15SARecapMH5345by Anne Calder | Photo by Melanie Hoyt

Milwaukee, Wisconsin hosted the 2015 Progressive Skate America October 23-25. The city welcomed 56 skaters/couples from 12 ISU member countries. It was the first of six events in the Grand Prix Series. The top five Ice dance couples earned a share of the $45,000 (US) prize money. Grand Prix Final qualifying points were also awarded.          
October 23, 2015 – Day 1 – Short Dance

The Short Dance followed immediately after the Skate America Opening Ceremony. Eight ice dance teams from five countries competed.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) took first place with 70.56 points. The team debuted its two-week-old program choreographed to Andrea Bocelli’s “More” and Il Divo’s “Unchained Melody”. The new short dance expresses a ballroom rhythm unlike their previous “Dark Eyes” gypsy music.

“The main reason for the change was to emphasize the rhythm,” Bates said.  “We wanted to do the foxtrot because we think it’s a good rhythm for us, and it suits us well. We worked with our ballroom dance instructors, Steve and Susan McFerran, and they choreographed the foxtrot beginning to really give us the authentic feel for the program. In the long run of the season, our goal is to do well in Boston at Worlds, and we felt like this approach would take us there.“

On where they were with the program, Chock added, “It feels like July again, honestly. When we were making the program, we were like, ‘Is it summer? What’s going on?’ This was only our third run-through, so we have a long way to go with this program. I think it has a lot of potential to grow from where we are now, and we’re really excited about it.“

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) skated a waltz, march and polka to Swan Lake and were in second place. The 62.76 score was a personal best.  The couple teamed up in the spring of 2014 and trains in the US with Marina Zueva.

At the press conference, Katsalapov expressed his thoughts through a translator. “We are really excited. This is our first competition this season, so today was a good day.”

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN) were third with 61.33 points. At the press conference, the teammates explained the innovative program.

“The opening sequence is a Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which is from the Sargent Pepper album,” Poirier said.  “The costumes are what the Beatles are wearing on the album cover. The other pieces of music (are) from the 18th century. The Beatles’ piece has a harpsichord that’s giving the waltz speed, and it actually transports us to a trip back in the past. So the middle two pieces, the waltz and the march, are us imagining ourselves in the dream state from the 18th century.”

“When the program goes back into “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” that harpsichord takes us back to real life,” Gilles added. “Also, we are wearing the costumes of the only two living Beatles, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.”

October 24, 2015 – Day 2 – Free Programs

Madison Chock & Evan Bates defended their title with a season best 102.66 skated to Concerto No. 2 Adagio by Sergei Rachmaninov. The lifts, twizzles and spin were level 4 while the footwork earned levels 2 and 3.

“This free dance was a little bit of a fight for us tonight,” Chock said. “It makes it that much easier the next time we go to competition to know that we will always have that fighting spirit.”

In their fifth year as a team, Chock & Bates decided to take their programs in a different direction.

“We looked at this season more as a fresh start, a new way to re-invent ourselves and to push ourselves to places we haven’t been before and just see how much we could do with our skating,” Bates explained. ‘We have two great programs now that will help us with that. They are different for us, and it is something we’ll keep building upon.”

Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) won the silver medal with a free skate to “Io Ci Saro” performed by Andrea Bocelli featuring Lang Lang. The Michigan-trained team earned level 4 for five elements and level 3 for the footwork.

Last year in their first season together, they finished a disappointing fourth at Russian Nationals. Katsalapov explained what had changed since then.

“First of all we feel like a pair now. It might sound simple, but it is an important thing,” Katsalapov said.  “I know now how Vika (Victoria) thinks.  We know how the other one feels and moves. All these things that pairs have that have been skating together for a long time are coming now.  Secondly, Vika has developed her qualities as a person and as a skater. She has really made a lot of progress. I hope I help her with that, and I will continue to do so.  The most important thing is we also have prepared very well, and we are moving forward.”

Sinitsina & Katsalapov know the National title is very important because this year Russia can send only two teams to each of the ISU Championship events – Europeans and the World Championships.  Winning the silver medal at Skate America is a good start toward reaching their goal of that title.  The team next competes at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN) won the bronze medal with an interpretation of She Said, Neverland. The program earned level 4 for the lifts, spin and twizzles.

The team was happy with their performance but disappointed with their placement.

“We will definitely look at the judges comments and implement as much as possible before the Grand Prix in France,” noted Poirier.

At the press conference, Gilles explained the meaning of their program called Saudade, which is an untranslatable Portuguese word about longing for something you desire but cannot have.

“The music and choreography tells the introspective story of a longing for something you want in the other person,” Gilles said. It tells our story of learning to work together. In the end, we are as one.”

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA) used the moving and inspirational music from The Theory of Everything film soundtrack to earn a fourth place personal best 94.15 score. The team appeared drained after the emotional interpretation of the story of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawayek discussed their new approach to performing their programs.

“Something that we’ve worked on this year is not skating safely in the beginning to save energy,” Hawayek said.  “We want to give 100 percent from beginning to end. Of course that’s going to mean more energy expended, and that’s something that we’re training. (It’s) not only training, but  (we’re) trying to instill that in the competition as well,” 

Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus (USA) were fifth after a dramatic performance to three Beethoven selections and earned a personal best 90.75 score. The theme of the program is Beethoven’s struggle with his hearing loss and its affect on his music. McManus is the composer and Cannuscio is his music.