Monday, December 8, 2008
Although Lamoreux & Mee had a clear lead after they OD, in my opinion, it was the free dance that really cemented their win. Both of their programs this year were choreographed by Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe, which has apparently been a great move for them. Their free dance, set to “Claire de Lune,” is impeccably designed. The floaty lifts and creative shapes are interwoven throughout the gentle dance, and Lamoreux & Mee skated the program flawlessly. They had such a genuine connection with each other that the audience was invited into their intimate presentation, and every step, every hand movement, and every glance at each other appeared perfectly placed, yet completely natural. Again, almost all of their GOE marks were +1 and +2. Of course, there is some room for improvement before Canadians–both step sequences were called level 2–so they might be able to push those up to 3, and the rotational lift was a level 3. However, none of these things took away from the exquisite effect of the program, and with that performance, I think this free dance vaulted into my top five free dances of the season. I can’t wait to see it performed again at Canadians and hope they skate it just as well there.
Although they were 11 points behind Lamoreux & Mee, Mylene Girard & Jonathan Pelletier’s second-place finish was almost just as impressive, because they have only been skating together since the summer. After a good Paso, they really entertained the audience with a charming original dance in which they played a waiter and waitress dancing after they finished their shift. It was a cute take on the theme, but they did have some mistakes on the twizzles and the level 2 spin, so they finished third in the original dance. They fought back in the free dance, though, with a lyrical interpretation of The Scorpions’ “Still Loving You.” I strongly associate this music with Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev, but perhaps the connection isn’t as strong north of the border. Regardless, Girard & Pelletier proved that they have accomplished a lot in a short time with their passionate performance, and I think this is another one that will only improve by the time they get to Saskatoon. With a second-place free dance, Girard & Pelletier finished solidly in second place.
Siobhan Karam & Kevin O’Keefe also had something to prove: that ice dance is truly a sport for the feet. Karam was recovering from a hand injury, and she and O’Keefe were able to join hands in the Paso, but in the original and free dances, he had to hold onto her wrist. She was wearing a brace for protection, and from what I heard, her hand is healing well and they hope that things will be back to normal by Canadians. Unfortunately, they had to downgrade some of their elements and they could not defend the Senior Challenge title that they won last year, but they still gave excellent performances and skated with a lot of class. Their original dance had a lot of energy, even despite missing a couple of weeks of training leading up to Challenge, and I was particularly impressed with their midline step sequence. Since the midline in the OD is non-touching, I guess that was something they could train without worrying about adjusting their handholds! Their free dance is set to music that alternates between lyrical and accented flamenco rhythms, and I think that the music really allows them to attack the program and get into the character. I loved it at Thornhill, despite some skate-blade-in-dress issues, and I hope they’ll be back to full strength by Canadians so I can see how far it has come. Although they slipped to fourth in the free dance, their second-place original dance helped Karam & O’Keefe finished in third overall.
In their second year together and their first year on the senior level, Patricia Stuckey & Christopher Mior have made significant improvements. They skate with more speed and are performing more complicated choreography. I thought that they captured the right feeling with their ’20s-themed original dance, but I’d like to see more connection between the two of them. I think I preferred their free dance out of the two programs. They had some nice lifts in the free dance, but only two elements received a level 4, so increasing their difficulty is an opportunity for improvement for them. Still, because they skated so well, their free dance was ranked third and they finished in fourth place.
Claire Tannett & Wendell McGrath were tenth in this event last year, but leapt to fifth in their second year on the senior level. The fifth- through eighth-place teams were all very close, but Tannett & McGrath emerged at the front of that pack. They have a cute ’20s OD that they skated very well, but they were even more impressive in their free dance to music from The Mission, which they also used last year. They have a lot more flow over the ice than they did last year, and they look much more comfortable performing. Tannett & McGrath recently began working with Victor Kraatz, and he was at the boards with them. With sixth-place finishes in all three dances, they ended up in fifth.
After Girard & Pelletier, I think that the most impressive performance from a new team for me was Megan Wilson & Marcus Connolly’s free dance. Their original dance was fine, and they did a great job with the program, finishing fifth in the OD, but their edgy program to Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” in the free dance was what really caught my eye. I first noticed it during practice the day before, when there wasn’t even any music being played, and the overall effect (with music) in the competition was intense and dramatic. I was surprised by the score when it was read in the arena, but a look at the protocols revealed that both step sequences were level 1s, and only two other elements, both lifts, were level 4s. With some added difficulty, I think that this program could help them stand out from the pack at Canadians. A seventh-place free dance put them in sixth place overall.
Sarah Flesher & Jamie Forsythe are also having an impressive debut season, especially considering that this is Forsythe’s first season competing in ice dance, and he had to jump straight into the senior ranks. They showed off a charming side to their skating in the original dance, but I think I preferred their more dramatic free dance in what I call the “chiffon style”– you know, that type of music that is best interpreted when the costumes have lots of flowing pieces of chiffon? I like that look on this team. After some small mistakes in the original dance, Flesher & Forsythe had a stronger performance in the free dance and showed a lot of difficulty in their elements. They jumped to fifth in the free, but it was only enough for seventh overall, since the scores were so tight in this group of teams.
Rounding out this tight middle pack was another new team, Rebecca Fowler & Iliya Koreshev. Fowler is only her second year of competing in ice dance and Koreshev missed last season, so they have also come a long way in a short time. Although their original dance wasn’t quite polished, it was cute and they embraced the choreography and really sold it. I thought they did a great job with incorporating their lifts into their “Still Got the Blues” free dance, but I could use a little more of a bluesy feel from their knees between the elements. Aside from a mistake on the twizzles, though, their free dance was another great program in well-skated event. With eighth-place finishes in both the original and free dances, Fowler & Koreshev came in at eighth overall.
