by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman

Skate America – the first of six 2019 Grand Prix Series events – was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 18-20. The competitors were seeded and invited based on the results of the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships. Ten ice dance teams from six countries competed for points toward qualification for the ISU Grand Prix Final to be held in Torino, Italy from December 5-8.

Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue took home their second straight Skate America gold medal, followed by the 2019 European silver medalists Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia with the silver. In third place was the Canadian team of Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nicholas Sorensen, who won their first-ever Grand Prix medal.

Rhythm Dance
The rhythm dance top three teams were the same podium winners. RD requirements included:

  • The Senior Music must be from a Musical and/or Operetta stage play or film in which the music, singing and/or dancing play an essential part to “tell the story”. Juke Box Musicals* are allowed.
  • The Senior Pattern Dance Element is one section of the Finnstep, which must be skated to the Quickstep, Charleston or Swing rhythm.
  • A jukebox musical is a musical film or stage presentation featuring the songs of popular music acts (e.g. Mama Mia, Jersey Boys).

Hubbell & Donohue opened with “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” performed by Marilyn Monroe followed by “Let’s Be Bad”, from Smash, a musical based on her iconic life. They scored a personal best 84.97.

The opening song was a piece the couple found five years ago, but their coaches didn’t think it was right for them at the time At the beginning of the season, they played with a few concepts, but it was choreographer, Romain Haguenauer, who stepped in and said Hubbell had to play Marilyn Monroe.

“I was happy because I always dreamed of portraying her,” Hubbell conveyed during the press conference.

They looked at music from Smash and Bombshell – the two versions from TV and Broadway, which they used for their second song. They really wanted to do Marilyn in Marilyn’s voice, so they took the classic, started with her voice and brought it into a more modern piece of music that could end on a strong musical note.

“It takes a lot of energy; it’s a lot of fun,” Hubbell said.  “We feel there’s more development in the characters of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, and we’re excited to keep exploring that dynamic.”

Stepanova and Bukin danced to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Your Song” from the musical Moulin Rouge for a 81.91 score.

“This is the first time we competed our program in front of an audience, so we know there is a lot to improve,” said Stepanova.

Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen used “Bonnie”, “Raise a Little Hell” and “This World Will Remember Us” from the Bonnie & Clyde soundtrack to score 79.71 points.

Bonnie & Clyde is also a project that started five years ago, but according to Sorenson it was too big a mouthful for them to chew at the time. They did know, however, they wanted to do it in this season of Broadway musicals.

“The person who makes our music is Laurence,” Sorensen explained.  “She listened to the Broadway musical endless hours and came up with a balanced version of how to make a program that doesn’t peak too soon and stays interesting.”

“The characters are strong,” Beaudry added.  “We wanted to find the chemistry between them and show their personality and story.  They fall in love; she wants to go to Hollywood; he wants to rob banks.”

The Canadians knew Bonnie and Clyde were usually portrayed as bad people because they were, but they wanted to focus on the part of the story where they’re just two people who meet each other in a random way and fall in love just like they also had done.

“They just want to live a life of love and create their own world where they feel free,” Sorensen said.

That is how the program is presented.

Free Dance
Stepanova & Bukin won the free dance with ”Primavera” by Ludovico Einaudi and “Cry Me a River” performed by Justin Timberlake. The margin was only 0.08 and fell short of over-taking the Americans. The twizzles, lifts and spin earned level 4; the diagonal and one-foot step sequences received level 3. The Moscow-based team won the silver medal.

“We want to thank the audience,” Stepanova said.  “The reception was wonderful; it was so nice to skate for them here.  Today we’re more pleased with our performance than yesterday. We fought through and kept pushing until the end. Overall it was not a bad competition for us.”

Hubbell & Donohue were second in the free dance, but claimed the gold medal with 209.55 total points. The Montreal-based duo used selections from the film, A Star is Born to earn level 4 twizzles, lifts, and spin. Their one-foot and serpentine steps were level 3.

“Unfortunately, a cold turned into bronchitis for Zach,” Hubbell said. “We felt there was a lot of energy missing; we fought through until the end. We do really enjoy the kind of southern rock ‘n roll vibe of that program. We really love the serpentine step and feel we have created elements that really embody the style that we want.”

“Today there were some unfortunate shakes. My twizzles could have been better. We started to lose the energy toward the end. With such impactful music and to fully live that end of the program, we got late on the music; we got tired; the combination lift was a little heavy. It’s just those little things that made a huge impact on the whole GOE, and then if the GOEs are not as good as they could have been, they can’t possibly put the PCSs up high. It wasn’t the performance we were hoping for.”

Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen tapped into the repertoire of fellow Canadians Michael Buble and David Foster and added American trumpeter, Chris Botti for their musical selections of “Summer Time” and “Cry Me a River”. The lifts and twizzles earned level 4, the spin and diagonal footwork were level 3; and the one-foot step was level 2.

“Before going on the ice, we realized how many spectators were in the stands, and that drove our energy up and helped us to perform from beginning to end,” Fournier Beaudry said.” We enjoyed it so much.”

Spain’s Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz were fourth with 191.01 points. Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia scored 181.82 and placed fifth; Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko of the United States were sixth with 180.55 points.

Tidbits

  • Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue are 2018 Grand Prix Final gold medalists.
  • Americans Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko are two-time World Junior Champion medalists.
  • Russians Sophia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko are the 2018/19 Junior Grand Prix gold and 2019 World Junior bronze medalists.
  • Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin won their 12th Grand Prix medal in Las Vegas.
  • Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen skated in their first Grand Prix representing Canada. They made their international debut at the 2019 Four Continents.
  • Americans Caroline Green & Michael Parsons made their Grand Prix debut with a season’s best 173.03 score. Parsons is the 2017 World Junior Champion with his sister, Rachel Parsons.
  • Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz (ESP) and Hong Chen & Zhuoming Sun (CHN) had personal best scores for their Rhythm Dance, Free Dance, and Total.
  • Tiffany Zagorski was born in Great Britain; Jonathan Guerreiro was born in Australia. The team represents Russia.
  • Maria-Jade Lauriault and Romain LeGac were married in December 2015.
  • Five teams train at the Ice Academy of Montreal [Canada] under the direction of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lawson, two-time World Champion silver medalists representing Canada.

Why were the Rhythm Dance scores revised?
In the Pattern Dance Type Sequence (PSt) element of the Rhythm Dance, the Technical Panel calls a separate level for the Lady and the Man (e.g. PStL3 + PStM2). The judges also give two separate GOE scores.

  • The base value assigned to each skater is added together for one total base value score.
  • The judges’ scores are added together for one GOE score.
  • The totals are listed on the Protocol sheet under the Base Value and GOE columns.

A software update after the Finlandia Trophy [Challenger Series] excluded the GOE score for the Man. Only the Lady’s score was posted in the GOE column. The two scores were not added together.

Adjustments were made after the competition and scores were revised. The overall Rhythm Dance standings did not change.