Hello and welcome to the Ice Dance Observer. If this is your first visit, the Observer recaps events from the previous week as well as previewing upcoming competitions. It is typically posted on Tuesday of each week.   

We’ve posted the Observer a day early this week. Four Continents is getting started with the short dance on Wednesday morning, which is Tuesday evening in the U.S., so Team IDC has put the Observer together with one less day of prep time to meet this schedule.

Judging by what I’ve seen on social media and Icepartnersearch.com, there have been a number of Canadian junior partnership breakups. To those of you who are moving on to new off-ice adventures, thank you for sharing your gift with us and good luck in wherever your path takes you. To those of you who are paving a new on-ice path and are looking for a new partner, I’m hopeful that when the dust settles, there will be new teams ready to face the 2018-19 season. 

While some photos from the European Championships have been posted, we still have more on the way, so check back mid-week. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter (@icedancecom for both accounts) to be the first to see new photos.  

About a week ago, we added sidebar links to our fundraising accounts on a few of our pages. As you know, IDC has been the leading resource for ice dance information and news online since June 1999. When I started the website with Emma back in 1999, I had no idea that it would grow to be what it is today. Between 1999 and January 2018, our volunteer journalists and photographers have covered more than 375 events. We are hoping to improve our website hosting, which will allow IDC to continue to grow. When we meet our first fundraising goal, we will set a second goal that will allow us to make additional improvements to the website and continue to provide the best coverage of events possible.  

There are now two ways that you can financially help ice-dance.com:

Whether you are able to pledge or not, we appreciate your continued support and value you all as part of our ice-dance.com community. 

There are 17 days left until the 2018 Winter Olympics get underway in PyeongChang, South Korea. Doesn’t it feel like last week that we were all eagerly awaiting the start of the Olympics in Sochi? Time flies!  

Until next time,

Daphne & Team IDC

 

NEW ON IDC

EVENTS THIS WEEK

January 22-27
Four Continents Championships
Taipei City, Chinese Taipei

January 22-26
Russian Junior Nationals 
Saransk, Mordovia

January 23-28
Bavarian Open
Obertsorf, Germany

EUROPEANS RECAP:  FRENCH DANCE AWAY WITH FOURTH STRAIGHT TITLE

by Anne Calder 

The ISU 2018 European Championships were held at the Megasport Arena in Moscow, Russia, from January 15-21. Thirty ice dance teams from 22 countries competed in the Short Dance. Twenty teams qualified for the free dance. Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis of Germany withdrew due to illness prior to the start of the event.

Short Dance

The short dance results were led by Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA), Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS), Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA), and Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS). Less than one point separated the second-, third-, and fourth-place teams.

Papadakis & Cizeron jumped out to a nearly six-point lead with a dance choreographed by Christopher Dean.

“He also suggested we use Ed Sheeran’s music,” Papadakis explained. “We liked it, because we wanted to do something more young, more urban, more modern, more like us. We started playing with the music, and we’re having fun dancing to it.”

Their pattern, pattern step sequence, and stationary lift were level 4; the twizzle—with a minor glitch—and not-touching footwork were level 3. The two-time World Champions were awarded all + 2 and +3 GOEs. Their PCS included twelve perfect 10.00 marks. The segment scored 81.29.

When asked about their performance, Papadakis confessed, “We had a little tiny mistake on the twizzle. It’s the kind of thing that never happens – but it did.”

Cizeron discussed the difficulty of incorporating the rhumba pattern into the short dance.

“It’s a hard element to perform,” he said. “It requires a lot of skills to integrate it as part of the whole program. It’s very short – maybe 15 seconds. I think it works well with the whole concept of our program.”

Stepanova & Bukin closed the competition with an energetic dance that stirred the hometown audience to a standing ovation and thunderous applause.

“I want to thank the audience for this incredible reception,” Bukin said.  “We never had that, and it really gave us energy.”

“We felt like there were a million spectators, especially for the step sequence at the end (when) the audience exploded,” Stepanova added.

The 2015 European bronze medalists earned level 4 for their twizzles with included a unique entrance, their lift, and the rhumba pattern; both step sequences were level 3. They scored a personal best of 75.38.

“It felt like everything went well. Our coaches said it was the best performance of the season,” Stepanova said.

In the kiss and cry when the scores were announced, their different facial expressions were humorous. Bukin was very excited, almost giddy, while Stepanova was unemotional and fairly stoic.

Cappellini & Lanotte were .62 behind the Russians with a 74.76 segment score. They earned level 4 twizzles and lift; the pattern and step sequences were level 3.

The 2014 European Champions were not happy with their presentation.

“We tried to give it lots of energy, but it felt rough, and I think that is what the judges saw,” Lanotte said.

“It is not the best score; we are a bit disappointed,” Cappellini added.  “This was supposed to be a stepping stone, an increase in our short program score, and it wasn’t.”