Helen Ramful & Garett Goodman were a few points behind the teams in front of them, but they still held steady at ninth throughout the competition and easily took the final berth to Canadians. This is another new partnership, and I think their pairing was a good move for both of them. Overall, I’d still like to see even more expression from Goodman, but I think that he has made a lot of improvements to where he was last year. Their height difference is not distracting, and it gives them a chance to do some great lifts. In the free dance, all of their lifts earned a level 4, but they have an opportunity to improve their footwork to score a bit higher.
Sarah Lysne & Michael Olson have built a nice foundation to their new partnership, but their performances here had a lot of small mistakes and they were lacking in speed and flow when compared to the teams ahead of them. They did skate with a lot of energy, though, especially in the original dance. Lysne skated on the novice level last year, so this is a big jump for her, but she’s doing a great job, and I hope to see their improvements next year.
The final team in the event, Audrey Dupont & Pier-Luc Paquet are a very pleasant team to watch with natural presentation and an elegant style. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t their event. After a fall in the original dance, they struggled again in the free dance, acquiring two deductions for long lifts and aborting their final straightline lift before it could be scored. With 11th-place finishes in each dance, Dupont & Paquet were 11th overall.
The top nine teams at this event will join the six teams with byes to create a television-friendly field of 15 for the Canadian Championships. While TV likes having three full groups so they can Zamboni before the final group and delay the start until the live broadcast, it still seems unfortunate to me to cut only two teams, especially when ice dance in Canada is on an upswing. No one asked me, though, so 15 teams it is. The six teams with byes are: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno, Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier, Andrea Chong & Guillaume Gfeller, and Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill.
Although Crone & Poirier have a bye in senior dance because they skated in the Grand Prix Series, they were at Challenge competing in junior ladies and senior men, respectively. Crone did not make the cut this year, but Poirier did, so he’ll be double-entered again at Canadians. I was able to catch his free skate, and it’s very cool to see an ice dancer that can jump. Of course, his dance qualities shine in his free skating, and he always has interesting programs.
Virtue was also at Challenge on Sunday, watching senior free dances with her mom. I caught up with them between the first and second warm-up groups, and at that point, Tessa had been skating in London, and full training was scheduled to resume in Canton the next day. She was very optimistic about her progress and their ability to make the most of the second half of the season. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing their programs at Canadians, and I hope I’ll see them in person at Four Continents!
With that, I think this wraps up the Challenge events! It was another busy week, but it was full of great skating and promise for the future of Canadian dance. I love that Skate Canada has this in Mississauga so I can make the trip. I believe it’s already confirmed for Mississauga again for next season. Thanks, Skate Canada!
Unfortunately, I’m not as enthusiastic about the location for Canadians. I appreciate that the Prairie provinces need to host events, too, but the travel is difficult for some of us! I hate that I’ll be missing Canadians, especially since my semester does not even start until two weeks after the event, but I just couldn’t make grad student + part-time retail job = trip to Saskatoon. Perhaps this is because I am studying creative writing, not creative mathematics. Fortunately, the addition of a domestic flight to Seattle and a Christmas gift from Santa into the equation have made a trip to Vancouver possible, so I’ll be back again soon to report from the 2009 Four Continents Championships. Until then, I’ll have to rely on the magic of the Internet to get me through Nationals month.
The battle for the Western Challenge title was a close race through the compulsory and original dances between Alexandra Paul & Jason Cheperdak, newcomers to the junior level, and Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon, junior-level veterans in their 11th season together. They are British Columbia teammates, but Paul & Cheperdak train at Mariposa in Barrie, ON, while Harvey & Gagnon train at 8 Rinks in Burnaby, BC.
Harvey & Gagnon took a 1.53-point lead in the Paso Doble, but when they faltered on the twizzles in the original dance, Paul & Cheperdak delivered a squeaky clean program and flipped the standings. At the end of the OD, it was Paul & Cheperdak who were leading by 1.55 points. Choreographically, I thought that Harvey & Gagnon had the better original dance. Their take on music from Cabaret is spunky and fun, and they do not let the character drop for a second. Paul & Cheperdak open their original dance with lyrical music, and then break into a fun tap-dancing number. The second half is excellent, but the first half didn’t have the same impact and it seemed a little off-balance. However, their elements were excellent and their TES made the difference. Paul & Cheperdak earned level 4 on their lift, twizzles, and spin, and level 3 on both step sequences. Harvey & Gagnon earned level 4 only on their lift. Their spin was a level 3, their step sequences were level 2 and level 3, and their twizzles were downgraded from an intended level 4 to a level 2 because of the mistake.
With only a point and a half separating the top two teams, the free dance could have been anybody’s game. Unfortunately, Harvey & Gagnon again struggled with their feet. They had a similar mistake on the twizzles, again resulting in a level 2, and their circular step sequence was called only a level 1. Despite the issues, their free dance to selections from Cirque du Soleil was absolutely charming. I think that it emphasized the strengths in their skating–such as their ability to project to the audience–as well as their long lines. During the season, they’ve had to keep working on the last lift in their program, attempting to create an effect that accentuates the music change at the end of the program, earns a level 4, and does not go overtime. They finally did that here. Their strong program helped them win the PCS battle, but they finished second in the free dance and second overall.
Paul & Cheperdak began their time on the ice with a freak accident. As Harvey & Gagnon were skating off the ice, Cheperdak was warming up some back crossovers and building up a lot of speed as he came around the corner by the door to the ice. He was looking the opposite way as he pushed his blades directly into Harvey & Gagnon’s skates, sending all three skaters flying straight up and landing hard on the ice. Fortunately, everyone was OK, and Cheperdak managed to shake off the fall and proceeded to skate a fantastic program. Paul & Cheperdak received no negative GOE marks and earned level 4 on all of their elements besides the step sequences. I thought that their program, set to lyrical Italian vocals, was a lot like their free dance last year. They interpret that style well, especially for such a young team, but I loved seeing a sharper look on them in the second half of the original dance and would love to see them try something with more attack for a free dance. Maybe next year! For now, this program helped them sail past the rest of the field. They won the event by just over six points.
