A Dramatic Free Dance at Autumn Classic International

by Jacquelyn Thayer

With several close marks in the short dance at Skate Canada’s Autumn Classic International, the free dance provided an opportunity for some movement across the top. Technical upset would once more shape the day’s major outcomes.

France’s Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron maintained their lead through a solid free dance performance, establishing new ISU personal bests of 90.46 in the segment and overall total of 150.20 and achieving their second senior international victory after gold at 2013’s Cup of Nice. The skate was a particular success on the technical end, with the duo receiving Level 4s on most elements and Level 3s on each step sequence, though a late curve lift picked up only a Level 2 while the team also received two extended lift deductions.

“It was good,” said Papadakis. “Some mistakes as well—lifts felt a little shaky—but it was great. Less good than in France two weeks ago, but we need to work on some things.”

“It’s good,” agreed Cizeron of the victory. “It makes us a little more confident for the rest of the season.”

The program, an elegant piece set to selections from Mozart, is a departure from the team’s rock and modern-scored free dances of recent years, and was especially well-received in its debut outing at early October’s French Masters event.

“We used to push ourselves a lot, so this year it’s like something else, but for us it’s a bit easier—it’s more relaxed, more in control,” said Cizeron.

Papadakis & Cizeron next compete in two weeks at Cup of China.

Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier moved up from fourth to a silver medal finish with a total 142.52 and free dance score of 89.10, which once again received the segment’s highest PCS of 46.20, 0.3 ahead of Papadakis & Cizeron’s mark. The skate offered a mixed bag technically, with Level 4s coming only on their three lifts and both step sequences earning a Level 2, though their midline was given a +2.20 GOE, the event’s highest for any element.

“Now that we have this competition under our belts, it’s a really nice confidence boost going into the Grand Prix season, and we know what to expect, we know how it’s going to feel with the added pressure of being at an international where results really matter,” said Poirier.

Their program to selections including the overtures to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and A Streetcar Named Desire, along with pieces by jazz soloist Sidney Bechet, is a more musically traditional approach for a team whose prior free dances have opted for more unusual themes.

“We just wanted to be able to incorporate emotions during our elements,” said Gilles. “I think before, we just kind of did the hard elements; we didn’t really have any connection between the two of us during them. So I think we’ve really upped our game a little bit.”

The team will begin their Grand Prix series at Skate Canada International in two weeks.

Denmark’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen made a leap from fifth place to bronze with new ISU bests of 131.62 overall and score of 78.28 on their lyrical free dance, set to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “The Summer Knows.” The result built on a series of achievements begun last season, when the team picked up medals at multiple international B events, including a gold at 2013 Pavel Roman Memorial.  

“We are happy because yesterday we felt that we didn’t do as much as we could,” said Fournier Beaudry. “We got a little bit stiff in our skates and not as fluid as we could, so we tried to push a little bit more today.”

The couple’s success also reflected a strong outing here for the students of the Montreal school of Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer, with three of its four entrants finishing within the top five.

“It’s a very friendly environment, and I almost feel bad beating [Sara Hurtado & Adrià Diaz],” said Sorensen. “We want the best for each other and it’s so nice to be surrounded by people that just encourage each other. And competition is competition so we understand that aspect too without getting angry or nasty.”

Next up for the team is a return to November’s Ice Challenge, where last year they earned silver.

After a second-place short dance, Barrie natives Alexandra Paul & Mitch Islam fell to fourth in a technically troubled free dance of 75.40 points that saw the team miss the initial entrance to their spin—negating that element and its potential 5.60 base value points—and receive low footwork levels, including a Level 1 on their midline step sequence after an early stumble from Islam. An extended lift deduction moved the couple less than one point out of podium position for a total of 130.70. Despite the woes, the jazzy program, set to Frank Sinatra and Gloria Estefan’s “Come Rain or Come Shine” and Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” and choreographed by Dubreuil & Lauzon, picked up the event’s third-highest PCS of 41.70. Paul & Islam compete next at Cup of China.

Sara Hurtado & Adrià Diaz also saw a change in fortunes with a free dance—an abstracted romance featuring spoken word layered over selections from the film Atonement and Cirque du Soleil’s Zhumanity—that scored 75.24, dropping them to fifth with a total of 129.36. The Spanish duo also took a hit on the technical end, with a minor wobbles resulting in a Level 1 on their own midline step sequence and a Level 1 also coming on the team’s twizzles. A solid opening rotational lift and straight-line lift, however, each netted a Level 4 and all elements earned positive GOEs. The team appears next at Skate Canada International. 

Though earning a fourth-place finish in the free dance with a score of 77.20 for their Titanic program, Canadians Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams remained in sixth overall with a total 125.10. The team picked up low levels on a few key elements, including another Level 2 on the twizzles, as well as a Level 2 spin. Their performance, however, showed improvements from last month’s outing at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, with their straight-line lift, evocative of one iconic film moment, receiving a Level 4 with a positive GOE of 1.20. Orford & Williams now face a quick turnaround, competing next at this week’s Skate America.

The remaining top ten saw some further shake-up. With a free dance score of 69.00, Americans Anastasia Olson & Ian Lorello finished eighth in the segment but retained their seventh-place spot overall with a total of 116.48. After Lorello took a hard fall during the warm-up, their skate was marked by a few difficulties, particularly on a late Level 2 straight-line lift. And in spite of a few glitches in the twizzles and midline step sequence, Canadians Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant made a big move with an otherwise smooth seventh-place free dance of 69.56, with a total of 111.46 placing them in eighth overall.  

Great Britain’s Carter Marie Jones & Richard Sharpe moved into the top ten with a free dance score of 66.14 and total of 105.94, both new personal bests. Tenth place went to Cortney Mansour & Michal Ceska of the Czech Republic, who picked up a free dance score of 62.20 and overall score of 105.62, improvements on their marks from September’s Nebelhorn Trophy.

Finally, Spain’s Celia Robledo & Luis Fenero, the event’s fourth entries from the Montreal school, broke into the top ten in the segment, finishing ninth in the free dance with a new personal best of 67.46. Americans Alissandra Aronow & Collin Brubaker fell out of the top ten with a tumble for Brubaker on the twizzles, finishing twelfth overall with a score of 103.56 and 61.08 in the segment.

Archived video from the competition is available at http://www.dailymotion.com/skatecanada. The next event in the ISU Challenger Series is the Volvo Open Cup in Riga, Latvia, in early November.