by Anne Calder & Francesca | Photo by Francesca

The 2018 CS Autumn Classic International was held in Oakville, ON, Canada. The Challenger event debuted in 2014 with Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA), Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN), and Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nilolaj Sorensen (DEN) winning gold, silver, and bronze. Ironically, they are the only teams of the 14 at the inaugural event that are currently competitive partners.

The 2018 podium included Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (gold), representing Spain, Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz (silver) and a second Canadian team Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus (bronze).

Rhythm Dance

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje jumped out to a 9-point lead over the Spanish team with their rhythm dance. Weaver found the music – a piano piece that slowly turns into “Libertango”, featuring a Japanese violinist. They went for a slow-building, smoky tango, rather than an aggressive one.

“We wanted to do something romantic and understated that still has an edge in the second half,” Weaver said. “Igor Shpilband choreographed the program. We are still working through the details. He’s part of the team now with Pasquale Camerlengo. Nilolai Morozov is the head coach.”

The Canadians began with a sultry slow-moving tango move that set the tone for the entire dance. The level 4 straight-line lift – with no apparent beginning or no end – seamlessly became part of the program. The final diagonal step sequence earned a 3.09 GOE score. The segment scored 76.53.

Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz (ESP) danced to “A Evaristo Carriego” performed by Orquestro Color Tango. The straight-line lift and twizzles were level 4. The team struggled with the pattern, missing five of the eight key points. The dance earned 67.35 points.

“We went for a classic ballroom tango after we saw a performance by a couple. We took the music and some of the moves,” Smart said. “We enjoy all the changes in holds and positions of the patterns. Romain Haguenauer choreographed it.”

Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus (CAN) were only 2 points behind the Spanish team with a personal best 65.38 points. They danced to selections by Electrocutango. Both twizzles and the straight-line lift earned level 4. Unfortunately, they were only able to complete one of the eight pattern key points.

“The rhythm dance, for us, was very well performed and the crowd gave us a lot of energy,” Soucisse said.

Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu (CHN) danced to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack for their rhythm dance and got seven of eight key points correct – the most in the competition. Their straight-line lift was level 4. The segment earned 63.57 – 1.5 points out of third place.

Free Dance

Weaver & Poje unveiled their free dance about a person in distress, who has their guardian angel caring for them. Near the end, they both understand it’s time to let go.

“It is a tribute to our dear friend, Denis Ten. Sometimes it’s hard to perform, but mostly it comes from the joy of the memories with him,” explained the Canadians.

“We listened in Kazakhstan when he skated to it, then we built the program on a different version. When the tragedy struck, we knew we needed to do this for him. Pasquale (Camerlengo) is the main choreographer, but it became more our collaboration with him to bring out the story we wanted.”

Weaver’s flowing white dress maneuvered through the elements creating a calm and ethereal presence driven by Poje’s solemn black figure. Maxime Rodriguez arranged the “S.O.S. d’un terrien en dietresse” music as a tribute to Denis Ten.

The one-foot and diagonal step sequences were level 3 with mostly +3, +4 GOEs; the remaining elements earned level 4. Their choreographed moves were rewarded with high GOE scores. The segment scored 120.74; the entire program earned 197.27.

Smart & Diaz performed to a Beatles medley, which included “A Day in the Life”, “Something”, and “Let it Be”. The lifts and spin were level 4, with the twizzles and mid-line step sequence at level 3.

“We had mistakes here and there but happy overall,” Diaz said. “We are still thinking too much about the elements with all the new changes.”

Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu were third in the free dance to “Meant” by Elizaveta, but finished fourth overall. The lifts and spin were level 4; the one-foot and diagonal step sequence earned level 3. Both the segment (101.49) and total (165.06) were personal best scores.

Soucisse & Firus used selections by The Weeknd to score a personal best 100.88 for their fourth place free dance. The spin, lifts, and twizzles were rewarded with level 4. The personal best total score of 166.24 was enough to keep them third overall by a slim 1.18 points over their Montreal training mates.

“We performed it just like in training,” Soucisse said.  “We did have a couple of mistakes, but  even with those mistakes we stayed together and connected.”

The next Challenger Series event is the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany from September 26-29.

If you wondered why…

  • Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje did only one fall international competition, it’s because the reigning World bronze medalists will be performing in the Thank You, Canada Tour along with many of their fellow Canadian skaters and skipping the Grand Prix Series. Their next competition will be at the Canadian National Championships.
  • Patrice Lauzon was standing at the Kiss ‘n Cry so many times and there was a good reason. Five of the competing seven teams train in Montreal, QC Canada with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, Romain Haguenauer, and Pascal Denis.
  • Olivia Smart’s hairstyle is different. She cut it after she saw the look for the tango.