Sarah Arnold & Christopher Steeves, who train with Paul & Cheperdak in Barrie, were on a bit of a comeback path. Although they finished a solid sixth at last year’s Canadian Championships, they were passed by some younger teams in summer competitions and only made it to the alternate list for the Junior Grand Prix series. In their last year of junior eligibility, it must have been disappointing for them to miss the chance to skate on the JGP, but they have clearly put their training time to good use. I saw marked improvements in their speed and interpretation from last year, especially in the free dance. A small bobble on the twizzle sequence cost them some GOE points, but not any levels, and all of their elements besides the footwork sequences were called level 4. Fourth in the compulsory dance, Arnold & Steeves were third in both the original and free dances and ended up winning the bronze medal. Although it is a place lower than they finished at this event last year, their score is almost eight points higher.
With a fresh take on a free dance that included elements of hip-hop, Maja Vermeulen & Andrew Doleman took a chance on a new style that was quite a departure from last year’s traditional Romeo and Juliet free dance. I like this look for them a lot–it’s young and fun, and they skated the program well. They had a small mistake on the twizzles that cost them a level and -.60 GOE, and I thought that they could have been a bit more polished and sharp, but they look solid. After entering the free dance in fifth place, their fourth-place free dance helped them move up to fourth overall.
Alexa-Marie Arrotta & Martin Nickel impressed me as a new team when I saw them in August at Thornhill, and it was great to see the improvements that they have made in the past few months. They definitely look more polished, and they have spent time on the basics, which contributed to their third-place ranking in the compulsory dance. Arrotta skated on the pre-novice level last year, so this is quite a jump for her, but she is fitting in well to the junior level and does not look unequally matched with her partner. Unfortunately, a fall in the free dance caused them to drop out of the top four, but aside from the mistake, they had some nice moments in their program. They create a good amount of chemistry for their Latin dance, and they do a nice job with performing for the audience. With a fifth-place free dance, Arrotta & Nickel finished fifth in the final rankings.
Olga Lioudvinevitch & Thomas Williams are another new team, and Lioudvinevitch has also moved up to the junior level this year. This match appears to be a great move for both partners, as they look much more comfortable in this partnership than either of them did last year. Their lifts really make them stand out from their competitors because they are often complicated and acrobatic, but they are done with such a nice flow. I was really impressed with how quickly those have come together for them! The judges were also impressed by their opening lift in the free dance–every judge gave the element a +1. Some of the other elements weren’t as strong, though, and Lioudvinevitch & Williams have a lower base value than the teams ahead of them. Still, they appear to have a great start, and I look forward to seeing them continue to develop. They were sixth in the free and overall.
Yet another new team is the pairing of Natasha Osmond, a freestyle skater who qualified for the Canadian Championships last year, and Justin Mohr. They are really attacking their partnership, cramming a lot of difficult elements into their programs and concentrating on creating a mood. Osmond is a natural performer and Mohr looks much more comfortable this year than he did last year. In their free dance, their spin never really got going, which resulted in a zero for that element, and they had a few other rough moments, but overall, I think they have a great beginning. After an eighth-place ranking in the free dance, Osmond & Mohr finished seventh.
Although they train in Eastern Ontario at the Minto Skating Club, Marina Staltari & Jonathan Okrainetz competed in the Western Challenge because Okrainetz is from Saskatchewan. It will be a great opportunity for him to compete in Saskatoon at the Canadian Championships, and his new partnership with Staltari keeps getting stronger. Since the first time that I saw them in August, Staltari & Okrainetz look much more confident and project to the audience much better. Their flapper-themed original dance and gypsy-themed free dance both them give opportunities to really perform, and it was nice to see them take advantage of that. Although their free dance was performed without any big mistakes, they did have several elements that were called level 1, which accounts for their lower TES marks. Although they finished seventh in the free dance, Staltari & Okrainetz remained in eighth place overall.
Once again, all eight teams that competed qualify for the Canadian Championships in Saskatoon. Paul & Cheperdak have certainly built some momentum heading into their first “big” Canadian Championships, and Harvey & Gagnon will be aiming to stand on the podium this year after last year’s fourth-place finish. It will also be interesting to see how Knippel & Britten figure into the mix if they are able to compete. Don’t count out the teams from the West!
Eastern Junior Reportablog
The Eastern dancers had the distinction of being the first event in the “Spectator Rink” at the Hershey Centre when they skated their Paso Doble. They had their original dance the same night, and finished the competition with the free dance the following morning. Thirteen teams were involved in this competitive whirlwind, fighting for top honors and ten berths to the Canadian Championships in Saskatoon next month. Total turnaround time from start of the CD to end of the FD: about 26 hours! Whew!
As last year’s Canadian silver medalists on the junior level and alternates to the Junior Grand Prix Final this year, Karen Routhier & Eric Saucke-Lacelle, were favorites to win this event, which they did–by almost 8 points. The team represents Quebec but this year, although they followed coach Tyler Myles back to Barrie, Ontario and now trains at Mariposa. Routhier & Saucke-Lacelle’s strength is in their polish and poise, so the lyrical style that they use for their free dance suits them well, and they pull it off in a way that many juniors cannot. I like their original dance as well, since they contrast the free dance’s lyrical style with an energetic ’40s dance. After having a freak fall on a non-element in the original dance and finishing a close second there, Routhier & Saucke-Lacelle pulled way ahead with a fantastic skate in the free dance. With no negative GOE marks and a majority of +1s, they won both the TES and PCS and easily skated to their second consecutive Eastern Challenge title on the junior level. They have probably established themselves as the team to beat at Canadians in January.
