by Anne Calder | Photo by Daphne Backman

The Challenger Series had two competitions September 28-October 1. One was in Europe and the other in North America. The Sportplexe Pierrefonds in Montreal, Quebec, Canada hosted the Autumn Classic International. Six of the nine teams train at the venue.

Short Dance

The Short Dance marked the return of Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir after a two-year competitive skating sabbatical. They debuted in front of adoring fans on the home ice where they train with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. The Olympic and World gold medalists danced blues and hip hop to a Prince medley that earned five level 4 marks and a 41.44 technical score. The team tapped into the expertise of Sam Chouinard to help authenticate their hip-hop dance moves. The total segment received a personal best 77.72.

The Danish team of Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen danced a flirty fast-paced program to Elvis Presley’s “You Are the Boss” and “A Little Less Conversation” that earned a personal best 63.26 points. The twizzles were level 4; the blues pattern, partial step sequence and rotational lift received level 3. The duo dressed in midnight blue and pink showed great facial expression throughout the dance.

Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker were third with 62.70 points. The 2014 World Junior Champions skated blues and hip-hop to “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble and “How I Feel” by Flo Rida. The program highlights were the level 3 not touching footwork sequence and level 4 rotational lift that both earned solid GOE marks. They train in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

In their second season as partners, the Israeli team of Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko scored 59.46 for their program. The twizzles and curve lift earned level 4; the blues pattern was level 3. The sultry music of the blues blended well with the hip-hop tempo. They train in Novi, Michigan with Igor Shpilband.

Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz (ESP) rocked the arena with their “Proud Mary” program. The curve lift earned level 4, but a miss-step on the twizzles drew negative GOE marks. Smart enthusiastically sang along with vocalist Tina Turner during the performance – karaoke style. The program earned 56.10.

Free Dance

In the free dance, the blasting music of sounds central to the swing and hip-hop rhythms was replaced with a softer, more classic tone. Two placement changes also occurred.

Canadians Virtue & Moir danced to “Latch” sung by Sam Smith and choreographed by David Wilson and Marie-France Dubreuil. The lyrics spoke words of uplifting and emotional reinforcement of two people – a different mood than the short dance hip-hop routine.

The music was first used by former training mate Meryl Davis in her 2014 Dancing with the Stars mirror ball winning freestyle dance with Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

The program earned level 4 for six of the seven elements. Their component scores averaged over 9.00. The team received 2.0 deductions for a time violation and extended straight-line lift. The program scored 111.48. The short and free dances totaled 189.20.  Virtue & Moir next compete at Skate Canada.

Hawayek & Baker moved up a notch to win the silver medal with a tender and lyrical presentation to “Liebestraum” (Beautiful Dreams of Love) – a story of unconditional love. The lifts and twizzles earned level 4 as the couple glided softly across the ice to the strains of Frank Liszt’s familiar melody. Individually the TES and PCS scores were solid; together they added up to a personal best 97.80 score. The performance received a 160.50 total.  Hawayek & Baker next compete at Skate Canada.

Tobias & Tkachenko (ISR) used Petr Tchaikovsky’s classical ballet, “The Nutcracker” for their free dance music. The program earned level 4 twizzles, lifts and spin; the footwork received level 3. The segment score was 90.96; the total 150.32 gave them fourth place.  Tobias & Tkachenko next compete at Skate America.

Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (DEN) danced to “Hymne a L’amour” (Hymn to Love) lyrics written by Edith Piaf and performed by Patricia Kaas. The lifts were level 4 and the spin and diagonal footwork were level 3. Unfortunately a bobble on the twizzle earned a level 1 and negative GOE marks. Their musical interpretation, composition and performance were rewarded with solid PCSs. When their 88.74 segment score was added to the short dance grade, the 152.00 total gave them third place and the bronze medal.  Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen next compete at Finlandia and Skate Canada.

Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac (FRA) were fifth with 143.60; Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz (ESP) were sixth with 141.50.