by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The second Grand Prix event, Skate Canada, has held in Mississauga, Ontario, from October 27-30.Ten teams who represented seven countries competed for prize money and qualifying points toward the Final in Marseilles, France December 8-11.

Short Dance Requirements:
Midnight blues rhythm: Pattern and Partial Step Sequence
Hip-hop/swing rhythm: Not Touching Midline, Circular, or Diagonal Step Sequence
Elements – either rhythm: Synchronized twizzles and Short Lift

Short Dance

The Hershey Centre was packed for the short dance. Fans adorned with maple leaf garb were anxious to support the home country skaters. The largest roar came when favorites Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir stepped on the ice fresh off a self-imposed two-year sabbatical.

The 2010 Olympic gold medalists earned a 77.23 for their short dance homage to Prince. They opened with the not touching midline footwork and the hip-hop rhythm to the familiar strains of “Kiss” before entering the mandatory blues pattern and partial step sequence. They ended with a level 4 set of twizzles and curve lift to the artist’s signature piece, “Purple Rain”.

Virtue & Moir were the only team who didn’t begin with the midnight blues rhythm. Virtue explained, “The overall construction of our program makes sense to begin with “Kiss”. It starts with a bit of a bang and sets the tone right away. It’s such a recognizable Prince song. We start with higher energy, then bring it down to the smoother, sexy blues, then end with more of a rock and roll feel with “Purple Rain because there’s nowhere else you can go from there.”

Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates began their Rohene Ward choreographed program with “Bad to the Bone” and earned a level 4 for both the curve lift and the blues pattern plus a level 3 partial step sequence. “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars) cut in at their twizzles and continued through the only level 4 midline not touching footwork earned in the first two GP events. Chock & Bates received the highest technical mark (40.61) and a personal best 76.21 program score.

The 2015 World bronze medalists were pleased with their performance and results.

“This is our third competition this season, which I think helped us to be really prepared,” Bates said.  “It was our best skate thus far. We executed our elements the way we wanted to, and I think our technical score reflected that.”

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN) danced midnight blues and partial step sequence to “Oh, What a Night for Dancing”. The partisan crowd came alive with the sounds of the “Disco Inferno” music for the not touching footwork and level 4 twizzles and rotational lift. The costumes captured the essence of the 70’s era – straight off a disco dance floor. The program earned a personal best 72.12.

Poirier commented on the strategy for the dance.

“Today was all about our performance and interacting with the audience. Over all, we are happy with the program.”

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA) rocked the arena with “Cry for Me, Boogie Woogie” and “Choo Choo Boogie”. Their opening twizzles, blues pattern and jaw-dropping straight-line lift earned level 4. The program scored 71.08 points for a fourth place finish.

The remaining teams placed as follows: (5) Russians Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin danced blues and hip-hop to “At Last” and “I Got Bills”. The program scored 68.12. (6) The American team of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA) earned a season best 65.01 with blues and hip-hop to Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good” and “How I Feel” by Flo Rida. (7) The Danish team, Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen, chose Elvis Presley’s “You’re the Boss” and “A Little Less Conversation” for blues and swing rhythms; they scored 62.63.

(8) Canadians Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam scored a season best 58.83 with “Big Spender” and “Sing, Sing, Sing” for blues and swing choreographed by their coach, Romain Haguenauer. (9) Cecilia Torn & Jussiville Partenen (FIN) danced blues and jive to “Fancy Man Blues” and “Dance Little Sister” by the Rolling Stones for a personal best 56.98 and (10) Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu (CHN) scored a personal best 57.86 for blues and swing.

Free Dance Alert – Dramatic Close Finish Ahead!

Only 1.02 points separated first and second place. Ironically Virtue & Moir and Chock & Bates first faced off at Skate Canada in 2011 also at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga. The Americans’ partnership was only six months old and the Canadians were the Olympic gold medalists. The score difference was 43.74 points with Virtue & Moir winning the event and Chock & Bates finishing fourth.

Free Dance

Virtue & Moir drew the eighth spot for the free dance. When the announcer finally called the short dance leaders’ names, the supportive audience erupted with thunderous applause.

Their program opened with a series of repetitious piano chords from “Pilgrims on a Long Journey” by Coeur de Pirate (Beatrice Martin). The music from the Child of Light video game soundtrack produced a tense and somber effect. The intensity changed to a lighter theme midway through the program with the introduction of Sam Smith’s vocal to “Latch”.

Unfortunately, Virtue’s stumble on her first twizzle caused a minor hiccup and a level 3, but the Canadians quickly picked up the flow of the program. They received level 4 for their combination spin plus the stationary and rotational lifts. The footwork and straight-line lift earned level 3. The 111.83 score was a season best.

“Our free dance wasn’t what we’ve been doing in practice, but it’s a stepping stone for us,” Moir said.  “Getting back on the ice with this pressure is something we have to learn to do again.”

The Montreal trained team had to wait for the final two skaters before their 189.06 points turned into the gold medal.

Virtue & Moir next compete November 25-27 at the NHK in Sapporo, Japan against their training partners and reigning World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA).

“We have to make sure we bring our ‘A’ game if we want to be in the same conversation with them and have it be a success for us,” confessed Moir.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates skated last and won the free dance with 112.03 points. Their combined total personal best 188.24 score fell short of first place by .82. They received the silver medal.

The Americans deviated from their classical and musical themes of the past and instead chose the hard-edged “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie.

Bates explained the transition from past program themes to the more edgy current selection.

“With the depth of ice dance, in order to stand out, you have to do something different. For us we were ready to do a departure from out natural style. We needed to find something new from what we were doing. That was the reason behind going a little outside the box.”

The program earned six level 4 marks, with the serpentine step sequence receiving level 3 and solid GOEs.

Chock & Bates head November 4-6 to the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow for back-to-back competitions.

Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier scored a personal best 110.45 for their “Con Buena Onda” Argentine Tango.

After leaving the ice, Gilles celebrated the standing ovation performance with a spontaneous ‘happy dance’ for her coaches and the cheering crowd.

The reigning Canadian silver medalists earned five level 4 marks; the footwork was level 3. The total 182.57 was also a personal best and secured the bronze medal.

At the press conference, Gilles expressed her thoughts.

“I think there are a lot of places where the program can grow, and that we can develop.”

Gilles & Poirier compete next at the Trophee de France in Paris, November 11-13.

Italians Anna Cappallini & Luca Lanotte danced an animated performance to a Charlie Chaplin medley for a 109.27 score. The lifts, twizzles, and combination spin earned level 4; the step sequences were levels 3 and 2. Both dances totaled 180.35 and the 2014 World Champions remained in fourth place. Cappallini & Lanotte next compete November 25-27 at the NHK in Sapporo, Japan.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS) scored 99.98 points to a medley by Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla and choreographed by Peter Tchernyshev. The 2015 European bronze medalists earned level 4 for the combination spin and lifts. The twizzles were level 3 and the footwork was level 2. The overall score was a fifth place 168.10 total.

Stepanova & Bukin next compete November 18-20 at Cup of China in Beijing.

The USA team of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker danced a light and lyrical performance to the Franz Liszt piano classic, Liebestraum and scored 97.18 points. The total was a personal best 162.19 score. Hawayek & Baker next compete November 25-27 at NHK in Sapporo, Japan

The remaining teams finished in the following order: (7) Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (DEN) 156.71; Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (CAN) 144.85; Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu (CHN) 144.16; and Cecilia Torn & Jussiville Partanen (FIN) 139.14.