Veronique de Beaumont-Boisvert & Sebastien Buron, last year’s Canadian novice silver medalists, have already gained valuable experience at the junior level. Based on their summer competitions, they were given a JGP assignment. The young team from Quebec boasts creative choreography, courtesy of coach Julie Marcotte. I’ve enjoyed watching this team this season and hope to see even more of a focus on performance from them in the future. Right now, they perform their elements accurately but often do not invite the audience into their programs. Their free dance is quite inventive, especially for the junior level. It is remix of “Ain’t No Sunshine” with a stronger beat and a percussion break in the middle. One of the highlights of the program was a level 2 stationary lift, which is a category of lift that I had only seen Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier do before. After winning the original dance and with their second-place free dance, de Beaumont-Boisvert & Buron finished in second, a strong debut for their first year on the level.
Olivia Martins & Alvin Chau of Central Ontario broke up what was almost a Quebec sweep of the podium with their energetic and sassy Latin free dance. Martins & Chau finished ahead of de Beaumont-Boisvert & Buron at last year’s Junior Nationals in a close decision, and they have also made a great transition to the junior level, also earning a JGP assignment. A level 1 call on the circular footwork in their original dance may have been one of the reasons for their fourth-place ranking heading into the free dance, and in the free dance, they skated with a lot of confidence to pull up to third. They again received level 1 for their circular footwork, but they earned high levels on most of the other elements, including level 4 for all three lifts. Both partners in this team have a lot of stage presence and really put a lot into their performance.
Finishing in fourth, less than a point from the bronze medalists, was the new pairing of Katelyn Good & Brandon Deslauriers, who represent Quebec and began training together in May. With more time behind them, they look so much stronger than when I saw them at Lake Placid and Thornhill in August. Their gentle interpretation of “Summertime” in the original dance put them in third place, and it was contrasted with their passionate program set to Sarah Brightman’s “Fleurs du Mal.” Good & Deslauriers had a solid performance in the free dance and the decision for third place was so close. Overall, I thought that Martins & Chau had a more polished package, which is understandable, given they are in their third season together. Good & Deslauriers have a great future, though, and I wish that this had been a USFS event, so they could have won a pewter medal!
Abby Carswell & Jason Cusmariu are another new team, and they got to go out on the JGP this season as well. They represent Central Ontario and train at the Scarboro FSC with Martins & Chau, Crone & Poirier, and a host of other talented teams. A big mistake on the twizzle sequence placed them sixth in the original dance, but the performance was a lot of fun and had a ton of energy. I preferred their OD to their gypsy-themed free dance, although the FD was skated very well. I think it just reminded me too much of last year’s (and next year’s!) original dance theme. Again, they struggled on the twizzles, but no other elements received negative GOE marks, and they have a great foundation for their new partnership. Carswell actually has moved up from the pre-novice level, but I can hardly tell that she’s had to catch up to her partner. With a fifth-place ranking in the free dance, Carswell & Cusmariu were fifth overall.
Melodie-Tara Tremblay & Jonathan Arcieri of Quebec are a team that has made huge improvements this year. They’re executing more difficult elements with more accuracy, and they are more connected, both with each other and with the audience. I was so pleasantly surprised by them! Their original dance was energetic and well skated, and their free dance had a few more mistakes, but it was still well done. They had an interesting straightline lift where Tremblay was in an upright split position. Tremblay & Arcieri’s original dance was ranked fifth, and in the free dance, where many teams were close together, they were ranked tenth. Overall, it was enough for a solid sixth place, and their point total was about ten points higher than they scored at Quebec Sectionals.
Quebec’s Raphaelle Viau & Sebastien Lapointe are a new team that showed off an aggressive, polished look at Challenge. They did not have quite the competition that they had at Quebec Sectionals in November, struggling with mistakes and downgrades in the original dance in particular. However, they fought back in the free dance, where they earned very few negative marks and received mostly level 2s and 3s on their elements. As a new team, they have a great foundation and an exciting beginning. After their twelfth-place original dance, they were sixth in the free dance and finished seventh overall.
Catherine St-Onge & Alexander Browne, also from Quebec, have the longest partnership in this event. They have been skating together since 2000, and it shows in their poise and connection with each other. St-Onge & Browne are also an extremely musical team, but they struggle with earning high levels on their elements. Their original dance, to “It Had to Be You,” is quite memorable because of the twist they take. The team appears to play gangsters, and the music has gunshots embedded into it. I wasn’t crazy about it when I saw it in Lake Placid, but I think it’s grown on me, because I really liked it here. Their free dance is also memorable, but that is because it is beautifully choreographed and performed. “Tango de Roxanne” is a great choice for them, and they skate it so well, but they were hurt by having two level 1 footwork sequences, as well as a mistake on their diagonal footwork sequence. Their seventh-place ranking in the original dance and ninth-place ranking in the free dance was enough for eighth place in the final standings.
Marie-Philippe Vincent & Francois-Xavier Ouellette win the award for the longest names in the event, barely beating out silver medalists de Beaumont-Boisvert & Buron. As their names suggest, they represent Quebec and are in their first year at the junior level. Their programs are well constructed, and I really enjoyed their free dance to Edith Piaf selections, which suited their elegant style. One of the highlights from their dance was a combination curved and rotational lift. Both portions of the lift received a level 4 and five of the seven judges awarded the element +1 GOE. Vincent & Ouellette were a part of the field with very close marks, but they were consistent–eighth place in both the original and free dances to finish ninth.
The final berth to Saskatoon went to the final team from Quebec, Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Anthony Quintal. Last year, this team did not advance past Challenge on the novice level, so it is a great accomplishment for them to make the cut to the National Championships. They did a great job here, especially in the free dance, but I’d like to see them project to the audience more in the future. I thought that their curve lift where Fournier Beaudry is in a laidback split position was especially strong, and the judges thought so, too. The lift earned +.30 in GOE. After placing ninth in the original dance and seventh in the free dance, they finished tenth overall.
