COMPULSORY DANCE

The Paso Doble compulsory dance kicked off the junior ice dancing event in Cleveland. Although the Paso Doble was a novice dance this season, it was also selected by the ISU as a junior compulsory dance for the 2008/09 season. Because it was drawn as the CD for the junior dance event at the U.S. Championships, dance fans were treated to a second round of Pasos on Monday night.

Although the pattern and steps are (or should be) the same from team to team, each couple brings their own style and interpretation of the dance. Which would the judges prefer? A large pattern? Sharp, crisp movements? Speed and flow?

Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein of the Arctic Figure Skating Club took the lead with a performance that was smooth and technically well-executed. The 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final champions skated with confidence and finesse and received nine +2 GOEs. They were one of only two teams to receive a technical score over 18 points, pulling in 18.44. Combined with the only 14+ Program Components Score of the event, Chock & Zuerlein take 32.90 into the original dance.

In second place and less than one point behind Chock & Zuerlein, Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani presented a dance with a larger pattern and sharp, precise steps and received five +2 GOEs as part of their 18.04 TES. They also had the second-highest PCS, 13.94, for a total of 31.98.

The teams in spots 3-8 are only separated by 1.92, a margin easily overcome with two phases left in the event.

Piper Gilles & Zachary Donohue occupy the third place. Donohue is skating in his first “Big Nationals,” and he and Gilles continue to mesh well together. The team was dinged with negative GOEs for mistakes on the first half of the first pattern, but rebounded to finish strong on the final two laps. Gilles & Donohue are 2.48 behind the Shibutanis.

Shannon Wingle & Tim McKernan are fourth and skated a confident, powerful Paso with lots of flavor. They received negative GOEs on the first part of the second pattern, scoring 28.92 total and putting them .58 behind Gilles & Donohue.

In fifth are Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker skated a somewhat sloppy dance that dinged them with a dozen negative GOEs. The Colorado-based team took a free dance-style approach to the Paso, dressing more Spartacus than bullfighter and earning one of the four 5+ performance scores. . They sit .38 behind Wingle & McKernan.

Sixth place belongs to Katie Wyble & Justin Morrow, whose only negative GOEs came on the last part of the last pattern. Wyble & Morrow finished fifth at the 2008 U.S. Championships at the novice level and are .38 behind Tibbetts & Brubaker in their junior debut.

Only .09 separates trainingmates Chloe Wolf & Rhys Ainsworth (seventh in the CD) and Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello (eighth). Cannuscio & Lorello won Eastern Sectionals while Wolf & Ainsworth finished fourth at the same event. In Cleveland, Cannuscio & Lorello were hampered by negative GOEs on the second part of the first and second patterns when repeated stumbles marred their flow. They earned 27.58, a hair above Wolf & Ainsworth’s 27.67.

Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring had a freak fall near the end of their Paso that sent both of them heading dangerously close to kissing the boards. On top of the -2.36 cut from their TES, Bailey & Herring were hit with the additional -2 deduction for a double fall. Bailey & Herring will undoubtedly move up with their exceptional original dance.

No one can rest easy, as the field is too deep and too unpredictable.


ORIGINAL DANCE

The junior event continued on Tuesday with the original dance performances. For the 2008/2009 season, the International Skating Union selected rhythms and dances of the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s, specifying that the music need not be an original orchestration, but should reflect the flavor and style of the decade(s) chosen.

Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein maintained their lead by winning the original dance by a slim .19 margin over training mates Maia & Alex Shibutani. With both teams ahead of the pack by nearly eight points, it seems that both teams, coached by Igor Shpilband, will face off for the gold medal with Thursday’s free dance.

Although they were one of the two teams to receive no negative GOEs on their twizzles–and received nothing lower than a +1 on all the other elements–Zuerlein felt the performance was OK, but not their best.

“We’ve worked up to this point throughout the season in order to make a strong appearance at Nationals,” Zuerlein said. “I think it was just tonight we felt a little bit off.”

“It started out pretty well,” Chock said. “We felt good and strong, and then we just kinda lost our breath and got tired. We trained it quite a bit, but I guess we fell apart towards the end. Overall it was all right.”

Both teams travelled to three international events in the fall, with Chock & Zuerlein winning both of their Junior Grand Prix events and the Final and the Shibutanis winning gold and silver at their events and finishing fourth at the Final.

“All the traveling is kind of draining and it definitely takes a toll on you,” Chock said, “but it’s been a marvelous experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

The Shibutanis took the ice but had to restart their program when the referee blew the whistle after noticing blood on the ice. It was cleaned up and then on-ice debris (crystals from a competitor’s costume) was pointed out to the siblings who sprang into action to remove it.

“They didn’t want anyone to have a mistake because of something [the skaters] couldn’t control,” Alex said, “so they had us pick up the stones.”

The Shibutanis’ upbeat program to music from “Thoroughly Modern Millie” featured an innovative rotational lift where Alex, who is standing on only one leg, whips Maia into a rotational lift. That level 4 move earned them mostly +2s, as did their level 3 midline step sequence that opened the program. The only blemish on an otherwise good performance was a bobble by Alex in the twizzles that dinged them -.29 on the GOE.

As was the case with the compulsory dance results, the overall results heading into the free dance have the teams below first and second within one point of each other, so the possibilities for additional flip flopping can–and probably will–occur.

Third in the original dance and overall are Broadmoor’s Piper Gilles & Zachary Donohue. Like their competitors who sit in first and second, Gilles & Donohue competed twice on the Junior Grand Prix circuit winning a gold and a silver medal and qualifying for the Final. The team was forced to withdraw from the Final due to an injury to Gilles that is still in the healing process.

“I pulled my adductor tendon, and it’s one of those [injuries] that takes a long time to heal,” Gilles said. “We did it on our OD lift. We went up into it–and the entrance was kind of funny–and I landed weird and my hip popped.”

The injury required Gilles to take some time off the ice, and she and Donohue have not been back at full capacity. Though their performance to “Go Daddy Go,” “Flat Foot Floogie,” and “Sing Sing Sing” was not their best, the team did get level 4 on their spin and curve lift. Their twizzles were reduced to level 2 and received negative GOEs across the board.

“We just started doing run-throughs two weeks ago,” Gilles said. “I’m able to do maybe one a day, or I’ll be able to skate two sessions. It’s hard for us to come in to this like that, but we just went out there and tried our hardest. It wasn’t what we wanted, and I couldn’t do anything other than what we did. My leg is not 100% yet, but I have to push though it because I’m not going to give up and end this season with another withdrawal.”

Sitting just 1.10 behind Gilles & Donohue are Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker. Tibbetts & Brubaker presented “L-O-V-E” as their original dance. They, too, received negative GOEs on their twizzles, although they were rated a level 4. The two step sequences, however, were only level 2.

Shannon Wingle & Timothy McKernan, who were also hurt by level 2 step sequences and -1s on their twizzles, dropped from fourth to fifth with their sixth-place original dance to music from Chicago. Wingle cut herself during their second element of their program, the spin, and although she was bleeding, pushed through the performance. She received medical attention after leaving the kiss and cry.

“I cut my middle finger up near the nail, but due to the location, stitches weren’t an option,” Wingle said. “They cleaned it up and Steri-Stripped it and said to be careful, and if it starts bleeding or the Steri-Strips come, off I can go back.”

Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello moved from eighth to sixth with their fifth-place original dance.

The first team to skate, Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus, was the only other team to receive no negative GOEs on their twizzles.