by Anne Calder | Photo by Daphne Backman

In the Fall, Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier won two Grand Prix bronze medals and earned prize money as the highest-ranking Challenge Series ice dance team. However, they have mixed emotions about the first half of the season.

Gilles & Poirier recently spoke on a pre-Nationals conference call. They addressed several issues including their goal to win the Canadian Championship, returning skaters, the difficult Tango Romantica and a few changes they made since the original dances were choreographed.

“The fall season was frustrating and challenging,” Poirier said. “We didn’t qualify for the Final, and that was extremely disappointing. It was something we wanted to do this year. However, we are pleased the scores we’re getting for our programs are in line with the top teams in the world. That’s the direction we want to be heading.”

The team closed out the 2018 fall season at the Golden Spin of Zagreb with a 30-point victory and season best scores.

“It gave us a little spring to our step and motivation going into Nationals,” Poirier said.

They are excited to have Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje compete in St. John. The 2018 Canadian bronze medalists bypassed the competitive first half of the season to perform on The Thank You Canada Tour.

“The higher the level of competition, the more exciting it is for everyone,” Poirier said. “One of our goals is to be 2019 Canadian National Champions. That doesn’t change if Kaitlyn and Andrew are there. They’re very strong competitors. We think we have the advantage by having competed throughout the fall and gotten feedback from international panels.”

Poirier shared his thoughts on the lower levels being achieved in the Tango Romantica pattern dance. It could be the number of steps in the TR key points.

“The two previous patterns (Rhumba and Midnight Blues) had key points with three or four steps long to get a YES or extra level,” Poirier explained. “The Tango Romantica has key points with twelve steps long to get the same call. The longer the key points, the more chances there are for something to be slightly off, and for the technical panel to take key points away.”

“Piper and I think getting YES/NO is not reflective of performing a dance well, skating it nicely and capturing the character and essence of the dance,” Poirier continued. “Those are more reflective of the GOE, and in the end, those are the things that are going to separate the teams.

Since the beginning of the season, the team made only a few changes to their programs. Prior to Golden Spin they removed the “up and down” movement in the second twizzle sequence in the rhythm dance. They made a few choreographic stylistic changes to the free dance.

“We took apart the (Vincent) program and focused on the details to make sure we are fully trained and ready for Nationals,” Gilles said. “The two of us are 100% ready to go.”