Laurence Darveau & Derek Green, representing Eastern Ontario, are a very new team. I saw Green skating with his previous partner, Alissa Pettinicchi, in August in Lake Placid. So in a very short time, they have accomplished a lot. Although Darveau is in her first year on the junior level, I thought that her arm and hand positions were lovely. Unfortunately, the team struggled with having the difficulty and accuracy that they needed to place higher. After finishing tenth in the original dance, they were eleventh in the free dance, which is also where they placed in the final standings.
The last time I saw Helene Letourneau & Kevin Boczar, they really had a rough time in the free dance, so it was great to see this team from Eastern Ontario have a solid competition. Their original dance is to “Minnie the Moocher,” which is music I would rather never hear again, but that isn’t entirely their fault, so I won’t hold it against them. They were a little shaky on their footwork sequences, both of which earned level 1, but they put so much into the characters in this dance. It’s a lot of fun to watch. Their free dance, a tango, has a different flavor, but they are equally invested in its performance. Again, they struggled with footwork, but they were solid on their lifts. Finishing 11th in the original dance and 12th in the free, they were 12th overall.
Kathryn Leak & David Mackay-Perry rounded out the contingent from Eastern Ontario. They also looked much improved from the last time that I saw them. I remember thinking at Thornhill that Leak’s expression in the original dance was a bit awkward, but she looked much more relaxed and natural this time around. They made some mistakes and took a downgrade to a level 2 on their twizzles, but the improvements were there. In the free dance, their twizzles were back up to a level 4, and they also earned level 4 on their rotational and curve lifts. Leak & Mackay-Perry were 13th.
Known for its strong dance program, all eight teams from Quebec placed in the top ten to advance to the Canadian Championships in Saskatoon. The remaining two teams were both Central Ontario teams that train at the Scarboro FSC. Routhier & Saucke-Lacelle certainly have the most momentum heading into Canadians, but keep an eye on the younger teams like de Beaumont-Boisvert & Buron and Martins & Chau. If not this year, then next year!
Western Novice Reportablog
My friends and I joked that this year, Skate Canada moved the Western Novice FD to Sunday evening just to make sure we stayed until the end of the event. Last year, we got some flack from a couple of BC’s team leaders/coaches for skipping out on Western junior ladies to get a jump on the drive home. This year, though, we were troopers and stayed until the end of the day on Sunday. . . which resulted in Jules and I driving home in a slight snowstorm, so I hope Skate Canada is happy.
Kylie Knight & Benjamin Mulder of Western Ontario were up first. They’re a new team that I’d seen in Lake Placid, and they have a lovely, soft style that was well suited to their music choice of “Once Upon a December” from the movie Anastasia. Knight & Mulder had some trouble on the twizzles early in the program, but appeared to grow in confidence toward the end of the program. Their last element, a level 4 straightline lift, was one of their strongest, and it earned +.30 GOE. I think Knight & Mulder are a good pairing, and that with another season, they’ll skate more confidently. Their seventh-place free dance meant they ended the competition in sixth.
Sarah Nelson & Claude La Rochelle were on the ice next, trying to secure a position to compete in Junior Nationals in their hometown. Unfortunately, there were nine teams in the event and only eight get to advance to Calgary. Nelson fell early on the twizzle sequence, which meant that they did not receive a score for that element. Their confidence was understandably affected after that, but they pushed forward and came back with some good level 4 lifts. Unfortunately, their score put them in ninth place. It’s difficult to skate under so much pressure, and they put in a great effort. I remembered seeing them last year (they had a fun Stevie Wonder free dance), and they look more polished and mature this year. I hope that I get a chance to see their improvements next year as well.
British Columbia’s first entry, Sara Aghai & Peter Ahluwalia, came up next, and they had something to prove as well. Aghai lost her footing in the Paso Doble, so they were in ninth going into the free dance. They put a lot of energy and character in their free dance to “Maria” and “Smooth” by Santana, and really skated well. Aside from a small bobble on the twizzles, I didn’t see any signs that they were dwelling on what had happened the day before. With level 4 on both lifts and their spin (an element they’d struggled with in Lake Placid), they were able to pull up to sixth in the free dance and seventh overall.
Rebecca Nelles & Jessie Smyth are a new team this year representing Alberta, and they chose a lyrical free dance. Since their Paso Doble was the strongest portion of the competition for them, I would love to see them try to interpret some sharper music in the future. Like many of the teams, their biggest problem was with the twizzles, but they earned level 3 for both lifts and their spin. With an eighth-place free dance, they also finished in eighth place and earned a trip to Junior Nationals.
Carolyn MacCuish & Tyler Morris of Western Ontario kicked off a very dynamic second group with a feisty tango. I enjoyed Morris’ free dance last year with then-partner Kelsey Valentine, and I always loved MacCuish’s fantastic presentation as a pair skater, so I was really excited to see this team. They didn’t disappoint and looked so strong that I could hardly believe she’s been ice dancing for just under a year! MacCuish & Morris even earned a level 3 for one of their footwork sequences (the circular), something that no other team in the event achieved. Even though their final rotational lift was only a level 1, they still won the free dance and won the competition by over seven points. Last year at Challenge, MacCuish skated through injuries and seeing her miss qualifying for Nationals in senior pairs was heartbreaking, but this year, she stood on top of the podium in a new discipline.
From one great story to another–next to skate was another new team, British Columbia’s Nicole Orford & Malcolm Rohon-O’Halloran. Last year, Rohon-O’Halloran finished ninth in this event, and Orford, who was skating singles, did not qualify for Challenge. So the second team in a row with a new ice dancer entertained the audience with a fantastic free dance. Their music was a Beatles medley–“Something” and “Revolution”–two of my personal favorites. Orford & Rohon-O’Halloran were only given a slight GOE deduction for a unison break on their twizzles, and all other elements received positive GOE. Their footwork, in particular, was very precise and actually choreographed to the music, something that is rarer than it should be, in my opinion! With a second-place free dance, Orford & Rohon-O’Halloran also finished second in the final standings.
