by Melanie Hoyt
Americans Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt are motivated by a desire to stand out, to create something distinct and poignant. After reaching the podium for the first time at the senior level at the U.S. Championships by taking the pewter medal last January, this determined team is already striving to reach new heights this season.
“Now that we have established ourselves as one of those top teams,” Kriengkrairut said, “we want to keep challenging ourselves and keep up the skills necessary to be among that top echelon of skaters.”
“We want to keep the ball rolling,” Giulietti-Schmitt added, “and feed off of everything that happened at Nationals. We’re going to keep pushing ourselves to try to open up new opportunities.”
The duo, known for choosing music that involves the audience, wanted to create something unique for this year’s free dance, but kept returning to a familiar voice. After much consideration, they settled on “Turning Tables” and “Rumor Has It” by Adele, but not without some concern about reactions.
“We know that a lot of people have been over-saturated with Adele,” Kriengkrairut said, “but she’s such a moving singer and the stories in her songs are so powerful. We thought it was perfect for us to try to portray that on the ice.”
Last season, songs from Adele’s smash album, “21,” were a popular choice among skaters in galas and shows around the world, but the music did not enter the competitive arena at the elite level.
“I know that a lot of people are going to say, ‘Oh, Adele, not again,’ but nobody’s done a free dance that’s been judged to her music,” Kriengkrairut noted.
“We strive to be unique every year,” Giulietti-Schmitt said, “and we still feel like we’re in that realm with this program.”
The couple took their commitment to this program one step further, having just brought in contemporary dance choreographer Stacey Tookey to fine-tune the program with them. Tookey, known for her Emmy-nominated work on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance,” choreographed a stunning piece to “Turning Tables” last year.
“We were excited to have [Tookey’s] new ideas at the table, a fresh eye from the off-ice dance world,” Giulietti-Schmitt said.
The couple had never worked with an off-ice choreographer before, but the tactic is becoming more common each season, especially with experts who have gained notoriety on television dance shows.
This year, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje have worked with Allison Holker, also from “So You Think You Can Dance.” Several years ago, Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre worked with Louis Van Amstel and last season, the Detroit Skating Club’s teams turned to Anna Trebunskaya for help with their Latin short dances. Both Van Amstel and Trebunskaya appeared on the U.S. version of “Dancing with the Stars.”
Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt were cautiously worried about how the off-ice choreography would translate to the ice, but they ended up thrilled with their experience with Tookey. Challenged by the level of emotion that she elicited from them, they are looking forward to the next outing of their free dance, which will come at U.S. Figure Skating’s Champs Camp.
“We like getting a head start for the season,” Giulietti-Schmitt said. “We love being in Lake Placid because we get feedback even before Champs Camp. We want to get as much feedback as possible before we start our Grand Prix season.”
The duo placed a close second in the free dance group in Lake Placid, scoring 78.27. The high-70’s are well off the mark they want to be able to reach by the second half of the season, but the effort was a respectable first outing, especially for late July.
Their short dance did not go quite as well in Lake Placid, resulting in an off-podium finish in their group, but they were relieved to get the kinks out of the program early.
Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt’s short dance incorporates the required Yankee Polka steps into Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” as covered by Chris Isaak. The upbeat folk-style song blends well with “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” also a cover version by Isaak. Music choice has been a big part of how Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt have related to the short dance this year, as the Yankee Polka has always had a bit of a stigma associated with it.
“The traditional Yankee Polka compulsory music is pretty awful after a while,” Giuliett-Schmitt admitted. “We wanted something a little more familiar and a little more fun, something that the crowd can relate to better.”
“With all of the different polka themes, you can go a lot of different ways,” Kriengkrairut said. “Overall, I think it’s a very entertaining dance.”
The duo feels that they picked a winner, though—something that they enjoy and that will work for the audience, especially since their Grand Prix assignment is in the United States.
“Even if you’re not a big folk fan, you can’t dislike Johnny Cash,” Giulietti-Schmitt said.
Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt will attend Champs Camp in Colorado Springs next week.