by Anne Calder | Photo by Irina Tsimfer

Finlandia Trophy was the last Challenger Series warm-up event before the ISU Grand Prix kicks off with Skate America on October 21. It was held last week in Espoo, Finland. Ten teams from eight countries competed. Two teams skated in back-to-back competitions.

Short Dance

The top five short dance results showed two teams who earned season best scores, two teams who scored less than their previous event, and one team who made its season debut. None of the five teams earned above a level 2 for their midnight blues pattern.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS) danced blues and hip hop in their first event of the season. They opened with a two-footed straight-line lift and twizzles that earned level 4 and closed with a 2.20 GOE not touching footwork sequence. The reigning Russian bronze medalists chose the hip hop rhythm, which was new and challenging for them. In the 2012-13 season, the junior team had opted for swing. Their program scored a personal best 69.63.

When Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue wanted to mix a very traditional blues dance style with something modern, their coach Marie-France Dubreuil created a hip hop evolution program.  The team added the expertise of hip hop specialist Sam Chouinard to authenticate the moves. Their music selections included “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone and a medley of hip hop hits. The twizzles and lift were level 4; the not touching midline footwork secured all +2 GOE marks. The 65.32 was a season best score.

Russians Tiffany Zahorski & Jonathan Guerreiro hoped to medal for the second week in a row. The relatively new team used “Naughty Naughty Boy” by Christina Aguilera and “All Night” by electro swing pioneer Parov Stelar. The opening twizzles and solid closing rotational lift earned level 4. The not touching diagonal step sequence was level 3 and secured 8.38 points. The program scored 62.27 for third place.

Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev (POL) used “Back to Dirty Town” by Blues Mystery to open the program. When the music switched to “Sax” by Fleur East, the team also made a quick costume alteration. The level 4 twizzles and rotational lift were followed by their not touching midline step sequence. The score was a season best 60.62.

The Danish team of Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen used the Viva Las Vegas tune, “You Are the Boss” for their blues and the Elvis Presley hit, “A Little Less Conversation” for the rock and roll swing rhythm. The level 4 twizzles and rotational lift bookended the program. Their in between not touching footwork earned an unusually disappointing level 1. The 58.76 score was almost 4.5 points less than at the Autumn Classic.

Free Dance

In the free dance, three of the top five teams shuffled positions. Two had season best scores. One had a personal best.

The short dance leaders, Stepanova & Bukin held serve and won gold with a Peter Tchernyshev choreographed tango, a first of that genre for the team. The opening combination spin, twizzles, straight-line and rotational lifts earned level 4 and solid GOEs. The circular and diagonal step sequences highlighted the program and scored a total 16.36 points. The program’s 103.20 and total 172.83 were personal best scores. Stepanova & Bukin next compete at Skate Canada.

Hubbell & Donohue danced to a selection of love songs: “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” performed by Ingrid Michaelson and Bootstraps’ “Earned It” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. The couple used the subtle nuances of body movement and eye contact in the lifts to convey a message of love to each other and the audience. The lifts, twizzles and spin were level 4; the diagonal and circular footwork received level 3 and level 2 respectively. The free dance score was 100.45; the total was 165.76. Hubbell & Donohue next compete at Skate America.

Zahorski & Guerreiro (RUS) danced last season’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” program by Queen since it hadn’t been skated internationally because France just released Zahorski this year. The spin, twizzles, straight-line and curve lifts were level 4; the footwork earned level 2. The GOEs were not as strong as last week at Nepela. Their back-to-back competitions could explain the lower scores. The segment was a fourth place 90.73. However, the 153.00 total was enough to keep them in third over all, and they won another bronze medal. Zahorski & Guerreiro next compete at the Rostelecom Cup.

The Danish team of Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen had a season best 90.93 score for their dance to “Hymne a L’amour” performed by Patricia Kaas. The spin, twizzles and lifts were level 4; the step sequences earned level 2. The twizzles scored 4.50 points higher than at the Autumn Classic where they had a mishap and received a level 1. The component score was also higher than in Montreal. Unfortunately, an extended opening straight-line lift received a 1.0 deduction. The program scored a third place, but the 149.69 total placed them fourth over all. Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen next compete at Skate Canada.

Kaliszek & Spodyriev performed to selections from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. They struggled with the twizzles and spin that produced negative and low GOE marks from the judges. The serpentine and midline step sequences were graded level 2. The team scored a smidge higher than last week at Nepela Memorial, and the 86.84 segment and 147.46 total scores were both a season’s best. Kaliszek & Spodyriev next compete at the Cup of China.