 4 on all but their serpentine and not-touching midline step sequence for which they received a level 3. They received a one-point deduction for the fall.

Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein moved into second place overall after winning the original dance with their “Dark Eyes” Russian folk program. Chock & Zuerlein’s OD, which showcased strong lifts, received all level fours on their elements, no negative GOE’s and 12 +2’s.

Piper Gilles & Tim McKernan, who were second after the compulsory dance, moved to third after a fourth place finish in the OD. The team’s light Irish original dance featured nice unison on the footwork segment and they received level 4 on four of their elements, getting a level 2 on their serpentine step sequence and a level 3 on their straightline lift. They received only two negative GOE’s.

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, who finished seventh in the compulsory dance, moved up to fourth overall by posting the second highest original dance score. The Shibutanis received all level 4 except for a level 3 on their circular step sequence. They received no negative GOE’s and 13 +2’s. Their performance to Japanese folk music was embraced by the audience who showed its appreciation with a loud applause at the conclusion of their program.

After their Turkish original dance, Pilar Bosley & John Corona are in fifth place overall after finishing sixth in the original dance. They received level 4 on their straightline and rotational lifts, and level 3 on all of their other elements. They received only two –1 GOE’s. The program featured secure lifts and good unison on their twizzles.

Shannon Wingle & Ryan Devereaux bounced back from an eighth place finish in the compulsory dance, placing fifth in the original dance and pulling up to sixth overall. Wingle & Devereaux’s performance to “Hava Nagila” was energetic and expressive, receiving level fours on all of their elements except for their circular step sequence. The duo has been hampered by injury this season, but has fought through to put in solid performances here at Nationals.

Anastasia Cannuscio & Dean Copely finished seventh in both the original dance and overall with their performance to “Kalinka.” Their program had nice flow and was fun to watch. They received no negative GOE’s and earned level 4 on their twizzles, rotational lift, and spin.

In fifth after the CD, Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring presented a Greek Sirtaki to music from “Zorba the Greek.” Bailey had an unfortunate fall on the twizzles causing them to receive a one-point deduction on top of the element rated only a level one. The choreography of the program matched the theme and featured solid lifts and a steady combination spin. The fall dropped Bailey & Herring to eighth overall.

In ninth overall, Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello’s energetic performance to African folk “Zulu Chants” entertained the audience and the duo finished eighth in the original dance.

They received level 4 on their spin, twizzles, and curve lift.

Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker’s “Korabuskha” received level 4 for their solid straightline lift, spin, twizzles, and rotational lift. Their ninth place finish in the original dance pulled them up to tenth overall.

Currently in 11 th are Rachael Richardson & Brad Coulter. Richardson & Coulter’s lively Peruvian scarf dance earned them level 4 on their twizzles, curve lift, and rotational lift. This program had one of the best uses of a prop – a blue or red scarf attached to their wrists.

Michelle Pennington & Andrew Skillington presented the only Finnish folk dance in the field. The duo’s rotational lift looked rough, but a level 3 straightline lift, where Pennington was upside down, was solid.

Kaylyn Patitucci & Karl Edelmann started the event off with an entertaining and expressive German folk dance. They received level 4 for their twizzles, but negative GOE’s for an extra rotation. Patitucci & Edelmann also received level 4 for their spin and straightline lift.

The event concludes with the free dance on Thursday.


JUNIOR FREE DANCE

Report by Katie Weigel

With a strong and edgy performance to “Hope” by Apocalyptico Cult, Madison & Keiffer Hubbell won the free skate and became the 2008 U.S. junior dance champions. After battling injury all season and overcoming food poisoning this week, it is somewhat of a miracle that Madison & Keiffer were able to skate here in St. Paul. The only small glitch in their free dance came during the twizzles, where Keiffer accidentally did one more than Madison. Madison explained that “in the twizzles you are doing them so quickly that it can be really hard to count. Every once in a while you’ll spin faster or slower than you usually do. And sometimes you aren’t ready to check out or you over rotate and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Madison & Keiffer described their free dance as “aggressive, intimidating, with a touch of evil.” They won the competition based on their strong presentation marks and a series of level four elements. One of their strongest lifts had Keiffer in a back spiral position holding Madison parallel to the ice. Their victory in St. Paul was convincing, where they won by almost six points.

Before finding out they won their first junior title, Madison & Keiffer were asked what it would mean to win here.

“It would be amazing,” Madison said.

Talking to them after the free dance, it was evident how relieved and happy they were. It is safe to say they feel amazed reveling in the moment of their first junior national gold medal.

Piper Gilles & Tim McKernan skated as if they were gliding across the ice. Their free dance to Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” looked light and effortless, a contrast to Madison & Keiffer’s darker, more voidy presentation. Gilles & McKernan seemed extremely happy with their performance in the free dance. They should be – they received level fours on all of their elements, something which they have never achieved before at nationals. Last year, Gilles & McKernan placed fourth and just missed going to the Junior World Championships. That placement played a large factor in their motivation for this year.

“There was no way we were going to stay fourth. No way.” Gilles said.

