by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The sixth 2019 Grand Prix Series event, the NHK Trophy, was held in Sapporo, Japan November 22-24. Nine ice dance teams from seven countries competed for prize money and the remaining slots for the Grand Prix Final in Torino, Italy, December 5-8.

Rhythm Dance
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron representing France broke their own previous world record set at the Internationaux de France three weeks prior with a 90.03 score. Russians Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin scored a season’s best 84.07, followed by Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy with 82.13 points, also a season’s best score. The top three performances included musical selections from Fame, Moulin Rouge, and Grease.

Great Britain’s Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson scored 76.09 for The Blues Brothers routine, and Americans Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko were a close 75.25 with “Some Like it Hot” from Kiss Me Kate to finish fourth and fifth respectively.

Free Dance
Papadakis & Cizeron surrounded their interpretation of the voice-over Forest Blakk poem “Find You” with musical selections by Icelandic producer, Olafur Arnalds. The unique acoustical style created a melancholy aura for the dancers’ performance. The program was rewarded with a 136.58 score and the gold medal.

The World Champions earned level 4 for all the elements, except the circular step-sequence, which received a level 3, but garnered a 4.15 GOE from the judges. The French team scored 12.33 GOE out of a possible 12.45 for their three Choreographic Movement elements and a panel total of 15.63.

The total 226.61 qualified Papadakis & Cizeron for their fourth Grand Prix Final where they previously won bronze, silver and gold.

Stepanova & Bukin danced away with their second 2019 Grand Prix silver medal and a season’s best 124.74 to “Primavera” by Ludovico Einaudi and “Cry Me a River” performed by Justin Timberlake.  The reigning European silver medalists earned level 4 twizzles, lifts, spin and Stepanova’s one-foot step sequence. Their diagonal footwork and Bukin’s one-foot step sequence were level 3. The base values for the French and Russians were only .37 apart, but the GOEs were a difference of 7.70.

Stepanova & Bukin punched a ticket for their second straight Grand Prix Final with a 208.81 total score. They finished fourth at the 2018 event.

Fear & Gibson were third in the free dance with 116.92 points for their performance to Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Like a Prayer”. The twizzles, lifts, and spin earned level 4; the remaining elements were level 3,2. Their awesome Choreographic Movements totaled 9.36, with a 12.68 total panel mark. The score made the difference in their free skate placement above the Italians.  The Skate Canada bronze medalists scored a total 193.01 for fourth place overall.

Guignard & Fabbri were fourth in the free dance, but third overall for the bronze medal. Their music choice was “Space Oddity”, and “Life on Mars”, composed by David Bowie, but performed by other artists. The twizzles, lifts, and spin earned level 4, while Fabbri’s one-foot step sequence and the diagonal footwork received level 3. Their base value (46.21) matched the Russians, but the GOEs, the fall deduction, and lower component marks made the difference in their 115.93 free dance score.  The total score for the Internationaux de France bronze medalists was 198.06.  

Ice Chips

  • Marco Fabbri (ITA) skated at the Internationaux de France and NHK with a splint due to a cut tendon in his hand – He deserves a Red Badge of Courage Award.
  • After a review, four ice dance teams earned Finnstep level 4 – Papadakis & Cizeron, Stepanova & Bukin, Guignard & Fabbri, and Fear & Gibson. FS4 was achieved only nine times in the 2019 Grand Prix Series.
  • Guignard & Fabbri (ITA) earned FS4 at both their Grand Prix competitions. [Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (CAN) were the only other team to achieve that accomplishment.]
  • At the NHK Trophy (November 22-24) Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron set three Ice Dance World Records (1) Rhythm Dance (90.03), Free Dance (136.58), Combined (226.21)

Next up is the Grand Prix Final – Torino, Italy – December 5-8. The first GPF (Champions Series Final) was held in Paris, France for the 1995-1996 season.  The podium included (Gold) Oksana Grishuk & Evgeni Platov (RUS), (Silver) Anjelika Krylova & Oleg Ovsyannikov (RUS) and (Bronze) Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat (FRA).

2019 Grand Prix Final Roster:

  1. (30 points) Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) – (qualified for fourth Final) *
  2. (30 points) Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) – (qualified for second Final)
  3. (28 points) Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN) – (qualified for second Final)
  4. (28 points) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) – (qualified for fifth Final) *
  5. (26 points) Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS) – (qualified for second Final)
  6. (26 points) Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) – (qualified for fifth Final)

* Denotes previous Grand Prix Final gold medalists.