Western Ontario’s Michaela Botsford & Scott Botsford were one of my discoveries last year at Challenge, since their free dance to “Ramalama (Bang Bang)” was one of the sweetest things I have ever seen in pre-novice, so I was a little disappointed that they chose something lyrical and Italian for this year’s free dance. But it’s nice to see them switching to a new style, and they carried it fairly well–it highlighted how much they have grown and matured over the past year. Unfortunately, their TES hurt them a bit, since their final straightline lift was only called a level 1. I’m sure that is something that they can address before Calgary. With a fifth-place free dance, they dropped a couple of spots to fifth overall.
Their training mates, also representatives of Western Ontario, Brittany Doleman & Dylan Simpson, followed them with a rousing performance to “Candyman” by Christina Aguilera. They put a lot of energy into their performance and their choreography is cute–very reminiscent of this year’s original dance for junior and senior levels. Their opening level 4 rotational lift earned +1 from all of the judges, which was the only time this occurred in the whole event. Their third-place free dance helped Doleman & Simpson finish on the podium with the bronze medal.
Jazz Smyl Joly & Ryan Behnia of Alberta, another new team, closed the evening with a “Carmen” free dance. After five long days of skating, it seemed fitting to end with a true classic. Smyl Joly & Behnia had a good performance, but didn’t quite have the “Carmen” character down. Then again, after Navka has been Carmen, it’s a tough act to follow. The program was solid effort, but I think that the compulsories were the stronger portion of the competition for them, which is impressive for a new team. With a fourth-place free dance, they ended up in fourth overall, less than half a point from the podium.
Everyone in the final group, despite movement in the compulsories, finished in the same spot overall as they placed in the free dance. And although the Eastern Challenge is generally thought to be the stronger of the two, Western is fighting back! The top two teams in Western, MacCuish & Morris and Orford & Rohon-O’Halloran, both scored higher than the top team in Eastern. Junior Nationals will certainly be exciting, since there are so many talented novice teams in Canada!
Western PreNovice Reportablog
Laura Holbrough & Jacob Marsh were up first, the first of four teams from Western Ontario. They skated a pleasant program to music that sounded vaguely familiar–probably something from a movie. The program was suited them well, but their elements were all called either level 1 or level 2, so they were at a disadvantage, points-wise. Holbrough & Marsh are part of the dance tradition at the Ilderton Skating Club (where Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir got their start) and they finished in 12th place.
With a fun program to ’50s music, Mallory Gemmel & Jagger Smyl Joly got the crowd going. Part of the Alberta contingent was on hand to cheer for them–Jagger’s sister, Jazz, is a novice-level dancer. Gemmel & Smyl Joly did a great job with their lifts, earning a level 3 and a base GOE on both of them. However, they did have a mistake on their twizzles. While their free dance scored ninth-highest, they finished in 10th.
Jayde Stewart & Dayton Stewart, a pair of siblings also from Alberta, skated next. They are somewhat small, but their presence on the ice appears bigger, and they hit some good positions. Their first element, a level 2 spin, was one of their strongest. Although their free dance was 11th, they were ninth overall.
Chanelle Biggan & Ethan Swinburnson, the first team from British Columbia, rounded out the first group. Their free dance had a lot of character and Biggan, in particular, really expressed the music. This team had two level 4 lifts, which contributed to their free dance being ranked eighth. However, the scores were close, and it was only enough for them to pull them up 11th overall.
Two more teams from British Columbia kicked off the second group, and the first was Chloe Hill & Troy Shindle. Their free dance was understated, but they skated it well, only having a bit of trouble with the twizzles. With a sixth-place finish in the free dance, Hill & Shindle also finished sixth overall, and when the marks were read, they knew that they would be going to Junior Nationals.
Their BC teammates, Michelle Fitzgerald & Qwynn Dalmer, were next. Fitzgerald has lovely presentation on the ice, and Dalmer presents her well, although he tends to fade into the background a bit. Many of their elements had small mistakes, but they skated without major errors and finished seventh.
I really enjoyed seeing the improvements that Kaylene Beatty & Kalim Schieck had made since last year, when they finished 12th at this level and did not qualify for Junior Nationals. This year, a lot of the shyness that I saw last year is gone, and their edges and flow have improved tremendously. Although they had problems with the twizzles, their free dance showed off a new side of their skating and they had excellent level 4 lifts, including a fast rotational lift at the end of their program. With a fourth-place finish in the free dance, Beatty & Shieck finished fifth and easily qualified for Junior Nationals this time around.
Western Ontario’s Chelsea Robinson & Michael Guyett were next. Robinson has a ton of character on the ice and certainly does not seem shy! They had mistakes on the twizzles and their spin, but carried the Latin character of the dance throughout the program. Although their free dance was ranked tenth, based on the strength of their compulsories, they held onto eighth place, the cutoff for a trip to Calgary.
Courtney Royer & Steven Paslawsky skated their free dance with a lot of fire, and it paid off. Their only negative GOE was a slight deduction for their level 3 twizzles, and they earned positive marks for their level 2 straightline lift and level 2 spin. Royer & Paslawsky’s confident effort was ranked third, and they finished fourth overall, just 1.57 points off the podium.
Pilar Maekawa & Leonardo Maekawa presented one of the most original free dances of the event. They were another team that I saw last year, so it was a treat to see a much more mature couple this year. Second going into the free dance, the Maekawas strong opening level 4 curve lift received +.50 GOE and set the tone for the rest of the performance. They won the free dance and the gold medal.
Next on the ice were Jayden Rau & Tyler Grunt, who performed with a ton of energy and confidence. Both of their lifts were called a level 4, and they earned +.20 GOE on their opening curve lift. Rau, especially, skates with a lot of spark. Their second-place free dance helped them jump up to the silver medal.