Another motivation for Gilles & McKernan was the fact that Piper Gilles’ twin sister, Alexe, won the ladies junior title earlier this week.

“After Alexe skated, we just wanted to go out there and do it. And we did, too!” Piper Gilles, said.

Gilles & McKernan added yet another reason to skate well in St. Paul.

“This performance is dedicated to Tim’s dad,” Gilles added. Lt. Colonel Tim McKernan, Sr. is currently serving with U.S. Army in Iraq. “He is able to follow our skating on the Internet. He watches videos and we keep in touch through email.”

Taking the bronze medal was the team that had much success this year on the Junior Grand Prix: Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein. They missed being in second by only 0.24 points. Along with Gilles & McKernan, Chock & Zuerlein achieved level fours on all of their elements. Their free skate to “West Side Story” was dynamic in expression and featured smooth, almost effortless transitions between elements. Chock was even able to show off her spinning abilities, doing a layback spin in the middle of the program.

Maia & Alex Shibutani continue to be surprised with the way they have skated this year. After moving up from novice and thinking this would be a building year, the siblings—who are the youngest ice dancers in St. Paul at any level—found themselves standing on the podium for a fourth consecutive year. Four years, four levels, four medals.

“I think we have achieved more than we had hoped to,” Alex said after the free dance. “Each year we take it as a next step. It is a long road. I’m really happy with how we skated.”

Maia & Alex have taken on a much more mature presentation in the free dance, skating in elegant black and white costumes to piano music by Jean Marie Senia. The impression they give while skating is one of complete control. One never worries about them making a mistake. In fact, they didn’t make one single obvious mistake while here in St. Paul. Maia & Alex plan on building on what they have already done this season going into next year. They attribute their success to their coaching switch to Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in Canton, Mich.

“The training environment we are in is just great,” Maia said. “I think (training in Canton) has been really fundamental to our success this year,” Alex added.

Maybe the most emotional free dance of the night came from fifth place finishers Shannon Wingle & Ryan Devereaux. Wingle has been suffering from bilateral hamstring tears, which makes competing that much more difficult, but also that much more rewarding after skating well. Wingle & Devereaux wisely chose a piece of music that showed off their expression and musicality. “Concerto de Aranjuez” was a beautiful backdrop for their subtle choreography. They were on top of their game technically as well, achieving level fours on all of their elements. The soft tone they set at the beginning of the dance carried throughout their program, fading out quietly at the end. Wingle & Devereaux were greeted in the Kiss & Cry by their coaches, Shpilband and Zoueva, who looked thrilled with their teams’ performance.

Pilar Bosley & John Corona started the night in fifth, but a few costly errors in the free dance dropped them to sixth overall. Bosley & Corona were skating a good program to “Still Loving You” by the Scorpions until Bosley fell during some steps. After that, the team seemed to lose steam and never quite recovered, making small mistakes on the twizzles and circular step sequence.

After a costly fall in the original dance, Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring had something to prove in the free dance. During the warm-up, Bailey fell while practicing the circular step sequence. While performing, however, there was no indication that they had a shaky warm-up.

They redeemed themselves after the original dance by skating a fast and emotive program to music from “300” and “Chronicles of Narnia.” They placed seventh overall.

Anastasia Cannuscio & Dean Copley executed all of their elements with precision, skating a nice free dance to music from “Kill Bill.” A highlight of their program was a straight-line lift where he was holding her aloft while in a shoot-the-duck position. They finished eighth in the free dance and were in eighth overall.

Anastasia Cannuscio’s sister, Isabella, can claim that she beat her sister in one portion of the competition – the free dance. Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello had one of the most unique lifts of the night. Lorello lifts Cannuscio up in front of him, and then sets her between his legs, grabbing her by the waste. She lets go of her hands, giving the illusion of flight. Cannuscio & Lorello finished seventh in the free dance and ended the evening in ninth.

Rachel Tibbetts & Colin Brubaker had a sudden mishap before their free skate. During the warm-up, Brubaker’s skate lace broke. When their names were called for the free dance, they were no where to be seen. Luckily, they were able to fix the lace and take the ice before it was too late. They skated well, but had a few mishaps in their program to “Tosca,” probably due to the hasty entrance they had to make onto the ice in order to start their program. Tibbetts & Brubaker finished the competition in tenth.

Rachael Richardson & Brad Coulter skated to a mix of tango music and wound up in eleventh place after the free dance. As Richardson & Coulter were getting into their final pose, one of them lost balance, causing both of them to fall to the ice. Coulter has been hampered by a knee injury all season, which has hurt their training time coming into Nationals. After they return home from St. Paul, Coulter will have surgery to repair the injury.

Finishing in twelfth just behind Richardson & Coulter were Kaylyn Patitucci & Karl Edelmann. Their skate in St. Paul marked only their third competition as a team. After a season together under their belt, it will be interesting to see how this team develops in the off-season.

Michelle Pennington & Andrew Skillington are another team competing together for only the third time. Their potential as a team is only beginning to show itself and with more training time they may be able to move up the junior rankings. They finished the competition in thirteenth.