by Anne Calder

Senior ice dancers took center stage for the Rhythm Dance at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, NC. Nine teams executed the five required elements including the designated Finnstep pattern. The music was from Broadway and/or Operettas.

The teams finished in the following order:

Skating last, Madison Chock & Evan Bates swept to the top with “It’s Too Darn Hot” from Kiss Me Kate and scored a personal best 87.63. A slight bobble in the Finnstep prevented a clean sweep of level 4 elements. Chock later explained the incident at the press conference.

“I was a little tipped, just trying to make sure my edge was deep enough on the outside – for the key point. It was unexpected, but we recovered and were able to perform the rest of the program freely.”

Two-time National Champions Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue paid tribute to the Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio legendary love story with “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “Let’s Be Bad” from Smash. Both the twizzles, midline step sequence and his pattern dance-type step sequence earned level 4; the others were level 3. They were just 1.32 behind the leaders with an 86.31.

“Zach and I went in with the intention of attacking the program,” Hubbell said.  “We’ve been working a lot on the speed and dynamic quality of our skating. There were some technical mistakes today and an unexpected level in the lift. Sometimes it’s good to get a wake-up call before the end of the year.”

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker captured the audience with the first note of their opening “Staying Alive” disco music and ended with a standing ovation. They were one of the two teams to hit all four key points in the Finnstep pattern and scored a season’s best 82.59.

“It’s an incredibly fun program to train and to perform, so to be able to get the reaction we did at the end of the performance, was icing on the cake,” Hawayek said.  “We were thrilled to bring that joy to other people as well.”

Christiana Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko were fourth with another version of “It’s Too Darn Hot”. The Michigan trained team earned level 4 twizzles and rotational lift. The total segment scored 78.02.

Caroline Green & Michael Parsons, who partnered in April 2019, danced to selections from the 2007 musical, Cry Baby. The team earned all level 4s except her pattern dance type step sequence. They were the second team to hit all four key points in the Finnstep pattern. The performance earned a personal best 77.42.

“We made a lot of progress this year – naturally starting from zero,” said Parsons. “We have a lot more to do, but it’s our best performance energy-wise and execution wise we’ve done this year.”

Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter danced to selections from Cabaret and Liza with a Z to earn a total segment score of 75.79.

Eva Pate & Logan Bye (60.07), Livvy Schilling & Alexander Petrov (56.24), and Bailey Melton & Ryan O’Donnell (39.47) were seventh, eighth and ninth.

The following evening the couples performed their free dance. The podium consisted of the same top four from the previous day.

The 2019 Four Continents Champions, Chock & Bates mesmerized the audience with their sultry Egyptian Snake Dance that scored 134.23. All the elements but the circular step sequence were level 4. The judges awarded them the only all +5 GOE’s and a perfect 5.25 score for their Choreographic Step Sequence. The Program Components included twelve 10’s in composition and music interpretation. Chock & Bates won their second US Championship gold medal with a 221.86 personal best total score. It’s been five years since that first 2015 title, which also happened in Greensboro.

At the press conference, Chock explained the evolution of their free dance. “The music was actually one of the first pieces Evan and I listened to in the offseason. We were moved and intrigued by it. Marie-France [Dubreuil] had the idea that I should be a snake and Evan should be a traveler. We worked with Sam Chouinard for choreography. Everyone on the team actually touched it a bit. It was such a fun process – cool new characters for us to dive into.”

Hubbell & Donohue were second with their performance to A Star is Born. All their elements with the exception of the curve lift and Donohue’s one-foot step sequence earned level 4. The dance scored 133.88 and the total was 217.19. Both were personal bests. The reigning GPF Final bronze medalists were disappointed with what they called one of their hardest performances and not very enjoyable.

“Out of the first element – the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and the next four very valuable elements in the program were facing in the wrong direction,” Hubbell explained. “Luckily after the one-foot step sequence, without speaking to each other, I was able to turn it around and place our choreo movements in the right direction.”

“It tired us out mentally. We were always connecting with our eyes trying to figure out how to fix it.”

Hawayek & Baker danced to music by Beethoven and Paganini performed by Marcin Patrzalek. The lifts and twizzles were level 4. The program 118.57 and total 201.16 were personal bests. The team compared the reactions for the flamenco style free dance to the previous evening’s rhythm dance.

“Yesterday was such a high for us in terms of the reaction, the performance and the emotional connection we felt. Tonight didn’t seem to have that same euphoria when we finished. We feel the potential for more than we put out tonight.”

Carreira & Ponomarenko danced a Flamenco medley and scored a personal best 116.14. The spin, lifts and twizzles were level 4. Unfortunately, their Choreo Step Sequence technical error of not being within an arm’s touch of the boards in the axis skate negated the base value and GOE score, which at their two GP events averaged 3.65. The 194.16 total score put the young team on the podium with their first senior Championship medal.

Prior to heading to Greensboro, the team shared their thoughts with IDC about the upcoming competition. “One of the biggest challenges is the level and experience of US ice dancers. We are coming in as the youngest team in our second season as seniors. Our competitors are very high ranked and have a great amount of competitive experience.”   

Green & Parsons used “Conquest of Spaces” and “I Love You” (Acoustic) by Woodkid to score a 102.83. The spin, lifts and twizzles were level 4; the step sequences were level 3. Unfortunately, they lost GOEs and got a one-point deduction for the fall at the straight-line lift entrance. The total for the Rockville, MD based team was 180.25 for fifth place at their first US Championships as a team.

“There was one little mistake in the free dance; the rest was really good,” Parsons said. “The ice is slippery, and mistakes can happen. We rebounded really well and finished strong, which is good. We left a lot of points on the table, so I think we are already fired up for next year.”

McNamara & Carpenter scored 97.88 with an updated version of their 2017-18 “Anima Contro Vento” by Medialuna Tango Project. Unfortunately, their extended lift and simultaneous falls in the spin resulted in a deduction of three points. The total was 173.67. The WISA based team explained to IDC prior to the competition why they hadn’t competed for the two months between September and November.

“After Nepela Memorial, Quinn had to receive surgery to repair two tendons and a nerve that were injured in his wrist after a slight mishap during training. Through physical therapy and lots of perseverance, he’s made a full recovery and is once again able to train and perform at full capacity.”

Eva Pate & Logan Bye (155.82) and Livvy Shilling & Alexander Petrov (133.93) made their debuts as senior teams. Pate and Shilling are new to ice dance. Bye and his previous partner were the 2016 Youth Olympic Games silver medalists. Petrov previously competed internationally on the junior level. Bailey Melton & Ryan O’Donnell (96.02) danced at the 2019 US Championships as a senior team.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue and Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker will represent the United States at the Four Continents in Seoul, South Korea and the World Championships in Montreal, Canada.