Bobrova & Soloviev were fourth and less than a half point behind the Italians. The 2013 European champions’ twizzles and lift earned level 4; the pattern and footwork were level 3. They were pleased with their dance.

“Technically and emotionally it was strong and our coaches were happy, which is important,” Soloviev said.  “Maybe we were holding back a little, were a bit careful. Tomorrow we will skate more freely.”

Free Dance

Papadakis & Cizeron won the free dance by over nine points – then set two new records for the highest-ever segment (121.87) and total (203.16) scores. All in a day’s work for the French duo!

The newly-crowned Grand Prix Final champions unleashed their intricate choreography and captured every complex essence of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Their seamless fluidity created a graceful image of oneness floating across the ice. The riveting performance drew deafening applause.

The midline step sequence was level 3; the rest of the elements were level 4. Their performance, composition, and music/timing interpretation component scores were awarded 26 out of 27 perfect 10.00’s.

“The European Championships were an important step for us and a good opportunity to test the little adjustments we’ve made to our program,” Cizeron said. “The Olympic Games will come up very soon now, and we’re really excited.”

Bobrova & Soloviev vaulted over the Italians and their domestic rivals to capture the silver medal. They used “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla and “Beethoven’s Five Secrets” by The Piano Guys to tell the story of a blind girl searching for love, which turns out to be a dream. The team likes to create a storyline for the audience to better understand the dance movements. The crowd responded enthusiastically.

“We are happy to be skating in Moscow,” Soloviev said. “There was a very warm welcome so we want to say thank you. We could feel the support the whole way through the program.”

The Russian national champions earned level 3 for the footwork sequences and level 4 for the other elements.

Their free dance score of 109.48 and total of 184.86 were personal best scores.

“Our second lift today was not as good as it can be,” Bobrova said.  “Yes, we achieved a personal best, but we still want the mark to be higher.”

Stepanova & Bukin dropped a spot, but received their second European bronze medal. The couple skated to a medley with an unusual intertwining of a lyric and instrumental interpretation of “Love’s Dream” by Rick Wakeman and “Liebestraum” by Franz Lizst.

Their elements earned three different levels. The spin, twizzles, curve and rotational lifts were level 4; the straight-line lift and circular footwork were level 3; and the diagonal footwork was level 2.

“We have just looked at our marks; our first lift got a level 3,” Stepanova said.  “We’re not sure why. They should all be a level 4, so it is quite strange.”

“Today was not our best, but it was good,” Bukin added.  “This is not just a local competition—it is the European Championships! So to be in the top three is very cool. Today there was such a fantastic atmosphere, we couldn’t wait to go on the ice.”

Cappellini & Lanotte’s Life is Beautiful was fifth in the segment, but they managed fourth place overall. The Italians missed the podium this year after five straight appearances beginning in 2013. Their lifts and combination spin earned level 4 and both step sequences were level 3, but a mishap on the third twizzle dropped it to level 2. The segment score was 105.89; the total was 180.65.

“Unfortunately, it was definitely the worst competition of the season,” Cappellini said.  “We made a mistake on the twizzles at the beginning of the program, which doesn’t help concentration for the rest of it. And we had a deduction for what, we don’t know.”  

“Now we focus on the Olympics, so we’re going to go home and review what we’ve done. Sometimes the tough competitions teach you the most.”

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA) were fourth in the free dance (106.17) and fifth (177.75) overall.

“It was really good, but maybe not our best. At the end we were a bit tired,” Fabbri said.

Tiffany Zahorski & Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) were sixth in their European Championships debut. They earned 103.10 points for the free dance and scored 168.45 total.

“If I can say so, it was our best free skate of the season,” Zagorski said.  “I can’t stop smiling. It was so great. We skated strongly right to the end.”

In Their Own Words

Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (DEN):  Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen finished 13th at the 2017 World Championships and qualified one ice dance entry for Denmark at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games. Unfortunately, Fournier Beaudry is not a Danish citizen and the team trains in Montréal, Canada – not Denmark. Since there is no other Danish team to compete, the slot was returned. At the 2018 European Championships, Sorensen spoke about the situation.

“The whole thing is raising questions about our future,” Sorensen said. “We were focused on going to the Olympics in 2022, but now we’re taking it year by year. We can’t go as long as we don’t live in Denmark. The government has to stay fair to everybody, so there are no exceptions. But for now we will work hard for the World Championships.

Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (GBR):  In 2016, Penny Coomes fell during a practice lift and smashed her kneecap into eight pieces. Many said it was a career-ending injury. Fifteen months later, the team qualified at Nebelhorn Trophy for an Olympic spot.  Coomes & Buckland finished seventh at the 2018 European Championships.

Coomes: “It’s very frustrating when you make a comeback from injury, and you want to come back with a vengeance, and it doesn’t work out. There are certain things I can’t do now. I can’t bend the leg all the way, so I can’t do dips all the way down. Instead of doing some things on the right leg I have to do them on the left. I have to take care of my knee every day, and if I don’t, I’m in trouble. I couldn’t skate for a week before we came here because I strained it too much in training.”

