Welcome back for Week #2 of Northern Lights!  I have a lot to cover and I can’t think of a witty introduction, so I’m just going to dive right in.

Volvo Cup: Results (link)
Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant finished sixth at the first Junior Grand Prix event in Riga, Latvia. They were sixth in both dances, and their total score was 108.03. The short dance (video) scored 43.61. Program components were quite good, even ranging up to a 7.50 from one judge, but the technical mark hurt their score. Almost at the end of the program, it looked like Andréanne caught a rut and took a weird tumble, but since it was not on an element, the deduction was not too costly. The main issues with the technical mark came from their midline, called level one, and their straightline lift, called level two. They had some small slips and trips in the midline that took the level down, but the lift is more puzzling. It is a lift that several teams do—the guy is in a spread eagle, while the girl is in the splits and bends into a layback—that usually earns level four. Hopefully, they were able to find out what was wrong with the one in the short dance. Overall, I thought that the performance was good, especially the Cha Cha Congelado. If not for the mistakes, I think that they would have placed much closer to the top three or four.

In the free dance (video), Andréanne & Marc-André skated pretty well and scored 64.42, but were unable to make up ground on the leaders, mostly due to levels on their elements. Their opening curve lift was only a level two, as was their combination spin, and their diagonal footwork late in the program was only a level one. The most visible mistake came in the twizzles—Andréanne started to lose her balance, on the first twizzle, dropped a rotation, but managed to hang on and stay on one foot to transition into the second twizzle on time with Marc-André. I really admire that fight! Overall, I felt an intensity in this program. I think that the music calls for intensity, so they are on the right track, but right now, it’s still a little bit of concentration-intensity, instead of sharply-focused, passion-intensity. They are on the way, though. This is the type of program that will not peak too early, and I think it is going to keep getting better and better. Andréanne & Marc-André are really paying attention to the music and using it to highlight the program’s exquisite details. With a bit more time, I think that they will be able to feel the music and the highlights will come naturally, so that they can perform with more passion and attack. Overall, a solid first JGP, and I look forward to seeing how they will fare at their next event, the Brasov Cup in Romania.

Speaking of Seeing…
How fantastic is it that the ISU has leapt into the new millennium and is now uploading videos of the JGP to YouTube?! In case you missed it, videos are being uploaded to a new ISU JGP channel and they are appearing just a few minutes shy of “live” during the events. What a treat that I don’t have to sit at home with my fingers crossed, hoping that some fan would smuggle a video camera into the event. Even when that happened, in past years, it always seemed like the videographer was more interested in the jumping beans than the dancers, and we were lucky to see the dance medalists. But now we get all of them! Thanks, ISU!

Canadians Down UnderOrford & WilliamsThis weekend, the JGP heads to Brisbane, Australia! What an exciting opportunity for all of the competitors. Last year, when a JGP in Australia was announced, I immediately looked up the price of flights. Then I immediately realized that 2011 would probably not be the year that I would visit Australia. So I am a little jealous, but excited for everyone that was selected to go. Hug a koala for me, and eat a Top Deck chocolate bar. Bonus points if you bring back one for me. (This goes for a koala or for Top Deck.)

Anyway, back to ice dance. The Canadian entry for Brisbane is Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams (pictured, right), last year’s Canadian junior champions. I was boardside to see them compete at Minto Summer Skate and was thrilled by what I saw. Last year was a dream year for them, but since they had to hit the ground running to get their season started, I sometimes felt like they were racing through their programs, too. I don’t want to take away from what they accomplished, or imply that I didn’t love watching them last season, but I am enjoying watching their development. This year, they have had more time to work on their elements and put together programs in the off-season, so everything seems a bit more thoughtful and polished to me. This is especially true in their free dance to music from Gone with the Wind. I spent many a tearful slumber party watching GWTW when I was in grade six (I’m not sure why, but it was definitely my favorite movie that year), and I’ve often wondered what a free dance to that music would look like. No more wondering! And while their short dance is obviously a completely different style, Nicole & Thomas are rocking that one, too. If you’re too impatient to wait for them to skate on Friday, you can watch their short from BC Summer Skate.

Nicole & Thomas’ main competition in Australia will come from Americans Lauri Bonacorsi & Travis Mager and Russians Valeria Zenkova & Valerie Sinitsin. All three teams have won bronze medals on the JGP (Bonacorsi & Mager have won two), and Nicole & Thomas have the highest ISU personal best score of the three.

One other Canadian will be competing in the dance event. Sara Aghai, who competed on the junior level with Qwynn Dalmer last year, is now skating for Finland with Jussiville Partanen. Sara & Jussi and Nicole & Thomas all train in Burnaby, B.C., with Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe, so I also got to see Sara & Jussi at Minto. I think they look great together, and their sassy programs are a lot of fun.

Harvey & GagnonMore JGP Assignments
The ISU released the roster for the sixth JGP event, the Trofeo W. Lombardi in Milan. Canada picked up another extra spot for this one, so Noa Bruser & Timothy Lum and Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa are tentatively listed for it. As with all of the later assignments, the rosters are “provisional,” depending on the results next week in Poland, where both teams will compete. The alternates are Caelen Dalmer & Shane Firus, Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Yoan Breton, and Élisabeth Paradis & François-Xavier Ouellette, none of whom have an assignment yet.

Skate Canada Roster Filled In
Last Friday, the ISU published new rosters for the Grand Prix events, with most host picks filled in. Today, a Skate Canada press release confirmed the assignment for Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon (pictured, left). Tarrah & Keith will also skate at Nebelhorn Trophy in a few weeks, their second consecutive year at that event. With three summer events (Lake Placid, Minto, and BC Summer Skate), they are definitely keeping busy this fall, and I think that this is a great strategy for them. By the time Skate Canada rolls around, their programs should feel extremely comfortable and since they excel at performing, they should be able get the crowd behind them in Mississauga. Tarrah & Keith competed on the JGP in 2007 and 2008, but Skate Canada will be their first Grand Prix appearance on the senior level.

Thanks for reading, Canadian dance fans! If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, you can direct them to [email protected]