by Anne Calder | Photo by Melanie Heaney
The Rhythm Dance began in Arizona at 4:00 am. After being spoiled for a week with post dinner telecasts, It was a bit difficult to get moving that early. Since it was ice dance, the task was a bit easier.
Sixteen countries plus ROC were represented by twenty three teams.
The top six teams were: Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA), Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (ROC), Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA), Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA), Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (ROC) and Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN).
Papadakis & Cizeron danced a personal best and record setting waacking dance to John Legend’s “Made to Love” and “You Move I Move”. The Midnight Blues, twizzles and stationary lift earned level 4; the Pattern and Midline Step Sequences were level 3. It scored 90.83.
“We started working on it last year,” Papadakis said. “We knew the theme would be urban dance. We tried different kinds, then started doing some waacking and fell in love with it.”
Cizeron added, “We found a specialist in Montreal and started really training that style because it was really new [to us]. It was a lot of discovery.”
Reigning World Champions, Sinitsina & Katsalapov posted a personal best score of 88.85 with their dance to Joe Crocker’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and “Brick House” by the Commodores. Their Blues, Twizzles, and rotational lift were level 4; both step sequences earned Level 3. The team had already skated twice on the Olympic ice in the Team Event and were pleased with their performance.
“This rhythm dance was clean with such good emotions,” Sinitsina noted.
Hubbell & Donohue rocked the ice with their dance to a Janet Jackson medley that included “Nasty”, “Rope Burn” and “Rhythm Nation”. The stationary lift and Donohue’s twizzle were level 4: the rest earned level 3. The personal best score was 87.13. The team who will be retiring at the end of the season were quite emotional at the end of the dance.
“We were definitely trying to stay in the moment during the performance and not trying to get overly excited as we’re actually performing,” Hubbell said. “That moment when we hit the final pose you can finally let out how you’re feeling inside. It was just great to have another season’s best and exciting performance.”
Donohue’s brief response to a question about what worked well in their performance said it all: ”The beginning, the middle, the end.”
Chock & Bates, who recently won the 2022 National Championships scored a fourth place 84.14. The Billie Ellish medley received level 4 for the twizzles and curve lift, level 3 for the Midnight Blues and Pattern Step Sequence, and a level 2 midline step sequence.
“We have mixed feelings about the performance,” Bates shared. “We wanted to have fun and show this unique program to this modern music. We had one small mistake that cost us some points on and important element. It’s not over yet, and we have a great free dance that we’re looking forward to.”
Stepanova & Bukin were just a slim .05 behind the Americans with a 84.9 score. The 2021 World bronze medalists Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier scored 83.52 for a sixth place finish. Gilles also went back to the orange pantsuit she’d worn all season rather that the Team Event skirt.
For most sporting fans the Super Bowl in Los Angeles is the major event for today. However, this die-hard figure skating fan thinks it’s just the warm up act for the Olympic Free Dance in Beijing. I cant wait to see all the great performances and the crowning of the medalists.