Carleigh MacDonald & Matthew Mills were in the lead heading into the free dance, but struggled a bit with their twizzles and then had a rough time with their level 2 spin. However, their lifts were strong and they had a sassy tango flavor to their dance. Although their dance was only ranked fifth, they hung onto the bronze medal.
Eastern PreNovice Reportablog
So the first team that I saw was Lauren Sears & Cody Bradley, who represent Nova Scotia. They had some trouble with their spin, their twizzles, and their diagonal step sequence, but I was impressed by the poise and expression that they carried throughout their program. They finished 11th and their free dance was 10th.
Brooke Carten & Ashton Leclair are from another under-represented province in ice dance, New Brunswick. It’s great to see teams from all over the country. Aside from a mistake on their twizzles, Carten & Leclair had a great skate, but they do not have the difficulty that many of their competitors do. They do have a nice, strong look on the ice, and they finished in 12th place.
Quebec’s Marie-Audrey Roy & Pierre-Alain Mathieu were next. Their strongest dance in the competition was the Blues, where they were ranked fifth. Strong basic skating was evident in their free dance, since they had an elegant quality, but their TES suffered from a few small mistakes as well as lower difficulty levels. Roy & Mathieu finished ninth.
With a charming program set to yodeling music, Katie Desveaux & Dmitre Razgulajevs were the first team to secure a spot to Calgary. Although they are both small, their lifts were two of the highlights of their program. Both lifts were given a level 4 and both received the base mark in GOE. Desveaux & Razgulajevs train at the Scarboro FSC, and they have some of the trademark interesting choreography that so many of the Scarboro teams display. They may have only finished fifth this year, but watch out for this team next year!
Melissa Tremblay & Olivier Vongsaphay of Quebec were another polished team with great choreography. Their Latin program, which included “Sway” by the Pussycat Dolls, had fantastic energy, and they really used their long legs to create some nice lines. They lost a few points on the twizzles, as well as the spin, which was only called a level 1. Tremblay & Vongsaphay’s seventh-place free dance left them in eighth overall.
Briar Koski & Nicholas Lettner, who train with Desveaux & Razgulajevs at Scarboro, also had a fun program that was put together well. Their height difference lends this team to great lifts, and their impressive opening level 4 rotational lift was given +1 GOE by every judge. In eighth place after compulsories, Koski & Lettner used a fifth-place free dance to pull up to sixth overall.
Another Quebecois team, Valerie Mayer-Girouard & Eric Waldvogel, was next on the ice and after several high-energy free dances, they presented a nice contrast with a lyrical program. They, too, struggled with the twizzles but had solid level 4 lifts that helped them stay in qualifying position. They finished seventh.
Central Ontario’s Edrea Khong & Edbert Khong kicked off the final group with a bang. Their “Sing Sing Sing” free dance was perfect for them, and they never let their expression drop for a second. The Khongs earned the only +2 GOE marks in the competition–one for their level 4 twizzles and one for their level 3 spin. Although their skating skills do need some work, it is clear that this team has what it takes to be on the podium in Calgary. With a first-place free dance, Khong & Khong won the competition by just over a point.
Carolane Soucisse & Alexander Laliberte, one of two Quebec teams in the final flight, were next. They opted for a dramatic free dance and carried the character of it well, but were tripped up by the twizzles and the circular footwork. They were in third after the compulsories, but their sixth-place free dance dropped them to fourth overall.
Having won the Blues compulsory dance Mireille Poudrier & Benjamin Smyth were the Khongs’ closest challengers going into the free dance. They may have overtaken the young siblings if it had not been for their level 2 twizzles, which were done well, but were worth 1.20 points less than the Khongs’ level 4 twizzles. Poudrier & Smyth did win the components mark and should also do well in Calgary in February. They ended up second here.
The final team on the ice was Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen, whose fiery tango free dance was marred only by a mistake on the twizzles. They have a fast rotational lift near the end of their program, where Bent is in a Biellmann position, and this element earned +1 GOE from five of the seven judges. Their third-place free dance was enough to win them the bronze medal.
Once again, Quebec dominated the standings. Of the eight teams going to Junior Nationals, four are from Quebec, two are from Central Ontario, and two are from Eastern Ontario. Junior Nationals are in February 2009.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Eastern Novice Reportablog
Siblings Sarah & Steven Clarke began the event with a dramatic free dance. The intense style worked well for them, and they maintained their character throughout the program. The Clarkes are able to execute elements with high levels of difficulty, but they sacrifice clean lines for this difficulty. Sarah wore a brace of some sort on her elbow during the competition, but they skated confidently and without signs of injury. With a total score of 57.00 points, the Clarkes finished in 15th place.
Another team representing Eastern Ontario was next. With a tango free dance, Samantha Chojnacki & Rhys Jones skated well and moved up a spot. I had seen this program in August, so it was great to see how far it has progressed. They are much more polished now, and they have a secure, controlled style. One of the highlights of the program was their opening lift, a curve lift where Chojnacki was in a laidback position. Although their free dance was ranked 14th, their total score of 56.76 placed them 16th.
The lone entry from Nova Scotia, Melanie Thomas & Alexander Green, presented a bluesy free dance to “Gravity” by John Mayer. Their choreography captured the mood of the music well, but I wanted to see more from their interpretation. They struggled on their spin and their twizzles, both of which were downgraded. In the Eastern Challenge, which is generally dominated by teams from Quebec, it was great to see an entry from the Maritimes! Thomas & Green earned 50.66 points in the competition, which left them 17th.
Leighanne Neilson & Aaron McCullagh rounded out the first warm-up group with a fun program to Irish music. They really got the small crowd going and skated with a ton of energy. They were ranked 16th after compulsories, but their free dance was 12th, and they placed 14th overall. Neilson & McCullagh only received level 4 for one element, their curve lift, so if they work on their levels during the off-season, I think they will have a great shot at qualifying next year.