Buckland: “We changed our Free Dance after Nationals, and now we’re feeling it much more and the audience relates to it more. We want to go the Olympics with two of our strongest programs, so we went back to our “Butterflies and Hurricanes” program. We completely changed the second part. We went to Christopher Dean for choreography. Now we’ll change another couple of things before the Olympics.”

Alisa Agafonova & Alper Ucar (TUR):  Agafonova & Ucar became partners in 2010 and competed at their first Europeans in 2012. Two years later, they qualified Turkey for its first Olympic ice dance appearance. They will compete at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The team spoke to the press in Moscow.

“This is our last Europeans, and we want to do well. We will retire after Worlds. It will be very emotional for us. Turkey will continue to be in ice dance. They will have an example in front of them, which we didn’t, because we were the first.”

 

PREVIEW: FOUR CONTINENTS CHAMPIONSHIPS

by Laura Flagg | Photo by Daphne Backman

The last major competition before the Olympics, the Four Continents Championship, takes place this week in Taipei City, Taipei. Fourteen teams from six different countries will be competing in the ice dance competition. Neither the United States nor Canada has entered any of its Olympic athletes, due to the lengthy travel required and the short turnaround before the PyeongChang Games.

The teams with the highest scores this season are the three American teams. Among them, Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker had a solid Grand Prix series before having the best performances of their career at the U.S. Championships, where they placed fourth. Their stunning and ethereal free dance performance set to “Liebestraum” was one of the highlights of the competition. Even if they could not match that skate, Hawayek & Baker are the heavy favorites. They are coached by Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova.

Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed (JPN)

Both Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons and Lorainne McNamara & Quinn Carpenter are in their first season as seniors after winning everything at the junior level, although in different seasons. The Parsons, who are the reigning world junior champions, started the season well, aided by their strong basic skating, but struggled at their Grand Prix events. While they rebounded at Nationals, they are still looking for consistency at this level. Their coaches are Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak, and Dmitri Ilin.

Ironically, after struggling in their final season in juniors, McNamara & Carpenter have had the more seamless transition to senior. They started slower at their first Challenger events, but hit their stride during the Grand Prix series. Although they placed behind the Parsons at Nationals, the margin was quite slim and they were ranked ahead in the free dance. Both programs, including their tango free dance, show off their unique style that makes them stand out even in seniors. They have the same coaching team as the Parsons.

While an American sweep is not out of the question, the U.S. teams will face tough competition. Their top challengers are likely to be the Japanese team of Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed. They had a tough end to their season last year as they did not qualify for the free dance at Worlds, but have rebounded this year. Their best showing was at Nebelhorn Trophy, where they secured a spot for the Olympics. They are coached by Marina Zoueva, and their free dance is set to music by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Among the other teams challenging for a medal are Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus of Canada, Yura Min & Alexander Gamelin of South Korea, and Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu of China. In only their second season together, Soucisse & Firus have made solid progress, finishing fourth both years at the Canadian Championships. Coached by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, their free dance to duets by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga shows off their best qualities, including their on-ice personalities.

Wang & Liu have been skating together since 2009. Their strong performance at Worlds last season earned them a 16th-place finish, which was their personal best finish, along with a spot at the Olympics for China. They are coached by Huang Guiyu. Their free dance is to music by Mika and shows off their excellent sense of timing.

Min & Gamelin will be representing Korea and are in their third season together. They, too, qualified a spot for the Olympics via Nebelhorn Trophy. Gamelin was awarded Korean citizenship late last year, so they will be able to take advantage of the spot that they earned. They are coached by Igor Shpilband and their free dance is to “Arirang,” performed by So Hyang, a Korean artist.

The short dance takes place in the morning of Wednesday the 24th, which translates to Tuesday evening for those in North America. The free dance is on Thursday.

 

Sofia Polishchuk & Sergey Vakhnov

PREVIEW: RUSSIAN JUNIOR NATIONALS

Photo by Robin Ritoss

This week, Russia’s best junior teams will head to Saransk, Mordovia, for the 2018 Russian Junior National Championships. Russia can send the maximum of three teams to the World Junior Championships in March and will have a tough decision based on the depth of this 15-couple field.    

The roster includes two teams that won medals at the 2018 JGP Final—Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin (gold) and Sofia Polishchuk & Sergey Vakhnov (bronze), as well as Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko and Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov, who qualified for the JGP Final and finished fourth and fifth, respectively. In addition, both Ksenia Konkina & Grigory Yakushev and Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Nikita Nazarov medaled during the Junior Grand Prix series and were first and second alternates, respectively, for the Final.

Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov, multiple JGP event medalists and JGP Final qualifiers in the previous season, have returned to the ice after an injury sustained last fall, but are not entered in this event.

The short dance will take place on Wednesday, January 24th at 8:15 PM (local time) and the free dance is on Friday at 12:00 PM (local time).