by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The sixth Grand Prix event was held November 25-27 at the Makomanai Sekisuiheim Ice Arena in Sapporo, Japan. The arena will also host the Asian Winter Games figure skating events from February 23-26, 2017. Nine ice dance teams representing seven countries competed for prize money and qualification for the GP Final in Marseilles, France December 8-11.

Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed (JPN) withdrew due to an injury received in practice two weeks earlier. For the first time in the 2016 GP, the judges for the dance discipline were all female.

The event included the much anticipated showdown between the reigning two-time World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron and former two-time World Champions and Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, who returned to competitive skating in 2016 after a two year sabbatical.

Short Dance:

Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir topped the leader board with a world record score, followed by their French training mates, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron in second place. The Italian team of Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte was third.

Virtue & Moir danced to a medley of Prince classics. They opened with the hip-hop rhythm for the not-touching footwork to “Kiss” and earned 11.74 points – the highest GP GOE mark for that element. The Canadians slithered into the sexy blues pattern and partial step sequence to “Five Women”, and rocked to the end with “Purple Rain”. The program earned level 4 on four elements and scored a personal best 79.47 points.

Papadakis & Cizeron used “Bittersweet” for blues and “Diga Diga Doo” for the lindy loop. They had a few minor issues in the footwork, which led to levels 2 and 3. The other elements earned level 4. The two-time World Champions scored 75.60, three points less than at Trophee de Paris.

Cappellini & Lanotte earned a season’s best 72.00 for their blues to “Cry for Me” and boogie-woogie to “Choo Choo Boogie”. The twizzles and lift earned level 4; the pattern and footwork were level 3.

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) were fourth with 68.85 points. Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA) scored 65.41 points for fifth place.

Free Dance:  CANADIANS WIN BATTLE OF TRAINING MATES

The overnight results after the SD remained the same. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (CAN) danced away with gold. Papadakis & Cizeron (FRA) took silver, and Cappellini & Lanotte (ITA) won bronze.

Virtue & Moir’s free dance opened with the haunting piano chords of “Pilgrims on a Long Journey” from the video game soundtrack Child of Light. The music carried the dancers through their interpretation of the fear and loss experienced by the main character in the dangerous new world where she wakes up in the fantasy game. The program ended with Sam Smith’s lyrics to “Latch” and somewhat of a theme change from the opening soundtrack.

The stationary lift, choreographic lift and twizzles earned all +3 GOE marks. Five elements earned level 4; both step sequences earned level 3. The component scores averaged above 9.50. The 116.37 segment score was the highest in the 2016 GP Series. The total 195.84 broke Davis & White ‘s 2014 Sochi Olympics’ record by .32.

Papadakis & Cizeron’s dance to “Stillness”, “Oddudua” and “Happiness Does Not Wait” didn’t narrow the gap created by their four-point short dance deficit. Cizeron’s twizzle mishap and a struggle with the curve lift exit created an usual lack of fluid movement. The lifts and spin earned level 4; the circular and diagonal footwork was level 3. The program scored 111.06. The total score was 186.66. The French champions were disappointed and knew they had left the door open for the Canadians.

Cappellini & Lanotte performed a crowd-pleasing program to a Charlie Chaplin medley. The team worked in the studio and on ice with Dancing Chaplin film star Luigi Bonino to capture the actions and behavior of the legendary silent screen comic. The spin, lifts, and twizzles received level 4; the footwork was level 3. The free dance scored 108.42. The total for both programs was 180.42.

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker danced to Franz Liszt’s “Lieberstraum (Dreams of Love” and moved into fourth place. Their musical interpretation left the audience in awe and demanded a standing ovation. Each choreographed movement was executed with precision and purpose that created a seamless and mesmerizing performance by the young couple. The 104.34 free skate and 169.75 total were personal best scores.

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) slipped to fifth (169.62), followed by Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac (FRA) in sixth (149.99).

Virtue & Moir and Papadakis & Cizeron qualified for the ISU GPF.

GRAND PRIX FINAL

  • Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (CAN)
  • Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA)
  • Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
  • Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
  • Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)
  • Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA)