Welcome back to your regularly-scheduled Tuesday Northern Lights update. Work is behaving much better this week (knock on wood), so I’m back on time, and there’s plenty going on in the world of Canadian dance. In this post, I’ve got previews for Nebelhorn and Brasov Cup, recaps from Baltic Cup and Autumn Skate, and wedding news.

Kharis & AsherTo the Town where Cows Roam the Streets
This week marks the beginning of the senior international season with Nebelhorn Trophy, favourite of results-refreshing, nerdy-skating-fan types across the globe. Team Canada will be represented by national team members Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill and Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon. Both teams have a Grand Prix assignment this fall—Kharis & Asher were selected for Skate America, and after a strong summer season, Tarrah & Keith were given the host pick at Skate Canada.

Kharis & Asher (pictured, right) were fourth at the Canadian Championships last season, which was also their first year competing on the senior level internationally. The past national champions (2006-2008 in pre-novice, novice, and junior) have struggled a bit in summer competitions this year. At the debut of their free dance at Minto, they were hit with three level 1s and had to abort a lift, leaving them in third. Beyond the mistakes, though, their tango free dance had great highlights and I felt like it just wasn’t quite ready yet. At Thornhill, Kharis & Asher competed in the short dance and won the event, but their lift was called as two separate lifts, resulting in no points. Hopefully, they got all the kinks out at the early events, benefitted from the feedback that they received, and will skate two solid programs in Oberstdorf.

Tarrah & Keith competed at Nebelhorn last year, finishing ninth, and are definitely on track to improve. They made the national team this year and have already had a busy season, competing at Lake Placid and Minto (four days, four dances, one international border) and BC Summer Skate. They are the only national team members that have competed a full competition so far, but it’s still nice to say that they currently have the season’s highest combined score for Canadian seniors—132.61, earned at BC Summer Skate. Speaking of scores, in order to compete on the Grand Prix this year, all dance teams must meet a minimum score of 111.15. Tarrah & Keith must earn that score at Nebelhorn in order to keep their Skate Canada assignment, but it should not be a problem. They have been skating so well this season already.

Both Asher and Tarrah have Twitter (Asher’s is a new account), so if you want to keep up with their adventures, give them a follow: @AsherHill and @TarrahHarvey.

Romania, Romania
This week, the Junior Grand Prix continues with Brasov Cup in Brasov, Romania. For the second week in a row, Canada is sending two teams to compete.

Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen are the 2011 Canadian bronze medalists and the 2011 Canada Winter Games silver medalists at the novice level. They earned their first JGP assignment after winning a bronze medal in the free dance at Minto, and then they went on to win both dances at Thornhill three weeks later. I enjoy watching Mackenzie & Garrett because they both seem like great people and I know that they are classy competitors. I especially am enjoying watching them this year because their free dance is to music from South Pacific. True story, South Pacific has been a minor obsession of mine since I first saw a high school production of it when I was six. I think I might have squeaked a little when the music started at Minto. I’ve always wanted someone to skate to it. All of that being said, I think that they have a great shot at having a strong debut. The field in Brasov has a couple of top competitors, but beyond those teams, the door is open for someone to step up and shine.

Laurence & YoanLaurence Fournier-Beaudry & Yoan Breton (pictured, left) are the second Canadian team assigned to Romania. They only heard about this assignment a couple of weeks ago, so they haven’t had as much time to be excited about their JGP debut. Last year, Laurence & Yoan were sixth on the junior level at Canadians, but the month before, they were the surprise silver medalists at Challenge. After winning the short dance at Challenge, people were asking why this team hadn’t been given a JGP last season. I’d been impressed with them early last season and hated seeing spots go unused, because I thought they deserved a shot. This year, they have had some ups and downs on the summer circuit, so I’m relieved to see them finally get their first international. I think that they have definitely earned it. Their short dance is a little quirky and it stars a giant feather in Laurence’s hair, but I think it is the free dance that really captures who they are as performers. The music is “Be Italian” and the dance is passionate, intense, and character-driven all the way through.

Fun fact: both Mackenzie & Garrett and Laurence & Yoan were among the teams that attended the ISU ice dance training camp this spring in Oberstdorf, Germany. And bonus point to anyone who gets the reference in the title of this section.

Last Week Abroad

Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa and Noa Bruser & Timothy Lum both had great outings at Baltic Cup last week in Gdansk, Poland, placing fifth and sixth.

The Hasegawas scored 118.45 overall and earned all new ISU personal bests. Their fifth-place ranking is a big jump up from their tenth-place finish on the JGP last year. They skated very well in both dances, but were hit with a couple of low levels on lifts at the end of the free dance that may have cost them a place or two. The technical side of their short dance was really strong, with level 4 and level 3 on the pattern segments, level 3 on the footwork, and the second-highest TES in the competition. Their score of 50.69 ranked them fifth in the short. As is often the case after a strong short from a lesser-known team, their PCS rose a notch in the free. I like their Black Swan free dance better than I did at its first outing—I really like the ballet look on them—but I wonder if the theme will hurt them because it’s such a popular choice this year. I hope not, because they are lovely skaters. Victoria, especially, is so suited to wear a tutu, and I can tell how hard that Connor has worked on his presentation. I used to have such a hard time finding photos where he wasn’t looking down, but even on the small Youtube video, I felt like I was connecting with his eyes a lot more often. With 67.76 points, they were sixth in the free.