Penelope Mondion & Benoit Gagnon were the first of the eight Quebecois teams to compete, and they had an outstanding effort. With their third-place free dance, they jumped from 12th to sixth in the overall standings. I was standing near their families, and it was great to see their excitement when they realized that they were going to Calgary. Mondion & Gagnon’s program opens with a difficult level 4 straightline lift in which Gagnon is in a crouched position and Mondion balances against him with her legs extended in front of her. This element earned +1 GOE from six of the seven judges.
Next on the ice was the team of Alexandra Kourkounakis & Christopher Lettner, a team that trains at the Scarboro FSC, but represents Eastern Ontario. Their African free dance has great choreography and interesting highlights, but they struggled with some of their elements. They did well with their level 4 straightline lift, which was given +.20 GOE, but had problems with the twizzles, the spin, and the circular footwork. It was great to see such unique choreography from them, though. Kourkounakis & Lettner finished 11th.
Quebec’s Josyane Cholette & Simon Proulx-Senecal had a fun free dance set to music that ranged from an Elvis Presley cover to “Boogie Wonderland.” Although they had a big mistake on their twizzles, which were downgraded to a level 1, they did not let the error affect their presentation of the program. Cholette & Proulx-Senecal finished 12th.
With a polished program to “Hernando’s Hideaway,” Chelsea Nash & Niklas Grans-Wood of Central Ontario looked much improved since I saw them at Thornhill. Their ninth-place free dance helped them move from 13th to 10th place in the overall standings. Although they also struggled with the twizzles, they made up the points with two solid level 4 lifts.
After the flood, Melissande Dumas & Yoan Breton were the first team on the ice and unfortunately, they did not have the performance that they had hoped for. After Dumas fell on the twizzles, which were also downgraded to a level 1, they looked like they lost their fight. Although they had several good elements, including a level 4 straightline lift midway through the program, their presentation was not what it could have been. Since they had been in ninth place after compulsories, they were on the cusp of qualifying for Nationals, but their 16th-place free dance dropped them to 13th overall.
Sandrine Bilodeau & Jean-Sebastien Bigras of Quebec nearly qualified, finishing ninth and only three points out of eighth place. Both of their lifts were called level 4, but they lost points with negative GOE on level 3 twizzles and their spin was only rated a level 2. Hopefully, this charming team will be back next year to try again.
Kelly Oliveira & Jordan Hockley of Central Ontario were sixth after the compulsories, but their first-place free dance vaulted them onto the podium. Their “Zelda” program helped them win a bronze medal and showcased their ability. Their elements are strong–they earned level 4 for three of them and level 2 on both step sequences–but it is the choreography between the elements that really makes this program stand out. I was fortunate enough to see it twice in August, and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. If Oliveira & Hockley can score higher in their compulsory dances so they do not have so much ground to make up, they could be on the podium in Calgary.
Their training mates, Joanna Salvagna & Marc-Andre Servant, were next. Their music selection of “Ain’t No Sunshine” paired with “Ain’t No Other Man” is a little different, but they really make it work. Both skaters have great presentation skills, and Servant is able to showcase his partner without fading into the background. Their opening level 4 rotational lift was especially strong, earning +1 GOE from six judges. With a sixth-place free dance, Salvagna & Servant finished seventh.
Baily Carroll & Peter Gerber skated first in the final group to a selection of music from the English version of Notre Dame de Paris. The program was extremely polished and they scored higher in the components marks than Oliveira & Hockley, but their level 1 step sequences hurt their TES, and they finished just behind Oliveira & Hockley in the free dance. However, their first-place ranking after the compulsory dances and their effort in the free dance were more than enough to secure the victory for this young team in their first year on the novice level.
Catherine Alarie & Benjamin Brisebois Gaudreau of Quebec had a solid skate and moved up to fourth in the standings. On a day when many teams fell victim to the spin, Alarie & Brisebois Gaudreau’s really stood out as excellent. The judges agreed–the only +2 GOE of the event was given to their level 4 spin, and the remaining six judges gave it a +1. Unfortunately, mistakes on the twizzles probably cost them a spot on the podium. They finished only .32 away from the bronze medal.
With the highest components marks in the competition, Elisabeth Paradis & Tristan Laliberte skated confidently to the silver medal. In this close competition, their free dance was only ranked fifth. They made a mistake on the circular step sequence, but the rest of the elements were solid, and it was obvious that they paid careful attention to the details of their program. Their carefully placed hands and feet were rewarded in the components scores.
The next team on the ice, also from Quebec, was Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa. The young siblings were fourth after the compulsories, but dropped to eighth in the free dance and hung onto eighth overall to take the last spot to Calgary. Although the Hasegawas had problems with the twizzles and the spin, their effort was quite impressive, given that they had scrapped their free dance after sectionals. Their gentle “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” program was just three weeks old. With more time to train it before Nationals, I think that they can make a statement in Calgary.
Andreanne Poulin & Simon Mondor, the fourth team in a row from Quebec, closed the competition with an energetic program to ’60s music. They have a lot of spunk and really entertained the audience. Their lifts were secure, their other elements were controlled, and they skated confidently, without making any big errors. Poulin & Mondor finished fifth.
The top eight teams will vie for medals at the BMO Skate Canada Junior Nationals in Calgary, February 11-14. Two teams represent Central Ontario, five are from Quebec, and one is from Eastern Ontario. The qualifiers to Junior Nationals are: Baily Carroll & Peter Gerber (CO), Elisabeth Paradis & Tristan Laliberte (QC), Kelly Oliveira & Jordan Hockley (CO), Catherine Alarie & Benjamin Brisebois Gaudreau (QC), Andreanne Poulin & Simon Mondor (QC), Penelope Mondion & Benoit Gagnon (QC), Joanna Salvagna & Marc-Andre Servant (EO), and Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa (QC).