Noa & Tim had the reverse experience of Victoria & Connor, with a stronger free dance than short dance. Their eighth-place short dance scored 44.89 and their levels were decent, but not as well as I think they can do, and the dance seemed rushed to me overall. I’ve seen them skate it better this season, so I’m wondering if it wasn’t just a case of nerves in their first JGP. I’d wondered before if Noa’s dress covered enough skin for the strict ISU rules, and I’m guessing that it does not, because they received a costume deduction in the short. Okay, enough about the short. Let’s talk about the 70.67-point free dance. I have read some rumblings from fans who wonder if the novice teams from last year were overhyped and wouldn’t do very well this year internationally. Clearly this is not the case! I thought the top novices already looked like juniors last year, so I was fully expecting Noa & Tim to do well in their first JGP. Even I was not expecting a second-place free dance, though! Incredibly well-skated, and they still have room to improve. Some of their new lifts are still a little sticky on the transitions and they had a weird hesitation in their final optional lift that took me out of the program a bit, but what a great way to debut on the international scene. If you don’t have time to watch anything else, be sure to watch their diagonal footwork that blazes down the ice in the final minute of their program. But seriously, you should probably watch the whole thing.

Last Week at Home

Domestic competitions continued last week with Autumn Skate, run by the Eastern Ontario section in Ottawa. I’ve been a part of the official photography at the last two Autumn Skates, so the event is close to my heart and I’m sorry that I wasn’t there this year. In my last blog, I pointed out Sarah Arnold & Justin Trojek and Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Yoan Breton as notable entries. Well, they both withdrew. I should have guessed that Laurence & Yoan wouldn’t skate in Ottawa, as they had to be on a plane to Romania on Monday, but I haven’t heard why Sarah & Justin withdrew.

The dances here are contested separately, so six medals were awarded at each level. On the senior level, Hélène Létourneau & Kevin Boczar won both golds with a combined score of 115.52. EOS didn’t publish score breakdowns or protocols, so I’m only going on the mark, but it sounds like it was a fantastic event for Hélène & Kevin and I wish I’d been there! The remaining four medals were split between three different teams: Audrey Dupont & Marcus Connolly (SD silver), Mélissande Dumas & David MacKay-Perry (FD silver), and Anoushka Ritchie-Hervieux & Philippe Massé (both bronzes). Dumas & MacKay-Perry, in particular, showed huge progress in their free dance, beating their previous score by almost eight points.

At the junior level, Carolane Soucisse & Benjamin Smyth won both golds, accumulating a combined score of 109.36, their highest of the season so far. Josyane Cholette & Simon Proulx-Sénécal followed close behind them, with silvers in both dances and a combined score of 106.00. The bronzes were divided between two teams—Catherine Culhane & Simon Mondor took bronze in the short and Mariève Cyr & Benjamin Brisebois won bronze in the free.

The top three novices remained the same in both segments of the competition, but the order shuffled. Samantha Glavine & Jeff Hough won the pattern dances and took bronze in the free; Jade Robitaille & Dominic Barthe won the free dance and took silver in the patterns; and Audrey Croteau-Villeneuve & Simon Longtin-Martel were second in the free and third in the pattern dances. Sam & Jeff scored almost the same as they did at Thornhill overall, but both Jade & Dominic and Audrey & Simon beat their previous scores by four to five points.

At the pre-novice level, Valérie Taillefer & Jason Chan won the pattern dances and took silver in the free dance. I don’t have any prior competition for them in my records, so I’m wondering if they accomplished this in their competitive debut. Either way, well done! Alexia Nadaï-Plante & Philippe Granger were only fifth in the pattern dances, but came back to win the free. Abigail Seewald & Jared Fell traveled to this event from Alberta and took home a pair of bronze medals. Kirsten McDougall & Scott Voldeng of Saskatchewan won the silver medal in the pattern dances.

I posted the complete scores here on IDC earlier today, so you can read them all on the same page.

Wedding Bells!

World champion and ten-time Canadian champion Shae-Lynn Bourne married Bohdan Turok on Saturday, September 17, 2011. She has posted a couple of lovely photos on her Facebook page. Best wishes for the couple!

This Week

Along with Nebelhorn Trophy and Brasov Cup, Canadian dancers will compete at Isabella Henderson Memorial in Hamilton, Ontario. The roster is a fairly small one, but dance events will be contested at all levels except junior. Canadian bronze medalists Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam are scheduled to make their season debut here, at least as of right now.

A competition of a different sort will also begin this week. Season Three of CBC’s Battle of the Blades will begin on Sunday. BOTB has become one of my favourite fall traditions. I think that the show is put together so well, and there’s a wonderful energy on-set. I’ll be in Toronto this weekend and am looking forward to attending the opening show, so I’ll be back next week with photos and impressions.

That’s it for this week of Northern Lights. Comments, suggestions, or feedback? Talk to me at [email protected]